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):
“showing a good heart” (Kutu) (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, 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)
A particularly interesting development in the history of Christianity [related to translation] took place with respect to the Greek term monogenés, literally, ‘only, unique, one of kind.’ It was used of Isaac as the son of Abraham [see Gen. 22:2], though Isaac was not the only son of Abraham, for he had a son Ishmael, and with a later wife Keturah, several sons. But Isaac was the only son of a particular kind, that is to say, the unique son of the promise. The term monogenés was translated into Latin as unigenitus, meaning literally ‘only begotten’ [in English — or likewise traditionally in Chinese: “dúshēng 獨 生,” Italian: “unigenito,” Spanish “unigénito,” or German: “eingeboren”] but in Greek the equivalent of ‘only begotten’ would have two n’s and not just one. Nevertheless, the Latin misinterpretation of monogenés has constituted such a long tradition that any attempt to speak of Jesus as the ‘unique son of God’ rather than the ‘only begotten son’ is often announced as a case of blatant heresy. (Source: Nida 1984, p. 114.)
In Waiwai, the Greek that is translated as “only begotten Son” in English in John 3:16 is translated as cewnan tumumururosa okwe, where the “particle okwe indicates dearness, and it must be included in Waiwai for the expression ‘only begotten Son’ to mean anything like what it means to God or to us as Christians.” (Source: Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. )
The Greek that is translated as “God shows no partiality” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as “God never says concerning us, ‘He is a very important person” (Noro yipu mikha kopi, kahraro maki nay Kan kpokoso). (Source: Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. )
The Greek that is translated “…with orders to bring his head” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as noro pitho taki ehtati: “She says to go bring his head now.” Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. ) explains: “The particle ti indicates indirect quotation; with commands or requests it has the effect of laying all the responsibility for the command or request ontp another person. We feel that Herod, if he had been speaking Waiwai, would have thus laid the responsibility for this request on the daughter of Herodias as he regretted the action very much.”
The Greek that is translated as “John, whom I beheaded” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as canirma mese onikhato norohamta: “It is evidently John whom I beheaded.” Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. ) explains: “The particle mese indicates disagreement with another person; apparently Herod was disagreeing with the guesses of other people concerning the identity of Jesus. In the original this is not stated in the text but is implied in the context.”
The Greek that is translated as “has been raised” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as pakay taki haramatwahake kopi: “he must have come back to life.” Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. ) explains: “The particle kopi indicates fear. This thought of fear is not found in the expression itself but is implied by the context and from what we know of Herod’s life and from the rarity of people rising from the dead.”
The Greek that is translated as “walking on the sea (or: lake)” or similar in English is translated in Waiwai as tuna ratari mokyakne kopi, coycoy wara: “He came along the surface of the water, step, step.” Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. ) explains: “The particle coy (here reduplicated) is an iddeophone meaning ‘to step’ and indicates that Christ was walking over the surface of the water rather than comping to the boat (…) [and] kopi indicates fear, which though not expressed in this verse is expressed in the following verses. Thus we have added to particle here with out, we feel, adding anything to the meaning of the original text.”