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 1:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Timothy 1:5:

  • Uma: “The purpose of this command of mine is that we all love each other. For God has made-holy our hearts, we know in our hearts that we are no longer guilty in his sight, and we really believe in the Lord Yesus. That’s why we can love each other.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “That’s why I command you this because what I want is that all who trust in Isa Almasi will really love. They will really love if their livers are clean/holy and (when) they are sure in their liver that they have no fault toward God and if they really trust in Isa Almasi.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “It is necessary that the reason why I command these things to them is so that they may hold their companions dear in their breath. We cannot hold our companions dear if God has not cleansed us from our sin. It’s necessary that the only thing we do is what we know is right. And it’s also necessary that our faith in the true doctrine is true, and then our holding our companions dear will be right.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Command these-things to them so that if they obey, they will have real/proper love for their companions, because the source of this love, it is the good and clean thoughts that haven’t been added-to-by/mixed-with filthiness and the from-the-heart/sincere faith.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Hopefully the outcome of your teaching the people there is, they will value one another. We can only do this provided sin has been removed and what is now being done is, that which we know to be good in the sight of God. And also as long as our believing/obeying is not just superficial (lit. on the beak).” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Reprimand those I am telling you about in order that all the believers will love one another. In order for one to love his fellowman it is necessary to separate from evil thought and to do the good he knows to do. And not just on the outside should his faith appear.” (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 1:5

Paul now states the aim (“purpose,” goal, true end) of his instruction to Timothy. Charge (Good News Translation “order”) most certainly goes back to verse 3, where the same Greek word is used. This means that the content of this charge is for Timothy to order the false teachers to stop teaching their false doctrines. The pronoun our most certainly is exclusive; in fact it looks like it refers to Paul himself, which means that the use of the plural pronoun here may be simply stylistic. If this is the case, then it may be more natural in some languages to change the plural into a singular, hence “my charge,” “my order.” Whereas the aim of our charge may thus be expressed in many languages as “My purpose (or, aim) in giving you this command is” or “The reason why I am ordering you to do this is.” Revised Standard Version‘s use of the word whereas is misleading. Paul is not introducing an argument that is opposed to an earlier statement, but he is simply reinforcing the command in the previous verse. Translators will do well to follow Good News Translation‘s model here and omit a connective word.

The purpose, then, of Timothy’s ordering the false teachers to stop is “to arouse love.” Who should exercise this love is not explicitly stated. Is it to arouse love in the “certain persons” mentioned in verse 3? Or is it to arouse love among the believers? This latter possibility seems to be the more logical one. In some languages this expression may be rendered as “to cause the believers to have a love for each other that comes from…” or “to cause the believers to love each other. This love comes from….” By their activities these false teachers have caused “arguments” (1.4, Good News Translation), “foolish discussions” (1.6, Good News Translation), “disputes” (6.4, Good News Translation), and “evil suspicions” (6.4, Good News Translation). In other words these false teachers did not bring about love to the community but its exact opposite. If they stop their activities, it is very possible that the members of the Christian community will once again show love and concern for one another.

The source of this love is threefold: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Heart: in many cultures the heart is considered the center of thought and will and is often thought of as the center of emotions as well; in fact it often represents the total person as one who can think and feel and make choices. In other languages, though, “the mind” is thought of as being the part of the person that thinks, feels, and makes choices, and the heart, liver, or some other organ is concerned with emotions. Translators need to consider carefully the vocabulary in the receptor language that deals with human psychology. This will often differ greatly from the Greek and other languages. Pure is here used in a moral sense; a person whose heart is pure is one who is not double-minded but is sincere in both intention and purpose. A pure heart therefore describes a person whose thoughts and feelings are free from any hidden motives. A pure heart may therefore be rendered as “a heart (or, mind) that has no wrong motives” or “a heart (or, mind) that has no bad or sinful thoughts.”

Conscience is a Greek concept that refers to a regular way of thinking and of self-examination that enables a person to make moral decisions based on certain accepted standards. Through conscience a person is able to determine the difference between right and wrong, between what is acceptable and what isn’t. Finally a person experiences a sense of satisfaction as a result of doing something right or acceptable, and a sense of guilt or shame as a consequence of doing what is considered wrong or unacceptable. In the Pastoral Letters conscience is usually modified by a descriptive adjective. Here conscience is described as good, which means that it is expected to lead a person to make and act out correct moral decisions. Some cultures translate conscience as “the heart that decides between right and wrong.” Others use more idiomatic expressions such as “the little man who stands within me,” “my internal shadow,” “the echo of my heart” (suggested in A Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles, page 432). A good conscience (Good News Translation “clear conscience”) may thus be rendered as “a heart that makes decisions about right and wrong correctly.”

Faith here can refer either to trust and confidence in God or Jesus Christ, or more likely to the content of the Christian message, hence Christian doctrine. If the former, sincere faith means trust that is not polluted by any pretense or hypocrisy. If the latter, sincere faith refers to truly holding on to accepted Christian teachings in contrast to the false teachers who advocate teachings that are not in agreement with the good news and message of Jesus Christ. Another way of translating this is “sincerely holding to (or, believing) the true Christian teachings.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• The reason why I am ordering you to do this is to cause the believers (or, Christians) to love each other with a love that comes from a heart that has no bad motives and can clearly distinguish between right and wrong. When they love each other this way, it means that they are sincerely holding to the true Christian teachings.

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 .