vain (worship)

The Greek that is translated into English as “vain” or “in vain” in English is (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say I am important, but they do not believe it”
  • Kekchí: “has no meaning when they praise me”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona: “uselessly”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “uselessly they remember”
  • Farefare: “their religion is their mouth”
  • Southern Subanen: “their worship has no meaning”
  • Tzotzil: “they say they love me, but this means nothing”
  • Southern Bobo Madaré: “they worship me but they do not mean what they say”
  • Central Mazahua: “it is of no value that they honor me”
  • San Blas Kuna: “their thinking is not in their hearts” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Mairasi: “tribute of theirs for me [which] will-be-on-their-own” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Guhu-Samane: “with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me” (“‘In vain’ caused puzzlement [because] why should their efforts to worship God produce no results, try as they may? [But the idiom] ‘with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me’ comes from the picture of one who is making a pretense at eating food, hence their deceit is apparent.’ Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)

complete verse (Isaiah 33:15)

The back-translation of Isaiah 33:15 from Alur is as follows:

“The person who walks white, and that speaks straight; the person who hates deceitful exchange for personal gain, that snaps clean his hands from taking this world’s riches, who corks up his ears from hearing bloody (things), who closes his eyes from looking upon evil; He will abide up high”.

Source: F. G. Lasse in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 22ff.

bread, loaf

The Greek term that is translated in English as “bread” or “loaf” is translated in Samo, it is translated as “Sago,” which serves “like ‘bread’ for the Hebrews, as a generic for food in the Samo language. It is a near-perfect metonymy that has all the semantic elements necessary for effective communication.” (Source: Daniel Shaw in: Scriptura 96/2007, p. 501ff.)

In Chol as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla.

John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f.) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”

Robert Bascom adds his thoughts to this in relation to other Mayan languages (in Omanson 2001, p. 260: “In many Mayan languages, ‘bread’ can be translated waj or kaxlan waj. The first term literally means anything made from corn meal, while the second term literally means ‘foreigner’s waj,’ and refers to the local wheat-based sweet breads which are so popular within the broader European-influenced culture of the region. On the one hand, waj would be a better dynamic equivalent in cases where ‘bread’ meant ‘food,’ but in cases where the focus is literal or the reference well-known, kaxlan waj would preserve a flour-based meaning (though in biblical times barley was more in use than wheat) and not insert corn into a time and place where it does not belong. On the other hand kaxlan waj is not the staff of life, but refers to a local delicacy. In cases such as these, it is even tempting to suggest borrowing pan, the Spanish word for ‘bread,’ but native speakers might respond that borrowing a foreign word is not necessary since both waj and kaxlan waj are native terms that cover the meaning (though in this case, perhaps not all that well).”

Simon and Jesus

The half-hearted attitude of Simon gains liveliness in the Balinese translation by the change of vocabulary. When he addresses Jesus the Master, he naturally uses deferential terms. In his reflection, however, he speaks “within himself” about Jesus and does not use the deferential terminology. In this way he reveals what he really thinks of his quest.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

majestic

The Hebrew that is translated as “majestic” in most English translations is translated in Guhu-Samane as “the quality of the bull-roarer call.” Ernest Richert explains: “In searching for a suitable equivalent for ‘majestic’ it was learned that the bull-roarer had the important function not only of announcing poro ceremonies [poro is the traditional religion], but also the arrival of a great or important person. Of a notable man it is said that his name had the quality of the bull-roarer call. Thus the passage is translated: ‘O Lord, our Lord in all the great earth your name has the quality of the bull-roarer call’.”

Source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff.

bread of life

The Greek that is translated in English is translated in Bambam as “food of life” since “bread is considered a light and unnecessary snack.” (Source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500) Similarly, Huehuetla Tepehua has “that food that gives eternal life” and Aguaruna has “the food that gives eternal life.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)

In Chol, it is translated as Joñon Wajo, the “waj (tortilla) of life.” John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f.) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”

See also bread, loaf.

mercy

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

The Greek terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.

Here are some (back-) translations:

there you will see him

The Greek that is translated as “there you will see him” in English is translated in Guhu-Samane as “there you will see his substance.”

“There you will see him” caused “puzzlement: Will see him, but in spirit form, or corporeal? (A valid question for people of this culture to whom the spirits of departed ones frequently appear.) [But] ‘there you will see his substance’ is now clearly and unambiguously understood to mean Christ would be seen corporeally.”

Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff..

rest (after creation)

The Hebrew term that is typically translated as “rest” in English is translated in Bari as “stand.” P. Guillebaud (in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.) explains: “The normal word for ‘rest,’ yukan, which had been used originally had to be rejected, because, as [the language assistant] Daniele pointed out, it also means taking a rest or ‘breather,’ and so implies the resumption of work after a pause. As the point here is the cessation of work, we had to use a different term altogether, literally ‘God stood from work.’ (In Exod. 31:17 God is said to have ‘rested’ and to have ‘refreshed himself’ after the labours of creation.)”

In Orma it is translated as “God removed his hand.” George Payton explains: “We were translating Genesis, and we came to the verse in 2:2 where God “rested” from the work of creating. Of course we did not want to communicate that God was tired from that work, as the English suggests. So I asked my translator, ‘When you finish working in your field preparing it before the rainy season and you have done all you can, there is nothing more you can do until it rains. What would you say that you have done in relation to the work? Finished? Stopped? Or something else?’ He said, ‘I would say that I removed my hand from that work, meaning it was finished and I am done with it.’ In 2:2 we used what he said and rendered the verse ‘On the 7th day God removed his hand from all the work that he had done.'”