break the bow of Israel

The Hebrew that is translated as “break the bow of Israel” or similar in English is translated in Vidunda as “reduce the military strength of Israel.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

kiss

The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips [publ. 1960] in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:

  • Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
  • Southern Birifor: puor or “greet” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Afar: gaba tittal ucuya — “give hands to each other” (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
  • Cheke Holo: “love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
  • Pitjantjatjara: “when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
  • Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
  • Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
  • Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
  • Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
  • Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • San Blas Kuna: “smell the face” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Chichewa: “suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
  • Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
  • Shona (version of 1966) / Vidunda: “hug”
  • Balinese: “caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel; Vidunda: project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Tsafiki: earlier version: “greet in a friendly way,” later revision: “kiss on the face” (Bruce Moore [in: Notes on Translation 1/1992), p. 1ff.] explains: “Formerly, kissing had presented a problem. Because of the Tsáchilas’ [speakers of Tsafiki] limited exposure to Hispanic culture they understood the kiss only in the eros context. Accordingly, the original translation had rendered ‘kiss’ in a greeting sense as ‘greet in a friendly way’. The actual word ‘kiss’ was not used. Today ‘kiss’ is still an awkward term, but the team’s judgment was that it could be used as long as long as it was qualified. So ‘kiss’ (in greeting) is now ‘kiss on the face’ (that is, not on the lips).)
  • Kwere / Kutu: “show true friendship” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

See also kissed (his feet).

were born to David

The Hebrew that is translated as “(sons) were born to David” or similar in English is translated in Vidunda as “(sons) were born to David’s wives,” to make it sound more natural. (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

horn / trumpet

The Hebrew that is translated as “horn” or similar in English is translated in Vidunda as “animal horn.” Since there was no second term for a comparable instrument, “trumpet” is translated with a Swahili loan word. (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

ruddy

The Hebrew that is translated with “ruddy” in English is translated in Mandinka as “light-skinned.” “‘Light-skinned’ could be considered a cultural equivalent. Although there are a few people with reddish skin in Mandinka, this is not an attractive trait. The UBS Handbook (A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel by R.L. Omanson and J. Ellington) suggests that ‘ruddy’ may have referred to the hair, but medical people know that reddish hair is a sign of malnutrition.” (Source: Rob Koops)

In Vidunda it is translated as “healthy/strong” and in Kwere as “powerful” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

I will keep watch

The Hebrew that is translated as “I will keep watch” or similar in English is translated in Vidunda as “I won’t sleep.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

cherub

Some key biblical terms that were directly transliterated from the Hebrew have ended up with unforeseen meanings in the lexicons of various recipient languages.

Take, for example, the English word “cherub,” from Hebrew “kĕrȗb.” Whereas the original Hebrew term meant something like “angelic being that is represented as part human, part animal” (…), the English word now means something like “a person, especially a child, with an innocent or chubby face.” Semantic shift has been conditioned in English by the Renaissance artistic tradition that portrayed cherubim in the guise of cute little Greek cupids. This development was of course impossible to foresee at the time when the first English translations borrowed this Hebrew word into the English Bible tradition, following the pattern of borrowing set by the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament.

In Russian, the semantic shift of this transliteration was somewhat different: the -îm ending of “kĕrūbîm,” originally signifying plurality in Hebrew, has been reanalyzed as merely the final part of the lexical item, so that the term херувим (kheruvim) in Russian is a singular count noun, not a plural one. (A similar degrammaticalization is seen in English writers who render the Hebrew plural kĕrūbîm as “cherubims.”) Apparently, this degrammaticalization of the Hebrew ending is what led the Russian Synodal translator of Genesis 3:24 to mistakenly render the Hebrew as saying that the Lord God placed a kheruvim (accusative masculine singular in Russian) to the east of the garden of Eden, instead of indicating a plural number of such beings. (Source: Vitaly Voinov in The Bible Translator 2012, p. 17ff.)

In Ngäbere the Hebrew that is translated in English as “cherub” is translated as “heavenly guard” (source: J. Loewen 1980, p. 107), in Nyamwezi as v’amalaika v’akelubi or “Cherubim-Angel” to add clarity, in Vidunda as “winged creature” (source for this and before: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext), and in Bura-Pabir as “good spirit with wings” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

In French Sign Language it is translated with a sign that combines “angel” and “spinning sword” (referring to Genesis 3:24):


“Cherub” in French Sign Language (source: La Bible en langue des signes française )

See also ark of the covenant.