apples on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

One of the more well-known Bible translation stories is the Latin translation in the Vulgate (4th century by St. Jerome of Stridon) that supposedly creates a pun with the translation of “evil” in the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (translated in the Vulgate as lignumque scientiae boni et mali) and the fruit that is mentioned in Genesis 3:3, 3:6 and 3:12. According to the story, the Hebrew word that is translated as “fruit” in English was translated as mālum (“apple”), thus creating a pun with the Latin word malum which is used in the form mali in the translation for the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (see above). This in turn, according to the story, created the connection between the “forbidden fruit” and the apple in art history (see below for a 16th century depiction by Lucas Cranach the Elder), anatomical terminology (“Adam’s apple” and similar expressions in many European languages for the laryngeal prominence) and the public imagination.

Alas, this turns out to be an urban myth. The Vulgate (as well as the older Vetus Latina) both use frūctus (“fruit”) in Genesis 3 for peri (פְרִי), the Hebrew word for fruit. While it’s possible that the use of malum in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was implicitly understood as pointing to an apple, it’s not likely since there is a market difference in pronunciation: /ˈmaː.lum/ (“apple”) vs. /ˈma.lum/ (“evil”). Maybe it’s more likely that the apple was the likely choice in the European imagination because of its prominence as were grapes, figs, or pomegranates in the Jewish imagination.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With contributions by Seppo Sipilä, Reinier de Blois, and Harry Harm.

Passover

The Hebrew and Greek pesach/pascha that is typically translated in English as “Passover” (see below) is translated in a variety of descriptive ways of various aspects of the Jewish festival. (Click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “the feast of the passing by of God’s angel”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “the day would come which is called Passover, when the Israel people remember how they went out of the land of Egypt”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “the celebration when they ate their sheep”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “the celebration of the day of their being brought out of bondage”
    (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Obolo: ijọk Iraraka — “Festival of Passing” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Guhu-Samane: “special day of sparing” (source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)
  • Yakan: “The festival of the Isra’il tribe which they call For-Remembering” (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Wolof: “Festival of the day of Salvation” (“the term ‘pass over’ brings up the image of a person’s crossing over a chasm after death”) (source: Marilyn Escher)
  • Bura-Pabir: vir kucelir fəlɓəla kəi — “time-of happiness-of jumping-over house”
  • Berom: Nzem Gyilsit Nelɔ — “Festival-of jumping-of houses”
  • Nigerian Fulfulde: Humto Ƴaɓɓitaaki / Humto Sakkinki — “Festival-of passing-over”
  • Hausa: Bikin Ƙetarewa — “Festival-of going-over” (source for this and three above: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Jula: “Feast of end of slavery” (source: Fritz Goerling)
  • Bafanji: laiŋzieʼ — “pass-jump over” (source: Cameron Hamm)
  • Tiéyaxo Bozo / Jenaama Bozo: “Salvation/Rescue (religious) feast” (source: Marko Hakkola)
  • Sabaot: Saakweetaab Keeytaayeet — “Festival of Passing-by” (source: Iver Larsen)
  • Language spoken in India and Bangladesh: “Festival of avoidance”
  • Vlax Romani: o ghes o baro le Nakhimasko — “the Day of the Passing”
  • Saint Lucian Creole: Fèt Délivwans — “Feast of Deliverance” (source: David Frank)
  • Finnish: pääsiäinen (“The term is very probably coined during the NT translation process around 1520-1530. It is connected to a multivalent verb päästä and as such refers either to the Exodus (päästä meaning “to get away [from Egypt]”) or to the end of the Lent [päästä referring to get relieved from the limitations in diet]. The later explanation being far more probable than the first.”)
  • Northern Sami: beas’sážat (“Coined following the model in Finnish. The Sami verb is beassat and behaves partly like the Finnish one. Many Christian key terms are either borrowed from Finnish or coined following the Finnish example.”)
  • Estonian: ülestõusmispüha — “holiday/Sunday of the resurrection” — or lihavõttepüha — “holiday/Sunday of returning of meat”
  • Karelian: äijüpäivü — “the great day” (“Here one can hear the influence of the Eastern Christianity, but not directly Russian as language, because the Russian term is Пасха/Pasha or Воскресение Христово/Voskresenie Hristovo, ‘[the day of] the resurrection of Christ,’ but the week before Easter is called as the great week.”) (Source for this and three above: Seppo Sipilä)
  • Russian (for Russian speaking Muslims): праздник Освобождения/prazdnik Osvobozhdeniya — “Festival of-liberation” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Spanish Sign Language: pass through + miracle (source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)


    “Passover” in Spanish Sign Language (source)

  • English: Passover (term coined by William Tyndale that both replicates the sound of the Hebrew original pesah — פסח as well as part of the meaning: “passing over” the houses of the Israelites in Egypt) — oddly, the English Authorized Version (King James Version) mistranslates the occurrence in Acts 12:4 as Easter

Many Romance languages follow the tradition from Latin that has one term for both “Easter” and “Passover” (pascha). Portuguese uses Páscoa for both, Italian uses Pascha, and French has Pâque for “Passover” and the identically pronounced Pâques for “Easter.”

In languages in francophone and lusophone (Portuguese speaking) Africa, indigenous languages typically use the Romance word for “Easter” as a loanword and often transliterate pesach/pascha. In Kinyarwanda and Rundi Pasika is used, in Swahili and Congo Swahili Pasaka, and in Lingala Pasika. In some cases, the transliteration of “Passover” is derived from the European language, such as Umbundu’s Pascoa (from Portuguese) and Bulu’s Pak (from French).

As John Ellingworth (in The Bible Translator 1980, p 445f.) points out “in most contexts only the presence or absence of the definite article distinguishes them [in French la pâque for Passover and Pâques for Easter]. Since most African languages do not have definite articles, there remains no way to distinguish between the two terms where the general population has borrowed the word for Easter and the Bible translators have borrowed the word for Passover to use in their translation. Some even consider the references to [Passover] before the death of Christ as prophetic!”

back-translation of Luke 7:1-10 in Finnish Sign Language

Following is the back-translation of Luke 7:1-10 from Finnish Sign Language (FiSL). One of the ways that distinguishes FiSL is by an intense way of using a spatial component via a signing space. Click or tap here to see more.

Numbers attached with glosses refer to locations in signing space.

The English text gives a rough back translation of the FiSL behind the glosses.

Luke 7:1

JESUS TELL HUMAN GROUP HEAR>5
Jesus spoke and people listen

READY JESUS GO-1>2 CAPERNAUM INDEX>6
After he had finished Jesus went to Capernaum

(break)

Luke 7:2

ONE SOLDER LEADER OWN>6 SERVANT SICK NEARLY DIE
A servant of a military leader was sick and dying

LEADER INDEX>6 SERVANT PERSON-1 RESPECT
That leader respected his servant

(break)

Luke 7:3

INDEX>6 HEAR>5 JESUS
He heard about Jesus

PERSONx>5 ASK JEW HIGH-POSITION HUMANx-6 BRING-5>1 JESUS
He asked the respected Jewish men to bring Jesus to him

SERVANT PERSON-6 SAVE
to save the servant

(break)

Luke 7:4

JEW HIGH-POSITION HUMANx-6 JESUS MEET>5
The respected Jewish men met Jesus

BEG>5 SAY>5
Begging and asking:

(break)

ASK MALE INDEX>6 NEED OWN>5 HELP
Please, that man needs your help

(break)

Luke 7:5

WE HUMAN GROUP INDEX>6 LOVE
He loves our people

ALSO WE OWN>1 JEW CONGREGATION
For our Jewish congregation
INDEX>6 ALREADY BUILD HOUSE
He has built a house [= synagogue]

(break)

Luke 7:6

JESUS WITH TOGETHER-3>6 HOUSE-6 NEAR-3>6
Jesus approached the house together with others

LEADER SEND-4>5 OWN>6 FEW FRIENDx
The leader sent some of his friends

MEET-4>5
To meet Jesus:

(break)

LEADER INDEX>6 SAY
This leader says:
LORD INDEX>5 TROUBLE CLOSE-5>1 DO-NOT>5
Lord, do not trouble to come to me

Luke 7:7 (no break)

ALSO INDEX>1 CLOSE-1>5 CANNOT
As I did not come to you

(break)

[the rest of the verse moved to the end of verse 8]

Luke 7:8

COMMAND INDEX-h3>1 INDEX>1 OBEY
I am subject to command from above

ALSO SOLDER INDEX>2 INDEX>1 COMMAND INDEX-1>2
And I command solders

INDEX-2 OBEY
And they obey

(break)

OWN-1 SOLDER INDEX-2 INDEX-1 SAY
If I say to this solder of mine:

INDEX-2 GO>2
Go!

COMPLETE LEAVE-1>2
He will leave

INDEX-5 COME-5>1
Or to another: Come!

COMPLETE COME-5>1
He will come

(break)

ALSO SERVANT PERSON-2 INDEX-1 SAY
And if I say to this servant:

DO INDEXx-2
Do this!

COMPLETE DO
He will do it.

(break)

ANDx ALSO OWN>1 SERVANT PERSON-6 INDEX-5 ORDER-5>6
So, please, order this servant of mine

HEAL
And heal him.

(break)

LEADER INDEX-6 WELCOME-6>5
The leader asked Jesus to do this to him

Luke 7:9

JESUS SURPRISE>6
Jesus was surprised

TURN-6>5 HUMAN GROUP
He turned to people

SAY
And said:

LEADER OWN>6 FAITH COMPARE SAME JEW HUMAN GROUP INDEX-1 NEVER SEE-1>d
I have never seen the same faith among Jews than this leader has

(break)

Luke 7:10

FRIEND INDEXx-2 BACK-1>2>1 HOUSE-6 NEAR>6
When the friends returned to the house of the leader

SERVANT PERSON-6 ALREADY HEAL
That servant was already healthy.

Source and further explanation in Signs for words – the possibilities for the literal
translation in Finnish Sign Language
by Seppo Sipilä, 2008