The Greek that is translated as “acknowledge” or “confess” in English is rendered as “say openly … that they have believed” (Tzeltal), “approves” (Nyanja), “declares/mentions (my) name” (Kekchí, Sranan Tongo), “talks (my) good name” (Northern Grebo), “testifies to (me)” (Zarma, Pohnpeian), “takes (my) side” (Shona, translation of 1966), or “speaks for (me)” (Ekari).
The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips [publ. 1960] in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:
- Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
- Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
- Afar: gaba tittal ucuya — “give hands to each other” (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
- Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
- Cheke Holo: “Love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
- Pitjantjatjara: “And when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
- Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
- Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
- Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
- Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
- Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- San Blas Kuna: “smell the face” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
- Nyanja: “to suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘to clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
- Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
- Shona (version of 1966): “to hug”
- Balinese: “to caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Colorado: earlier version: “greet in a friendly way,” later revision: “kiss on the face” (Bruce Moore [in: Notes on Translation 1/1992), p. 1ff.] explains: “Formerly, kissing had presented a problem. Because of the Colorados’ limited exposure to Hispanic culture they understood the kiss only in the eros context. Accordingly, the original translation had rendered ‘kiss’ in a greeting sense as ‘greet in a friendly way’. The actual word ‘kiss’ was not used. Today ‘kiss’ is still an awkward term, but the team’s judgment was that it could be used as long as long as it was qualified. So ‘kiss’ (in greeting) is now ‘kiss on the face’ (that is, not on the lips).)
See also kissed (his feet).
The Greek that is translated as “comforter,” “advocate,” or “helper” in English is similarly difficult to translate in other languages.
Nida (1952, p. 164) notes:
“Perhaps no word in all the New Testament is so hard to translate adequately as the word ‘Comforter.’ The Greek word, generally transliterated as Paraclete, is exceedingly rich in its wealth of meaning, for it implies not only “to comfort” but also “to admonish,” “to exhort,” “to encourage,” and “to help.” To put all these meanings into one native expression is indeed difficult, and yet the missionary translator must try to find a term or phrase which will give the people an adequate picture of the unique ministry of the Holy Spirit.
“In the Tausug language of southern Philippines the people use the phrase ‘the one who goes alongside continuously.’ In this sense He is the constant companion of the believer. In Eastern Highland Otomi of central Mexico the native believers have suggested the phrase “He who gives warmth in our soul.’ One can readily see the picture of the chilled heart and life seeking comfort in the Living Word and finding in the ministry of the Spirit of God that warmth which the soul so needs if it has to live in the freezing atmosphere of sin and worldly cares.
“The Baoulé Christians speak of the Comforter as ‘He who ties up the thoughts.’ The thoughts of the worried heart are scattered every place in senseless and tormenting disorder. The Comforter ties up these distracted thoughts, and though they still exist, they are under the control of the Spirit.”
In Luba-Katanga the legal aspect of Paraclete is particularly emphasized with the term Nsenga Mukwashi, a term that’s also used in the traditional legal system, referring to a person who in court proceedings “interests himself in the people and stands by them in trouble, in other words to plead their cause and be their advocate.” (Source: Wilfred Bradnock in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 49ff.)
Here is another story that Nida (1952, p. 20) retells of Kare (click or tap here):
“When porters, carrying heavy loads on their heads, go on long journeys, often for as long as two or three months, they may become sick with malaria or dysentery, and in their weakness they straggle to the end of the line of carriers. Finally in complete exhaustion they may collapse along the trail, knowing full well that if they do not get to the safety of the next village, they will be killed and eaten by wild animals during the night. If, however, someone passing along the trail sees them lying there prostrate, and if he takes pity on them, stooping down to pick them up and helping them to reach the safety and protection of the next village, they speak of such a person as ‘the one who falls down beside us.’ It is this expression [that was] taken to translate ‘Comforter,’ for this is the One who sustains, protects, and keeps the children of God on their journey toward their heavenly home.”
“In Nyanja, it is translated in 1 John 2:1 by nkhoswe yotinenera: ‘mediator who speaks on our behalf.’ The nkhoswe is the traditional clan representative who speaks on behalf of individual members in negotiations involving another clan, as when a marriage is being arranged or a dispute (‘case’) is being settled. The modification yotinenera emphasizes the fact that the group as a whole requires this representation — certainly a very fitting metaphor depicting Christ’s role in pleading the case of humanity before his heavenly Father.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 78)
In Burmese, Adoniram Judson’s translation (publ. 1835) uses the term upjitze saya (ဥပဇ္ဈာယ်ဆရာ). This term refers to one’s first teacher, guide, and mentor. Specifically, in a Buddhist context, it refers to a senior monk who trains novitiate monks. At their ordination this senior monk is positioned closest to the novitiate when he recites his memorized lines for ordination, and can serve as a “prompter” if he stumbles, or forgets his lines. This connects with the Holy Spirit’s role to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). More recent Burmese translations have abandoned this term in favor of various, more generic, terms for “helper”, perhaps because upjitze saya is a rare term and not
understood well for those coming from a non-Buddhist context.
In Miao (Chuanqiandian Cluster) it is translated as “to get at the heart round the corner” (source Kilgour 1939, p. 150) and in Colorado as “helping Counselor” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.).
The Greek that is translated as “rest” in English is translated idiomatically in Nyanja (Chichewa) as “let the heart sit down.”
The Hebrew and Greek that are translated as “fear (of God)” (or: “honor,” “worship,” or “respect”) is translated as “to have respect/reverence for” (Southern Subanen, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Javanese, Tboli), “to make great before oneself” (Ngäbere), “fear-devotion” (Kannada — currently used as a description of the life of piety), “those-with-whom he-is-holy” (those who fear God) (Western Apache) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “revere God” Lalana Chinantec, “worship God” (Palantla Chinantec) (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), “obey” (Nyanja) (source: Ernst Wendland), or with a term that communicates awe (rather than fear of an evil source) (Chol) (source: Robert Bascom).
The Greek that is often translated as “flesh” in English (when referring to the lower human nature) can, according to Nida (1947, p. 153) “very rarely be literally translated into another language. ‘My meat’ or ‘my muscle’ does not make sense in most languages.” He then gives a catalog of almost 30 questions to determine a correct translation for that term.
Accordingly, the translations are very varied:
- Highland Totonac: “like other men”
- Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “the path of sinful people”
- Mezquital Otomi: “of earthly kind” or “old life”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “old life”
- Tzeltal: “body”
- Sayula Popoluca: “body that does evil”
- Tabasco Chontal: “old mind” (Source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
- Nyanja: “character that is inclined to evil things” (source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 319ff.)
- Huautla Mazatec: “the self” (Nida 1947, p. 248)
- Toraja-Sa’dan: a’gan pa’kalean tolino or “an essence belonging to the existence in the body” (source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 207ff.)
- Warao: “old obojona.” Obojona is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff.). See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.
The translation of the Hebrew that is translated as “witch,” “sorceress” or alike in English is discussed in the attached paper by Robert Priest. He stipulates that in many languages, particularly in the African context, there are two categories of people that could be described with that term.
The first category would include people who offer “magico-religious” services to clients with a variety of goals, including healing, success, protection and others. Often-used anthropological English terms for these individuals include “shaman,” “diviner,” or “traditional healer.”
The other group includes people who are “thought to be the evil reasons for misfortune in the lives of others.”
He cites Hausa*, Lingala*, Mongo (Lomongo), Sango, Luba-Lulua (Tschiluba) as languages that use a term from the first category and the follosing languages with terms from the second category: Bambara, Southern Bobo Madaré (Bobo Madare), Nyanja (Chewa), Kanyok (Kanioka), Kamba (Kikamba), Kongo (Kikongo), Kikuyu, Gusii (Kisii), Songse (Kisonge), Kituba, Ngbaka, Plateau Malagasy, Swahili, Tetela, Tumbuka, Yoruba.
* In these languages, different versions use terms from either category.
The Greek that is translated as something like “worried (or: anxious) and bothered about many things” is translated in Tzeltal as “doing all kinds of things has gone to your heart and you have difficulty because of it.”
The term that is translated as “worried (or anxious)” in English is often translated idiomatically. Examples include “eating for oneself one’s heart” (Shona, version of 1966), “black with worry” (Nyanja), “breaking one’s head” (Sranan-Tongo), “hanging up the heart” (Bulu), “crumbling in one’s abdomen” (Western Kanjobal), “one’s stomach is rising up” (Farefare), or “one’s mind is killing one” (Navajo).