birds or four-footed animals or reptiles

The Greek that is translated as “birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” in English presented an obstacle in the translation into Western Parbate Kham so that it was dropped from the translation.

D. E. Watters (p. 226f.) tells that story:

“Khams see things differently. It’s not that they don’t observe the same traits that we do; it’s just that the distinction between giving birth to living young or laying eggs doesn’t matter a lot to them. Babies are babies. They’re more concerned with other factors, such as “is the animal naughty or nice?” Their classification system comprises things like laa-gaa: ‘leopard-eagles,’ syaa-baa: ‘deer-pheasants,’ baza-biza: ‘bird-rats,’ and rwihza-wanza: ‘bug-worms.’

“’Leopard-eagles’ cause harm; it doesn’t matter if they’re mammals or birds. They prey on the domain of man, stealing his chickens and sheep; they are what we would call predators. ‘Deer-pheasants’ are the opposite, providing food for man; these are the game animals. ‘Bird-rats’ are the little critters, things that scurry around on the forest floor and flit through the village. ‘Bug-worms’ are the creepy-crawlies, things that make your skin crawl. They’re mostly bugs, snakes, and lizards, but they also include a few unexpected creatures like the river otter (which is regarded as a slimy creature, similar to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings).

“So what were we to do with a passage like Romans 1:22—23, in which a Greek classification is assumed: ‘Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things’?

“Any attempt to translate this passage verbatim in Kham, which we tried, only makes it seem that four-footedness is the point of the passage. Khams have no such classification, and the mere novelty of singling out ‘four-footed’ beasts makes it a highly marked expression, the focus of assertion. It’s like saying, ‘If only they had made images of three-footed beasts, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But these fools made four-footed beasts!’

“The point of the passage is clear enough: ‘professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.’ This is not a treatise on biological classification; it’s a statement about the foolishness of idolatry. Even the Khams laugh at the idolatry of the Hindus, so when the passage is rendered in their language, the absurdity is heightened: “In those very things in which they claimed to ‘know it all,’ they became totally ignorant. In place of the glorious, living, and eternal God, they made images of man, animal-beasts, bird-rats, and bug-worms, and worshiped them instead of God.

“Who but a fool would stoop to worship a bird-rat or a bug-worm?”

See also birds of the air and every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature.

forgive, forgiveness

The concept of “forgiveness” is expressed in varied ways through translations. Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:

  • Tswa, North Alaskan Inupiatun, Panao Huánuco Quechua: “forget about”
  • Navajo: “give back” (based on the idea that sin produces an indebtedness, which only the one who has been sinned against can restore)
  • Huichol, Shipibo-Conibo, Eastern Highland Otomi, Uduk, Tepo Krumen: “erase,” “wipe out,” “blot out”
  • Highland Totonac, Huautla Mazatec: “lose,” “make lacking”
  • Tzeltal: “lose another’s sin out of one’s heart”
  • Lahu, Burmese: “be released,” “be freed”
  • Ayacucho Quechua: “level off”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “cast away”
  • Chol: “pass by”
  • Wayuu: “make pass”
  • Kpelle: “turn one’s back on”
  • Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “cover over” (a figure of speech which is also employed in Hebrew, but which in many languages is not acceptable, because it implies “hiding” or “concealment”)
  • Tabasco Chontal, Huichol: “take away sins”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Javanese: “do away with sins”
  • San Blas Kuna: “erase the evil heart” (this and all above: Bratcher / Nida, except Tepo Krumen: Peter Thalmann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 25f.)
  • Eggon: “withdraw the hand”
  • Mískito: “take a man’s fault out of your heart” (source of this and the one above: Kilgour, p. 80)
  • Western Parbate Kham: “unstring someone” (“hold a grudge” — “have someone strung up in your heart”) (source: Watters, p. 171)
  • Hawai’i Creole English: “let someone go” (source: Jost Zetzsche)
  • Cebuano: “go beyond” (based on saylo)
  • Iloko: “none” or “no more” (based on awan) (source for this and above: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
  • Tzotzil: ch’aybilxa: “it has been lost” (source: Aeilts, p. 118)
  • Suki: biaek eisaemauwa: “make heart soft” (Source L. and E. Twyman in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 91ff. )
  • Warao: “not being concerned with him clean your obonja.” Obonja is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.)
  • Martu Wangka: “throw out badness” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Mairasi: “dismantle wrongs” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Nyulnyul: “have good heart” (source )
  • Koonzime: “remove the bad deed-counters” (“The Koonzime lay out the deeds symbolically — usually strips of banana leaf — and rehearse their grievances with the person addressed.”) (Source: Keith and Mary Beavon in Notes on Translation 3/1996, p. 16)
  • Ngbaka: ele: “forgive and forget” (Margaret Hill [in Holzhausen & Ridere 2010, p. 8f.] recalls that originally there were two different words used in Ngbaka, one for God (ɛlɛ) and one for people (mbɔkɔ — excuse something) since it was felt that people might well forgive but, unlike God, can’t forget. See also this lectionary in The Christian Century .
  • Amahuaca: “erase” / “smooth over” (“It was an expression the people used for smoothing over dirt when marks or drawings had been made in it. It meant wiping off dust in which marks had been made, or wiping off writing on the blackboard. To wipe off the slate, to erase, to take completely away — it has a very wide meaning and applies very well to God’s wiping away sins, removing them from the record, taking them away.”) (Source: Robert Russel, quoted in Walls / Bennett 1959, p. 193)

See also this devotion on YouVersion .