fringe, tzitzvit

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “fringe” or “tzitzit” in many English translations is translated in Uma as “the decorations [lit.: “fruit”] of clothes” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Tenango Otomi as “clothing that reaches the ground” (source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation) and in Mairasi as “wings of the garments” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

In Bura-Pabir a term is used that is traditionally used for the tassels worn on clothes by hunters. (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

In Paasaal it is translated as “cloth mouth.” (Source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about tzitzvits (source: Bible Lands 2012)

testimony against them

The Greek that is typically translated in English as “testimony against them” is translated in Paasaal as “that will let them know that they have refused you.” (Source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)

courtier

The Greek that is translated in English as “courtier” or “high officials” is translated in Paasaal as “little kings.” (Source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)

unclean spirit / evil spirit

The Hebrew and Greek that is typically translated/transliterated in English as “unclean spirit” or “evil spirit” is translated in Paasaal it is translated as gyɩŋbɔmɔ, which is also the term used for “demon (see here. Wyɩŋbɔmɔ are “beings that are in the wild and can only be seen when they choose to reveal themselves to certain people. They can ‘capture’ humans and keep them in hiding while they train the person in herbalism and divination. After the training period, which can range from a week to many years, the ‘captured’ individual is released to go back into society as a healer and a diviner. The gyɩŋbɔmɔ can also be evil, striking humans with mental diseases and causing individuals to get lost in the wild. The Pasaale worldview about demons is like that of others of the language groups in the area.” (Source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)

See also demon.

righteous, righteousness

The Greek, Hebrew, and Latin terms that are translated in English mostly as “righteous” as an adjective or personified noun or “righteousness” (also as “justice”) are most commonly expressed with concept of “straightness,” though this may be expressed in a number of ways. (Click or tap here to see the details)

Following is a list of (back-) translations of various languages:

  • Bambara, Southern Bobo Madaré, Chokwe (ululi), Amganad Ifugao, Chol, Eastern Maninkakan, Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona, Batak Toba, Bilua, Tiv: “be straight”
  • Laka: “follow the straight way” or “to straight-straight” (a reduplicated form for emphasis)
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Kekchí, Muna: “have a straight heart”
  • Kipsigis: “do the truth”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “do according to the truth”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “have truth”
  • Yine: “fulfill what one should do”
  • Indonesian: “be true”
  • Navajo: “do just so”
  • Anuak: “do as it should be”
  • Mossi: “have a white stomach” (see also happiness / joy)
  • Paasaal: “white heart” (source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)
  • Nuer: “way of right” (“there is a complex concept of “right” vs. ‘left’ in Nuer where ‘right’ indicates that which is masculine, strong, good, and moral, and ‘left’ denotes what is feminine, weak, and sinful (a strictly masculine viewpoint!) The ‘way of right’ is therefore righteousness, but of course women may also attain this way, for the opposition is more classificatory than descriptive.”) (This and all above from Bratcher / Nida except for Bilua: Carl Gross; Tiv: Rob Koops; Muna: René van den Berg)
  • Central Subanen: “wise-good” (source: Robert Brichoux in OPTAT 1988/2, p. 80ff. )
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “live well”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “goodness before the face of God” (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl: “the result of heart-straightening” (source: Nida 1947, p. 224)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “entirely good” (when referred to God), “do good” or “not be a debtor as God sees one” (when referred to people)
  • Carib: “level”
  • Tzotzil: “straight-hearted”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “right and straight”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “walk straight” (source for this and four previous: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Aari: The Pauline word for “righteous” is generally rendered by “makes one without sin” in the Aari, sometimes “before God” is added for clarity. (Source: Loren Bliese)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “having sin taken away” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 144)
  • Nyamwezi: wa lole: “just” or “someone who follows the law of God” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Venda: “nothing wrong, OK” (Source: J.A. van Roy in The Bible Translator 1972, p. 418ff. )
  • Ekari: maakodo bokouto or “enormous truth” (the same word that is also used for “truth“; 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. ).
  • Guhu-Samane: pobi or “right” (also: “right (side),” “(legal) right,” “straightness,” “correction,” “south,” “possession,” “pertinence,” “kingdom,” “fame,” “information,” or “speech” — “According to [Guhu-Samane] thinking there is a common core of meaning among all these glosses. Even from an English point of view the first five can be seen to be closely related, simply because of their similarity in English. However, from that point the nuances of meaning are not so apparent. They relate in some such a fashion as this: As one faces the morning sun, south lies to the right hand (as north lies to the left); then at one’s right hand are his possessions and whatever pertains to him; thus, a rich man’s many possessions and scope of power and influence is his kingdom; so, the rich and other important people encounter fame; and all of this spreads as information and forms most of the framework of the people’s speech.”) (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation 1964, p. 11ff.)

See also respectable, righteous, righteous (person), and She is more in the right(eous) than I.

prophet

Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:

“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):

  • San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
  • Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
  • Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
  • Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
  • Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
  • Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
  • Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
  • Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “one who is inspired of God” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Alekano: “the true man who descended from heaven” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
  • Aguaruna: “teller of God’s word” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
  • Mandarin Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
  • Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Obolo: ebi nriran: “one with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: nonondoai nyan: “message proclaimer” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Highland Totonac: “speaker on God’s behalf”
  • Central Tarahumara: “God’s preacher” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Coatlán Mixe: “God’s word-thrower”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “one who talks as God’s representative”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “speaker for God” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Mezquital Otomi / Paasaal: “God’s messenger” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff. and Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)
  • Noongar: Warda Marridjiny or “News Traveling” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Kutu: mtula ndagu or “one who gives the prediction of the past and the future” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • French 1985 translation by Chouraqui: inspiré or “inspired one” (“someone in whom God has breathed [Latin: in + spiro]) (source: Watson 2023, p. 45)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)

About the translation into Northern Grebo:

“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)

In American Sign Language it is a person who sees into the future:


“Prophet” in American Sign Language (source )

In British Sign Language it is is translated with a sign that depicts a message coming from God to a person (the upright finger) and then being passed on to others. (Source: Anna Smith)


“Prophet” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.

demon

The Hebrew and Greek that is typically translated/transliterated in English as “demon” is translated in Central Mazahua as “the evil spirit(s) of the devil” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

In Sissala it is translated with kaŋtɔŋ, which traditionally referred to “either a spirit of natural phenomena such as trees, rivers, stones, etc., or the spirit of a deceased person that has not been taken into the realm of the dead. Kaŋtɔŋ can be good or evil. Evil kaŋtɔŋ can bring much harm to people and are feared accordingly. A kaŋtɔŋ can also dwell in a person living on this earth. A person possessed by kaŋtɔŋ does not behave normally.” (Source: Regina Blass in Holzhausen 1991, p. 48f.)

In Umiray Dumaget Agta it is translated as hayup or “creature, animal, general term for any non-human creature, whether natural or supernatural.” Thomas Headland (in: Notes on Translation, September 1971, p. 17ff.) explains some more: “There are several types of supernatural creatures, or spirit beings which are designated by the generic term hayup. Just as we have several terms in English for various spirit beings (elves, fairies, goblins, demons, imps, pixies) so have the Dumagats. And just as you will find vast disagreement and vagueness among English informants as to the differences between pixies and imps, etc., so you will find that no two Dumagats will agree as to the form and function of their different spirit beings.” This term can also be used in a verb form: hayupen: “creatured” or “to be killed, made sick, or crazy by a spirit.”

In Yala it is translated as yapri̍ija ɔdwɔ̄bi̍ or “bad Yaprija.” Yaprijas are traditional spirits that have a range presumed activities including giving or withholding gifts, giving and protecting children, causing death and disease and rewarding good behavior. (Source: Eugene Bunkowske in Notes on Translation 78/1980, p. 36ff.)

In Lamnso’ it is translated as aànyùyi jívirì: “lesser gods who disturb, bother, pester, or confuse a person.” (Source: Fanwong 2013, p. 93)

In Paasaal it is translated as gyɩŋbɔmɔ, “beings that are in the wild and can only be seen when they choose to reveal themselves to certain people. They can ‘capture’ humans and keep them in hiding while they train the person in herbalism and divination. After the training period, which can range from a week to many years, the ‘captured’ individual is released to go back into society as a healer and a diviner. The gyɩŋbɔmɔ can also be evil, striking humans with mental diseases and causing individuals to get lost in the wild. The Pasaale worldview about demons is like that of others of the language groups in the area, including the Northern Dagara [who use kɔ̃tɔmɛ with a similar meaning].” (Source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)

In the still widely-used 1908 Tswana (also: Setswana) translation (by Robert Moffat, revised by Alfred Wookey), the term badino or “ancestor spirit” is used for “demon,” even though in the traditional understanding there is nothing inherently negative associated with that term. Musa Dube (in: Journal of Society of New Testament 73, p. 33ff. ) describes this as an example of “engaging in the colonization of the minds of natives and for advancing European imperial spaces. The death and burial of Setswana culture here was primarily championed through the colonization of their language such that it no longer served the interests of the original speakers. Instead the written form of language had equated their cultural beliefs with evil spirits, demons and wizardry. This colonization of Setswana was in itself the planting of a colonial cultural bomb, meant to clear the ground for the implantation of a worldwide Christian commonwealth and European consciousness. It was a minefield that marked Setswana cultural spaces as dangerous death zones, to be avoided by every intelligent Motswana reader or hearer of the translated text.”

In Kachin, the term Nat (or nat) us used for “demon” (as well as “devil” and “unclean/evil spirit“). Like in Tswana, the meaning of Nat is not inherently negative but can be positive in the traditional Nat worship as well. Naw Din Dumdaw (in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 94ff.) argues that “the demonization of Nat created a social conflict between Kachin Christians and Kachin non-Christians. Kachin converts began to perceive their fellow Kachins who were still worshipping Nats as demonic and they wanted to distance themselves from them. Likewise, the Nat-worshiping Kachin community perceived the Kachin converts as betrayers and enemies of their own cultural heritage. (…) The demonization of the word Nat was not only the demonization of the pre-Christian religion but also the demonization of the cultural heritage of the Kachin people. When the word Nat is perceived as demonic, it creates an existential dilemma for Kachin Christians. It distances them from their cultural traditions.”

See also devil and formal pronoun: demons or Satan addressing Jesus.