prophesy

The Hebrew and the Greek that are translated in English versions as “prophesy” are translated into Anuak as “sing a song” (source: Loren Bliese), into Balanta-Kentohe as “passing on message of God” (source: Rob Koops), and into Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term that does not only refer to the future, but is “speak on behalf of God” (source: Robert Bascom).

Other translations include: “God making someone to show something in advance” (Ojitlán Chinantec), “God causing someone to think and then say it” (Aguaruna), “speaking God’s thoughts” (Shipibo-Conibo), “God made someone say something” “Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac) (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125), “proclaim God’s message” (Teutila Cuicatec), “speak for God” (Chichimeca-Jonaz), “preach the Word of God” (Lalana Chinantec), “speak God’s words” (Tepeuxila Cuicatec), “that which God’s Spirit will cause them to say they will say” (Mayo) (source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), and “say what God wants people to hear” (tell people God wod dat e gii oona fa say) (Gullah) (source: Robert Bascom).

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:

  • For Acts 3:18, 3:21, 3:25: nurwowohora — “mouth says words that don’t come from one’s own mind.” (“This term refers to an individual’s speaking words that are not his because either a good or bad spirit is at work through him. The speaker is not in control of himself.”)
  • For Acts 19:6, Acts 21:9: nakotnohora — “talk about.” (“The focus of this term is on telling God’s message for the present as opposed to the future.”)
  • For Acts 21:11: rora — “foretell” (“The focus of this term is giving God’s message concerning the future. The person who speaks is aware of what he is doing and he is using his own mind, yet it is with God’s power that he foretells the future.”)

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.

See also prophet and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.

apostle, apostles

(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)

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’.’

In Newari it is translated as “upper part of water” (Gen. 1:6 is translated “height between two portions of water.”) (Source: Newari Back Translation)

In Tenharim a translation for “firmament” was not deemed possible because there were no overlaps in the world view of the Tenharim speakers and that of the cosmology of Genesis. LaVera Betts (in: Notes on Translation, September 1971, p. 16ff.) explains: “[In their view,] heaven’s edge is curbed and solid. It can become meshed releasing the water above it onto the clouds, which to the Parintintín [the Tenharim speakers] are gathered wind, in order for this water to be dispersed in the form of rain. An entrance, position and description unknown, is available to the occupants of the layers of heaven through which they may pass to the world. To each layer of heaven and heaven as a whole they apply the same word: yvaga.

“The sun, moon, and stars attach to the world’s side of heaven’s edge. The sun and moon have separate paths-the moon making a half revolution and returning, and the sun making a complete revolution. No all-inclusive term for the heavenly bodies, earth, and the expanse between them so far has been encountered in Parintintín. Nor has there been found a suitable term for this expanse alone. During the day the expanse could be called the open/clear space: mytuêa; but at night it disappears into heaven and night takes its place. Its occurrence, then, is contingent on the presence of light and therefore inappropriate for expressing firmament (Gen 1:6).

“To translate ‘firmament’ as a vault the translator possibly could have used heaven’s edge which, although suiting their world view grandly, poses problems in the translator’s mind especially as to the restricted meaning it would force on the translation for them. That a good shaman is believed to be able to bring heaven down immediately over the earth reveals that to them the expanse over the earth is empty, or compressible and flexible, and the ‘vault’ movable.

“The possible translation of atmosphere for firmament was settled upon and the term used was ‘wind’: yvytua. The phrase ‘and God called the firmament heaven’ was deleted. A possible alternate ‘and God called the place of the wind heaven’ also was not used as Coriolano [the indigenous translator] did not know where the wind went when it is not seen in the form of clouds nor felt; however, he insisted the wind is everlasting — unlike one’s breath which is not lasting. Animates do not breathe air/wind but their hearts pump their own breath.”

medium

The Hebrew that is translated as “medium” in English is translated in Basa as “the people of the grave.”

faithful

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

See also faith / believe.

fallen by the sword

The Hebrew that is translated as “they had fallen by the sword” in English is translated into Igede with the existing idiom “the war had eaten them.”

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.'”