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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.

advanced in years

The Greek that is translated as “advanced in years” in English, referring to both Elizabeth and Zacharias, encountered “special problems in Shipibo-Conibo, which counts age by age-grades: baby–child–adolescent–mature–old, with sex-distinction from adolescent on (hence two separate statements must be made), and prefers to use kinship terms instead of pronouns (hence ‘her husband’ must replace ‘he’); this results in ‘that woman was a-little-old-lady, and her husband was a-little-old-man.'”

See also years (age).

covetousness, greed

The Greek that is translated in English as “greed” or “covetousness” is translated in Zande as “having a big heart for everything” (source: Jan Sterk).

In Tzeltal it is “small-hearted,” in Yucateco “desiring what other have,” and in Shipibo-Conibo “going crazy for things.” (Source: Nida, p. 133f.)

See also extortioner / swindler.

beside himself, out of his mind

The Greek that is translated as “beside himself” or “lost his mind” or other variations in English is (back-) translated by the following languages like this:

  • Tzeltal: “his head had been touched” (“an expression to identify what might be called the half-way stage to insanity”)
  • Amganad Ifugao: “he acts as though he were crazy”
  • Shilluk: “he is acting like an imbecile”
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “his thoughts have gone out of him”
  • Pamona: “he is outside his senses”
  • Indonesian: “he is not by his reason”

cast lots

The Greek that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 規 矩 掣 籤 guījǔ chè qiān (in most Chinese Bibles), “each to pick-up which is-written (i.e. small sticks inscribed with characters and used as slots)” (Batak Toba), a term for divination by means of reed stalks (Toraja-Sa’dan). In some cases a cultural equivalent is not available, or it is felt to be unsuitable in this situation, e.g. in Ekari where “to spin acorns” has the connotation of gambling, one may have to state the fact without mentioning the means, e.g. “it came to him,” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel). In Shipibo-Conibo there was no equivalent for “casting lots” so the translation for Mark 15:24 is descriptive: “they shook little things to decide what each one should take” (source: Nida 1952, p. 47).

In Purari it is translated as “throw shells” (source: David Clark), in Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) as “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross), in Navajo as “draw straws,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “raffle,” in Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in Inupiaq a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiaq term is also used in Esther 3:7, “though there winning and losing is not in view, but rather choosing by chance” (source: Robert Bascom)

The stand-alone term that is translated “lots” in English is translated as “two pieces of potsherd” in Highland Totonac. (Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)

filled with the Holy Spirit, full with the Holy Spirit

The Greek that is rendered in English as “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full with the Holy Spirit” is translated in Tboli as “the Holy Spirit shall be with him,” in Shipibo-Conibo as “the Holy Spirit shall permeate him” (using a term said of medicines), in Cuyonon as “he shall be under the control of the Holy Spirit” (esp. Luke 4:1, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24) in Ngäbere as “the full strength of the Holy Spirit shall stay in him,” in Tae’ (translation of 1933) as “he shall carry the Holy Spirit in his inner being” (sourse for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), and in Yamba and Bulu as “the Holy Spirit filled their hearts” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff.).

The following story is relayed by Martha Duff Tripp as she led the translation of the New Testament into Yanesha’ (p. 310):

I continue to work with Casper Mountain [an Yanesha’ translator] on translation. As we start the book of Luke, we run into another problem. In Chapter 1, verse 15, the text reads (speaking of John the Baptist), “and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Amueshas [Yanesha’s] have never associated their word for “fill” with anything except pots and baskets. How can a person be “filled”? Even their word for a full stomach is not the word for “fill.” We talk together about what “filled with the Holy Spirit” means (obsessed with or possessed by). The thought comes to me of what the Amueshas [Yanesha’s] say about the shaman. They say that he can “wear” the spirit of the tiger, that they can tell when he is wearing the tiger spirit because he then will act like a tiger. Their word for “wear” is the same word as to “wear or put on a garment.” Can this possibly be the way to say “filled with God’s Spirit”? As I cautiously question Casper about this, his face lights up immediately. “Yes, that is the way we would say it, he is ’wearing’ God’s Holy Spirit.”

See also Holy Spirit.

grace and truth

The Greek that is translated as “grace and truth” in English is translated in Fasu as “He gave free big help and true talk.” Like many languages, Fasu does not allow for verbal nominalization where a verb can be turned into a noun.

Shipibo-Conibo translates it as “only having good thought, only having true words.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

See also grace.

care for no man, defer to no one

The Greek that is translated into English as “care for no man” or “defer to no one” (in the sense of not seeking anyone’s favor) is translated in Tabasco Chontal as “you say the same thing to everyone” and in Shilluk as “you show the same respect to everyone.” In Shipibo-Conibo it is “in your mind no one is anything,” in Chol it is “your heart is equally straight in the presence of all men” and in Tzeltal “it does not matter who — all of us are equal as far as you are concerned.”

turn (back) to

The Greek that is translated in English as “turn (back) to” is translated as “turn them round again to” (Santali), “turn-back the minds (of the Israelites) in order to go-in-the-direction-of” (Balinese, “bring forward (to the place someone has left)” (Ekari), “lead cause them turn (and) return come seek” (Thai), and “cause to believe” (Shipibo-Conibo).

See also conversion / convert / turn back


The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “doubt” in English versions is translated with a term in Tzeltal that means “heart is gone.” (Nida 1952, p. 122)

In other languages it is represented by a variety of idiomatic renderings, and in the majority of instances the concept of duality is present, e.g. “to make his heart two” (Kekchí), “to be with two hearts” (Punu), “to stand two” (Sierra de Juárez Zapotec), “to be two” or “to have two minds” (Navajo), “to think something else” (Tabasco Chontal), “to think two different things” (Shipibo-Conibo), “to have two thoughts” (Yaka and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua), or “two-things-soul” (Yucateco).

In some languages, however, doubt is expressed without reference to the concept of “two” or “otherness,” such as “to have whirling words in one’s heart” (Chol), “his thoughts are not on it” (Baoulé), or “to have a hard heart” (Piro). (Source: Bratcher / Nida, except for Yucateco: Nida 1947, p. 229 and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua: Nida 1952, p. 123)

In Chokwekwalajala is ‘to doubt.’ It is the repetitive of kuala, ‘to spread out in order, to lay (as a table), to make (as a bed),’ and is connected with kualula ‘to count.’ [It is therefore like] a person in doubt as one who can’t get a thing in proper order, who lays it out one way but goes back again and again and tries it other ways. It is connected with uncertainty, hesitation, lack of an orderly grasp of the ‘count’ of the subject.” (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff.)

in him was life

The Greek that is translated as “in him was life” or similar in English is translated in Shipibo-Conibo as “that Word also caused to live,” in Umiray Dumaget Agta as “he is the one who gives life,” and in Tzotzil (San Andres) as “everything alive lives because of him,” and in Alekano as “he is the father of life.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February, 1970, p. 1-125.)