clay jars, earthen vessels

The Greek that is translated in English as “(treasure in) clay jars (or “earthen vessels”)” is translated in Whitesands as “an old coconut leaf basket.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

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. )

gold that is tested by fire

The Greek that is translated in English as “gold that is tested by fire” is translated in Uripiv as “a spear-shaft straightened in a fire.” (Source: Ross McKerras)


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) and in Bahnar as aseh lăk-đa which is a combination of the Vietnamese loan word for “camel” (lăk-đa) and the Bahnar term for “horse” (aseh) to communicate that the camel is a beast of burden (source: Pham Xuan Tin in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 20ff. ).

In Nyongar it is translated as “cangaroo” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

Some versions of the Peshitta translation in Syriac Aramaic (Classical Syriac) show an ambiguity between the very similar words for “camel” and “rope.” Some translations of the Peshitta, therefore, use the “rope” interpretation, including the Classical Armenian Bible (մալխոյ for “rope”), the English translation by George Lamsa (publ. 1933) (It is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle), or the Dutch translation by Egbert Nierop (publ. 2020) (het voor een kabel eenvoudiger is het oog van een naald binnen te gaan).

sound of the millstone

The Hebrew and 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)


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).

In Yakan it is translated as “termites” (source: Yakan Back Translation) and in Tagbanwa as “chewing-insects” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).


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).