he loved them to the end

The Greek that is translated as “he loved them to the end” or similar in English is translated as “there wasn’t any limit to his love” in Tenango Otomi. (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

bread of life

The Greek that is translated in English is translated in Bambam as “food of life” since “bread is considered a light and unnecessary snack.” (Source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500) Similarly, Huehuetla Tepehua has “that food that gives eternal life” and Aguaruna has “the food that gives eternal life.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)

In Chol, it is translated as Joñon Wajo, the “waj (tortilla) of life.” 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.”

Originally, the translation in Tsafiki used “plantain of life,” plantains being the primary food source and bread virtually unknown by Tsáchila people. For a current revision this is in the process of being changed to “bread of life,” because bread is now widely known and used. (Source: Carol Shaw)

See also bread, loaf.

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 it is translated as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla. (Click or tap here to see the rest of this insight)

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).”

whitewashed wall

The Greek that is translated in English as “(you) whitewashed wall” is translated in Lalana Chinantec much more specifically as “you are like a masonry wall on which they have put white paint. It is no longer evident what it is like inside.” (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.).

The same is translated as “deceiver” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac, as “you talk up above (not from the heart)” in Eastern Highland Otomi, as “you change words (you are a hypocrite)” in Morelos Nahuatl, as “you are not what you appear to be, like a wall that is white washed” in Huichol, as “you two faced person” in Mezquital Otomi, or “you who make your face broad” in Rincón Zapotec. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

lake of fire

The Greek that is typically translated int English as “lake of fire” is translated in Enga as “the place where big fire continually burns.”

Adam Boyd (on his blog) explains:

“The difficulty in Enga is that there is no traditional concept or imagery of a lake that is made out of fire. Lakes are made out of water, not fire. And there is not even really one word for lake. Instead Enga people literally say water depression. Now the word depression is not referring to an emotional state in which a person is feeling sad, but rather it means ‘a sunken place or hollow on a surface.’ In other words it refers to an area where there is an indentation in the ground. And when the word depression is preceded by the word water, it indicates that the indentation in the ground is filled with water.

“So, knowing that the Enga people say water depression to talk about a lake, I of course suggested that we should translate lake of fire by saying fire depression. In other words, a sunken place or indentation on the surface of the earth that is filled with fire instead of water. Well, as often happens when I think that I have made a brilliant suggestion, I was met with blank stares. In Papua New Guinean cultures, people will often not disagree with you directly, but they will show their disagreement by simply ignoring what you say. Not only that, but it can be difficult to articulate why something doesn’t sound quite right. The translators knew that fire depression didn’t sound right, but they might not have been able to articulate right away why that was the case. English speakers also have the same problem. For example, a typical English speaker would immediately be able to recognize that goed is not the past tense of go, but if they had to explain why, they would run into difficulty. (It is because the past tense went is actually from the verb wend as in wend your way through a crowd.) So just as English speakers know when something does not sound right but can’t always explain why, Enga speakers also encounter difficulties in explaining why something sounds wrong, especially since most Enga speakers have never had any formal training in their own language. Well as we continued pondering the best translation, I kept ignoring the nonverbal cues and pushing for fire depression as our answer. Finally, it dawned on our lead translator Maniosa why fire depression did not sound right. He said, ‘Do you know what a fire depression is? It is the little fire pit that we have in our homes that we cook over.’

“What I was hoping would mean lake of fire actually just meant fire pit. Big difference! So the terminology that I was suggesting would have people envisioning that the lake of fire, which is supposed to be an intimidating image of the ultimate end for untold numbers of those whose names are not written in the book of life, was nothing more than the little fire pit where people cook food in their homes. In fact, if more than one or two people were thrown into a lake of fire like that, they would probably smother the fire and put it out, which is not quite what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the ‘fire that is not quenched.’ So we had to abandon the idea of using the term fire depression and translate lake of fire as the place where big fire continually burns. The idea that this fire is burning in a depression or indentation in the ground had to be left out because that concept created the wrong image of a fire pit where one cooks food in the house. And fire pits are considered to be useful things that help people cook. They are not places of punishment.”

In Chol it is translated as “big fire.” (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.)

as numerous as the sand on the seashore

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” or “as numerous as the sand by the sea” in English is translated in Bauzi as “as many like the tree flowers of the jungle” (source: David Briley in Kroneman 2004, p. 539), in Afar it’s translated as mari mangah arrooqih gide akkuk yeneeniih: “are as numerous as gravel” or loowo sinni: “not countable” (source: Loren Bliese), in Angal Heneng as “like the hairs on a dog” (Source: Deibler / Taylor 1977, p. 1077), and in Copainalá Zoque as “their number is like ants” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.).

Satan entered into him

The Greek that is translated as “Satan entered into him” or similar in English is translated as “The devil worked his heart” in Ojitlán Chinantec, “Satan caused him to think” in Aguaruna, and “Satan entered into his mind to do his work” in Mezquital Otomi. (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)