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:
Bauzi: “good on top person” (source: David Briley in Kroneman (2004), p. 502)
Tibetan: kha chos pa (ཁ་ཆོས་པ།), lit. “mouth + religion + person” (used for instance in Matt. 7:5) or sgyu zog can (སྒྱུ་ཟོག་ཅན།), lit. “deception + fraud + person” (used for instance in Matt. 24:51) (source: gSungrab website )
Low German: “actor in a comedy” (translation by Johannes Jessen, publ. 1933, republ. 2006)
The English version of Sarah Ruden (2021) uses “play-actor.” She explains (p. li): “A hupokrites is fundamentally an actor. The word has deep negativity in the Gospels on two counts: professional actors were not respectable people in the ancient world, and traditional Judaism did not countenance any kind of playacting. I write ‘play-actor’ throughout.”
The Greek, Latin and Hebrew that is usually translated in English as “truth” is translated in Luchazi with vusunga: “the quality of being straight” (source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff. ), in Obolo as atikọ or “good/correct talk” (source: Enene Enene), and in Ekari as maakodo bokouto or “enormous truth” (esp. in John 14:6 and 17; bokouto — “enormous” — is being used as an attribute for abstract nouns to denote that they are of God [see also here]; source: Marion Doble in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 37ff. ).
The translation committee of the Malay “Good News Bible” (Alkitab Berita Baik, see here ) wrestled with the translation of “truth” in the Gospel of John (for more information click or tap here):
“Our Malay Committee also concluded that ‘truth’ as used in the Gospel of John was used either of God himself, or of God’s revelation of himself, or in an extended sense as a reference to those who had responded to God’s self-disclosure. In John 8:32 the New Malay translation reads ‘You will know the truth about God, and the truth about God will make you free.’ In John 8:44 this meaning is brought out by translating, ‘He has never been on the side of God, because there is no truth in him.’ Accordingly Jesus ‘tells the truth about God’ in 8:45, 46 (see also 16:7 and 8:37a). Then, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ becomes ‘I am the one who leads men to God, the one who reveals who and what God is, and the one who gives men life.” At 3:21 the translation reads ” … whoever obeys the truth, that is God himself, comes to the light …’; 16:13a appears as ‘he will lead you into the full truth about God’; and in 18:37 Jesus affirms ‘I came into the world to reveal the truth about God, and whoever obeys God listens to me.’ On this basis also 1:14 was translated ‘we saw his glory, the glory which he had as the Father’s only Son. Through him God has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace)’; and 1:17 appears as ‘God gave the law through Moses; but through Jesus Christ he has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace).'” (Source: Barclay Newman in The Bible Translator 1974, p. 432ff. )
Helen Evans (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff. ) tells of the translation into Kui which usually is “true-thing.” In some instances however, such as in the second part of John 17:17 (“your word is truth” in English), the use of “true-thing” indicated that there might be other occasions when it’s not true, so here the translation was a a form of “pure, holy.”
The Greek that is translated as “justify” in English is translated into Tzotzil in two different ways. One of those is with Lec xij’ilatotic yu’un Dios ta sventa ti ta xc’ot ta o’ntonal ta xch’unel ti Jesucristoe (“we are seen well by God because of our faith in Jesus Christ”) (source: Aeilts, p. 118) and the other is “God sees as righteous” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).
Other (back-) translations include:
Bilua: “straigthened” (Rom 3:20: “Nobody can be straightened in God’s presence…”) (source: Carl Gross) (see also: righteous)
The Greek that is translated as “tradition” in English is translated in Kekchí as “the old root-trunk” (in which the life of a people is likened to a tree), in Central Tarahumara, as “to live as the ancients did,” in North Alaskan Inupiatun as “sayings passed down from long-ago times,” in Navajo as “what their fathers of old told them to follow,” in Toraja-Sa’dan as “the ordinance maintained by the forefathers,” in Tzeltal as “word that has been kept from the ancients” (source for this and all above Bratcher / Nida), and in Gumuz as “the life of your fathers” (source: Loren Bliese).
In Obolo it is translated as orọmijọn̄: “the deeds of the ground” (source: Enene Enene).
The Greek in the books of Revelation and Acts is translated as obq-rmwible: “look-dream” in Natügu. Brenda Boerger (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 162ff.) tells the story of that translation: “In the book of Revelation, the author, John, talks about having visions. Mr. Simon [the native language translator] and I discussed what this meant and he invented the compound verb obq-rmwible ‘look-dream’ to express it. Interestingly, during village testing no one ever had to ask what this neologism meant.”
The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated in English as “(as white as) snow” is translated in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec as “(as white as) volcano frost,” the only white kind of frost that is known in that language (source: Nida 1947, p. 160.). Likewise, it is translated in Chichewa as matalala or “hail stones,” since “hail in Central Africa, when it occurs, is also white” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72).
In Obolo it is translated as abalara: “white cloth” (source: Enene Enene), in Bambam as “like the white of cotton” (source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500), in Muna as “white like cotton flowers” (source: René van den Berg), in Sharanahua as “like fresh Yuca root” (source: Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 72), in Tagbanwa as “white like just broken waves” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), in Chitonga as “as the cattle egret ” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 130), and in Cerma “white like the full moon,” except in Psalm 51:7 where the Cerma translators chose “wash me with water until I shine” (source: Andrea Suter in Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 36).
In Gbaya, in most cases an ideophone (term that expresses what is perceived by the five senses) is employed to depict strong intense whiteness (either ndáká-ndáká or kpúŋ-kpúŋ are used for the ideophones), sometimes in combination with “cotton.” Interestingly, for Rev. 1:14 where the color of the hair of the “Son of Man” is described, the use of cotton was questioned since it “would create the unpleasant image of an untidy person with disheveled hair or of a mourner with unkempt appearance.” It was eventually used, but only with a footnote that gives additional information by mentioning the French loan word neige for “snow.” In the two cases where the color white refers to the color of the skin of leprosy (Num. 12:10 and 2 Kings 5:27), the image of hail is used in the first to describe the pale white of leprous skin, while the ideophone ndáká-ndáká is used for dramatic effect in the second. (Source: Philip Noss)
The Ignaciano translators decided to translate the difficult term in that language according to the focus of each New Testament passage in which the word appears (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight
Willis Ott (in Notes on Translation 88/1982, p. 18ff.) explains:
Matt. 5:23,24: “When you take your offering to God, and arriving, you remember…, do not offer your gift yet. First go to your brother…Then it is fitting to return and offer your offering to God.” (The focus is on improving relationships with people before attempting to improve a relationship with God, so the means of offering, the altar, is not focal.)
Matt. 23:18 (19,20): “You also teach erroneously: ‘If someone makes a promise, swearing by the offering-place/table, he is not guilty if he should break the promise. But if he swears by the gift that he put on the offering-place/table, he will be guilty if he breaks the promise.'”
Luke 1:11: “…to the right side of the table where they burn incense.”
Luke 11.51. “…the one they killed in front of the temple (or the temple enclosure).” (The focus is on location, with overtones on: “their crime was all the more heinous for killing him there”.)
Rom. 11:3: “Lord, they have killed all my fellow prophets that spoke for you. They do not want anyone to give offerings to you in worship.” (The focus is on the people’s rejection of religion, with God as the object of worship.)
1Cor. 9:13 (10:18): “Remember that those that attend the temple have rights to eat the foods that people bring as offerings to God. They have rights to the meat that the people offer.” (The focus is on the right of priests to the offered food.)
Heb. 7:13: “This one of whom we are talking is from another clan. No one from that clan was ever a priest.” (The focus in on the legitimacy of this priest’s vocation.)
Jas. 2:21: “Remember our ancestor Abraham, when God tested him by asking him to give him his son by death. Abraham was to the point of stabbing/killing his son, thus proving his obedience.” (The focus is on the sacrifice as a demonstration of faith/obedience.)
Rev. 6:9 (8:3,5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7): “I saw the souls of them that…They were under the table that holds God’s fire/coals.” (This keeps the concepts of: furniture, receptacle for keeping fire, and location near God.)
Rev. 11:1: “Go to the temple, Measure the building and the inside enclosure (the outside is contrasted in v. 2). Measure the burning place for offered animals. Then count the people who are worshiping there.” (This altar is probably the brazen altar in a temple on earth, since people are worshiping there and since outside this area conquerors are allowed to subjugate for a certain time.)