mustard seed

The Greek that is translated in English as “mustard seed” is translated in Muna as “wonolita seed.” René van den Berg explains: “The mustard plant rarely exceeds 50 cm in height. A wonolita is a big forest tree growing from a tiny seed.”

In the Bislama and Uripiv translations it is translated as “banyan.” “The banyan tree is one of the biggest in the islands, and it grows from a tiny seed. We (Uripiv) added a footnote to explain to more advanced readers what we had done: ‘Here Matthew compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, but since mustard doesn’t grow here, we put banyan, so that Matthew’s meaning will be clear.’” (source: Ross McKerras)

In Gbaya is is translated with the ideophone (a word that expresses what is perceived by the five senses) kɛ̧́ɛ̧́ which “denotes a very tiny and barely visible object. (…) The Gbaya team applied it to faith instead of referring to a mustard seed which is unknown to Gbaya readers.” (Source: Philip Noss in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 423ff.)

camel

The Greek that is translated in English as “camel” is translated in Muna as “water buffalo.” René van den Berg explains: “Camels are unknown; the biggest known animal is the water buffalo (though now rare on Muna).”

In Bislama is is translated as buluk: “cow” / “bull.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

sound of the millstone

The Greek that is translated in English as “sound of the millstone” is translated in Baki, Lamenu and Lewo as “the noise of grating food” (especially coconuts). (Source: Ross McKerras)

wherever the corpse is there the vultures will gather

The Greek that is translated as “wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” or similar in English is translated in Mairasi a lot more specific as “if you see the mother of flocks of corpse-eating birds, Long-tailed Buzzard, Grey-faced Buzzard, White-breasted sea Eagle, or Brahminy Kite, then there is something dead and rotting, a dead person’s body, or a dead wilderness animal is over there.” (Aij ner nenem naa, tuao, iamba, sende fut namba in netomwan andani, orom umburu joet tan, nere neavo, sas warenar joetnyaa fovar atat.)

In Tangoa, a cultural substitute is used: “When you see the flying foxes flying to one location, you know that there is a ripe mango tree there” (Vara ko hite na karai la lo avu vano hin te jara, o pa levosahia vara te pahai mo mena atu.). A footnote explains in that translation that “when the last days come close, and people see all these things happening, they can be sure that it won’t be long before the Son of Man appears on the earth.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

moth

The Greek that is translated into English as “moth(s)” was translated as “cockroach(es)” in Gola “since moths are not seen as destroying things but cockroaches are” (source: Don Slager). The same translation was chosen for Uripiv (source: Ross McKerras).

salt

The Greek that is translated “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” or similar in English is translated in various ways:

  • Amele: “You sit/are like the salt of the ground. But if salt loses its taste (lit. its bitterness stings) then how will it become bitter again?” (Age odi mahamahanu macas bilegina. Euqa macas uqana mug qah becebfi adi haun mugca migian?) (Source: John Roberts)
  • Mairasi: “You guys are now salt in this world. If that salt becomes watery, then with what will it again become salty?” (Eme ejavu sira wasasiar. Siravu fatan andani, arimev ata aem sasijeano? Nama avanggunuanan fatanan.) (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Kankanaey: “You are what-can-be-compared to salt for the people on this earth. But if salt becomes-tasteless it is impossible to return its saltiness (same word as sour/bitter).”

See also complete verse (Matthew 5:13).

cornerstone

Bawm build with bamboo and thatch in their mountainous forests. They made the apostles and prophets become the roof ridge pole and Jesus the central uprights which support it. I asked why not the corner uprights since Greek has a term that is translated in English as ‘cornerstone.’ Bawm translators responded that the central uprights are more important than the corner ones, and Greek refers to the most important stone. (“Corner uprights” used in 1Tim 3:15.) (Source: David Clark)

In Mono, translators used “main post,” in Martu Wangka “two forked sticks with another long strong stick laid across” (see also 1 Peter 2:6-7.), and in Arrernte, the translation in 1Pet 2:7 (in English translation: “the stone . . . became the very cornerstone”) was rendered as “the foundation… continues to be the right foundation.” (Source for this and two above: Carl Gross)

Likewise, in Uripiv it also is the “post” (“The post that the builders rejected has now become the mainstay of the house.”) (Source: Ross McKerras)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is translated with a term denoting the “the principal part of the ‘house’ (or work)” (Source: Robert Bascom) and in Enlhet as “like the house-root” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff.)

See also rock / stone, foundation on rock, and foundation.

salted with fire

The Greek that is translated in English “(Everyone will be) salted with fire” is translated in Uripiv as “God will test all people with fire, like they test black stones [which are used in cooking]. If a stone is no good, it crumbles to ashes; if it’s good, the fire doesn’t affect it. So also they put salt with food to test its flavour, good or bad.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

lion

There are no lions in Bawm country, so the Bawm Chin translation uses “a tiger with a mane” where the Greek term for “lion” is used and in Sranan Tongo the “roaring lion” in 1 Peter 5:8 is a krasi tigri, an “aggressive tiger.”

In the Kahua culture, lions are not known either so the Kahua translation used “fierce animal.”

In 1 Peter 5:8, the Uripiv translation uses “a hungry shark” instead of a roaring lion.

Sources: David Clark for Bawm Chin and Kahua, Japini 2015, p. 33, for Sranan Tongo, and Ross McKerras for Uripiv)

vipers

The Greek that is translated in English as “(brood of) vipers” is translated in North Tanna as “sea-snakes” (“This is the black and white sea snake which is thought of as very evil here.”) (Source Ross McKerras)

dual vs. plural (Matt. 9:28)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 8:30 (“Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them” in one English translation) it is left open whether “them” refers to the two demon-possessed men, to the men and Jesus or to the men, Jesus and the disciples?

The Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) use a dual, whereas the Uripiv uses a plural.

One of the translators explains: “I would argue, however, for a plural rather than a dual or trial, since we were told in Matt. 9:28 that the two men had ‘come to’ Jesus (who was probably accompanied by his disciples). ‘Come to’ renders the Greek word hypantao, otherwise used by Matthew only in 28:9. It is used also in the Markan parallel, in Mark 5:2; here we see from 5:7 that the man came right up to Jesus, so I interpret the them as referring at least to Jesus and the demoniacs.”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.