public example / triumphal procession

Grace Fabian tells the story of the translation of these concepts in Colossians 2:15 and 2 Corinthians 2:14 respectively into Nabak (in: Fabian 2013, p. 86f.):

“We [Fabian and her co-translator, Kondo] discussed Colossians 2:15. That verse talks about Christ making a ‘public spectacle’ of Satan when he died on the cross.

“’Public spectacle,’ how do you say that in Nabak?

“We set it aside and moved to 2 Corinthians, but we hit a snag at 2:14. I wondered how we could ever express these concepts in the Nabak language. The scene is a triumphal procession of Paul’s day accompanied by the sweet odors from the burning of spices in the streets. Then we talked about the cinnamon bark that the Nabaks burn to create the pungent aroma during their dancing and how our lives are a fragrance to the Lord and to others around us because the Good News is within us.

“At last, we were satisfied that we had stated these verses in Corinthians clearly at least, it was the best we could do for now. It was time for coffee break, and Kondo stepped outside to stretch. He noticed the rose bushes growing next to the office wall, lovingly planted and cared for by my husband, which were now budding, and blooming. ‘That’s the way we are most of the time,’ In commented.

“I wasn’t sure what he meant but he continued, ‘The rose has a beautiful fragrance, but no one knows it until the rose blooms. Most often we Christians stay tightly closed like these buds.’ He held a bud gently between his fingers as he continued. ‘We often keep the Good News to ourselves, but the verses we translated today are telling us to open up and let the fragrance of Christ come out.’

“In the afternoon we continued. ‘Sweet aroma’ was one thing, but what about ‘triumphal procession?’

“We talked about the humiliation conquered people would feel being led through the crowds of cheering victors and presented to the king.

“To my surprise Kondo said, ‘This isn’t a problem to translate. We do almost the same as Bible times.’ He described a traditional song and dance that the Nabaks enjoyed performing when their victorious warriors came home from battle. He even demonstrated how the victors flap their loincloth in the faces of their defeated foes to humiliate them; we realized we had the expression we needed for that other troublesome verse in Colossians about public spectacle. So, in Nabak we say, ‘When Jesus died on the cross he took away the bow and arrows from Satan. Jesus disarmed him, and, in a manner of speaking, He flapped His loincloth in their faces.’”

she poured the ointment on his head

The Greek that is translated as “she poured the ointment on his head” or similar in English is translated in Nabak as “She did not parcel it out drop by drop, she poured it on Jesus head.”

Grace Fabian (in: Fabian 2013, p. 136) explains: “In Nabak, they like to say things in parallel, first the negative, then the same thought in a positive sentence. So verse three says, ‘She did not parcel it out drop by drop, she poured it on Jesus head.’”

rhetorical questions in Romans 8:31-35

The rhetorical questions in Greek that are also translated with rhetorical questions in English in Romans 8:31-35 had to be transformed in Nabak.

Grace Fabian (in: Fabian 2013, p. 149) explains: “Zumbek [Fabian’s co-translator] and I took fresh courage and started in. I had expected [the translation of Romans] to be much more difficult than it really was. We found Paul’s debate very logical except the rhetorical questions. For instance, in Romans 8:31-34 Paul is not asking questions for information. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ Paul and the people in the Greco-Roman world of his day would know that the answer is, ‘No one.’

“The Nabaks do not have this grammatical device in their language. They immediately start asking, ‘Who can separate us? Let me think now.’ So we changed the question to a statement, ‘No one can separate us from the love of Christ. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.’ Then the list of specific situations follows and each one is eliminated as a threat to our security. The rephrasing resulted in correct and satisfying comprehension. We liked the flow of the Nabak words.”

See also rhetorical questions in Kadiwéu.


The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that are translated as “covenant” in English are translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:

  • Mossi: “helping promise”
  • Vai: “a thing-time-bind” (i.e. “an arrangement agreed upon for a period of time”)
  • Loma (Liberia): “agreement”
  • Northwestern Dinka: “agreement which is tied up” (i.e. “secure and binding”)
  • Chol: “a word which is left”
  • Huastec: “a broken-off word” (“based on the concept of ‘breaking off a word’ and leaving it with the person with whom an agreement has been reached”)
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “a death command” (i.e. “a special term for testament”)
  • Piro: “a promised word”
  • Eastern Krahn: “a word between”
  • Yaka: “promise that brings together” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Nabak: alakŋaŋ or “tying the knot” (source: Fabian 2013, p. 156)
  • Nyamwezi: ilagano: “agreement, contract, covenant, promise” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Q’anjob’al: “put mouths equal” (representing agreement) (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. )
  • Manikion, Indonesian: “God’s promise” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Natügu: nzesz’tikr drtwr: “oneness of mind” (source: Brenda Boerger in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 164)
  • Tagalog: tipan: mutual promising on the part of two persons agreeing to do something (also has a romantic touch and denotes something secretive) (source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
  • Tagbanwa: “initiated-agreement” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Guhu-Samane: “The concept [in Mark 14:24 and Matthew 16:28] is not easy, but the ritual freeing of a fruit and nut preserve does afford some reference. Thus, ‘As they were drinking he said to them, ‘On behalf of many this poro provision [poro is the traditional religion] of my blood is released.’ (…) God is here seen as the great benefactor and man the grateful recipient.” (Source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff. )
Law (2013, p. 95) writes about how the Ancient Greek Septuagint‘s translation of the Hebrew berith was used by the New Testament writers as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments (click or tap here to read more):

“Right from the start we witness the influence of the Septuagint on the earliest expressions of the Christian faith. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of his blood being a kaine diatheke, a ‘new covenant.’ The covenant is elucidated in Hebrews 8:8-12 and other texts, but it was preserved in the words of Jesus with this language in Luke 22:20 when at the Last Supper Jesus said, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Jesus’s blood was to provide the grounds for the ‘new covenant,’ in contrast to the old one his disciples knew from the Jewish scriptures (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31-34). Thus, the earliest Christians accepted the Jewish Scriptures as prophecies about Jesus and in time began to call the collection the ‘Old Testament’ and the writings about Jesus and early Christianity the ‘New Testament,’ since ‘testament’ was another word for ‘covenant.’ The covenant promises of God (berith in Hebrew) were translated in the Septuagint with the word diatheke. In classical Greek diatheke had meant ‘last will, testament,’ but in the Septuagint it is the chosen equivalent for God’s covenant with his people. The author of Hebrews plays on the double meaning, and when Luke records Jesus’ announcement at the Last Supper that his blood was instituting a ‘new covenant,’ or a ‘new testament,’ he is using the language in an explicit contrast with the old covenant, found in the Jewish scriptures. Soon, the writings that would eventually be chosen to make up the texts about the life and teachings of Jesus and the earliest expression of the Christian faith would be called the New Testament. This very distinction between the Old and New Testaments is based on the Septuagint’s language.”

See also establish (covenant) and covenant (book).

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Covenant in the Hebrew Bible .