The Greek that is translated as “ponder” in English is translated as “continually think-about” in Tboli, “turn around in the mind” in Batak Toba, “puzzle forth, puzzle back” in Sranan Tongo (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “constantly setting down her visions” in Mairasi (source: Enggavoter 2004), “carried all those words in her heart and then sat thinking” in Enga (source: Adam Boyd on his blog ), or “moved them in her heart” (bewegte sie in ihrem Herzen) (German Luther translation).

In Low German idiomatically as “let it pass through her heart again and again” (translation by Johannes Jessen, publ. 1933, republ. 2006).

right mind, sound-minded

The Greek that is rendered as “in his right mind” or “sound-minded” in English is translated as “his mind had returned” (Amganad Ifugao), “his heart was sitting down” (Tojolabal), “his head was healed” (Chicahuaxtla Triqui), “his mind was straightened” (Tzotzil), “with a clear mind again” (Javanese), “come to his senses” (Indonesian) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), “come to his cleanness/purity” (Marathi), “(his) thoughts having become right” (Ekari), “his intelligence having-become clean again” (Sranan Tongo), “having-mind” (Batak Toba), “settled his mind” (Tae’), “settled/fixed” (Balinese) (source for this and five above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), or “had well-split vision” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004).

Mary / Martha / Lazarus (relative age)

Many languages have terms for siblings that define whether one is younger or older in relation to another sibling.

In Fuyug, Tae’, Batak Toba, and Mandarin Chinese, Martha was assumed to be the older of the two sisters because she is mentioned first. (Sources: David Clark [Fuyug] and Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Navajo translates accordingly but for a different reason: “since Martha seemed to take the responsibility of the housework, she was probably the older of the two.” (Source: Wallis 2000, p. 103f.)

In Fuyug, Lazarus is assumed to be the oldest sibling on the grounds that he died first, whereas in several Thai translations he is described as the youngest of the three. (Source: David Clark)


“The Greek that is mostly translated as “virgin” in English can be translated as “woman that is untouched” in Batak Toba or “a woman with a whole (i.e. unopened) body” in Uab Meto.

“Similar words for “girl,” “unmarried young woman,” suggesting virginity without explicitly stating it, are found in Marathi, Apache, or Kituba. Cultural features naturally influence connotations of possible renderings, for instance, the child marriage customs in some Tboli areas, where the boy and girl are made to sleep together at the initial marriage, but after that do not live together and may not see each other again for years. Hence, the closest attainable equivalent, “female adolescent,” does not imply that a young girl is not living with her husband, and that she never had a child, but leaves uncertain whether she has ever slept with a male person or not. Accordingly, in Luke one has to depend on Luke 1:34 to make clear that Mary and Joseph had not had sexual intercourse. A different problem is encountered in Pampanga, where birhen (an adaptation of Spanish “virgen” — “virgin”), when standing alone, is a name of the “Virgin Mary.” To exclude this meaning the version uses “marriageable birhen,” thus at the same time indicating that Mary was relatively young.” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel, see here)

In Navajo, the term that is used is “no husband yet” (Source: Wallis, p. 106) and in Gola the expression “trouser girl.” “In the distant past young women who were virgins wore trousers. Those who were not virgins wore dresses. That doesn’t hold true anymore, but the expression is still there in the language.” (Source: Don Slager)

The term in Djimini Senoufo is katogo jo — “village-dance-woman” (women who have been promised but who are still allowed to go to dances with unmarried women). (Source: Übersetzung heute 3/1995)

In Igbo translations, typically a newly-created, multi-word phrase is used that very explicitly states that there has not been any sexual relations and that translates as “a woman (or: maiden) who does not know a man.” This is in spite of the fact that there is a term (agb͕ọghọ) that means “young woman” and has the connotation of her not having had sexual relations (this is for instance used by the Standard Igbo Bible of the Bible Society of Nigeria for Isaiah 7:14). Incidentally, the euphemistic expression “know” (ma in Igbo) for “having sex” has become a well-known euphemism outside of Bible translation. (Source: Uchenna Oyali in Sociolinguistic Studies Vol. 17 No. 1-3 (2023): Special Issue: Gender and sexuality in African discourses )

See also virgins (Revelation 14:4).

hundred sheep

The Greek that is translated as “a hundred sheep” in English is translated in Ekari with “sixty sheep.” In Ekari “sixty” is the highest basic unit, the equivalent of “one hundred” in Greek. The arithmetical equivalent of “hundred” would be the cumbersome “forty of the second sixty.”

While Mairasi has a set term for “hundred” (ratu, also meaning “king”), 99 is expressed more complicatedly: “four whole people and two hands and one hand and four.” (source: Enggavoter 2004)

See also body part tally systems.

catch, fish for

The Greek that means “catch (or: capture) alive” is usually translated as “catch (people)” of “fish (for people)” in English which implies the fact that the captured or caught are still alive.

The Syriac Aramaic (Classical Syriac) Peshitta translation, however, makes the meaning of “catch alive” more explicit by translating ṣāeḏ ləẖayye (ܨܳܐܶܕ݂ ܠܚܰܝܶܐ) or “catch alive.” Following that translation, other translations that are based on the Peshitta, including the Classical Armenian Bible (vorsayts’es i keans [որսայցես ի կեանս] or “catch for life”), the Afrikaans PWL translation (publ. 2016) (mense vang tot verlossing or ” catch [people] to salvation”), the Dutch translation by Egbert Nierop (publ. 2020) (vangen tot redding or “catch to save”) or various English translations (see here ) explicitly highlight the “alive” as well. (Source: Ivan Borshchevsky)

Some languages have to find strategies on how to deal with the metaphor of “catching.” “In some cases the metaphor can be rendered rather literally, cp. ‘seeking for men’ (Kekchí, where ‘to seek fish’ is the idiomatic rendering of ‘to catch fish’). In several other languages, however, more radical adjustments are necessary, such as making explicit the underlying simile, ‘you will catch men as if you were catching fish’ (Inupiaq); or a shift to a non-metaphorical rendering, sacrificing the play-on-words, e.g. ‘you will be a bringer of men’ (Northern Grebo). In some cases the durative aspect of the construction is best expressed by n occupational term, e.g. ‘youwill be one-whose-trade-is catching men’ (Tae’ and Toraja-Sa’dan).” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Other translations include:

  • Uma: “teach people to become my followers” (source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “fetch people to follow me” (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “look for people so that they might be my disciples” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “persuade people” (source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “as-it-were catch/hunt/fish-for” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

cast lots

    The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 掣 籤 chè qiān (in most Mandarin 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).

    Other solutions include:

    • Purari: “throw shells” (source: David Clark)
    • Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross)
    • Navajo: “draw straws”
    • Yatzachi Zapotec “raffle”
    • Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
    • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “threw one or two little hard things that had a sign…to see which person it would be”
    • Kekchí: “try with luck”
    • Lalana Chinantec: “there were little things they played with that made evident who it would be who would be lucky”
    • Chuj: “enter luck upon them”
    • Ayutla Mixtec: “put out luck” (Source for this and five above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
    • Lacandon: “play with small stones in order to see who was going to win” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

    In North Alaskan Inupiatun a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiatun 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.)