The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated into English as “(to) bless” or “blessed” is translated into a wide variety of possibilities.

The Hebrew term barak (and the Aramaic term berak) also (and originally) means “to kneel” (a meaning which the word has retained — see Gen. 24:11) and can be used for God blessing people (or things), people blessing each other, or people blessing God. While English Bible translators have not seen a stumbling block in always using the same term (“bless” in its various forms), other languages need to make distinctions (see below).

In Bari, spoken in South Sudan, the connection between blessing and knees/legs is still apparent. For Genesis 30:30 (in English: “the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned”), Bari uses a common expression that says (much like the Hebrew) , ‘… blessed you to my feet.'” (Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.)

Other examples for the translation of “bless” when God is the one who blesses include:

  • “to think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “to speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “to make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “to-cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “to sprinkle with a propitious (lit. cool) face,” (a poetic expression occurring in the priests’ language) (Toraja Sa’dan) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • “give good things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • “asking good” (Yakan) (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • “praised, saying good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “greatly love” (Candoshi-Shapra (source: John C. Tuggy)

In Tagbanwa a phrase is used for both the blessing done by people and God that back-translates to “caused to be pierced by words causing grace/favor” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

Ixcatlán Mazatec had to select a separate term when relating “to people ‘blessing’ God” (or things of God): “praise(d)” or “give thanks for” (in 1 Cor. 10:16) (“as it is humans doing the ‘blessing’ and people do not bless the things of God or God himself the way God blesses people” — source: Robert Bascom). Eastern Bru also uses “praise” for this a God-directed blessing (source: Bru back translation) and Uma uses “appropriate/worthy to be worshipped” (source: Uma back translation).

When related to someone who is blessing someone else, it is translated into Tsou as “to speak good hopes for.” In Waiwai it is translated as “may God be good and kind to you now.” (Sources: Peng Kuo-Wei for Tsou and Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. for Waiwai.)

Some languages associate an expression that originally means “spitting” or “saliva” with blessing. The Bantu language Koonzime, for instance, uses that expression for “blessing” in their translation coming from either God or man. Traditionally, the term was used in an application of blessing by an aged superior upon a younger inferior, often in relation to a desire for fertility, or in a ritualistic, but not actually performed spitting past the back of the hand. The spitting of saliva has the effect of giving that person “tenderness of face,” which can be translated as “blessedness.” (Source: Keith Beavon)

See also bless (food and drink), blessed (Christ in Mark 11:9), and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

complete verse (Matt. 7:3 / Luke 6:41), speck vs. log

The Greek that is translated in English as “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” or similar is translated in Uma with an existing figure of speech: “Why do we stare at the sleep in another’s eye, yet the piece of wood that is in our own eye we don’t know it’s there!” (Source: Kroneman 2004, p. 501)

In Una, it had to be translated with a more explicit translation because “a more literal and shorter version of this verse had led to major misunderstanding or zero understanding.” It’s back-translation says: “You (pl.) are doing very evil things, but you think, ‘We do not do evil things’. But, regarding other people who do not do very evil things, you think, ‘They are doing evil things, for shame’. As for the very big thorn that broke off and entered your eyes, you think, ‘There is no big thorn that entered my eye’, but with regard to the very small piece of wood dust that might have entered someone else’s eye, why would you say, ‘A piece of wood dust has entered his eye?’ That is not appropriate.” (Source: Dick Kronemann)

In Uripiv it is translated as “How is it you see the fowl dropping stuck on the bottom of your brother’s foot, but you can’t see the cow-pat you have stood on? … You could stand on his foot by mistake and make it dirtier!” (Ross McKerras remarked about this translation: “Our village father laughed when he heard this, which was the right reaction.”)

Other back-translations include:

  • Uma: “‘Why do we look at the sleep in another’s eye, yet the splinter of wood in our own eye, we do not know is there!” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You who puts down his companion,’ said Isa, ‘why do you notice a speck (lit. of sawdust) in the eye of your companion but you, the tree trunk in your own eye you don’t notice.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And again Jesus spoke, ‘You who are always rebuking your companions, why do you rebuke the sin of your companion which is just like a speck that got into his eye. But you — you have a sin which is as big as a log, which has blinded your eye, and you pay no attention to it.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘Why do you (singular) notice the small bit-of-eye-discharge (as when waking up) in the eye of your (singular) fellow, and you (singular) don’t notice the large bit-of-eye-discharge in your (singular) eye?” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “I don’t know why, when someone else has a foreign-body-in-the-eye which is only dust, that is what you(s) keep looking for. But when your own foreign-body-in-the-eye is wedged across your eye (implies too big to go in), you just leave it alone.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The Greek and Hebrew 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:

  • 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)
  • 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)

complete verse (John 1:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:17:

  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “Moses taught the ancestors of us Israelites the law of God, but Jesus Christ came to teach that God loves mankind, and he teaches us all the true words of God.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “The law about the things of God, the one who gave it was Moses. But the love which was to us and the truth came into being because of Jesus Christ.”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “Even though Moses was caused to speak the rules of God, Jesus Christ was the one appointed to show mercy and to declare the truth.”
  • Guerrero Amuzgo: “. . . but Jesus Christ is the source of all favor and of the words that are true.”
  • Chol: “Jesus Christ came and gave us the goodness of his heart and truth.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “By means of Moses the law of God is known. But by means of Jesus Christ the love of God and the true word are known.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “From the prophet Musa we received the Law of the Lord God. But [it is] from Yesus Kristus that we really know God, and his grace to us.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The law of God was given/sent to mankind by Musa but God’s love and the truth are given to mankind by Isa Almasi, he is the one called the Word of God.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And by means of Moses, God brought down to earth the laws. But by means of Jesus, God brought down to earth his love/grace for us and the true doctrine.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because God made-known his law through Moses, but his mercy/kindness and the truth concerning him, he made-known to us through Jesu Cristo.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Because God gave his laws to Moises which he was commanding us, but that grace/mercy of his and truth concerning himself, he caused us to comprehend through Jesu-Cristo.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

gave up his spirit

The Greek that is often translated as “he gave up his spirit” in English is translated in a variety of ways:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “And then he died”
  • Aguaruna: “His breath went out”
  • Navajo: “He gave back his spirit”
  • Inupiaq: “He breathed his last”
  • Chol: “He caused his spirit to leave him”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “He sent away his life breath” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Kankanaey: “He entrusted his spirit to God” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “released his spirit” (lit. caused it to spring away) (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Uma: “His spirit/breath broke” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “His breath snapped” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)


The Greek that is translated as “But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster (or: Euroclydon), rushed down from Crete” or similar in English is translated in a lot of different ways:

  • Upper Guinea Crioulo: “A great storm rose up on the side of the island that came against them.” (“The point wasn’t the name of the wind [nor’easter]. All of these nautical terms can be difficult for people who aren’t seafaring. The point wasn’t so much which cardinal direction the wind was coming from. The point was that the wind was coming from a direction that made it impossible for them to go in the direction they wanted to go. This is further explained in the following verse.”) (Source: David Frank)
  • Caluyanun: “Not long-afterward, the wind from the aminhan/northeast got-strong, which was from the land-area of the island of Crete.” (“’Aminhan’ is the common direction of the wind during half the year.”) (Source: Kermit Titrud)
  • Northern Emberá: “But soon a bad wind called the Euroclidon blew forcefully from the right hand.” (“When we have to specify north and south we use left hand and right hand, respectively. But in Acts 27:14, the Northeaster wind comes from the right, hitting the right side of the ship as they headed west.”) (Source: Chaz Mortensen)
  • Amele: “But shortly a strong wind called Jawalti blowing from the direction of the sun coming up to the left came up.” (“East is cam tobec isec ‘the direction the sun comes up’ and west is cam tonec/nec isec ‘the direction the sun goes/comes down.’ ‘Jawalti’ is a local name for the wind that blows down from the north coast of Madang. ‘Sea corner’ is the Amele term for ‘harbour‘”) (Source: John Roberts)
  • Mairasi: “But after not a very long time at all already a very big wind blew from behind us. In Greek that wind is called ‘Eurokulon’ from over there in the north and east. It blew down from that island itself.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Kankanaey: “But it wasn’t long, a swift wind arrived from the upper-part of Creta.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And it wasn’t a long time from then, we were typhooned. A very strong wind arrived which was called Abagat. The wind came from the direction of the land.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But before we had been sailing for long, suddenly/unexpectedly the wind changed again to an off-shore wind of tremendous strength. Euraclidon was what the people from there called that wind.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Uma: “But in fact not long after that, a big wind came from the land, a wind called Sea Storm.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But not long after, a very strong wind blew from the coast.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)

See also cardinal directions / left and right and cardinal directions (north, south, east, west).

justification, justify

The Greek that is translated as “justify” in English is translated into Tzotzil in two different ways. One of those is with Lec xij’ilatotic yu’un Dios ta sventa ti ta xc’ot ta o’ntonal ta xch’unel ti Jesucristoe (“we are seen well by God because of our faith in Jesus Christ”) (source: Aeilts, p. 118) and the other is “God sees as righteous” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

Other (back-) translations include:

complete verse (Romans 3:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 3:5:

  • Uma: “So, because of the actions of men that are not upright, the uprightness of God becomes apparent. But let’s not say/think like this: ‘If that’s the case, if God punishes evil men, he is not upright.’ There are indeed men who think like that,” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Perhaps some say, ‘If we (dual) do bad, it is good also because if people think about our (dual) bad doings and God’s doings, they really understand that God’s doings are very good then they praise him. Na, if they praise God because of our (dual) evil deeds, God is not straight if he punishes us (dual) because of the bad we (dual) have done.’ (This is what some say.)” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And there are some foolish (pilusupu) people who will say, ‘If we (incl.) do evil, that is also good because when people think about our (incl.) evil doings, and the doings of God, certainly they will understand that, by contrast, the behavior of God is very good and they will praise Him and that will be very good. And if,’ they say, ‘good came about because of the evil that we (incl.) did, it’s not right for God to punish us because of the evil that we (incl.) did.’ Words like this are foolish.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “There are reportedly excuse-makers (pilosopo = people who invent arguments, usually to excuse their own conduct) who say that God is doing what is not right if he punishes us, because his righteousness is reportedly seen increasingly/especially when it is compared to our sinning.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But if the evil which we do is that which shows that God is supremely good, what then shall we say about it? Can we say that it is not right that God punishes us then? Because this is the way people speak.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

complete verse (Revelation 9:10)

Following are a number of back-translations of Revelation 9:10:

  • Uma: “Their tails and their stings were like the tails and stings of tumpu lipa. With their tails they could torture men for five months.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Their tails are like the tail of a scorpion with a needle at its end and that is what they use to hurt the people with during five months.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Their tails are like the tails of scorpions because they sting, and by means of their tails, they can torment people for five months.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “They had stings in their tails like the sting of a centipede which were the location of their ability to hardship people for five months.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “They had tails like the tails of scorpions which have stings. There in their tails is from where would come what would cause suffering to the people for five months.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “They have tails like the tails of scorpions with stingers. Great pain is given to the people when they are stung. But only five months do they have permission to sting the people.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

complete verse (Luke 8:28)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 8:28:

  • Uma: “There was there a townsperson who was possessed by many demons. For a long time that person had not worn-clothes and he did not live in a house. His living-place was just the graves. He was often possessed. Even if he has bound by ropes and chains and continually watched, he could still break his bindings and escape/run-away going to the empty-place, because he was carried by the strength of the demons that possessed him. When Yesus landed/disembarked from the boat going to the shore, that possessed person came to meet him. When he saw Yesus, he shouted and kneeled in front of him. Yesus ordered those demons to go-out. That person said loudly: ‘Ee Yesus, Child of God who is in heaven! Why have you(s) come? I request that you(s) do not torment me!'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “When he saw Isa he shouted and prostrated before Isa and cried out, he said, ‘You have nothing to do with me, Isa. You are the Son of God, the Most High God. I entreat you, do not persecute/punish me.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And when Jesus got out of the boat, he happened on to a person who had before been inhabitant there in the town of the Gergesenes, and he was afflicted with demons. And as for that person, for a long time he had not worn clothes; he did not live in a house, rather he lived there in the burial caves. It was not just a few times only that that man was controlled by that which wants to harm him, and even though he was often fastened with chains and guarded by people, he easily broke the chains and the demon lead him away into the land where no people lived. But when he saw Jesus he shouted out and he fell on his face in front of Jesus, saying with a very loud voice, ‘You Jesus, son of the very high God, what are you going to do with me? I beg you that you do not punish me yet!’ He said this because Jesus said to the demon that he should come out of him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Often also he was hardshipped by the evil-spirits, and even though his townmates repeatedly-confined him and repeatedly-chained his hands and feet, he snapped the chains nonetheless while the evil-spirits also made-him-run to isolated places. So when he saw Jesus, he screeched and immediately-knelt face-down to him. Then he said shouting, ‘Ay Jesus, Child of the Highest God, why are you (singular) bothering-us/me? Please-be-so-kind (strong request) as to not punish-us/me!’ That is what he said, because Jesus commanded the evil-spirits to leave him.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When he saw Jesus, that evil spirit cried out. He fell down in front of Jesus and spoke really loudly, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of God who is Much the Greatest/most-important, what is your business/interference with me? I beg-mercy that you hopefully won’t cause me suffering/hardship!'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

complete verse (Romans 4:6)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 4:6:

  • Uma: “This teaching is the same as the words of King Daud long ago. For Daud said that the persons that God received as straight persons, but not because of their behavior, were blessed.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “This is the meaning of what Da’ud of-old said when he spoke that everyone is really glad whose sin is forgiven and (who is) considered straight by God but not because of his good deeds.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “This is what King David told about long ago when he said that ‘far better off is that person whom God considers to be righteous and whom God forgives, not because of his good works but rather, only because of his faith in him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “This also is what David meant (lit. wanted to say) when he spoke of the happiness of the person whom God counts as righteous, the reason for it not being what he did.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “David told about the good fortune met by the people whom God cleared even though they did not do all the good which should be done.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

complete verse (Revelation 11:10)

Following are a number of back-translations of Revelation 11:10:

  • Uma: “The evil people who live in the world are glad, rejoicing over the death of those two witnesses. They have feasts and give each other presents, because those two prophets who continually tortured them are dead.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The people in all the world will be happy; they will make merry and exchange love-gifts because those two prophets have died. Because they had been the ones who brought suffering/persecution to the people of the world.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Their death will be cause for great rejoicing to the people, and they will celebrate it and give each other things. The reason they will celebrate is because those two prophets of God, they caused torments to the people on the earth.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The unbelievers who live on the earth, they will celebrate-a-fiesta and give-each-other gifts because of their happiness at their death, because these two spokesmen of God exceedingly hardshipped them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “The people here under the heavens will be happy because those two testifiers have died. They will celebrate and be giving things to one another which are just gifts, because those two have been removed who gave them hardship.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The people all over the world, upon seeing that they were now dead even made fiestas because they were so happy. They gave presents to each other. Because the word of God which was spoken by these two persons who died had very much disturbed the hearts of the people.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)