no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back

The Greek that is translated as “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back (is fit for the kingdom of God)” in English is translated in Sa’a as “Whoever at all who works in his garden, but just thinks indiscriminately about other things, then he is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”. Carl Gross explains: “In a society in which plowing is unknown, it is not possible to have a farmer setting his hand to the plow, let alone looking back once he had started. [The chosen translation] would even make sense to western urban dwellers who have never seen a plow.”

In Bislama “plow” is translated as stia blong bot, “steering paddle” or “rudder.” The whole verse is translated as “A person who holds the rudder but keeps looking back cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

In Toposa it is translated as “No one aiming at an animal looks to the side when throwing the spear.” Plowing is not known in that culture and this communicated the meaning well. (Source: Martin and Helga Schröder in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 58f.)

be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, drink the cup I drink

The translation of the two Greek phrases “Can you drink the cup I drink?” and “Can you be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” demanded a particularly difficult decision in the translation into Avaric. “We are faced with two metaphors, for which literal translation is impossible, since the expressions “drink the cup” and “be immersed in water, be washed” are, for the Avaric, in no way connected with the idea of suffering and death.

Nevertheless there is an equivalent for the first metaphor; in the Avaric language there is an idiomatic expression “to drink from the horn of death,” which is identical to the idea of the Gospels’ “cup”. For the second metaphor the translator used a less obvious equivalent: “to cross the river” (‘or baxine), an expression which can express “to experience hardship, suffering” and at the same time contains the idea of immersion in water. (Source: Magomed-Kamil Gimbatov and Yakov Testelets in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 434ff.)

Likewise, there also is an expression in Southern Toussian that fits this context exactly. “You can’t drink from my cup” means “you can’t bear as much suffering as I can.” (Source: Hannes Wiesmann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 35)

In Michoacán Nahuatl this section is translated as “because of me you will suffer as I suffer, and because of me you will die.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also cup.

beat his breast

The Greek that is translated in English as “beat his breast” or similar is translated in Kasem as “clapped his hands.” To beat one’s breast is considered to be a sign of arrogance and pride. To express regret people clap their hands. (Source: Urs Niggli in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 16)

In Yaweyuha it is expressed more explicitly as “feeling great sorrow, repeatedly beating their chests” (source: Larson 1998, p. 98) and likewise on Chokwe as “beat his breast for sorrow” (“beat one’s breast” is the equivalent of the English “pat oneself on the back”) (source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff.).


The Greek that is translated into English as “crucify” is translated into Naro with xgàu which literally means “to stretch” as is done with a skin after slaughtering in order to dry it. The word is also widely accepted in the churches (source: Gerrit van Steenbergen). Similarly, Balinese and Toraja-Sa’dan also translate as “stretch him” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel) and in Rendille as lakakaaha — “stretched and nailed down” (source: Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 33).

In Ghari it becomes “hammer to the cross” (source: David Clark), in Loma “fasten him to a spread-back-stick” (source: Bratcher / Nida), in Sundanese “hang him on a crossbeam” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Aguaruna “fasten him to the tree,” in Navajo “nail him to the cross”, in Yatzachi Zapotec “fasten him to the cross” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), in Nyongar “kill on a tree” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang), and in Apali the different aspects of the crucifixion have to be spelled out: “nail to a tree piece put cross-wise, lift up to stand upright (for the crucified person) to die (and in some contexts: to die and rise again)” (source: Martha Wade).

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how crucifixion was done in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also cross and hang on a tree.


Bawm build with bamboo and thatch in their mountainous forests. They made the apostles and prophets become the roof ridge pole and Jesus the central uprights which support it. I asked why not the corner uprights since Greek has a term that is translated in English as ‘cornerstone.’ Bawm translators responded that the central uprights are more important than the corner ones, and Greek refers to the most important stone. (“Corner uprights” used in 1Tim 3:15.) (Source: David Clark)

In Mono, translators used “main post,” in Martu Wangka “two forked sticks with another long strong stick laid across” (see also 1 Peter 2:6-7.), and in Arrernte, the translation in 1Pet 2:7 (in English translation: “the stone . . . became the very cornerstone”) was rendered as “the foundation… continues to be the right foundation.” (Source for this and two above: Carl Gross)

Likewise, in Uripiv it also is the “post” (source: Ross McKerras) as well as in Sabaot (source Jim Leonhard in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 50)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is translated with a term denoting the “the principal part of the ‘house’ (or work)” (Source: Robert Bascom), in Enlhet as “like the house-root” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff.), in Q’anjob’al it is translated with with the existing idiom “ear of the house.” (Source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff.), in Desano as “main support of the house,” and in Tataltepec Chatino as “the best stone” (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.).

Shuar translates as “that stone was placed to the main house pole.” The Shuar use stones in house building either at the bottom of the posthole as a base for the house pole to rest on, or as chocking material around the post to hold it firm. Either function is acceptable here particularly as applied to the main house-pole. In Ocotlán Zapotec it is “master stone of the house.” This is a special stone they put into the foundation as sort of a guide stone of how the foundation is to true up. (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also rock / stone, foundation on rock, and foundation.

brotherly love

The Greek that is translated in English as “brotherly love” (also: “mutual love” and others) is translated in Waama as “love each other as children of the same mother.” Like many languages, Waama has no generic term for “brother” and sister, just “older brother” or “younger brother.” At first, “love each other as children of the same father” seemed to fit but since the Waama live in a polygamous society, brothers of the same father with different mothers often don’t get along unlike maternal siblings. (Source: Kathrin Pope in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 54)

rock, sand

Fuyug houses are built with poles which cannot be put into rock, so in this passage the Fuyug translation for the term that is “rock” in English becomes “firm ground” and “sand” becomes “soft ground.” (Source: David Clark)

Likewise, and for the same reason, the wise man builds his house in Manam on “firm ground” as well. (Source: Blaine Turner in Holzhausen 1991, p. 47)

Since speakers of Kara-Kalpak do indeed build their houses on sand, the translators had to find a slightly different solution to not imply that the Karakalpaks themselves are foolish. They ended up choosing shege qum, the term for loose yellow sand along river banks, since this indeed is a kind of sand Karakalpaks would not build their houses on. (Source: Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 57)


The Greek that is translated as “crown” in English is translated in Burunge as aliya, a special kind of earring that is traditionally worn by a person who as a recognition for having won a battle or having killed a dangerous animal. (Source: Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 67)

the evil one does not touch them

The Greek that is translated as “the evil one does not touch them” or similar in English is translated in Cerma as “the eye of the enemy is on them.” This is derived from the well-known saying “to have an eye on someone” which relates to chicks that have to be protected of hawk attacks by their mother hen. If they are protected the hawk can only look at the chicks rather than attack and snatch them away. (Source: Idda Niggli in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 68)

See also like sheep in the midst of wolves.


The Hebrew that is translated as “hail” in English is translated in Tagakaulo as batu na ayis or “rocks of ice.” (Source: Scott and Becky Burton in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 73)