In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage, e.g. “good story” (Navajo), “joyful telling” (Tausug), “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), or “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul:
“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”
The Greek that is translated into English as “comfort from love” or “consolation of love” is translated into Navajo as “if by loving your minds can be put to that place of refuge.” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 228)
In Western Highland Purepecha “consolation” in this verse is translated as “God takes sadness from our hearts” and in Aymara as “preparing the heart.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 131)
The Greek that is translated as “glorify God” in English is rendered as “to wake God up” in Guerrero Amuzgo.
Other translations are “say that God is very great” (Central Tarahumara), “how good God is, they said” (Tzotzil), “to speak about God as good” (Tzeltal), “to give God a great name” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “to give God highness” (Kipsigis), “to take God out high” (in the sense of “to exalt”) (Huautla Mazatec), “to make great, to exalt” (Toraja-Sa’dan, Javanese), “to lift up God’s brightness” (Kpelle), “to show God to be great” (Central Pame), “to make God shine” (Wayuu), “to make God’s name big” (Huastec), “to make God important” (Isthmus Zapotec) (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida), or “say to God: You are of good heart” (Huichol) (source: Nida 1964, p. 228).
In Waama this is translated as “make God’s name big.” (For the translation into Waama, five categories of verb doxazo and the noun doxa were found that were all translated differently, see glorify (reveal God’s or Jesus’ glory to people)).
In Shipibo-Conibo it is translated as “to brag about God” (“This may strike some at first as being an unspiritual approach, but it surely is Pauline, for Paul used the word ‘to brag’ when he declared his confidence in Jesus Christ and in the salvation of the world which God wrought through His Son.”) (Source: Nida 1952, p. 162)
The Greek that is translated in English as “walk in (or: by) the Spirit” is translated in Uduk as “let the Spirit lead you in the way.” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 238)
The Greek that is translated in English as “crown of life” is translated in Navajo as “the life-way prize.” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 238)
In Owa it is translated as “the wage of your souls.” (Source: Carl Gross)
See also complete verse (James 1:12) and crown of thorns.
The Greek that is typically translated as “confess” in English in the context of these verses is translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:
- Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal: “to say openly”
- San Blas Kuna: “to accuse oneself of his own evil”
- Kankanaey: “telling the truth about their sins”
- Huastec: “to take aim at one’s sin” (“an idiom which is derived from the action of a hunter taking aim at a bird or animal”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Central Pame: “pulling out the heart” (“so that it may be clearly seen — not just by men, but by God”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 155)
- Shipibo-Conibo: “to say, It is true we have sinned” (source: Nida 1964, p. 228)
- Obolo: itutumu ijo isibi: “speaking out sin” (source: Enene Enene).
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).
The phrase that is translated as “there is no fear in love” in English has been translated in Huautla Mazatec as “he who really loves forgets to be afraid.” “The concepts of love and fear must be expressed by verbs, not nouns, and hence an actor must be expressed. Furthermore, the relationship indicated by the English ‘in’ must be radically altered, for though in can express the relationship of objects to each other in Huautla Mazatec, it does not show the relationship of events, as it does in English.” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 196).
See also complete verse (1 John 4:18) and love (abstract noun).
Some languages have distinctive terms for congenital and non-congenital blindness. The Greek that is translated here as “blind” in English is translated with the term for the non-congenital blindness in Yatzachi Zapotec.
Other terms for “blind” include “(having) eyes dark/night” in Ekari or “having no eyes” in Zarma.
Sources: Reiling / Swellengrebel and Nida 1964, p. 200.
The Greek terms that are translated into English as “preach” are regularly rendered into Aari as “speaking the word of salvation.” (Source: Loren Bliese)
Other languages (back-) translate it in the following manner:
- Chinese: “chuandao 傳道” (“to hand down the Way (or: the Logos)”)
- Kekchí: “declare the word”
- Kpelle “speak God’s word”
- Tzeltal: “he explains, they hear” (“the goal of all preachers”)
- Copainalá Zoque: “a preacher is ‘one who speaks-scatters'” (a figure based on the scattering of seed in the process of sowing) (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Shilluk: “declare the word of of God.” (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:
- For Acts 9:20, 10:42: “nakotnohora”: “talk about” (“The generic term for preaching.”)
- For Acts 8:4, 8:5, 8:25: “rodkiota-ralde’etnohora” — “bring words, give news about.” (“This term is used when the preacher is moving from place to place to preach.”)
Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.
In certain languages some types of possession simply cannot be used. For example in Hopi one cannot speak of [what is translated in English as] “(Yahweh) my God,” for God cannot be possessed. One must say, “the God in whom I believe.” (p. 206)
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)