make His paths straight, make ready the way of the Lord

The Greek (originally quotes from the Hebrew in Isaiah) that is translated as “(make ready the way of the Lord,) make His paths straight” or something similar in English is translated in Sa’a as “You, tidy up well the paths that are dirty.” Carl Gross reports: “The Sa’a people have a practice which beautifully captures the idea expressed in the Isaianic quote. One line of this was rendered ‘You, tidy up well the paths that are dirty.’ This may conjure up the idea of an anti-litter campaign, but assurances were given that, before a feast when other villages would come to visit, or when an important person was about to come, the whole village would go out and tidy up the road, removing stones, branches, and other obstacles, as well as litter. It is a road maintenance exercise, as well as a way of welcoming honored visitors.” (Source: Carl Gross)

In Chol it says “Make straight the way of the Lord: Go, clean up the path of our Lord” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125), in Teutila Cuicatec “prepare your hearts; straighten out your thoughts, so that you will be ready to receive our Lord,” in Michoacán Nahuatl “prepare your hearts for our Lord as you would prepare a road for a person you would honor” and in Highland Oaxaca Chontal “when a great man arrives you sweep the road; you make it nice. Well, our master will arrive. For this reason make your minds good” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.).

be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, drink the cup I drink

The translation of the two Greek phrases “Can you drink the cup I drink?” and “Can you be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” demanded a particularly difficult decision in the translation into Avaric. “We are faced with two metaphors, for which literal translation is impossible, since the expressions “drink the cup” and “be immersed in water, be washed” are, for the Avaric, in no way connected with the idea of suffering and death.

Nevertheless there is an equivalent for the first metaphor; in the Avaric language there is an idiomatic expression “to drink from the horn of death,” which is identical to the idea of the Gospels’ “cup”. For the second metaphor the translator used a less obvious equivalent: “to cross the river” (‘or baxine), an expression which can express “to experience hardship, suffering” and at the same time contains the idea of immersion in water. (Source: Magomed-Kamil Gimbatov and Yakov Testelets in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 434ff.)

Likewise, there also is an expression in Southern Toussian that fits this context exactly. “You can’t drink from my cup” means “you can’t bear as much suffering as I can.” (Source: Hannes Wiesmann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 35)

In Michoacán Nahuatl this section is translated as “because of me you will suffer as I suffer, and because of me you will die.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also cup.


The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “myrrh” in English is translated as “bitter medicine” in Michoacán Nahuatl and as “myrrh perfume” in Tzotzil (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

In Mark 15:23, Usila Chinantec translates it as “the herb myrrh which is useful so that one not feel pain in his body. (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also mixture of myrrh with aloes.


The Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that is translated as “angel” in English versions is translated in many ways:

  • Pintupi-Luritja: ngaṉka ngurrara: “one who belongs in the sky” (source: Ken Hansen quoted in Steven 1984a, p. 116.)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “word-carrier from heaven”
  • Tetela, Kpelle, Balinese, and Mandarin Chinese: “heavenly messenger”
  • Shilluk / Igede: “spirit messenger”
  • Mashco Piro: “messenger of God”
  • Batak Toba: “envoy, messenger”
  • Navajo: “holy servant” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida 1961; Igede: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Central Mazahua: “God’s worker” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Saramaccan: basia u Masa Gaangadu köndë or “messenger from God’s country” (source: Jabini 2015, p. 86)
  • Mairasi: atatnyev nyaa or “sent-one” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “word bringer” (source: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff. )
  • Apali: “God’s one with talk from the head” (“basically God’s messenger since head refers to any leader’s talk”) (source: Martha Wade)
  • Michoacán Nahuatl: “clean helper of God” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Nyongar: Hdjin-djin-kwabba or “spirit good” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Wè Northern (Wɛɛ): Kea ‘a “sooa or “the Lord’s soldier” (also: “God’s soldier” or “his soldier”) (source: Drew Maust)
  • Iwaidja: “a man sent with a message” (Sam Freney explains the genesis of this term [in this article): “For example, in Darwin last year, as we were working on a new translation of Luke 2:6–12 in Iwaidja, a Northern Territory language, the translators had written ‘angel’ as ‘a man with eagle wings’. Even before getting to the question of whether this was an accurate term (or one that imported some other information in), the word for ‘eagle’ started getting discussed. One of the translators had her teenage granddaughter with her, and this word didn’t mean anything to her at all. She’d never heard of it, as it was an archaic term that younger people didn’t use anymore. They ended up changing the translation of ‘angel’ to something like ‘a man sent with a message’, which is both more accurate and clear.”)

See also angel (Acts 12:15) and this devotion on YouVersion .

complete verse (Mark 2:9)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 2:9:

  • Uma: “I, the Child of Mankind, I do have authority in the world to forgive sins. But if I say to this lame person: ‘Your (sing.) sins are forgiven,’ you do not know whether they are really forgiven or not. But if I say: ‘Get up, roll up your (sing.) mat, and walk,’ you will see whether it happens or not. So I will show you that I have authority to forgive sin.’ From there, he turned to that lame person,” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Which is the easier, to say to this paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Get up, take your bed (lit. for-lying-on) and walk.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For which is easier to a mere person? Is it to forgive the sins of this paralyzed man or is it to heal him so that he can rise and pick up his hammock and walk?” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “It is admittedly easier to say, ‘Your (sing.) sins will-be forgiven’ than ‘Get-up, pick-up that stretcher of yours (sing.) to walk.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Which is easier to say to this person who is paralyzed? Is it, ‘Your sins have now been forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand, carry what you are lying on and go now’? Isn’t it so that they are the same in that only the supernatural-power of God can do it?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Michoacán Nahuatl: “Which is harder for me to do in order to show you that I can forgive sins? Is it harder for me to tell this man, I forgive your sins? Is it harder to tell this man, Get up . . .”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “Surely if I can make him get up, pick up his bed, and walk away with it, I can also forgive his sins.
  • Western Highland Chatino: “Who can know if I can truly forgive sins if I say to the sick man that I forgive his sins? But if I tell the sick man to get up, pick up his bed,and walk, immediately you know whether I have authority or not.” (Source for this and two above: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (Mark 8:16)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 8:16:

  • Uma: “But they did not know the meaning of that riddle, so they began talking among themselves, they said: ‘The reason he said that is that we don’t have any bread.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “His disciples spoke-among-themselves about what he had said because they did not understand it. They said, ‘Perhaps that’s why he speaks like that, because we (incl.) didn’t take bread along.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “They didn’t understand that it wasn’t really for bread he was talking about. So they were talking together, they said, ‘The reason he says this is because we did not bring our supply of bread.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When he told them that, they talked-together saying, ‘Jesus said that because we have no bread for our pack-lunch.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When those disciples heard, they said-among-themselves, ‘He spoke like that because we don’t have any bread with us.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Usila Chinantec: “They asked each other why he had said this, and finally decided that it was because they had no bread.”
  • Michoacán Nahuatl: “Then they began to say to each other, He said this because we didn’t bring bread. They spoke thus because they did not know that Jesus was talking about the teaching of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
  • Tzotzil: “There they began to say among themselves, In all probability it is because he knows that we have not brought bread. The disciples said this among themselves because they did not realize what the yeast was that Jesus talked about, that it is like the teachings of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (Source for this and two above: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)