colt that has never been ridden

The phrase that is translated into English as “a colt that has never been ridden” can be translated in Kalmyk much more succinctly than even the original Greek text since Kalmyk as arkhlata (архлата) a specific word for an unbroken colt. (source: David Clark)

In the Arhuaco translation of Luke 19:35 (in the English translation: “after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”) the co-translator knew how unruly unbroken colts are so they translated “they held the donkey steady so that Jesus could get on it.” (source: Paul Lundquist in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 246.)

See also this devotion on YouVersion .

young man

In the translation into Purari, Jesus addresses the dead man as “younger brother.” (Source: David Clark)

avoid and pass by on the other side of the road

The Rennellese translation uses one specific term — haka tihitihi — that encompasses the meaning of “to avoid and pass by on the other side of the road.” This was a particularly fitting translation because it “has a strong negative component. The example people gave was ‘moving to the other side of the road if a child has defecated on the road.’” (Source: David Clark and Nico Daams)

Mary / Martha / Lazarus (relative age)

Many languages have terms for siblings that define whether one is younger or older in relation to another sibling.

In Fuyug, Tae’, Batak Toba, and Mandarin Chinese, Martha was assumed to be the older of the two sisters because she is mentioned first. (Sources: David Clark [Fuyug] and Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Navajo translates accordingly but for a different reason: “since Martha seemed to take the responsibility of the housework, she was probably the older of the two” (source: Wallis 2000, p. 103f.) whereas in Mandarin Chinese he is the younger brother.

In Fuyug, Lazarus is assumed to be the oldest sibling on the grounds that he died first, whereas in several Thai translations he is described as the youngest of the three. (Source: David Clark)


The Greek that is translated into English as “babbler” is translated in Fuyug as “this birdbrain.” (Source: David Clark)

In San Mateo del Mar Huave, it is translated as “that man who does not know how to close his mouth,” in Eastern Highland Otomi as “much-talker man,” in Teutila Cuicatec as “loud-mouthed fellow,” in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “person who does nothing but talk,” and in Morelos Nahuatl as “man who talks so much.” (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

In Low German it is translated as Klooksnaker or “know-it-all” (translation by Johannes Jessen, publ. 1933, republ. 2006).


For the Greek that is translated as “dragon” in English, the Bawm Chin translation uses a term referring to a mythical serpent (source: David Clark), Sranan Tongo uses the local bigi kaiman or “big Caiman” (source: Jabini 2015, p. 33) and Chinese translations typically use lóng 龙/龍 which brings it in conflict with Chinese culture where lóng 龙/龍 has a highly positive connotation.

Simon Wong explains:

“The translation process often involves finding the lexical equivalent in the receptor language for words or expressions in the source language. If finding the equivalent of concrete objects from ancient times is challenging, identifying the equivalent for mythical (or legendary) figures is nearly unimaginable. In the English-speaking world (or perhaps in most European contexts), what is represented by the English word ‘dragon’ is often portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, but in Chinese culture, lóng 龙 (traditional script: 龍), the commonly accepted Chinese equivalent of ‘dragon’ always represents a cultural mascot of good fortune. It is the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy; it is even surmised that the pronunciation represents the sound of thunder. Dragons were also identified with the emperors of China in the old days; ordinary people were not allowed to use any portrait of the dragon. It is only a relatively recent expression that the Chinese are called ‘people of the dragon’ and that its portrait is popularized. Many East Asian deities and demigods have dragons as their personal mounts or companions.

“The author of Revelation used the Greek δράκων (which is translated into English as ‘dragon’) to represent the mythical Satanic incarnation coming down from heaven. The most popular Protestant Chinese version (Chinese Union Version published in 1919) renders this Greek word δράκων as lóng 龙/龍. This rendering represents a long tradition that can be traced back to the earliest Protestant translations of the 1820s. Since then, almost all Protestant Chinese versions have followed this tradition of using lóng 龙/龍, a rendering that inevitably creates a cultural crash with Chinese culture. Many new converts are asked to demolish all vases or artefacts portraying this mythical figure, and some people are even asked to have their name changed if the character lóng 龙/龍 is found in their names. While modern Catholic Chinese translations also use the same rendering, the first Catholic Chinese version (unpublished) which included the Book of Revelation (1813, by the French Jesuit Loui Antoine de Poirot) used the term mǎng 蟒 (meaning ‘python’). The python’s fierce nature carries a negative connotation that is far more appropriate and indeed conveys the meaning of the Greek word far more adequately than lóng 龙/龍. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible with the Pentateuch completed in mid-3rd century B.C.), it was said that, when Moses and Pharoah’s priests threw their staffs on the ground, the staffs became δράκων (Exod 7:9, 10, 12). This Greek word was used to translate the Hebrew word ‘tanin‎,’ unmistakenly understood to be ‘serpent.’ Some recent Chinese translations rightly render it as móshé 魔蛇 (‘evil serpent’). As a translation strategy, it could also render δράκων phonetically dùlāgēn 杜拉根 (see Rev 12:3 footnote in the Revised Chinese Union Version).

“The different translation strategies that Protestant and Catholics employ shows the greater Protestant emphasis on the conversion experience. By using lóng 龙/龍 for δράκων, Protestant translators emphasized the separation from the ‘old self’ (old lives), which in this case encompassed an element of Chinese culture that was often idolatrized. Catholic missionaries (especially the Jesuits), on the other hand, had a far more positive appreciation of Chinese culture that enabled them to see no such necessary point of demarcation from the recipient’s cultural context.”

See also serpent.

Translation: Chinese


《启示录》作者用希腊文δράκων一词来描述撒但成为肉身,从天上坠落下来(启12:3,4,7,9,13,16,17,13:2,4)。最重要的新教中文圣经译本《和合本》(1919年出版)将这个希腊文词语译作"龙"。事实上,这个译法由来已久,可以追溯到马礼逊(Robert Morrison)在1823年发行的译本,或者馬殊曼和拉瑟(Marshman-Lassar)在1822年完成的译本。几乎所有新教中文圣经译本都沿用了"龙"的译法,这不可避免地与中国文化产生了冲突。有保守的传道人会要求初归信的人丢掉所有以这个神秘形象为图案的花瓶或艺术品,如果他们的名字中有"龙"字,传道人甚至会要求他们改名。第一本包含《启示录》的天主教中文圣经译本由法国耶稣会会士賀清泰神父(Louis Antoine de Poirot)在1813年译成,他采用了"蟒"的译法(并非完整,亦未有出版),然而现代的天主教中文圣经译本仍译作"龙"。"蟒"的凶猛体现出原词带负面形象的涵义。这种译法确实比"龙"合适的多,更加全面地表达出希腊文的意思。《七十士译本》是《希伯来圣经》的希腊文译本,其中的摩西五经于主前三世纪中翻译完成;这个译本叙述摩西与埃及术士争斗的故事时,说他们的杖变成了δράκων(出7:9,10,12)。《七十士译本》用这个希腊文词语来翻译希伯来文tanin,而tanin毫无疑问是指"蛇"。近期有中文译本将希腊文δράκων译作"魔蛇",这是很好的翻译。另外,δράκων也可以音译为"杜拉根"。参《和合本修订版》关于《启示录》12:3的脚注。


Translator: Simon Wong

respectable people, righteous people

The term that is translated as “respectable people” or “righteous people” in English versions is rendered in Kuy with the idiom that says “those who are self-satisfied within their own group” (i.e. those who love each other.)

For other translations of this term see righteous / righteousness.


The Greek that is translated as “adulterer” in English would imply “I only take unmarried girls” in Telugu, so it was necessary to be more generic and say “I don’t go after other women” (source: David Clark).

In Central Subanen an “adulterer” is “one who can’t be trusted” (source: Bratcher / Nida).

See also adulteress and adultery.