land flowing with milk and honey

The phrase that is rendered in English versions as “land flowing with milk and honey” is translated into Afar as niqmatak tan baaxoy buqre kee lacah meqehiyya: “a blessed land good for fields and cattle.” (Source: Loren Bliese)

In the interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) it is translated with the existing proverb dziko lamwanaalirenji or “a land of what (type of food) can the child cry for?” (i.e. there is more than enough to eat). (Source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 1981, p. 107)

cypress wood

The Hebrew that is translated “cypress wood” or “gopher wood” in English is translated in the interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) with mnjale or “(boards of the) canoe tree,” a tree that grows along the banks of rivers and is used to make boats.

Ernst Wendland (in The Bible Translator 1981, p. 107) explains: “Some might argue that the use of such local substitutes constitutes a misrepresentation of the biblical setting in that they give the impression that the indigenous item was actually found in the Holy Land. That may be true, but difficulties also arise with alternative solutions. Use of a generic term (e.g. ‘good timber’ — Good News Translation) is probably the safest, but this procedure, if overused, produces a dull text due to the lack of descriptive detail.15 A generic word modified by a descriptive word/phrase is also possible, but it is not very easy sometimes to find an expression that fits neatly into the account. (…) Frequently a generic or qualifying phrase turns out to be rather awkward and tends to upset the smooth flow of the discourse. They are particularly unnatural in dialogue since they can make the speaker (or his addressee) sound as if he doesn’t know his own language properly (e.g., build a ship with the boards of a tree like the mnjale…”). A loanword, unless it is one that is widely circulated in the speech community, is the least satisfactory as a descriptive term. Either its referent lies completely outside the experience of the receptors, or it is strongly associated with life in the twentieth century, hence an obvious anachronism.”

pitch

The Hebrew that is translated “pitch” or “tar” in English is translated in the interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) with phula or “bees wax,” which is often as a generic term for any type of adhesive substance. (Source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 1981, p. 107)

See also tar and pitch.

fear (of God)

The Hebrew and Greek that are translated as “fear (of God)” (or: “honor,” “worship,” or “respect”) is translated as “to have respect/reverence for” (Southern Subanen, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Javanese, Tboli), “to make great before oneself” (Ngäbere), “fear-devotion” (Kannada — currently used as a description of the life of piety), “those-with-whom he-is-holy” (those who fear God) (Western Apache) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “revere God” Lalana Chinantec, “worship God” (Palantla Chinantec) (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), “obey” (Chichewa) (source: Ernst Wendland), or with a term that communicates awe (rather than fear of an evil source) (Chol) (source: Robert Bascom).

flesh (human nature)

The Greek that is often translated as “flesh” in English (when referring to the lower human nature) can, according to Nida (1947, p. 153) “very rarely be literally translated into another language. ‘My meat’ or ‘my muscle’ does not make sense in most languages.” He then gives a catalog of almost 30 questions to determine a correct translation for that term.

Accordingly, the translations are very varied:

The Toraja-Sa’dan translation uses a variety of terms for the translation of the same Greek term (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight)

  • A form of kale tolinona or “corporeal” is for instance used in Romans 9:5 or Colossians 1:22 (and also in Genesis 6:3 and Exodus 30:32)
  • A form of mentolinona or “the human” is for instance used in Matthew 16:17 or John 1:14
  • Phrases that include pa’kalean or “bodiliness” (also: “human shape”) are for instance used in Romans 6:6 or 1 Peter 2:11 (as well as in Isa 52:14, Isa 53:2, and Lamentations 4:7

(Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 207ff. )

See also spirit / flesh, old self, and flesh (John 1:14).

soul was departing

The Hebrew that is translated “her soul was departing” or similar in English is emphasized in the interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) with the ideophone ŵefuŵefu (“she was panting her last ŵefuŵefu“). An ideophone is a word that expresses what is perceived by the five senses. (Source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 1981, p. 107)

grace

“The Greek word charis, usually translated by English ‘grace,’ is one of the desperations of translators. The area of meaning is exceptionally extensive. Note the following possible meanings for this word in various contexts of the New Testament: ‘sweetness,’ ‘charm,’ ‘loveliness,’ ‘good-will,’ ‘loving-kindness,’ ‘favor,’ ‘merciful kindness,’ ‘benefit,’ ‘gift,’ ‘benefaction,’ ‘bounty,’ and ‘thanks.’ The theological definition of ‘unmerited favor’ (some translators have attempted to employ this throughout) is applicable to only certain contexts. Moreover, it is quite a task to find some native expression which will represent the meaning of ‘unmerited favor.’ In some languages it is impossible to differentiate between ‘grace’ and ‘kindness.’ In fact, the translation ‘kindness’ is in some cases quite applicable. In other languages, a translation of ‘grace’ is inseparable from ‘goodness.’ In San Miguel El Grande Mixtec a very remarkable word has been used for ‘grace.’ It is made up of three elements. The first of these is a prefixial abstractor. The second is the stem for ‘beauty.’ The third is a suffix which indicates that the preceding elements are psychologically significant. The resultant word may be approximately defined as ‘the abstract quality of beauty of personality.’” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 223)

Other translations include (click or tap here to see more):

  • Inuktitut: “God’s kindness that enables us” (source: Andrew Atagotaaluk)
  • Kwara’ae: kwae ofe’ana (“kindness to one who deserves the opposite”) (source: Norman Deck in The Bible Translator 1963, 34ff. )
  • Chichewa: “being favored in the heart by God” (Source: Ernst Wendland)
  • Sayula Popoluca: “God’s favor” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Caribbean Javanese: kabetyikané (“goodness”)
  • Saramaccan: bunhati (“good heart”)
  • Sranan Tongo: bun ati (“good heart”) or gadobun (“God’s goodness”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: (gaan) bun ati (“(big) good heart”) (source for this and three above: Jabini 2015)
  • Fasu: “free big help”
  • Wahgi: “save without reward” (source for this and the one above: Deibler / Taylor 1977)
  • Warao: “goodness of his obojona.” Obojona is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. ) — see other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.
  • Nukna: “God gave his insides to one.” (“The ‘insides’ are the seat of emotion in Nukna, like the heart in the English language. To give your insides to someone is to feel love toward them, to want what is best for them, and to do good things for them.” (Source: Matt Taylor in The PNG Experience )
  • Hindi, Bengali: anugraha (Hindi: अनुग्रह, Bengali: অনুগ্রহ) from graha: “grasp, a reaching out after, with gracious intent” (source: R.M. Clark in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 81ff. )

In Latvian the term žēlastība is used both for “grace” and “mercy.” (Source: Katie Roth)

For Muna, René van den Berg explains the process how the translation team arrived at a satisfactory solution: “Initial translation drafts in Muna tended to (…) use the single word kadawu ‘part, (given) share, gift,’ but this word is really too generic. It lacks the meaning component of mercy and kindness and also seems to imply that the gift is part of a larger whole. Consequently we now [translate] according to context. In wishes and prayers such as ‘Grace to you and peace from God’ we translate ‘grace’ as kabarakati ‘blessing’ (e.g. Gal 1:3). In many places we use kataano lalo ‘goodness of heart’ (e.g. Gal 1:15 ‘because of the goodness of his heart God chose me’) as well as the loan rahamati ‘mercy’ (e.g. ‘you have-turned-your-backs-on the mercy of God’ for ‘you have fallen away from grace’; Gal 5:4). In one case where the unmerited nature of ‘grace’ is in focus, we have also employed katohai ‘a free gift’ (typically food offered to one’s neighbo-1urs) in the same verse. ‘The reason-you-have-been-saved is because of the goodness of God’s heart (Greek charis, Muna kataano lalo), going-through your belief in Kristus. That salvation is not the result of your own work, but really a free-gift (Greek dooron ‘gift’; Muna katohai) of God.’ (Eph 2:8).

See also grace to you.

Translation: Eastern Canadian Inuktitut

ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ ᒍᕇᑭᒃᑯᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖅᑕᖓᑦ ᑐᑭᓕᐅᔾᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᖅ ᐃᒫᒃ “ᓴᐃᒪᓂᖅ” ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑐᓪᓕ ᑐᑭᓕᐅᔾᔭᐅᓯᒪᒻᒪᑦ ᐃᒫᒃ “ᒎᑎᐅᑉ ᑐᙵᓇᕐᓂᖓᓂ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᐱᔪᓐᓇᑎᑦᑎᕙᑦᑐᖅ.”

(Translator: Julia Demcheson)

repent, repentance

The Greek and Hebrew that is often translated as “repent” or “repentance” is (back-) translated in various ways (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

  • Western Kanjobal: “think in the soul”
  • Kekchí: “pain in the heart”
  • Northwestern Dinka: “turn the heart”
  • Pedi: “become untwisted”
  • Baoulé: “it hurts to make you quit it” (source for this and above: Nida 1952, p. 137)
  • Balinese: “putting on a new mind”
  • Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “be sorry on account of one’s sins”
  • Uab Meto: “turn the heart upside down” (source for this and the two above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Central Mazahua / Chichimeca-Jonaz: “turn back the heart” (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Suki: biaekwatrudap gjaeraesae: “turn with sorrow” (source: L. and E. Twyman in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 91ff. )
  • Yamba and Bulu: “turn over the heart” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff. )
  • Chichewa: kutembenuka mtima (“to be turned around in one’s heart”) (source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 319ff.)
  • Caribbean Javanese: mertobat (“tired of old life”)
  • Saramaccan: bia libi ko a Massa Gadu (“turn your life to the Lord God”)
  • Sranan Tongo: drai yu libi (“turn your life”) or kenki libi (“change life”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: dai yu libi (“turn your life”) (source for this and 3 above: Jabini 2015)
  • Eggon: “bow in the dust” (source: Kilgour, p. 80)
  • Embu: “change heart” (“2 Cor. 7:10 says ‘For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.’ In ordinary speech the terms ‘repent’ and ‘regret’ are used interchangeably in Embu, so that this verse comes out as: ‘godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no repentance,’ which is contradictory. The problem was solved by using ‘changing heart’ in the first, and ‘sadness’ in the second.”) (source: Jan Sterk)
  • Anuak: “liver falls down”
  • Kafa: “return from way of sin to God” (source for this and the one above: Loren Bliese)
  • Latvian: atgriezties (verb) / atgriešanās (noun) (“turn around / return” — see turn around / convert) (source: Katie Roth)
  • Obolo: igwugwu ikom: “turn back (from evil)” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: make an end (of wrongdoing) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Luchazi: ku aluluka mutima: “turn in heart” (source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff. )
  • Chokwe: kulinkonyeka: “fold back over” or “go back on oneself” (source D.B. Long in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 135ff. ).
  • Muna: dofetompa’ao dhosa bhe dodoli ne Lahata’ala: “radically-end sin and to turn to God” (source: René van den Berg)
  • Bacama: por-njiya: “fetch sand” (“Before the coming of Christianity 100 years ago, when the elders went to pray to the gods, they would take sand and throw it over each shoulder and down their backs while confessing their sins. Covering themselves with sand was a ritual to show that they were sorry for what they had done wrong, sort of like covering oneself with sackcloth and ashes. Now idol worship for the most part is abandoned in Bacama culture, but the Christian church has retained the phrase por-njiya to mean ‘repent, doing something to show sorrow for one’s sins’” — source: David Frank in this blog post .)
  • “In Tzotzil two reflexive verbs to communicate the biblical concept of repentance are used. Xca’i jba means to know or to reflect inwardly on one’s self. This self inquiry or self examination is similar to the attitude of the prodigal son where Luke 15:17 records that ‘he came to his senses.’ Broke, starving, and slopping hogs, the prodigal admitted to himself that he was in the wrong place. The second reflexive verb ‘jsutes jba’ means turning away from what one is and turning to something else. In a sense, it is deciding against one’s self and toward someone else. It is similar to the attitude of the prodigal son when he said, ‘I will get up and go to my father’ (v. 18).” (source: Aeilts, p. 118)
  • Enlhet “exchange innermosts.” “Innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind (for other examples see here). (Source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff. )
  • San Blas Kuna: “sorry for wrong done in the heart” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff. )
  • Desano: “change your bad deeds for good ones”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “put your hearts and minds on the good road”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “change your thinking about evil and walk in the way of God”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “just remember that you have done wicked, in order that you might do good”
  • Coatlán Mixe: “heart-return to God” (source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Sierra de Juárez Zapotec: “get on the right road”
  • Isthmus Zapotec: “heart becomes soft” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also: convert / conversion / turn back and see Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”

scribe

The Greek that is translated as “scribe” in English “were more than mere writers of the law. They were the trained interpreters of the law and expounders of tradition.”

Here are a number of its (back-) translations:

  • Yaka: “clerk in God’s house”
  • Amganad Ifugao: “man who wrote and taught in the synagogue”
  • Navajo: “teaching-writer” (“an attempt to emphasize their dual function”)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “book-wise person”
  • San Blas Kuna: “one who knew the Jews’ ways”
  • Loma: “educated one”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “one knowing holy paper”
  • Central Mazahua: “writer of holy words”
  • Indonesian: “expert in the Torah”
  • Pamona: “man skilled in the ordinances” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Sinhala: “bearer-of-the-law”
  • Marathi: “one-learned-in-the-Scriptures”
  • Shona (1966): “expert of the law”
  • Balinese: “expert of the books of Torah”
  • Ekari: “one knowing paper/book”
  • Tboli: “one who taught the law God before caused Moses to write” (or “one who taught the law of Moses”) (source for this and 5 above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Nyongar: Mammarapa-Warrinyang or “law man” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Mairasi: “one who writes and explains Great Above One’s (=God’s) prohibitions” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Chichewa: “teacher of Laws” (source: Ernst Wendland)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “teachers of law”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “writer”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “person who teaches the law which Moses wrote”
  • Alekano: “man who knows wisdom” (source for this and four above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Saint Lucian Creole French: titcha lwa sé Jwif-la (“teacher of the law of the Jews”) (source: David Frank in Lexical Challenges in the St. Lucian Creole Bible Translation Project, 1998)
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “one who teaches the holy writings”
  • Atatláhuca Mixtec: “teacher of the words of the law”
  • Coatlán Mixe: “teacher of the religious law”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “one who is a teacher of the law which God gave to Moses back then”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “one who know well the law” (Source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Huixtán Tzotzil: “one who mistakenly thought he was teaching God’s commandments”(Huixtán Tzotzil frequently uses the verb -cuy to express “to mistakenly think something” from the point of view of the speaker; source: Marion M. Cowan in Notes on Translation 20/1966, pp. 6ff.)

complete verse (Luke 1:68)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 1:68:

  • Nyongar: “‘We will praise the Lord. He is Israel’s God! He has come to his people, helping them and freeing them.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “‘Let us the descendants of Israel praise God our Lord. Because he has landed/come-down here to help us his people. He came to free us from our enemies.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “‘Let us (incl.) praise God, he is the God worshiped by our (incl.) tribe of Isra’il, for he certainly remembers us (incl.) his people and we (incl.) are set free by him.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “‘We the descendents of Israel, we will praise our Lord God because we who worship him, he has come down to us and he has freed us from our enemies.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘Let us praise God the Lord of the descendants of Israel, for he has come to set-us who are his people -free.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “‘Praise the God of us (incl.) who are the descendants of Israel. Because he has shown pity/mercy to us, for it has now come that he will save/free his chosen people.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Chichewa (interconfessional translation, 1999): “May the Lord, the God of Israel, be praised, because he came to move among his people, and to come and redeem them.” (Source: Wendland 1998, p. 154)