bird hatching eggs that it did not lay

The Hebrew simile of (what is translated in English as) “a bird hatching eggs that it didn’t lay” is not clear in Afar so it was changed to “like a man who wants to inherit property which his parents didn’t leave to him.”

stiff-necked, uncircumcised

The phrase that is translated into English as “you stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears” is translated into Afar as “Isin kafin xeetiy tu cule wayta hiyyaay Yalla cinte afqado kee Yallih farmo maabbino axcuk alfinte aytiita le maraw.”: “You dry stones that nothing enters, and people who have hearts that refuse God, and ears closed saying we didn’t hear God’s message.” (stiff-necked > dry stones, uncircumcised in heart > hearts that refuse God, uncircumcised ears > ears closed to hearing God’s message) (Source: Loren Bliese)

In Kaqchikel the translation for “uncircumcised in heart” says “with your hearts unprepared.” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 220)

wicked, worthless

The Hebrew that is translated as “worthless” or “wicked” in many English versions is translated into Anuak as “whose head is bad” (1Sam. 25:17) or “people whose intentions are black” (i.e., greedy) (1Sam. 30:22).

shadow

The Hebrew that is rendered in English versions as “live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow?” is translated into Afar as Sahdayti subci suga iraaway ayro tawqe waqdi gexah bis le.: “People are like a shadow present in the early morning that goes away when the sun rises.” (Clarifying the role of the sun in the changing shadow.)

See also shadow vs. spirit.

kiss

The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips, 1960 in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:

  • Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
  • Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Afar: “gaba tittal ucuya” (“give hands to each other”) (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
  • Cheke Holo: “Love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
  • Pitjantjatjara: “And when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
  • Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
  • Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
  • Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
  • Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
  • Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • San Blas Kuna: “smell the face” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Nyanja: “to suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘to clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
  • Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
  • Shona (version of 1966): “to hug”
  • Balinese: “to caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Colorado: earlier version: “greet in a friendly way,” later revision: “kiss on the face” (Bruce Moore [in: Notes on Translation 1/1992), p. 1ff.] explains: “Formerly, kissing had presented a problem. Because of the Colorados’ limited exposure to Hispanic culture they understood the kiss only in the eros context. Accordingly, the original translation had rendered ‘kiss’ in a greeting sense as ‘greet in a friendly way’. The actual word ‘kiss’ was not used. Today ‘kiss’ is still an awkward term, but the team’s judgment was that it could be used as long as long as it was qualified. So ‘kiss’ (in greeting) is now ‘kiss on the face’ (that is, not on the lips).)

yoke

The Greek and Hebrew term that is translated into English as “yoke,” the Afar translation uses koyta (poles of camel pack) which refers to two poles in front of the hump and two behind; elsewhere in agricultural Ethiopia the yoke is only in front of the hump.

In Chol it is translated with tajbal, a term for “headband” (for carrying) (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.). Likewise, in Kele, it is translated with njɛmbɛ, “a carrying strap worn around the head and across the chest or shoulders to support a burden of firewood, garden produce or even a child carried by this on the back or hip” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).

In Kwasio it is translated with a term that refers to a “bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth.”

Joshua Ham explains: “When checking this verse in Kwasio, I was surprised to find that the Kwasio had a word for yoke. You see, none of the language groups we have worked with have a tradition of using animals to pull carts or plows. Since yokes don’t exist in the culture, there’s no need for a word for that concept in these languages.

“When I asked the Kwasio team about their word for yoke, they said that they don’t use yokes to help animals pull plows; rather, their word for yoke refers to a bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth. So while the exact use of a Kwasio yoke is not the same as a biblical yoke, there are a lot of similarities: in both cases, it’s a piece of wood around an animal’s neck that serves to keep the animal under control. While the overlap isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good — and almost certainly better than trying to squeeze in a distracting explanation of how yokes function in the biblical cultures.”

Adam Boyd (in The PNG Experience) tells this story about finding the right term in Enga: “Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:29-30 are some of the most difficult to translate into the Enga language. From the time that I became a Christian, I was taught that a yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plough or cart that they are to pull. This is an easy enough concept to understand for people who come from societies that make use of beasts of burden, but in Papua New Guinea, there are no beasts of burden. Consequently the concept of a yoke placed on animals is completely foreign. Thus, we have struggled greatly in our attempt to translate Matthew 11:29-30.

“Recently, however, I came to learn that a yoke can also refer to a wooden frame that a person places on his neck or shoulders to make it easier to carry a heavy load. Indeed, the Bible often makes figurative use of the word ‘yoke’ as it refers to people and not to beasts of burden (see 1 Kings 12:4-14). As I was pondering that idea, I began to notice that when Engan men carry heavy logs on one shoulder, they often balance the load by supporting it with a small stick placed across the other shoulder. A few weeks ago, it clicked in my mind that the small stick they use to make it easier to carry a heavy log is like a yoke.

“Excited by this realization, I quickly asked my friend Benjamin if the stick that men use to make it easier to carry a heavy log has a name in Enga. Sure enough it does. It is called a pyakende. With great anticipation, I asked the translation team if we could use the word pyakende to translate the word ‘yoke’. After wrestling with the phrasing for a little while, we came up with the following translation: ‘In order to remove the heaviness from your shoulders, take my pyakende. When you have taken it, you will receive rest. As my pyakende helps you, what I give you to carry is not heavy and you will carry it without struggling.’”

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how yokes were used in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

before the LORD

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “before the Lord” has been translated into Afar as “in the place where God is worshiped” to avoid the suggestion of a physical representation of God.

See also avoidance of anthropomorphisms.

city has been struck

The phrase that in English versions is rendered as “Jerusalem has been struck” is translated into Afar as “Yarusalaam makko tekkeh.”: “The will of God has happened (on) Jerusalem.”

here I am with you according to your desire

The Hebrew that is translated as “here I am with you according to your desire” in some English versions is translated into Anuak as “whatever is in your liver I will do.”

For other translations using the term “liver” in Anuak see here and see Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”

let them be overthrown before you

The Hebrew that is rendered in English as “let them be overthrown before you” is translated into Afar as “make them as a tree eaten by termites. When you are angry don’t be merciful.”

speaking out boldly

The phrase that is translated into English as “spoke out boldly” is translated into Afar as “intî qasuk ken lih yabteeh”: “spoke with them having red eyes.”

treasure

The Greek that is translated as “treasure” in English is rendered in Gumuz as “stomach.”