bread, loaf

The Greek term that is translated in English as “bread” or “loaf” is translated in Samo, it is translated as “Sago,” which serves “like ‘bread’ for the Hebrews, as a generic for food in the Samo language. It is a near-perfect metonymy that has all the semantic elements necessary for effective communication.” (Source: Daniel Shaw in: Scriptura 96/2007, p. 501ff.)

In Chol as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla.

John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f.) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”

Robert Bascom adds his thoughts to this in relation to other Mayan languages (in Omanson 2001, p. 260: “In many Mayan languages, ‘bread’ can be translated waj or kaxlan waj. The first term literally means anything made from corn meal, while the second term literally means ‘foreigner’s waj,’ and refers to the local wheat-based sweet breads which are so popular within the broader European-influenced culture of the region. On the one hand, waj would be a better dynamic equivalent in cases where ‘bread’ meant ‘food,’ but in cases where the focus is literal or the reference well-known, kaxlan waj would preserve a flour-based meaning (though in biblical times barley was more in use than wheat) and not insert corn into a time and place where it does not belong. On the other hand kaxlan waj is not the staff of life, but refers to a local delicacy. In cases such as these, it is even tempting to suggest borrowing pan, the Spanish word for ‘bread,’ but native speakers might respond that borrowing a foreign word is not necessary since both waj and kaxlan waj are native terms that cover the meaning (though in this case, perhaps not all that well).”

no one comes to the Father but by me

The Greek that is translated as “no one comes to the father, but by me” is translated in various ways:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “one can go to my Father unless he is saved by me”
  • Aguaruna: “no one, just by himself, is able to arrive where my Father is, but with me he is able to arrive”
  • Asháninka: “no one just goes to my Father. I am the one who will take you”
  • Yanesha’: “no one approaches to where Father is if they do not first come to me”
  • Chol: “there is no one who will arrive where my Father is, except those who are in my care
  • Alekano: “by passing me there is no way to approach my Father”

(Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

rhetorical use of first person plural pronoun

The Greek that is translated as “We should not commit sexual immorality” is translated in Sierra de Juárez Zapotec as “You should not commit sexual immorality.”

John Beekman (in Notes on Translation 19, 1965, p. 1-10) explains that in the Pauline epistles “a passage [often] starts out in the second person [and is then] changed to the first person to spare the readers of any negative reactions to the mention of their actual state. In most passages where Paul includes himself, the correction or warning that is given is sufficiently general in nature to apply to any believer. In some passages, however, the content of the injunctions are rather specific and perhaps not applicable to such an one as Paul, especially if they carry negative implications concerning his conduct. The Sierra de Juárez Zapotec language helper objected to the first person form used in 1 Corinthians 10:8 on the grounds that it suggested that Paul was at that time indulging in immorality; or actively contemplating it. This was changed to second person.”

die in your sin

The Greek that is translated as “die in your sin” or similar in translated as


The Greek that is translated in English as “prune” is translated in Tenango Otomi as “care for it and take off the dry bits.” (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

illegitimate children

The Greek that is translated “illegitimate children” or similar in English is translated as:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “children of an unknown father”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “children of the streets”
  • Chol: “those who were born because of the lust of men”
  • Navajo: “born in adultery”
  • Yanesha’: “born from an unmarried person” (source for this and above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)


The Greek that is translated into English versions as “throne” is translated into Naro as ntcõó-q’oo: “he will rule.” The figure of the “throne” cannot be translated in the egalitarian Naro culture, so the idea had to be expressed more explicitly. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

In other languages it is translated as “stool/seat of the king” (Marathi), “seat of commanding/chieftainship” (Highland Totonac, Kituba), “seat of the Supreme one (lit. of-him-who-has-the umbrella)” (Toraja-Sa’dan — the umbrella being a well-known symbol of power in various parts of South and South-East Asia), “glorious place to sit” (Ekari) (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “where God sits and rules” (Estado de México Otomi), “where God reigns” (Central Mazahua) (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), or “bed of kingship” (Kafa) (source: Loren Bliese).

if my words abide in you

The Greek that is translated as “if my words abide in you” or similar in English is translated in Yatzachi Zapotec as “if you think about my words all the time,” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “if you do not forget my word,” in Huehuetla Tepehua as “if you believe my words in your heart,” and in Ojitlán Chinantec as “if you obey my words.” (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (1John 3:24)

Following are a number of back-translation of 1John 3:24:

Yatzachi Zapotec: “If we are doing what he commands, we are constantly with God, and God is constantly with us. And we know that he is constantly with us because he has given us his Spirit.”

Eastern Highland Otomi: “Whoever does what he says, lives with God, and God also resides in his heart. And we know that we live with God because he gave us his good Spirit.”

Tzotzil: Because if we obey his commands, we are in his presence. God is in our hearts. Because is in our hearts the Holy Spirit that God has given us, therefore we know that God is in our hearts.”

Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.