I the LORD your God am a jealous God

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. ).

In Chichewa “‘jealousy’ very commonly includes a prominent sexual component” so the solution there was to translated “(a God) who does not allow competition with me.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 127)

you shall not commit adultery

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. ).

It is translated as “practice illicit relationship with women” in Tzeltal, as “go in with other people’s wives” in Isthmus Zapotec, as “live with some one who isn’t your wife” in Huehuetla Tepehua, and as “sleep with a strange partner” in Central Tarahumara. (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also adultery

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. )

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.”

breathed his last

The Greek that is often translated in English as “he breathed his last” is translated with idioms that include “his life-force broke-off” (Indonesian, Balinese), “his breath stopped (or: was-exhausted” (Ekari, Sranan Tongo), or “his breath (and body) parted-with-each-other” (Toraja-Sa’dan). (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Anindilyakwa it is translated as nu-werrikarrnga or “his chest-cut/broke.” (Source: Julie Waddy in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 452ff.)

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 “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 (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

  • “think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “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)
  • “ask good” (Yakan) (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • “praise, say good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “greatly love” (Candoshi-Shapra) (source: John C. Tuggy)
  • “showing a good heart” (Kutu) (source: project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • “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 and Kui also use “praise” for this a God-directed blessing (source: Bru back translation and Helen Evans in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff. ) 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 “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.

See also “Blessed by ‘The Blessing’ in the World’s Indigenous Languages” and Multilingual version of “The Blessing” based on Numbers 6:24-26 .

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), in Mairasi “your people” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Mezquital Otomi as “fellow being,” in Tzeltal as “companion,” in Isthmus Zapotec as “another,” and in Teutila Cuicatec as “all people” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.).

In Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Luke 10:29 it is translated into Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term that refers to a person who is socially/physically near. Ixcatlán Mazatec also has a another term for “neighbor” that means “fellow humans-outsiders” which was not chosen for these passages. (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Nyongar it is translated as moorta-boordak or “people nearby” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

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).

deny oneself

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:

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).