the Father is greater than I

The Greek that is translated as “the Father is greater than I” or similar in English is translated in Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl as “My Father is really great; I am not great,” since there is no comparative in the language. (Source: Nida 1947, p. 261)


“Sheep are known throughout most of the world, even though, as in Central Africa, they are a far cry from the fleecy wool-producing animals of colder climates. Where such animals are known, even by seemingly strange names, e.g. ‘cotton deer’ (Yucateco) or ‘woolly goat’ (Inupiaq), such names should be used. In some instances, one may wish to borrow a name and use a classifier, e.g. ‘an animal called sheep’. In still other instances translators have used ‘animal which produces wool’, for though people are not acquainted with the animals they are familiar with wool.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida)

In Dëne Súline, it is usually translated as “an evil little caribou.” To avoid the negative connotation, a loan word from the neighboring South Slavey was used. (Source: NCAM, p. 70)

Note that the often-alleged Inuktitut translation of “sheep” with “seal” is an urban myth (source Nida 1947, p. 136).

See also lamb.


The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “cheek” in English is translated in Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl as “face” since there is no specific word in that language for “cheek.”

snow (color)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated in English as “(as white as) snow” is translated in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec as “(as white as) volcano frost,” the only white kind of frost that is known in that language (source: Nida 1947, p. 160.). Likewise, it is translated in Chichewa as matalala or “hail stones,” since “hail in Central Africa, when it occurs, is also white” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72).

In Obolo it is translated as abalara: “white cloth” (source: Enene Enene), in Bambam and Bura-Pabir as “like the white of cotton” (source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500 and Andy Warren-Rothlin), in Muna as “white like cotton flowers” (source: René van den Berg), in Sharanahua as “like fresh Yuca root” (source: Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 72), in Tagbanwa as “white like just broken waves” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), in Chitonga as “as the cattle egret ” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 130), in Nabak as “white as a white cockatoo ” (source: Grace Fabian ), and in Cerma “white like the full moon,” except in Psalm 51:7 where the Cerma translators chose “wash me with water until I shine” (source: Andrea Suter in Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 36).

In Gbaya, in most cases an ideophone (term that expresses what is perceived by the five senses) is employed to depict strong intense whiteness (either ndáká-ndáká or kpúŋ-kpúŋ are used for the ideophones), sometimes in combination with “cotton.” Interestingly, for Rev. 1:14 where the color of the hair of the “Son of Man” is described, the use of cotton was questioned since it “would create the unpleasant image of an untidy person with disheveled hair or of a mourner with unkempt appearance.” It was eventually used, but only with a footnote that gives additional information by mentioning the French loan word neige for “snow.” In the two cases where the color white refers to the color of the skin of leprosy (Num. 12:10 and 2 Kings 5:27), the image of hail is used in the first to describe the pale white of leprous skin, while the ideophone ndáká-ndáká is used for dramatic effect in the second. (Source: Philip Noss)

See also frost and this devotion on YouVersion .


The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “doubt” in English versions is translated with a term in Tzeltal that means “heart is gone.” (Nida 1952, p. 122)

In other languages it is represented by a variety of idiomatic renderings, and in the majority of instances the concept of duality is present, e.g. “to make his heart two” (Kekchí), “to be with two hearts” (Punu), “to stand two” (Sierra de Juárez Zapotec), “to be two” or “to have two minds” (Navajo), “to think something else” (Tabasco Chontal), “to think two different things” (Shipibo-Conibo), “to have two thoughts” (Yaka and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua), or “two-things-soul” (Yucateco).

In some languages, however, doubt is expressed without reference to the concept of “two” or “otherness,” such as “to have whirling words in one’s heart” (Chol), “his thoughts are not on it” (Baoulé), or “to have a hard heart” (Piro). (Source: Bratcher / Nida, except for Yucateco: Nida 1947, p. 229 and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua: Nida 1952, p. 123)

In Chokwekwalajala is ‘to doubt.’ It is the repetitive of kuala, ‘to spread out in order, to lay (as a table), to make (as a bed),’ and is connected with kualula ‘to count.’ [It is therefore like] a person in doubt as one who can’t get a thing in proper order, who lays it out one way but goes back again and again and tries it other ways. It is connected with uncertainty, hesitation, lack of an orderly grasp of the ‘count’ of the subject.” (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff.)


In Highland Puebla Nahuatl there is no immediate equivalent for the Greek that is translated with the English term “heir.” So here an expression is used that means “someone who will receive the property (or: things).” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 200f.) Likewise, in Chimborazo Highland Quichua the translation is “those who receive what belongs to their father” (source: Julia Woodward in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 140ff. ) and in Sayula Popoluca “will receive all that God has for us” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.).