gave up his spirit

The Greek that is often translated as “he gave up his spirit” in English is translated in a variety of ways:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “And then he died”
  • Aguaruna: “His breath went out”
  • Navajo: “He gave back his spirit”
  • Inupiaq: “He breathed his last”
  • Chol: “He caused his spirit to leave him”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “He sent away his life breath” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Kankanaey: “He entrusted his spirit to God”
  • Tagbanwa: “released his spirit” (lit. caused it to spring away)
  • Uma: “His spirit/breath broke”
  • Yakan: “His breath snapped”

praise (God)

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “praise (God)” in English is translated as “make-great” / “make-great the name of” (Tae’), “to speak well of” (Western Highland Purepecha), “lift up the name of” (San Blas Kuna, Kpelle), “to sing the name of” (Huehuetla Tepehua), “to make good” (Highland Totonac), “to say good about” (Tzeltal), or “to make known something good about” (Navajo). (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Dan a figurative expression for praising God is used: “pushing God’s horse.” “In the distant past people closely followed the horses ridden by chiefs, so ‘pushing’ them.” (Source: Don Slager)

complete verse (John 5:39)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 5:39:

  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “You read the writings carefully because you mistakenly think that you will live forever because of them. These, however, are what tell of me.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “It is necessary that you study well God’s words since you say that there you will find everlasting life up in heaven. And you will find that even there it talks about me.”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “You read where the word of God is written down, for you think that you will live forever because you have the word of God. But I am the one the word of God is speaking about.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “You earnestly study the Holy Book you have, because you want to find out about the new life which is forever. And the one written about in that Holy Book you study is me.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

complete verse (John 17:2)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 17:2:

  • Navajo: “You have given me charge of human beings, as many as there are, in order that I should give to all that you have given me life that does not end.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “You have given me my chieftainship so that I can rule all people. In this way can give eternal life in heaven to all you gave me.”
  • Aguaruna: “You are the one who said in reference to me, ‘Let him be the commander of all people; so that he gives never ending life to those I have given him.'”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

Peace be with you

The Greek that is typically translated as “Peace be with you” in English is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “Have peaceful happy hearts,” in Huehuetla Tepehua as “Don’t be sad in your hearts,” in Aguaruna as “Be content,” in Shipibo-Conibo as “Think very good,” in Isthmus Mixe as “Don’t worry,” and in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “May it go well with you.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)


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 Lak and Shughni it is translated with terms of feminine gender. Vitaly Voinov tells this story:

“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.”

complete verse (John 6:63)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 6:63:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “People live because their spirit is in them. A person’s flesh is worthless if the spirit is absent from the body. Those words that I told you give eternal life, the way a person’s spirit gives him natural life.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “Well, the Holy Spirit, he is the one who gives eternal life. The life of just men can’t give life everlasting up in heaven. The words that I declare unto you are for your heart, and they give life everlasting.”
  • Chol: “That which is for our spirits gives us our lives. That which is for our body does not give us that. My words that I told you are for your spirit. They give you your life.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “Only the Holy Spirit gives the new life. That which I told you means that you should believe in me, not that I was saying that you should eat me.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

feed my lambs

The Greek that is translated as “feed my lambs” in English is translated as “teach my people my words, as if to say you will feed my little sheep” in Ojitlán Chinantec, “teach my word to the men who are like lambs” in Huehuetla Tepehua, “help those who believe in me” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac, “teach the people who have just begun to trust in me” in Yatzachi Zapotec and “now do like a shepherd does. Take care of the people who believe in me” in Tenango Otomi.

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

See alsotend my sheep.

complete verse (John 1:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:5:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “That one who gives understanding to the minds of men, he was like a light that shines where it is dark. But the one who walks where it is dark (the devil) couldn’t overcome him.”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “For people are in the evil way, as if to say, they are in darkness. But he illuminates people. The evil one did not prevail over that one who illuminates people.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “He is like a light which illuminates where it is dark. And the devil, he is of the darkness but he cannot conquer the light.”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “The person who is the word has light for the hearts of mankind. Even though there is very much evil in this world where he arrived, the evil did not shut off his light.”
  • Chol: “The light of the world shows itself in the midst of a very dark world. This very dark world was not able to put out the light.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “That light shone/shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness was/is not able to kill it/him” (NOTE: The verb “kill” can be used of putting out a light or fire)