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.


The term that is translated as “hypocrisy” in English versions is translated with a term in Oxchuc Tzeltal that means “two hearts,” in Central Pame “two mouths” (source: Nida 1952, p. 150), and in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec “having two heads” (source: Nida 1947, p. 150).

Kituba uses a specialized idiom for “hypocrisy”: “eye under leaf” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel) and in the Mandarin Chinese Union Version the four-character phrase jiǎmào wéi shàn (假冒为善 / 假冒為善), lit. “impersonate for good” is used (source: Zetzsche).

See also hypocrite.

conscience seared

“It took us a while to find the right way to talk about ‘conscience’ in Uripiv. Here to say their ‘conscience are seared,’ we wrote: ‘They no longer feel anything sharp in their insides when they do bad.'” (Ross McKerras quoted on p. 118)

See also conscience.

complete verse (1 Timothy 4:2)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Timothy 4:2:

  • Uma: “That teaching is delivered by people who lie, their words are one-thing, their character is another [lit., one-thing]. Their hearts are dark, they no longer know to be ashamed when they do evil deeds.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “These their teachings are spread by the lying religious-teachers. These deeds of theirs do not cause their thinking/mind/conscience to be troubled because they are used already to lying.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “by means of the lies of people who say they are believers and whose breaths are not made painful by their own evil deeds.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “This teaching, that’s what hypocritical (lit. pretend good) and habitually-lying people are teaching whose consciences (loan konsensia) are already ruined as if burned with a red-hot piece-of-iron.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Those who teach these lies which were put in their minds by the evil-ones/spirits, they are liars. Their belief is only superficial (lit. on the beak). Well since for a long time now they have disregarded the supervision by the Espiritu Santo and they deliberately don’t do what they know in their mind/inner-being to be good, therefore now, their minds regard no matter what evil as being good.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “These teachers will speak lies to deceive the people. They will know very well that it is not right what they are doing, but they will not feel sad about what they do.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on 1 Timothy 4:2

The human agents for these demonic teachings are now introduced by means of the preposition en, which in this context can mean either “by” or “through.” The expression the pretensions of liars most likely means “pretentious liars.” The word for pretensions is the same word for “hypocrisy” (so New Revised Standard Version), that is, double-faced, or appearing to be what one is not, hence “deceitful” (Good News Translation). Liars are of course naturally “deceitful.” So in some languages such an expression as “deceitful liars” may sound forced, repetitive, or unnatural. In such cases one may say, for example, “double-faced (or, hypocritical) liars,” “deceitful people who habitually lie,” or figuratively “liars with smooth faces and the hearts of tigers,” or even “liars who greet you sweetly but deceive you behind your back.” This is an area of language normally full of figurative expressions or idioms, and translators should try to find a vivid one that matches this Biblical phrase. Hypocrites are of course liars, and these liars are described as people whose consciences have been seared. This is of course a figure of speech and not to be taken literally. Conscience is a Greek term that describes a person’s ability to be sensitive to what is right or wrong, to judge between what is acceptable and what isn’t, based on certain accepted standards. (See also 1.5 for a more detailed discussion on conscience.) The Greek word for seared is the word from which the verb “cauterize” is derived. There are at least two ways of understanding this whole expression:

1. These liars have lost the use of their consciences, and they are no longer aware that their actions are wrong. This is so because their conscience is “cauterized,” that is, burned to such a degree that it has become completely ineffective. People with “cauterized” consciences have reached a point in their life where their conscience no longer bothers them, and who therefore live and act as if their conscience does not exist at all. This is the position taken by Good News Translation, “whose consciences are dead, as if burnt with a hot iron” (compare New Revised Standard Version “seared with a hot iron,” Phillips “whose consciences are dead as seared flesh”). Following this interpretation one may also express this clause as “whose hearts that decide between right and wrong are dead, as if…” or “they have completely lost their ability to decide between right and wrong, as if a hot iron (or, something very hot) has seared their minds.”

2. The word seared can also mean “branded.” Taken in this sense it means that these liars have lost the use of their consciences because they have been branded by the Devil, to whom they now belong and whose will they now obey. This position is represented by Translator’s New Testament, “whose consciences are branded with the devil’s own mark.”

Some translations simply retain the metaphor without explanation. But this Handbook recommends that translators follow interpretation 1.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• Hypocritical (or, two-faced) liars are the ones who spread (or, teach) these false teachings. Their hearts, which decide between right or wrong, are dead, as if a hot iron had burned (or, seared) them.

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 .