The Greek and Hebrew terms that are translated as “hypocrite” in English typically have a counterpart in most languages. According to Bratcher / Nida (1961, p. 225), they can be categorized into the following categories:

  • those which employ some concept of “two” or “double”
  • those which make use of some expression of “mouth” or “speaking”
  • those which are based upon some special cultural feature
  • those which employ a non-metaphorical phrase

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

The English version of Sarah Ruden (2021) uses “play-actor.” She explains (p. li): “A hupokrites is fundamentally an actor. The word has deep negativity in the Gospels on two counts: professional actors were not respectable people in the ancient world, and traditional Judaism did not countenance any kind of playacting. I write ‘play-actor’ throughout.”

See also hypocrisy.

ships of Tarshish

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “as when an east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish” (New Revised Standard Version) or “like ships tossing in a furious storm” (Good News Translation) is translated in Afar as Alak gilite illih innah, gilitak wadir yuduuren.: “As sheep scatter back and forth from a wild animal.” (No ships in this part of the Afar desert.)

See also ship.


The Greek and Hebrew that are translated as “(become) pregnant” in English is rendered as “got belly” (Sranan Tongo and Kituba) as “having two bodies” (Indonesian), as “be-of-womb” (Sinhala), as “heavy” (Balinese), and as “in-a-fortunate-state” (Batak Toba). (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Kafa it is translated as “having two lives.” (Source: Loren Bliese)

In Mairasi it is translated as “have a soul [ghost].” (Source: Enggavoter, 2004)


The Hebrew that has been translated in some English versions as “stranger” is translated into Afar as “non-relative.”

heifer, stallion

In Afar “you frisk about like a heifer on the grass, and neigh like stallions” is translated as Qaysok cayya iyyeh xobbaaqa gaalih innah xobbaqten. Canak cayye mooyuh innah kaqitten.: “You frisk like camels satisfied with grass, and jump like goat kids satisfied with milk.” (Horses don’t survive in the Afar desert, but camels thrive.)

turned aside after gain

The Hebrew that is translated as “turned aside after gain” in many English versions is translated into Anuak as “livers became big for things.”

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.”

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.”