The Hebrew that is translated in English as “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” or similar is translated in Toraja-Sa’dan with an established figure of speech: “I am the Lord your God who will not that His face is drawn as water is drawn” (i.e “who will not that a person treats Him without respect, or refuses to figure with Him, or dishonors Him, or in passing Him by honors others above him.”) (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff.).
The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “you shall not commit adultery” is translated in Toraja-Sa’dan with an established figure of speech: Da’ mupasandak salu lako rampanan kapa’ or “you shall not fathom the river of marriage” (i.e “approach the marriage relationship of another.”) (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff.).
See also adultery
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.)
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
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)
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).
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
The Greek that is translated with “deny himself” or deny oneself” is according to Bratcher / Nida “without doubt one of the most difficult expressions in all of Mark to translate adequately.” These are many of the (back-) translations:
- Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “to not accept self”
- Amganad Ifugao and South Bolivian Quechua: “to forget self”
- North Alaskan Inupiatun: “to have no regard for oneself”
- Toraja-Sa’dan: “not bother oneself about oneself”
- Huautla Mazatec: “to cover up oneself”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “to not worship oneself”
- Tzeltal: “to stop doing what one’s own heart wants”
- Yaka: “to let go that which he wants to do himself”
- Cashibo-Cacataibo: “says, I will not do just what I want to do”
- Tzotzil: “to let him say, I do not serve for anything” (in the sense of having no personal value)
- Sapo: “to not do what is passing through his mind”
- Central Mazahua: “to not take constant thought for himself”
- Tabasco Chontal: “to quit what he himself wants”
- Highland Totonac: “to undo one’s own way of thinking”
- Dan: “to put his own things down”
- Kekchí: “to despise himself”
- Kituba: “to refuse himself”
- Javanese: “to turn his back on himself”
- Southern Bobo Madaré: “to disobey himself” (in the sense of denying one’s own wishes)
- Huastec: “to leave himself at the side”
- Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “to leave his own way”
- Loma: “to take his mind out of himself completely”
- Panao Huánuco Quechua: “to say, I do not live for myself”
- Mitla Zapotec: “to say No to oneself” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Copainalá Zoque: “forgetting self”
- Huallaga Huánuco Quechua: “declaring I do not live for myself” (source: Nida 1952, p. 154)
- Galela: “put self down” (source: Howard Shelden in Kroneman 2004, p. 501)
- Mairasi: “to shuffle out of one’s vision (=forget) everything which is one’s own” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Q’anjob’al: “does not belong to himself any longer” (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff.)
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).
In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage, e.g. “good story” (Navajo), “joyful telling” (Tausug), “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237), cohuen ñoñets or “good news” in Yanesha’ (source: Martha Duff in Holzhausen 1991, p. 11), or “voice of good spirit” in San Blas Kuna (source: Claudio Iglesias [Mr. and Mrs.] in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.).
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul:
“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”
The Greek that is translated as “peace” in English, and like the English can refer to a mental state as well as a lack of strife or absence or cessation of war, needs to be expressed with distinguished terms in other languages. For the meaning of peace when referring to absence of strife, Northern Grebo renders “the palaver has passed,” Highland Totonac “well arranged” (implying reconciliation), Tae’ and Toraja-Sa’dan “being-good-with-each-other” (in Luke 12:51, the 1933 edition of Tae’ has “land and water are well”) or Sranan Tongo “free” (in the sense of “to conclude peace”).
See also peace (absence of conflict).
The Greek that is translated as “endure for a while” or “temporary” in English versions is idiomatically translated in Kekchí as “they are like passers by,” an apt description of the transient enthusiast for Christianity. In Toraja-Sa’dan it is translated as “their heart is shallow.” in Javanese as “they are not steadfast,” and in Pamona as “only a moment is their heart quiet.”
The Greek that is translated into English as “(I) implore (or: adjure) (you) by God” is translated as “tell you before God” (Copainalá Zoque), “ask in front of God” (Huautla Mazatec) “ask you by God” (Eastern Highland Otomi), “ask you in God’s presence” (Southern Subanen), “I swear, calling on the name of God, requesting you” (Toraja-Sa’dan), “I want your oath by God” (Indonesian), “will assure me by using a curse on yourself calling on the name of God” (Pamona), and “ask you; God has seen it” (Tzotzil).
The Greek that is translated in English as “devil” is sometimes translated with indigenous specific names, such as “the avaricious one” in Tetelcingo Nahuatl or “the malicious deity” in Toraja-Sa’dan. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
In Yoruba it is translated as èṣù. “Èṣù is thought of as bringing evil, but also as giving protection. The birth of a child may be attributed to him, as the names given to some babies show, Èṣùbiyi (Èṣù brought this forth), and Èṣùtoyin (Èṣù is worthy of praise).” (Source: John Hargreaves in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 39ff.)
In Muna, it is translated as Kafeompu’ando seetani: “Master of the evil-spirits” (source: René van den Berg) and in Mairasi as owe er epar nan: “headman of malevolent spirits” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Huehuetla Tepehua as “chief of demons,” and in Ojitlán Chinantec as “head of the worldlings” (source for the last two: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125).
“In the Lak language of Dagestan, the names ‘Iblis’ and ‘sheytan’ (referring to Satan and his minions, respectively) in this language were borrowed from the Arabic Islamic tradition, but they entered Lak as feminine nouns, not masculine nouns. This means that they grammatically function like nouns referring to females in Lak; in other words, Laks are likely to think of Iblis as a woman, not a man, because of the obligatory grammatical patterning of Lak noun classes. Thus, when the team explained (in Russian) what the Lak translation of Jesus’ wilderness temptation narrative at the beginning of Matthew 4 said, it sounded something like the following: ‘After this, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Iblis… .The temptress came to Jesus, and she said to Him…’
“Since this information (that the devil is a female spirit) is part of the very name used for Satan in Lak, nothing can really be done about this in the translation. The Lak translator did not think that the feminine gender of Iblis should cause any serious misunderstandings among readers, so we agreed to leave it in the translation. Prior to this, I had never heard about languages in which the devil is pictured as a woman, but recently I was told by a speaker of the Shughni language that in their language Sheytan is also feminine. This puts an interesting spin on things. The devil is of course a spirit, neither male nor female in a biologically-meaningful sense. But Bible translators are by nature very risk-aversive and, where possible, want to avoid any translation that might feed misleading information to readers. So what can a translator do about this? In many cases, such as the present one, one has to just accept the existing language structure and go on.”