apostle, apostles

The Greek term that is translated as “apostle(s)” in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:

chaste behavior, pure, pure conduct

The Greek in 1 Peter 3:2 that is translated in English as “pure conduct” (or “chaste behavior”) is translated in Balanta-Kentohe as “good walk.” (Source: Rob Koops)

The standalone term that is translated as “pure” is translated in Mezquital Otomi as “that which cleanses one’s thoughts,” and in Alekano as “making our insides white.” (Source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

See also snow (color).

dome, expanse, firmament

The Hebrew that is translated as “firmament,” “expanse,” or “dome” in English is translated in Roviana as galegalearane: “the open space between the earth and the sky” and in Moru as “empty space.”

In Idoma it is translated as okpanco — “the top of the sky.” “According to tradition, when the world began, the okpanco was low. A woman was pounding yams and her pestle kept hitting okpanco and it started going higher and higher.”

In Naskapi it is translated as “sky skin” — “like a caribou skin.”

(Sources: Roviana: Carl Gross; Moru: Jan Sterk; Idoma: Rob Koops; Naskapi: Doug Lockhart in Word Alive 2013)

In Lingala it is translated as “surface.” Sigurd F. Westberg (in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 117ff.) explains: “The ‘firmament’ in Genesis 1 gave us another problem. Its meaning in English is certainly not immediately obvious. The dictionary tells us that the Hebrew means something close to our English word ’expanse*. It seems, however, that the Hebrew idea may not always have been as abstract as that, for Isaiah says that the Lord ‘stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.’ But the Greek word used in the Septuagint gives the idea of a firm and solid structure, and this is the idea that is carried out in our English word ‘firmament.’ Modern translations into English, Swedish, Norwegian and French take one or the other of these two leads. It is the predicament of the translator that he dare not hesitate too long between ideas. (…) In this case we tried to arrive at ’expanse’ by the use of a word meaning ’width,’ but we found that it is not really understandable except as it is associated with the noun of which it indicates the width. It cannot be used alone. The word we finally used means ‘surface,’ but it also has the idea of something stretched out or smoothed out. It is more concrete than we should like, but it does not require identity with a concrete object as does the word for width’.’

faithful

The Greek that is rendered as “faithful” in English is (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Toraja-Sa’dan: “honest/straight”
  • Inupiaq: “unchangeable”
  • Highland Totonac “who fulfils” (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Tsou: “actively following closely” (source: Peng Kuo-Wei)
  • Mende: “doesn’t turn this way and that” (source: Rob Koops)
  • Sinasina: “follow well” (source: ParaTExt Consultant Notes)

See also faith / believe.

the head slips from the handle

The Hebrew that is translated as “the head slips from the handle” in English had to be expressed much more specifically in Kutep.

Rob Koops tells this story: “I came across what appeared to be an ambiguity in this verse, which describes an axe-head slipping off its handle and killing someone. The Kutep word kujwo can mean ‘hand/arm’ or ‘handle.’ The first draft of the Kutep text had: rikae fwer ru wu kujwo, which could mean a) the axe slipped out of his hand or b) the axe (head) slipped out of its handle. On discussion, we found out that the drafter had used a culturally equivalent scenario, namely the axe slipping out of the user’s hands, which seemed to be more likely to him than the head coming off. We also discovered a word for the ‘head’ on an axe, so we can now describe the actual biblical scenario, which requires a different verb for slipping out, which is nwae ru. Finally, we discovered that by using a grammatical construction that describes an action that is unexpected and/or unwanted, we can enhance the elegance of the translation, which in idiomatic English now reads something like ‘the axe-head went and slipped out of the handle’ or ‘the axe-head slipped out of the handle on him.'”

kiss

The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips, 1960 in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:

  • Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
  • Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Afar: “gaba tittal ucuya” (“give hands to each other”) (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
  • Cheke Holo: “Love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
  • Pitjantjatjara: “And when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
  • Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
  • Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
  • Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
  • Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
  • Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Nyanja: “to suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘to clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
  • Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
  • Shona (version of 1966): “to hug”
  • Balinese: “to caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

honey

The Hebrew of the middle part of Song of Songs 5:1 is translated in many English translations (Authorized Version, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, Common English Bible, New Living Translation and the New American Bible among others) as “I ate my honeycomb with my honey.”

Rob Koops remarks on this: “One wonders if they missed the double meaning of ‘my honey,’ (=my loved one) or saw it, chuckled, and left it in the text. I’m not sure how widely ‘honey’ or ‘my honey’ is used in English for a loved one, but for some of us this is quite common.”

hovering over the face of the waters

The Hebrew that is translated into English as “moving (or: hovering) over the (sur)face of the waters” is translated into Ebira as “(the spirit of God) stayed above the water doing NANANA [ideophone].” (Source: Rob Koops)

In Bari it is translated with bibirto, “which is used of a bird hovering over its nest or fluttering round a bunch of ripe bananas.” (Source: Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.)