The Greek terms that are translated as “five thousand” and “four thousand” in these verses have to be translated descriptively in some languages, such as “ant heap” (Shona) or “large/uncountable number” (Chichewa, Yao).
See also numbers in Kombai.
Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 21:38:
- Uma: “Aren’t you (sing.) that Egyptian person who some time ago incited the people and led four thousand people into the desert to make opposition to the government?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “If that is the case (lit. if like that),’ he said to Paul, ‘you are not the man of Misil who opposed the Roman government recently and who brought four thousand armed outlaws into the wilderness (lit. lonely place)?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Aren’t you that Egyptian who some time ago rebelled against the government and headed up four thousand bandits there in the land where no people don’t live?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “I thought you (sing.) were the one-from-Egipto who battled the government previously. He is the one who went to the place with no inhabitants leading four thousand bandits.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “‘Isn’t it so that you are that taga Egipto who was causing trouble in the past? Isn’t it so that you rounded up four thousand people who were murderers, whom you took to the wilderness place and then you were being robbers?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)