(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:
“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)
Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):
- San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
- Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
- Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
- Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
- Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
- Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
- Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
- Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
- Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
- Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
- Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
- Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
- Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
- Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekham in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
- Obolo: ebi nriran: “those with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)
About the translation into Northern Grebo:
“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)
See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.
The Greek that is translated as “with you (or: whom) I am well pleased” in English is often translated in other languages with figurative expressions, including “you are the heart of my eye” (Huastec), “you arrive at my gall” (with the gall being the seat of the emotions and intelligence) (Mossi), “I see you very well” (Tzotzil), “you make me very happy” (Sayula Popoluca), “my bowels are sweet with you” (Shilluk) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), “you pull at my heart” (Central Pame), “my thoughts are arranged” (Mashco Piro), “my heart rests in you” (Wè Southern) (source for this and two above: Nida 1952, p. 127).
The Greek that is typically translated as “confess” in English in the context of these verses is translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:
- Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal: “to say openly”
- San Blas Kuna: “to accuse oneself of his own evil”
- Kankanaey: “telling the truth about their sins”
- Huastec: “to take aim at one’s sin” (“an idiom which is derived from the action of a hunter taking aim at a bird or animal”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Central Pame: “pulling out the heart” (“so that it may be clearly seen — not just by men, but by God”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 155)
- Shipibo-Conibo: “to say, It is true we have sinned” (source: Nida 1964, p. 228)
- Obolo: itutumu ijo isibi: “speaking out sin” (source: Enene Enene).
The Greek that is translated as a form of “pray” in English is often translated as “talking with God” (Central Pame, Tzeltal, Chol, Chimborazo Highland Quichua, Shipibo-Conibo, Kaqchikel, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Copainalá Zoque, Central Tarahumara).
Other solutions include:
- “to beg” or “to ask,” (full expression: “to ask with one’s heart coming out,” which leaves out selfish praying, for asking with the heart out leaves no place for self to hide) (Tzotzil)
- “to cause God to know” (Huichol)
- “to raise up one’s words to God” (implying an element of worship, as well as communication) (Miskito, Lacandon) (Source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Shilluk: “speak to God” (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
Ik: waan: “beg.” Terrill Schrock (in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 93) explains (click or tap here to read more):
What do begging and praying have to do with each other? Do you beg when you pray? Do I?
“The Ik word for ‘visitor’ is waanam, which means ‘begging person.’ Do you beg when you go visiting? The Ik do. Maybe you don’t beg, but maybe when you visit someone, you are looking for something. Maybe it’s just a listening ear.
When the Ik hear that [my wife] Amber and I are planning trip to this or that place for a certain amount of time, the letters and lists start coming. As the days dwindle before our departure, the little stack of guests grows. ‘Please, sir, remember me for the allowing: shoes, jacket (rainproof), watch, box, trousers, pens, and money for the children. Thank you, sir, for your assistance.’
“A few people come by just to greet us or spend bit of time with us. Another precious few will occasionally confide in us about their problems without asking for anything more than a listening ear. I love that.
“The other day I was in our spare bedroom praying my list of requests to God — a nice list covering most areas of my life, certainly all the points of anxiety. Then it hit me: Does God want my list, or does he want my relationship?
“I decided to try something. Instead of reading off my list of requests to God, I just talk to him about my issues without any expectation of how he should respond. I make it more about our relationship than my list, because if our personhood is like God’s personhood, then maybe God prefers our confidence and time to our lists, letters, and enumerations.”
In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:
- For Acts 1:14, 20:36, 21:5: kola ttieru-yawur nehla — “hold the waist and hug the neck.” (“This is the more general term for prayer and often refers to worship in prayer as opposed to petition. The Luang people spend the majority of their prayers worshiping rather than petitioning, which explains why this term often is used generically for prayer.”)
- For Acts 1:14, 28:9: sumbiani — “pray.” (“This term is also used generically for ‘prayer’. When praying is referred to several times in close proximity, it serves as a variation for kola ttieru-yawur nehla, in keeping with Luang discourse style. It is also used when a prayer is made up of many requests.”)
- For Acts 8:15, 12:5: polu-waka — “call-ask.” (“This is a term for petition that is used especially when the need is very intense.”)
Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
The Greek and Hebrew terms that are translated as “hypocrite” in English typically have a counterpart in most languages. According to Bratcher / Nida (1961, p. 225), they can be categorized into the following categories:
- those which employ some concept of “two” or “double”
- those which make use of some expression of “mouth” or “speaking”
- those which are based upon some special cultural feature
- those which employ a non-metaphorical phrase
Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:
- Highland Totonac, Huautla Mazatec, Lacandon, Cuicatec, Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “two faced”
- Obolo: ebi isi iba: “double-faced person” (source: Enene Enene)
- Tzeltal, Chol: “two hearts”
- Pame: “two mouths”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “two heads”
- Kekchí: “two sides”
- Shipibo-Conibo: “double (or “forked”) tongue”
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “double talk”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “to talk false”
- Copainalá Zoque: “to lie-act”
- Kituba, Amganad Ifugao, Chuukese: “to lie”
- Toraja-Sa’dan: “someone whose lips are fair” (i.e. “gracious”)
- Mossi: “to have a sweet mouth”
- Mazahua: “to have a swollen mouth” (from too much speaking)
- Tai Dam: “to have a straight mouth and a crooked heart”
- Kongo: “the bitterness of white” (an idiom based on the fact that white-wash looks nice but tastes bitter)
- Malagasy: “to spread a clean carpet” (an expression used in Madagascar to describe one who covers up the dirt of an unswept floor just before the arrival of guests)
- Zanaki: “those who make themselves out to be good”
- Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “those who deceive” (this and all examples above acc. to Bratcher / Nida 1961, p. 225)
- Kafa: “one who makes as if his belly is clean” (source: Loren Bliese)
- Agatu: ɔcɛ gigbefu — “disguised person acting a part” (source: Mackay, The Bible Translator 1962, 211f)
See also hypocrisy.
The Greek that is translated as “glorify God” in English is rendered as “to wake God up” in Guerrero Amuzgo.
Other translations are “say that God is very great” (Central Tarahumara), “how good God is, they said” (Tzotzil), “to speak about God as good” (Tzeltal), “to give God a great name” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “to give God highness” (Kipsigis), “to take God out high” (in the sense of “to exalt”) (Huautla Mazatec), “to make great, to exalt” (Toraja-Sa’dan, Javanese), “to lift up God’s brightness” (Kpelle), “to show God to be great” (Central Pame), “to make God shine” (Wayuu), “to make God’s name big” (Huastec), “to make God important” (Isthmus Zapotec) (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida), or “say to God: You are of good heart” (Huichol) (source: Nida 1964, p. 228).
In Waama this is translated as “make God’s name big.” (For the translation into Waama, five categories of verb doxazo and the noun doxa were found that were all translated differently, see glorify (reveal God’s or Jesus’ glory to people)).
In Shipibo-Conibo it is translated as “to brag about God” (“This may strike some at first as being an unspiritual approach, but it surely is Pauline, for Paul used the word ‘to brag’ when he declared his confidence in Jesus Christ and in the salvation of the world which God wrought through His Son.”) (Source: Nida 1952, p. 162)
The Greek term that is translated as “apostle(s)” in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:
- Eastern Highland Otomi, Tzeltal, Western Kanjobal, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Copainalá Zoque, Chol, Balanta-Kentohe: “the sent ones”
- Kituba, Pamona, Mezquital Otomi, Central Pame: “messengers”
- Ngäbere: “word carriers”
- Southern Subanen: “those commanded to carry the message”
- San Blas Kuna: “witnesses to God” (meaning “those who speak up and out for God” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida, except Balanta-Kentohe: Rob Koops)
- Ekari: “one-who-goes-and-tells-for-someone” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Khmer: “Christtout” (“messenger representing Christ”) or when Jesus addresses them: “Tout robas Preah Ang” (“his messengers-representatives”) (source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 233ff.)
- Pwo Karen: “eyeballs” (i.e., “right-hand men”) (source: David Clark)
The term that is translated as “hypocrisy” in English versions is translated with a term in Oxchuc Tzeltal that means “two hearts,” in Central Pame “two mouths” (source: Nida 1952, p. 150), and in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec “having two heads” (source: Nida 1947, p. 150).
Kituba uses a specialized idiom for “hypocrisy”: “eye under leaf.” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
See also hypocrite.