complete verse (John 1:14)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:14:

  • Aguaruna: “That word, when he arrived here, was born a human being, and in this way he lived with us. That completely good person was a speaker of the truth. And also we came to know his greatness because his Father, God, had said to his only Son, ‘You are great.'”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “The Person who is the Word was born human and he was with us. He loved mankind very much and he taught mankind all the true words of God. We saw him and we realized that he is the Person of greatest worth because he is the only Son of our Father God.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “And the One who is called Word, he became a Person, and he lived in our midst. And we saw how he had power. That power is that of the only Son of Father God. He is very kind and merciful and all which he says it is true.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “That Word, he became man[kind], and he lived among us (incl.). We (excl.) saw his power. That power of his he received from his Father, for He is the Only Child. [It is] from him that we know God and his grace [lit., white insides] to us.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then, the Word appeared/was-born here in the world having a human body and living among mankind. All love and truth was there with him. We (excl.) were-able to see his power and his brightness, and this his power and brightness were fitting for him for he is the only Son of God.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And the one called the Word of God became human and joined himself to us. He is very gracious and his words are very true. We saw his great high rank which is the high rank of the only child of God. And as for that high rank of his, it was given to him by his Father God.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The Word, he became a person and stayed-with us (excl.). He was consistently-compassionate and what he said was all true. We (excl.) saw his godhood which was the godhood of the only Child of God who came-from his Father.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “This Jesus who is called Word, he became a human and then lived here in the world together-with us. His praiseworthiness/glory was experienced by our (excl.) eyes, this glory of his being the glory of the one-and-only Son/child of God the Father. We (excl.) also comprehended the big-size of his grace/mercy and that everything which he revealed/came-out-with is indeed truth.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “He who makes known how God is became a person. He lived here where we live. We saw that he is the greatest. He is the greatest because he is God’s only son. He spoke only what is true and he loves the people without limit.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Anindilyakwa: “And that same one who revealed God who was hidden from us, he became a human being like us. He was born, he had flesh and bones and then he lived here and went around with us people. He is rich in love, he was very kind and he kept on and on speaking the truth. We saw that he was the leading powerful and beautiful one, the one who was his Father’s one and only Son, the one who came from his Father to here.” (Source: Julie Waddy in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 452ff.)

complete verse (Ephesians 5:18)

Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 5:18:

  • Uma: “Don’t be drunk, for that causes evil desires to appear. We must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. From that power of the Holy Spirit,” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You should not be/get drunk because it destroys you. Instead that’s what you should do, you should allow/let God’s Spirit rule over you.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Dont’t you get drunk on wine because this can destroy you; but rather, it’s necessary that you are thoroughly inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Don’t be getting drunk, because that of course is destructive, but rather be full of the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Be disgusted now with the habit of getting drunk, for that is what takes you to a messed up life (lit: life which has no fixing-up). It’s necessary that it’s not alcoholic-drink which is controlling and guiding-you-from-within, but rather the Espiritu Santo now.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “In order to live happily, do not give your heart to getting drunk. Because the drunkard is hurting himself. Rather give your hearts up to the Holy Spirit who will teach you what you must do.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Rotuman: “And you (3 or more) to not (get) drunk [lit.: poisoned] with wine, (a) thing that causes violent character; be full (filled) instead with (the) Holy Spirit.” (Ma ’au la se ’oan ’e uaini, tēet ne ho’ ag rạhrạhi; ’an la hoi ke ‘e ’At Ha’a) (for an analysis of this translation, click or tap here)

    “This text has been widely used as a proof text for the ‘Spirit-filled life’ by the so-called Holy Spirit movement. It has therefore been the focus of much interest and controversy among Rotuman readers as to its true meaning.

    “As with all translation, it is important to understand not just the meaning intended by the translator, but also what the readers and hearers take the words to mean. We will try to illustrate this in the comments that follow.

    Ma … la se. Beginning a sentence with ma gives this conjunction a much stronger force that usual, like saying, ‘But . . . must . . .’ Likewise the use of la with the negative se is also a strong expression, ‘Beware to not …’

    ’an. This plural, referring to three or more people is well understood in Rotuman: ‘you and you and you and . . .’ Any address, or warning, or instruction to the community is always to ’au. This includes all listeners, men, women, young, and old.

    “’oan, ‘drunk’, literally means to be poisoned. The same word is used of fish poisoning, or any other food poisoning or overdose. With wine, the kind it obviously seems to refer to is the new wine which is still bubbling. Fruit wine at this early stage of fermentation is bubbling and foamy, and very poisonous.

    “Community drinking is always by a group (of men). If one person is drinking alone, he is selfish; if only two are drinking together, they arc secretive. Some of the purposes of such community drinking are:

    • relaxation after a hard day’s work
    • sharing, reflecting, evaluating the day’s work
    • leaving lime for the womenfolk to cook dinner
    • guarding against individuals getting drunk

    “‘To not get drunk (poisoned) with wine’ implies certain things. It can mean that moderate drinking is all right; it can mean that drinking is all right unless it causes a person to stagger or vomit. It can also mean that wine is prohibited, but other intoxicating drinks such as kava are allowed.

    Uaini is a transliteration of the English word ‘wine’. So does this verse speak only of Eastern wine or Western wine, wine made from grapes? The island brew is made from fruit such as oranges, pineapples, bananas, mangoes. The best is reckoned to be what is made from the juice of a green coconut, and this is always white, not red.

    “In fact tēet means ‘a thing’, and it never refers to a liquid like wine. And it is really the excessive drinking rather than the nature of the drink that leads to violence. But in normal community drinking no one drinks to get drunk—it is only an after-work pre-dinner fellowship.

    Ho’ means to ‘pile up’. The picture is of a person gradually getting more and more drunk, which eventually leads to violent behaviour.

    ag rahrahi. This expression is made up of two terms, aga or ‘character’, and rạhrạhi (from the root rạhi. ‘fire’), ‘rekindled fire’. It is thus intended to mean fiery or violent character. But it can also be understood in a number of other ways:

    • ‘recklessness’ — and this does not mean the unlawful use of force
    • ‘bravery’ or acting the daredevil
    • ‘prodigality’ or a life of gaiety
    • masculine, ‘macho’ behaviour, without any suggestion of immodesty. (Parents enjoy watching their sons grow up with some wildness in their behaviour.)
    • ‘reconciling’, as the rekindled fire cleans up all inflammable rubbish
    • ‘consistent’ or ‘enduring’

    “This indicates that ag rạhrạhi is really an expected and accepted pattern of behaviour; and in its Rotuman setting a person doesn’t get drunk to be ag rạhrạhi. In community life, (he worst form of behaviour to display or possess is ‘being inconsiderate’.

    hoi ke. The adverb ke, ‘instead’, again presents the idea of a strong contrast: ‘Never, never get drunk with wine, but always . . .’ Hoi means to be filled with, or to be full of. It is used mainly for filling something with liquid, although it can also mean to be ‘satisfied’ with solid food.

    “From the contrast between the two parts of the verse, it is understood that the person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will not possess or manifest violent character. Therefore the argument and controversy, and sometimes violent action, that have appeared with some people who claim to be ‘filled with the Spirit’, are seen to be a denial of that experience.

    ‘At Ha’a is quite clear in its meaning, ‘the Holy Spirit’. Unlike wine, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen; but still the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit is clear. In Rotuman ancestral worship a person talked about being ‘possessed’ by the spirit of, say, his father. This was a totally ‘outside of me’ power or infilling.”

    Source: Jotama Vamarasi in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 241ff. )

centurion

The Greek that is translated as “centurion” in English is translated in Noongar as “boss of the Roman soldiers (lit.: ‘men of fighting’)” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang), in Uma as “Roman army warchief” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “a person who was not a Jew, the captain of a hundred soldiers” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), and in Mairasi “leader of Roman warriors” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Roman Centurion .

catch, fish for

The Greek that means “catch (or: capture) alive” is usually translated as “catch (people)” of “fish (for people)” in English which implies the fact that the captured or caught are still alive.

The Syriac Aramaic (Classical Syriac) Peshitta translation, however, makes the meaning of “catch alive” more explicit by translating ṣāeḏ ləẖayye (ܨܳܐܶܕ݂ ܠܚܰܝܶܐ) or “catch alive.” Following that translation, other translations that are based on the Peshitta, including the Classical Armenian Bible (vorsayts’es i keans [որսայցես ի կեանս] or “catch for life”), the Afrikaans PWL translation (publ. 2016) (mense vang tot verlossing or ” catch [people] to salvation”), the Dutch translation by Egbert Nierop (publ. 2020) (vangen tot redding or “catch to save”) or various English translations (see here ) explicitly highlight the “alive” as well. (Source: Ivan Borshchevsky)

Some languages have to find strategies on how to deal with the metaphor of “catching.” “In some cases the metaphor can be rendered rather literally, cp. ‘seeking for men’ (Kekchí, where ‘to seek fish’ is the idiomatic rendering of ‘to catch fish’). In several other languages, however, more radical adjustments are necessary, such as making explicit the underlying simile, ‘you will catch men as if you were catching fish’ (Inupiaq); or a shift to a non-metaphorical rendering, sacrificing the play-on-words, e.g. ‘you will be a bringer of men’ (Northern Grebo). In some cases the durative aspect of the construction is best expressed by n occupational term, e.g. ‘youwill be one-whose-trade-is catching men’ (Tae’ and Toraja-Sa’dan).” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Other translations include:

  • Uma: “teach people to become my followers” (source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “fetch people to follow me” (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “look for people so that they might be my disciples” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “persuade people” (source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “as-it-were catch/hunt/fish-for” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

living oracles, living words

The Greek that is translated as “living oracles” or “living words” or similar in English is translated in the following ways:

we played the flute for you

The Greek that is translated in English as “we played the flute for you” is translated in Chichewa (interconfessional translation, 1999) as tidaakuimbirani ng’oma yaukwati or “we played the wedding drum for you” to match the culturally relevant meaning. (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 74)

For the same reason, in Yakan and Kankanaey the musical instrument is translated as “gongs” (source: Yakan and Kankanaey Back Translations), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “drumming” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), and in Tagbanwa as “stringed-instruments” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

See also flute and flute players.

whole land

The Greek that is usually translated as “the whole land” in English is translated in Uma as “all over the village” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Yakan as “that whole place/country” (source: Yakan Back Translation), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “the whole world” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), and in Tenango Otomi as “all the earth” (source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation).

Catholic translations that rely on the Latin Vulgate‘s ambiguous totam terram (which, just as the Greek, could refer to the terrestrial globe or a particular place of land) tend to also stay ambiguous. The Spanish Reina Valera has toda la tierra and the English Douay Rheims likewise reads the whole earth. (Source: Knox 1949, p. 20)

lays it on his shoulders

the Greek that is translated as “lays it on his shoulders” in English is translated in Yakan as “take it in his arms” (source: Yakan Back Translation), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “carries him in his arms” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), and in Tagbanwa as “carries it round his neck” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).