vain (worship)

The Greek that is translated into English as “vain” or “in vain” in English is (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say I am important, but they do not believe it”
  • Kekchí: “has no meaning when they praise me”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona: “uselessly”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “uselessly they remember”
  • Farefare: “their religion is their mouth”
  • Southern Subanen: “their worship has no meaning”
  • Tzotzil: “they say they love me, but this means nothing”
  • Southern Bobo Madaré: “they worship me but they do not mean what they say”
  • Central Mazahua: “it is of no value that they honor me”
  • San Blas Kuna: “their thinking is not in their hearts” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Mairasi: “tribute of theirs for me [which] will-be-on-their-own” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Guhu-Samane: “with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me” (“‘In vain’ caused puzzlement [because] why should their efforts to worship God produce no results, try as they may? [But the idiom] ‘with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me’ comes from the picture of one who is making a pretense at eating food, hence their deceit is apparent.’ Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. )

wineskins

The Greek that is translated as “wineskins” in most English translations is translated in Guhu-Samane as “gourds.”

“Wineskins” caused “puzzlement [because] why would one put wine or any liquid into the skin of an animal since the skins just rot quickly? [But] it is conceded that a person wishing to store a liquid (wine or other) would not choose an old, but a new gourd. The people here are familiar with wine in the Eucharist and can readily conceive of how wine (literally ‘strong water’) could burst an old gourd and as such the argument is not lost.”

Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. .

taste death

The Greek and Latin that is translated as “taste death” in English is translated in Guhu-Samane as “die” because “the term suggests cannibalism to Papua New Guinea natives.”

Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. .

spirit / flesh

The Greek terms that are translated “spirit” and “flesh” are a fundamental contrast, but one which is variously expressed in different languages. Often, however, “spirit” is equivalent to “heart” (Eastern Highland Otomi, Loma, Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl), and “flesh” may be rendered as “body” (Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal) or “you yourself” (Central Tarahumara).

The following translations are illustrative of the contrastive expressions: “your hearts are ready but your bodies are weak” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “your heart is strong but you yourselves are not strong” (Central Tarahumara), “your heart has strength, but your body does not have strength” (Tzeltal), “your heart desires to do good, but your heart is weak,” in which “heart” must be used in both clauses since it not only stands for the center of the personality, but is also the symbol of typical human nature (Loma). (Source for this and all above Bratcher / Nida)

Other translations include “the mind is enthusiastic about doing what God wants it to but limited in the capacity of the body” (Ibaloi) or “Your body is tired but your inner man is not tired” (Lacandon). (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

In Guhu-Samane an idiomatic expression with “your desire is there, but sleep has slain your body” is used. (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. )

See also flesh (human nature).

first commandment

The Greek that is translated as “first commandment” in English is translated in Guhu-Samane as “the head of the rest of the commandments… .” This solves a potential confusion for Guhu-Samane speakers whether the commandment is “the first in point of time, or of importance. [This way] it speaks obviously of the primacy of the commandment.”

Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. .