conscience

The Greek that is rendered in English as “conscience” is translated into Aari as “our thoughts speak to us,” in Nuer it is “the knowledge of their heart” (source: Jan Sterk), in Cheke Holo “to know what is straight and what is wrong” (source: Carl Gross), in Chokwe “law of the heart” (source D.B. Long in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 135ff. ), in Toraja-Sa’dan penaa ma’pakilala or “the admonishing within” (source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff. ), in Yatzachi Zapotec as “head-hearts,” in Tzeltal as “hearts” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), in Enlhet as “innermost,” in Northern Emberá as “thinking” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1975, p. 201ff. ), and in Elhomwe as “what reminds the heart” or “whole heart” (“since the idea of conscience is something that reminds the heart”) (source: project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

In Warao it is translated with obojona, 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.

See also conscience seared and perfect conscience / clear conscience, clear conscience towards God and all people, and brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.

complete verse (1 Timothy 1:19)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Timothy 1:19:

  • Uma: “Strengthen your faith, and always do good deeds like you know in your heart. There are several people who no longer regard all this, with the result that their faith is wrecked/destroyed.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Cause your trust in Isa Almasi to be firm/steadfast and don’t do anything evil so that your thinking/mind will not be troubled. Because there are (some) people, they determine to/purposely do (something) even though they know in their thinking/mind that that deed is bad/evil. Therefore their trust in God is destroyed.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Your weapon is your faith in the true doctrine and your obeying everything which you know to be right. There are some people who have not obeyed what they know to be right. And because of this, they have come to believe something different.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “In your (sing.) fighting evil, persevere in believing and be-sure-to take-care that your (sing.) conscience (loan konsensia) is clean, because there are people who since they have turned-a-deaf-ear-to their consciences, they have ruined their faith.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “It’s necessary that your believing/obeying holds fast to the truth and hold fast also to what you know to be in harmony with the will of God. Not like those others, who have now dropped/given-up these things, that being why their believing/obeying has now been destroyed.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “There are some people who know well what is not proper for them to do, but this is what they do. This is what spoils their faith.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

believe, faith

Translations of the Greek pistis and its various forms that are typically translated as “faith” in English (itself deriving from Latin “fides,” meaning “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence”) and “believe” (from Old English belyfan: “to have faith or confidence in a person”) cover a wide range of approaches.

Bratcher and Nida say this (1961, p. 38) (click or tap here to read more):

“Since belief or faith is so essentially an intimate psychological experience, it is not strange that so many terms denoting faith should be highly figurative and represent an almost unlimited range of emotional ‘centers’ and descriptions of relationships, e.g. ‘steadfast his heart’ (Chol), ‘to arrive on the inside’ (Chicahuaxtla Triqui), ‘to conform with the heart’ (Uab Meto), ‘to join the word to the body’ (Uduk), ‘to hear in the insides’ (or ‘to hear within one’s self and not let go’ – Nida 1952) (Laka), ‘to make the mind big for something’ (Sapo), ‘to make the heart straight about’ (Mitla Zapotec), ‘to cause a word to enter the insides’ (Lacandon), ‘to leave one’s heart with’ (Baniwa), ‘to catch in the mind’ (Ngäbere), ‘that which one leans on’ (Vai), ‘to be strong on’ (Shipibo-Conibo), ‘to have no doubts’ (San Blas Kuna), ‘to hear and take into the insides’ (Kare), ‘to accept’ (Pamona).”

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap here to read more):

  • Western Kanjobal: “truth entering into one’s soul”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “following close after”
  • Huichol: “conform to the truth”
  • Loma: “lay one’s hand on it”
  • Mashco Piro: “obey-believe”
  • Mossi: “leaning on God” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1952, p. 119ff.)
  • Tzeltal: “heart believe / heart obedience” (source: Marianna C. Slocum in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 49f. — see also wisdom (Proverbs))
  • Thai: “place one’s heart in” (source: Bratcher / Hatton 2000, p. 37)
  • Cameroon Pidgin: “to put one’s heart in God” (source: Jan Sterk)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Muna: kataino lalo or “stickiness of heart” (for “faithfulness”) (source: René van den Berg)
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “confidence” (source: Larson 1998, p. 279)
  • Limos Kalinga: manuttuwa. Wiens (2013) explains: “It goes back to the word for ‘truth’ which is ‘tuttuwa.’ When used as a verb this term is commonly used to mean ‘believe’ as well as ‘obey.'”
  • Ngiemboon: “turn one’s back on someone” (and trusting one won’t be taken advantage of) (source: Stephen Anderson in Holzhausen 1991, p. 42)
  • Mwera uses the same word for “hope” and “faith”: ngulupai (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Kwang: “put one’s chest” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here )
  • Yala: ɔtū che or “place heart” (in John 5:24; 5:45; 6:35; 6:47; 12:36; 14:1); other translations include chɛ̄ or “to agree/accept” and chɛ̄ku or “to agree with/accept with/take side with” (source: Linus Otronyi)
  • Awabakal: ngurruliko: “to know, to perceive by the ear” (as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch — source: Lake, p. 70) (click or tap here to read more)

    “[The missionary translator] Lancelot Threlkeld learned that Awabakal, like many Australian languages, made no distinction between knowing and believing. Of course the distinction only needs to be made where there are rival systems of knowing. The Awabakal language expressed a seamless world. But as the stress on ‘belief’ itself suggests, Christianity has always existed in pluralist settings. Conversion involves deep conviction, not just intellectual assent or understanding. (…) Translating such texts posed a great challenge in Australia. Threlkeld and [his indigenous colleague] Biraban debated the possibilities at length. In the end they opted not to introduce a new term for belief, but to use the Awabakal ngurruliko, meaning ‘to know, to perceive by the ear,’ as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch.”

  • Language in southern Nigeria: a word based on the idiom “lose feathers.” Randy Groff in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 65 explains (click or tap here to read more):


    What does losing feathers have to do with faith? [The translator] explained that there is a species of bird in his area that, upon hatching its eggs, loses its feathers. During this molting phase, the mother bird is no longer able to fly away from the nest and look for food for her hungry hatchlings. She has to remain in the nest where she and her babies are completely dependent upon the male bird to bring them food. Without the diligent, dependable work of the male bird, the mother and babies would all die. This scenario was the basis for the word for faith in his language.

  • Teribe: mär: “pick one thing and one thing only” (source: Andy Keener)
  • Tiv: na jighjigh: “give trust” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Luba-Katanga: Twi tabilo: “echo” (click or tap here to read more)

    “Luba-Katanga word for ‘Faith’ in its New Testament connotation is Twi tabilo. This word means ‘echo,’ and the way in which it came to be adapted to the New Testament meaning gives a very good idea of the way in which the translator goes to work. One day a missionary was on a journey through wild and mountainous country. At midday he called his African porters to halt, and as they lay resting in the shade from the merciless heat of the sun. an African picked up a stone and sent it ricocheting down the mountain-side into the ravine below. After some seconds the hollow silence was broken by a plunging, splashing sound from the depths of the dark river-bed. As the echo died away the African said in a wondering whisper ‘Twi tabilo, listen to it.’ So was a precious word captured for the service of the Gospel in its Luba Christian form. Twi tabilo — ‘faith which is the echo of God’s voice in the depths of human sinful hearts, awakened by God Himself, the answer to his own importunate call.’ The faith that is called into being by the divine initiative, God’s own gift to the responsive heart! (Source: Wilfred Bradnock in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 49ff. )

J.A. van Roy (in The Bible Translator 1972, p. 418ff. ) discusses how a translation of “faith” in a an earlier translation into Venda created difficult perceptions of the concept of faith (click or tap here):

The Venda term u tenda, lutendo. This term corresponds to the terms ho dumela (Southern Sotho), and ku pfumela (Tsonga) that have been used in these translations of the Bible, and means “to assent,” “to agree to a suggestion.” It is important to understand this term in the context of the character of the people who use it.

The way in which the Venda use this term reveals much about the priority of interpersonal relationships among them. They place a much higher priority on responding in the way they think they are expected to respond than on telling the truth. Smooth interpersonal relationships, especially with a dominant individual or group, take precedence over everything else.

It is therefore regarded as bad form to refuse directly when asked for something one does not in fact intend to give. The correct way is to agree, u tenda, and then forget about it or find some excuse for not keeping to the agreement. Thus u tenda does not necessarily convey the information that one means what one says. One can tenda verbally while heartily disagreeing with the statement made or having no intention whatsoever to carry out what one has just promised to do. This is not regarded as dishonesty, but is a matter of politeness.

The term u sokou tenda, “to consent reluctantly,” is often used for expressing the fatalistic attitude of the Venda in the face of misfortune or force which he is unable to resist.

The form lutendo was introduced by missionaries to express “faith.”

According to the rules of derivations and their meanings in the lu-class, it should mean “the habit of readily consenting to everything.” But since it is a coined word which does not have a clearly defined set of meanings in everyday speech, it has acquired in church language a meaning of “steadfastness in the Christian life.” Una lutendo means something like “he is steadfast in the face of persecution.” It is quite clear that the term u tenda has no element of “trust” in it. (…)

In “The Christian Minister” of July 1969 we find the following statement about faith by Albert N. Martin: “We must never forget that one of the great issues which the Reformers brought into focus was that faith was something more than an ‘assensus,’ a mere nodding of the head to the body of truth presented by the church as ‘the faith.’ The Reformers set forth the biblical concept that faith was ‘fiducia.’ They made plain that saving faith involved trust, commitment, a trust and commitment involving the whole man with the truth which was believed and with the Christ who was the focus of that truth. The time has come when we need to spell this out clearly in categorical statements so that people will realize that a mere nodding of assent to the doctrines that they are exposed to is not the essence of saving faith. They need to be brought to the understanding that saving faith involves the commitment of the whole man to the whole Christ, as Prophet, Priest and King as he is set forth in the gospel.”

We quote at length from this article because what Martin says of the current concept of faith in the Church is even to a greater extent true of the Venda Church, and because the terms used for communicating that concept in the Venda Bible cannot be expected to communicate anything more than “a mere nodding of assent”. I have during many years of evangelistic work hardly ever come across a Venda who, when confronted with the gospel, would not say, Ndi khou tenda, “I admit the truth of what you say.” What they really mean when saying this amounts to, “I believe that God exists, and I have no objection to the fact that he exists. I suppose that the rest of what you are talking about is also true.” They would often add, Ndi sa tendi hani-hani? “Just imagine my not believing such an obvious fact!” To the experienced evangelist this is a clear indication that his message is rejected in so far as it has been understood at all! To get a negative answer, one would have to press on for a promise that the “convert” will attend the baptism class and come to church on Sundays, and even then he will most probably just tenda in order to get rid of the evangelist, whether he intends to come or not. Isn’t that what u tenda means? So when an inexperienced and gullible white man ventures out on an evangelistic campaign with great enthusiasm, and with great rejoicing returns with a list of hundreds of names of persons who “believed”, he should not afterwards blame the Venda when only one tenth of those who were supposed to be converts actually turn up for baptismal instruction.

Moreover, it is not surprising at all that one often comes across church members of many years’ standing who do not have any assurance of their salvation or even realise that it is possible to have that assurance. They are vhatendi, “consenters.” They have consented to a new way of life, to abandoning (some of) the old customs. Lutendo means to them at most some steadfastness in that new way of life.

The concept of faith in religion is strange to Africa. It is an essential part of a religion of revelation such as Christianity or Islam, but not of a naturalistic religion such as Venda religion, in which not faith and belief are important, but ritual, and not so much the content of the word as the power of it.

The terms employed in the Venda Bible for this vital Christian concept have done nothing to effect a change in the approach of the Venda to religion.

It is a pity that not only in the Venda translation has this been the case, but in all the other Southern Bantu languages. In the Nguni languages the term ukukholwa, “to believe a fact,” has been used for pisteuo, and ukholo, the deverbative of ukukholwa, for pistis. In some of the older Protestant translations in Zulu, but not in the new translation, the term ithemba, “trust”, has been used.

Some languages, including Santali, have two terms — like English (see above) — to differentiate a noun from a verb form. Biswạs is used for faith, whereas pạtiạu for “believe.” R.M. Macphail (in The Bible Translator 1961, p. 36ff. ) explains this choice: “While there is little difference between the meaning and use of the two in everyday Santali, in which any word may be used as a verb, we felt that in this way we enriched the translation while making a useful distinction, roughly corresponding to that between ‘faith’ and ‘to believe’ in English.”

Likewise, in Noongar, koort-karni or “heart truth” is used for the noun (“faith”) and djinang-karni or “see true” for the verb (“believe”) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

See also this devotion on YouVersion .

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Faith (Word Study) .

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 1:19

As Timothy wages war by means of these prophetic utterances, he is also exhorted to hold on to faith and a good conscience. These are also combined in 1 Tim. 1.5, for which see discussion there. Since faith here does not have the article, it is perhaps used subjectively as a relationship term, that is, trust in and commitment to Jesus Christ. Holding is literally “having” (so New Revised Standard Version); since, however, Timothy is neither an unbeliever nor a new Christian, it is more logical to admonish him to maintain (or “keep,” Good News Translation) that which he already has. So one may also translate “You must continue to believe in Christ and make clear distinctions (or, distinguish clearly) between right and wrong.”

To emphasize the importance of conscience, Paul gives an example of certain persons (literally “some”) who have not paid attention to their conscience, and what that has done to their faith. That these are the false teachers referred to in verses 3-7 is beyond doubt.

Rejecting translates a middle participle of the verb that means “to repel,” “to push aside”; in the reflexive sense it means “to thrust away from oneself,” hence to completely ignore (so Good News Translation “have not listened”). This clause may also be expressed as “Some people have ignored what their heart, that distinguishes between right and wrong, tells them” or “Some people were not able to distinguish clearly between right and wrong.”

As a result of their completely ignoring their conscience, these people have made a shipwreck of their faith. The military metaphor has been abandoned in favor of a nautical one; this has led to the comment that a Christian must not only be a good soldier but must be a good sailor as well. Comparing negative experiences to shipwrecks is frequently used in Greek literature at that time; it is likely therefore that Greek influence is again apparent here. This nautical metaphor may be difficult to retain especially in languages where ships are not well known and sailing is not a common experience. The important thing is to make sure the translation makes clear the ground of comparison of the metaphor, namely, the destruction of the ship being compared to the destruction of the faith. So one may render this clause as “they have stopped believing in Christ, just as a ship is wrecked on rocks,” or in some cultures translators may have to leave out the ground of comparison and simply say “they no longer believe in Christ” or “they have completely abandoned Christ.”

It should be pointed out, however, that there is a difference of opinion between interpreters regarding the interpretation of faith in this context. This stems from the fact that the Greek can be literally rendered “have made shipwreck concerning the faith.” One possible interpretation is to take faith as referring to the faith of these false teachers; it is their faith that is destroyed, which means either that they have become unbelievers or that they have begun to believe and teach false doctrines. This position is reflected by many translations (in addition to Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, so also New International Version, New English Bible, and others). Another possibility is to interpret faith here as referring to the Christian faith as a religious movement, or to the total Christian message. This means that it is not the faith of the false teachers that is in focus here. It is true of course that their faith has also been destroyed, but more importantly, it is the Christian faith itself that has suffered the greater damage.

A third possibility is to take faith here as subjective (which is the same as the second position) but as defining the area in which these false teachers have experienced their destruction. By abandoning true doctrines, these false teachers have in a sense lost their standing within the Christian community; they are shipwrecked in so far as the Christian faith is concerned. A literal translation of the Greek would suggest this kind of understanding (compare New Revised Standard Version “have suffered shipwreck in the faith”). All in all, the first of these three options seems to be more appropriate in this context.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .