Hail, Long live / live forever

The Hebrew and Aramaic that is translated in English as “long live” or “live forever” and the Greek that is translated as “Hail” in English is translated in Mandarin Chinese as wànsuì (万岁 / 萬歲) or “(may you live) 10,000 years” which was used to hail Chinese emperors and, more recently, the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong (Máo Zhǔxí Wànsuì [毛主席万岁] or “May Chairman Mao live for ten thousand years!”).

Likewise it is also used in these verses in other East Asian languages, including Japanese with ban zai (ばんざい / 万歳), Korean with man se (만세), Vietnamese with vạn tuế or muôn tuổi, or Mongolian with mandtugai (мандтугай). (Note that Mongolian does not use that term for the New Testament renderings.) (Source: Zetzsche)

For more information on this phrase, see 10,000 years .

See also LORD of hosts.

anoint

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated in English as “anoint” is translated in Lakota with azilyA: “to smudge.”

Steve Berneking (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 121) tells the story of that translation:

“During one visit with the Lakota team, we were reading texts and discussing key biblical terms and how they are best rendered into Lakota. Reference was made to the ritual we label ‘anointing.’ When the Lakota word that had been glossed as ‘anoint’ was read aloud, I heard giggling among the reviewers. Knowing that this reaction called for some explanation, I asked.

“The people there told me that the Lakota verb that was used to translate ‘anoint’ was funny in that context. It is not that the verb is an uncommon one; quite the contrary. Lakota uses that verb frequently, but almost exclusively as a verb of food preparation; the verb belongs to the culinary domain. In other words, the Lakota verb used for ‘anoint’ actually referred to rubbing oil on something that was to be cooked or grilled, in this case, the apostles. The Lakota verb ipáṫaŋṫtaŋ ‘to apply oil on something’ was used quite innocently by the missionaries. The linguistic transfer was understandable: the missionaries needed a verb to translate ‘putting oil on something’; Lakota has a verb; they used that verb. The result was comical. So, during that conversation with the Lakota community, I encouraged the translators to come up with a Lakota verb that is used not simply in ‘the application of oil,’ but more pointedly in the consecration of something or somebody for a special task, or in the appointment of someone for a special purpose. Their response was almost immediate: azilyA or wazílyA ‘to smudge.’ That is how, they told me, warriors and messengers and tribal leaders have always been consecrated (or blessed) before being sent out on a special mission. Sage grass was burned, and the smoke was waved over the person or object. The trans-cultural process of using the traditional Lakota verb azilyA for the biblical notion of ‘anoint’ became, at that moment, part of the Lakota Bible.”

In Bashkir, it is translated as masekhlay (мәсехләү), when used in a ritual context. Masekhlay has the same root than masikh (мәсих), which is used both for “anointed one” in the Old Testament and in its capitalized form (Мәсих) for Μεσσίας (engl. “Messiah”) and Χριστός (engl. “Christ”) in the New Testament. For more information about this, see anointed one.

In Vidunda it is translated as “smear oil.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how anointing was done in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also anoint (chrió) and anointing of David (image).

priest

The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that are typically translated as “priest” in English (itself deriving from Latin “presbyter” — “elder”) is often translated with a consideration of existing religious traditions. (Click or tap for details)

Bratcher / Nida (1961) say this:

“However, rather than borrow local names for priests, some of which have unwanted connotations, a number of translations have employed descriptive phrases based on certain functions: (1) those describing a ceremonial activity: Pamona uses tadu, the priestess who recites the litanies in which she describes her journey to the upper or under-world to fetch life-spirit for sick people, animals or plants; Batak Toba uses the Arabic malim, ‘Muslim religious teacher;’ ‘one who presents man’s sacrifice to God’ (Bambara, Eastern Maninkakan), ‘one who presents sacrifices’ (Baoulé, Navajo), ‘one who takes the name of the sacrifice’ (Kpelle, and ‘to make a sacrifice go out’ (Hausa); (2) those describing an intermediary function: ‘one who speaks to God’ (Shipibo-Conibo) and ‘spokesman of the people before God’ (Tabasco Chontal).”

In Obolo it is translated as ogwu ngwugwa or “the one who offers sacrifice” (source: Enene Enene), in Mairasi as agam aevar nevwerai: “religious leader” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Ignaciano as “blesser, one who does ritual as a practice” (using a generic term rather than the otherwise common Spanish loan word sacerdote) (source: Willis Ott in Notes on Translation 88/1982, p. 18ff.), and in Noongar as yakin-kooranyi or “holy worker” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

For Guhu-Samane, Ernest Richert (in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff. ) reports this:

“The [local] cult of Poro used to be an all-encompassing religious system that essentially governed all areas of life. (…) For ‘priest’ the term ‘poro father’ would at first seem to be a natural choice. However, several priests of the old cult are still living. Although they no longer function primarily as priests of the old system they still have a substantial influence on the community, and there would be more than a chance that the unqualified term would (in some contexts particularly) be equated with the priest of the poro cult. We learned, then, that the poro fathers would sometimes be called ‘knife men’ in relation to their sacrificial work. The panel was pleased to apply this term to the Jewish priest, and the Christian community has adopted it fully. [Mark 1:44, for instance, now] reads: ‘You must definitely not tell any man of this. But you go show your body to the knife man and do what Moses said about a sacrifice concerning your being healed, and the cause (base of this) will be apparent.'”

For a revision of the 1968 version of the Bible in Khmer Joseph Hong (in: The Bible Translator 1996, 233ff. ) talks about a change in wording for this term:

​​Bau cha r (បូជា‌ចារ្យ) — The use of this new construction meaning “priest” is maintained to translate the Greek word hiereus. The term “mean sang (មាន សង្ឃ)” used in the old version actually means a “Buddhist monk,” and is felt to be theologically misleading. The Khmer considers the Buddhist monk as a “paddy field of merits,” a reserve of merits to be shared with other people. So a Khmer reader would find unthinkable that the mean sang in the Bible killed animals, the gravest sin for a Buddhist; and what a scandal it would be to say that a mean sang was married, had children, and drank wine.

fat, oil

The different Hebrew and Greek terms that are translated as “(olive) oil” and “(animal) fat” in English are translated in Kwere with only one term: mavuta. (Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

king

Some languages do not have a concept of kingship and therefore no immediate equivalent for the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin that is translated as “king” in English. Here are some (back-) translations:

(Click or tap here to see details)

  • Piro: “a great one”
  • Highland Totonac: “the big boss”
  • Huichol: “the one who commanded” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Ekari: “the one who holds the country” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Una: weik sienyi: “big headman” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 407)
  • Pass Valley Yali: “Big Man” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Ninia Yali: “big brother with the uplifted name” (source: Daud Soesilio in Noss 2007, p. 175)
  • Nyamwezi: mutemi: generic word for ruler, by specifying the city or nation it becomes clear what kind of ruler (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Ghomála’: Fo (“The word Fo refers to the paramount ruler in the kingdoms of West Cameroon. He holds administrative, political, and religious power over his own people, who are divided into two categories: princes (descendants of royalty) and servants (everyone else).” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn))

Faye Edgerton retells how the term in Navajo was determined:

“[This term was] easily expressed in the language of Biblical culture, which had kings and noblemen with their brilliant trappings and their position of honor and praise. But leadership among the Navajos is not accompanied by any such titles or distinctions of dress. Those most respected, especially in earlier days, were their headmen, who were the leaders in raids, and the shaman, who was able to serve the people by appealing for them to the gods, or by exorcising evil spirits. Neither of these made any outward show. Neither held his position by political intrigue or heredity. If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior. If the shaman failed many times in his healing ceremonies, it was considered that he was making mistakes in the chants, or had lost favor with the gods, and another was sought. The term Navajos use for headman is derived from a verb meaning ‘to move the head from side to side as in making an oration.’ The headman must be a good orator, able to move the people to go to war, or to follow him in any important decision. This word is naat’áanii which now means ‘one who rules or bosses.’ It is employed now for a foreman or boss of any kind of labor, as well as for the chairman of the tribal council. So in order to show that the king is not just a common boss but the highest ruler, the word ‘aláahgo, which expresses the superlative degree, was put before naat’áanii, and so ‘aláahgo naat’áanii ‘anyone-more-than-being around-he-moves-his-head-the-one-who’ means ‘the highest ruler.’ Naat’áanii was used for governor as the context usually shows that the person was a ruler of a country or associated with kings.”

(Source: Faye Edgerton in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 25ff. )

Translation commentary on 1 Kings 1:39

Horn of oil: The Hebrew word translated horn refers here to a container made from an animal horn and used for holding liquids (the same term occurs in 1 Sam 16.1). The relationship between the words horn and oil should be made clear in translation; for example, Good News Translation says “the container of olive oil” and Parole de Vie says “the horn filled with oil.” The oil was “olive oil” (see Exo 30.22-25), and this may be made explicit as Good News Translation and New Living Translation have done.

The tent is the Tent of the LORD’s presence that David had brought to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6.17). Since a specific tent is being referred to, it may be best to follow the example of Good News Translation in stating that this was “the Tent of the LORD’s presence.” Contemporary English Version says “the sacred tent.” This same tent is referred to by its fuller name in Hebrew as “the tent of meeting” in 1 Kgs 8.4.

Since Zadok must have taken the horn before he went down to Gihon, Good News Translation correctly uses the past perfect “had brought” in English.

Anointed Solomon: See the comments on verse 34. New Living Translation says “poured it on Solomon’s head.”

The subject in the expression they blew the trumpet is indefinite and does not refer to any particular group of people already named in the text. The singular trumpet is to be understood collectively here as in verse 34. In languages where the passive form is commonly used, it will be possible to say “trumpets were blown” (similarly Contemporary English Version). But in other cases it may be necessary to say “some people blew trumpets.”

In the Old Testament all the people sometimes refers to the Israelite people as a whole, but here and in the following verse it seems to refer specifically to the small group of people mentioned in verses 32-38.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on 1-2 Kings, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .