vain (worship)

The Greek that is translated into English as “vain” or “in vain” in English is (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say I am important, but they do not believe it”
  • Kekchí: “has no meaning when they praise me”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona: “uselessly”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “uselessly they remember”
  • Farefare: “their religion is their mouth”
  • Southern Subanen: “their worship has no meaning”
  • Tzotzil: “they say they love me, but this means nothing”
  • Southern Bobo Madaré: “they worship me but they do not mean what they say”
  • Central Mazahua: “it is of no value that they honor me”
  • San Blas Kuna: “their thinking is not in their hearts” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Mairasi: “tribute of theirs for me [which] will-be-on-their-own” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Guhu-Samane: “with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me” (“‘In vain’ caused puzzlement [because] why should their efforts to worship God produce no results, try as they may? [But the idiom] ‘with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me’ comes from the picture of one who is making a pretense at eating food, hence their deceit is apparent.’ Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)

see a vision

The Greek that is translated as “see(n) a vision” in English is sometimes translated generically, such as “to see something” (Sranan Tongo, Tae’), “something is made visible” (Western Apache), or “they knew, what he might have seen” (i.e. they knew that something had been seen but not what) (Shipibo-Conibo). Elsewhere a specification is added, such as “to see a divine sight” (Kannada, Toraja-Sa’dan), “he had seen something supernatural, which had appeared to him” (Tboli).

See also vision.

throne

The Greek that is translated into English versions as “throne” is translated into Naro as ntcõó-q’oo: “he will rule.” The figure of the “throne” cannot be translated in the egalitarian Naro culture, so the idea had to be expressed more explicitly. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

In other languages it is translated as “stool/seat of the king” (Marathi), “seat of commanding/chieftainship” (Highland Totonac, Kituba), “seat of the Supreme one (lit. of-him-who-has-the umbrella)” (Toraja-Sa’dan — the umbrella being a well-known symbol of power in various parts of South and South-East Asia), “glorious place to sit” (Ekari) (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “where God sits and rules” (Estado de México Otomi), “where God reigns” (Central Mazahua) (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), or “bed of kingship” (Kafa) (source: Loren Bliese).

paradise

The Greek that is transliterated as “paradise” in English is often transliterated in other languages as well. Translations include “Place of well-being” (Toraja-Sa’dan, Tzeltal), “abode of happiness (or: of happy people)” (Marathi), “garden of eternal life” (Uab Meto), or the name of a place where you don’t have to work and fruits drop ripe in your hand (Ekari).

leap

The Greek that is often translated in English as “leap (or: leaped)” is translated with appropriate idioms as “trampled” (Javanese), “shook-itself” (Kituba), “wriggled” (Thai), “danced” (Taroko), “stirred” (Toraja-Sa’dan), “sprawled” (Batak Toba), “played” (Shipibo-Conibo). In Dan the clause has to be “her stomach moved” since “leaping” sounded vulgar. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Bill Michell (in Omanson 2001, p. 431) explains why in Cusco Quechua the women on the translation team had to intervene to correct a translation that was too literal:

“In the [Cusco Quechua] project in Peru the first draft of Luke’s Gospel was done by a man. In the case of Luke 1:41 his translation was quite literal. He had the unborn child physically jumping, unhampered and unhindered. This was met with some laughter from the women on the team. They suggested an onomatopoeic expression to communicate the sensation of a sudden movement in the womb: wawaqa ‘wat’ak’ nirqan — ‘the child said, ‘Wat’ak!” The child didn’t jump, it ‘spoke’! This times there were smiles instead of laughter as the women recognized something that was authentically their own.”

crucify

The Greek that is translated into English as “crucify” is translated into Naro with xgàu which literally means “to stretch” as is done with a skin after slaughtering in order to dry it. The word is also widely accepted in the churches. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

Similarly, Balinese and Toraja-Sa’dan also translate as “stretch him” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel) and in Rendille as lakakaaha — “stretched and nailed down” (source: Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 33).

In Ghari it becomes “hammer to the cross” (source: David Clark), in Loma “fasten him to a spread-back-stick” (source: Bratcher / Nida), in Sundanese “hang him on a crossbeam” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Aguaruna “fasten him to the tree,” in Navajo “nail him to the cross”, in Yatzachi Zapotec “fasten him to the cross” (source for this and two above (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in Apali the different aspects of the crucifixion have to be spelled out: “nail to a tree piece put cross-wise, lift up to stand upright (for the crucified person) to die (and in some contexts: to die and rise again)” (source: Martha Wade).

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how crucifixion was done in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also cross.

hypocrite

(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:

See also hypocrisy.

bless(ed)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated into English as “(to) bless” or “blessed” is translated into a wide variety of possibilities.

The Hebrew term barak (and the Aramaic term berak) also (and originally) means “to kneel” (a meaning which the word has retained — see Gen. 24:11) and can be used for God blessing people (or things), people blessing each other, or people blessing God. While English Bible translators have not seen a stumbling block in always using the same term (“bless” in its various forms), other languages need to make distinctions (see below).

In Bari, spoken in South Sudan, the connection between blessing and knees/legs is still apparent. For Genesis 30:30 (in English: “the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned”), Bari uses a common expression that says (much like the Hebrew) , ‘… blessed you to my feet.'” (Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.)

Other examples for the translation of “bless” when God is the one who blesses include:

  • “to think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “to speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “to make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “to-cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “to sprinkle with a propitious (lit. cool) face,” (a poetic expression occurring in the priests’ language) (Toraja Sa’dan) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • “give good things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • “asking good” (Yakan) (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • “praised, saying good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “greatly love” (Candoshi-Shapra (source: John C. Tuggy)
  • “good luck — have — good fortune — have” (verbatim) ꓶꓼ ꓙꓳ ꓫꓱꓹ ꓙꓳ — ɯa dzho shes zho (Lisu). This construction follows a traditional four-couplet construct in oral Lisu poetry that is usually in the form ABAC or ABCB. (Source: Arrington 2020, p. 58)

In Tagbanwa a phrase is used for both the blessing done by people and God that back-translates to “caused to be pierced by words causing grace/favor” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

Ixcatlán Mazatec had to select a separate term when relating “to people ‘blessing’ God” (or things of God): “praise(d)” or “give thanks for” (in 1 Cor. 10:16) (“as it is humans doing the ‘blessing’ and people do not bless the things of God or God himself the way God blesses people” — source: Robert Bascom). Eastern Bru also uses “praise” for this a God-directed blessing (source: Bru back translation) and Uma uses “appropriate/worthy to be worshipped” (source: Uma back translation).

When related to someone who is blessing someone else, it is translated into Tsou as “to speak good hopes for.” In Waiwai it is translated as “may God be good and kind to you now.” (Sources: Peng Kuo-Wei for Tsou and Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. for Waiwai.)

Some languages associate an expression that originally means “spitting” or “saliva” with blessing. The Bantu language Koonzime, for instance, uses that expression for “blessing” in their translation coming from either God or man. Traditionally, the term was used in an application of blessing by an aged superior upon a younger inferior, often in relation to a desire for fertility, or in a ritualistic, but not actually performed spitting past the back of the hand. The spitting of saliva has the effect of giving that person “tenderness of face,” which can be translated as “blessedness.” (Source: Keith Beavon)

See also bless (food and drink), blessed (Christ in Mark 11:9), and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

idle talk, nonsense

The Greek that is translated into English as “nonsense” or “idle tale” is translated as “empty talk” (Uab Meto), “wind talk” (Indonesian), “carried-around story” (Ekari), “purposeless talking” (Kele), “words that-frighten without-reason” (Toraja-Sa’dan), or “talk without foundation” (Pohnpeian, Chuukese) (source for all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), or “telling a fairy tale” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004).

the hand of the Lord was with him

The Greek that is often translated as “the hand of the Lord was with him” in English is often rendered by another metaphorical expression, such as “he was sheltered by the hand of the Lord” (Javanese), “the Lord carried him on the palm of his hand” (Toraja-Sa’dan), or “the eye of God was always on him” (Tboli).

neighbor

The Greek that is translated as “neighbor” in English is rendered into Babatana as “different man,” i.e. someone who is not one of your relatives. (Source: David Clark)

In North Alaskan Inupiatun, it is rendered as “a person outside of your building,” in Tzeltal as “your back and side” (implying position of the dwellings), in Indonesian and in Tae’ as “your fellow-man,” in Toraja-Sa’dan it is “your fellow earth-dweller,” in Shona (translation of 1966) as “another person like you,” in Kekchí “younger-brother-older-brother” (a compound which means all one’s neighbors in a community) (sources: Bratcher / Nida and Reiling / Swellengrebel), and in Mairasi “your people” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

In Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, it is translated into Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term that refers to a person who is socially/physically near. There is also another term for “neighbor” that means “fellow humans-outsiders” which was not chosen for these passages. (Source: Robert Bascom)