anchor (figurative)

The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor (of the soul)” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as xuk’chotontib (“that which becomes unmovable”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 75), as “iron crab” in Bawm Chin (source; David Clark), as “foundation” in Tsou (source: Peng Kuo-Wei), in Mossi as “a strong and steadfast picketting-peg” (source: Nida 1952, p. 46) and in Enxet as “that holds up like a rope” (source: See Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff).

In Kouya the translation is “the foundation which keeps a house secure.” Eddie Arthur tells this story: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.”

with you/whom I am well pleased

The Greek that is translated as “with you (or: whom) I am well pleased” in English is often translated in other languages with figurative expressions, including “you are the heart of my eye” (Huastec), “you arrive at my gall” (with the gall being the seat of the emotions and intelligence) (Mossi), “I see you very well” (Tzotzil), “you make me very happy” (Sayula Popoluca), “my bowels are sweet with you” (Shilluk) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), “you pull at my heart” (Central Pame), “my thoughts are arranged” (Mashco Piro), “my heart rests in you” (Wè Southern) (source for this and two above: Nida 1952, p. 127).

saint

The Greek that is translated as “saint” in English is rendered into Highland Puebla Nahuatl as “those with clean hearts,” into Northwestern Dinka as “those with white hearts,” and into Western Kanjobal as “people of prayer.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 146)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is translated as “followers of Jesus.” (Source: Robert Bascom)

pride

The Greek that is translated as “pride” in English is translated as “they continually boast” (Amganad Ifugao), “they lift themselves up” (Tzeltal), “they answer haughtily” (Yucateco) (source: Bratcher / Nida), “an unbent neck” (like llamas) (Kaqchikel) (source: Nida 1952, p. 151), or “those that praise themselves, saying: We are better” (Shipibo-Conibo) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237).

redeemer

The Hebrew that is translated as “redeemer” in English is translated the following way in these languages:

While in Tonga, an early version by J.E. Moulton (1902) used a phonetic transcription — Koeli (from Hebrew gaal גָּאַל)– (Job 19:25, Moulton Version) the West version (1884, 2014) uses huhu’i. This “word, meaning ‘Redeemer,’ is made up of two components: Hu meaning “to enter,” hu’i meaning “to free.” It is thus understood as someone who enters, intervenes in order to set free. (Source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 329ff.)

In Tai Dam the translation is “Lord-come-seek-buy.” “This is the Lord who came and sought us, and then bought us for Himself. Just “to buy a person” might imply acquiring a personal slave. But one comes seeking in order to buy is one who is earnestly looking for the straying sheep who is lost in the mountainside in his own sinful wandering away form the Shepherd of his soul.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 139.)

In Luba-Katanga it is Mukuji: “Kinsman Redeemer.” Kilgour (1939, p. 95f.) tells this story: “John A. Clarke translated the Gospels and Acts and has this illustration: ‘One day a boy bleeding from cruelty arrived at the mission. Mr Clarke offered to ‘redeem’ him from his master. But the lad cried out, ‘You are not able to redeem me, for you are no relation of mine: only my parents or one of my relations can ‘redeem’ me. You may buy me, but I would be your slave: only a relation can ‘redeem’ me.’ As the translator adds, ‘the Son of God became one with us so that He might be our Redeemer’. Mukuji is the Katanga term; it means ‘Kinsman Redeemer.’”

compassion, moved with compassion

The Greek that is translated with “moved with compassion (or: pity)” in English is translated as “to see someone with sorrow” in Piro, “to suffer with someone” in Huastec, or “one’s mind to be as it were out of one” in Balinese (source: Bratcher / Nida).

The term “compassion” is translated as “cries in the soul” in Shilluk (source: Nida, 1952, p. 132), “has a good stomach” (=”sympathetic”) in Aari (source: Loren Bliese) or “has a big liver” in Una (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 471). In Mairasi it is translated with an emphasized term that is used for “love”: “desiring one’s face so much” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

See also Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”

seal with the promised Holy Spirit

The Greek that is translated as “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” in English is translated in Northwestern Dinka as “You were branded in the heart by the Holy Spirit who was promised.”

Nida (1952, p. 54) tells this story: “The Northwestern Dinkas do not employ seals to indicate ownership nor do they confirm an agreement by using sealing wax and a signet ring, but they do mark ownership of their cattle by branding them. When speaking of the Christian’s relationship to God, it is not enough to use the words ‘to brand,’ but this phrase has been expanded and enriched by the words ‘in the heart’.”

cast lots

The Greek that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 規 矩 掣 籤 guījǔ chè qiān (in most Chinese Bibles), “each to pick-up which is-written (i.e. small sticks inscribed with characters and used as slots)” (Batak Toba), a term for divination by means of reed stalks (Toraja-Sa’dan). In some cases a cultural equivalent is not available, or it is felt to be unsuitable in this situation, e.g. in Ekari where “to spin acorns” has the connotation of gambling, one may have to state the fact without mentioning the means, e.g. “it came to him,” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel). In Shipibo-Conibo there was no equivalent for “casting lots” so the translation for Mark 15:24 is descriptive: “they shook little things to decide what each one should take” (source: Nida 1952, p. 47).

In Purari it is translated as “throw shells” (source: David Clark), in Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) as “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross), in Navajo as “draw straws,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “raffle,” in Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in Inupiaq a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiaq term is also used in Esther 3:7, “though there winning and losing is not in view, but rather choosing by chance” (source: Robert Bascom)

The stand-alone term that is translated “lots” in English is translated as “two pieces of potsherd” in Highland Totonac. (Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)