The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as kayo’ barko (“an instrument that keeps the boat from drifting”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 76), “iron hooks” (“that make the boat stop”) in Isthmus Mixe, “irons called ‘anchors’ with ropes” in Teutila Cuicatec (source for this and above: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), “weights, and thus they were able to make the boat stand” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac (source: Larson 1998, p. 99), “an iron attached to a rope attached to the boat so that it may not drift away” in Lalana Chinantec (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), “a thing that makes the water vehicle stand still” in Kamwe (source: Roger Mohrlang in here), and “big canoe stopping metal” in Kouya.
Eddie Arthur tells the story of the translation into Kouya: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.”
Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing an anchor in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)
See also ship / boat, rudder, and anchor (figurative).
Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).
For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee).
Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.
Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 27:29:
- Uma: “They were afraid that the ship would hit coral rocks. That is why they lowered into the water four pieces of heavy iron at the back of the ship (called balango’) so that the ship was held-back. And they prayed that it soon be light.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “They were afraid the ship would run aground on the rocks, therefore they dropped four anchors from the back part of the ship. And they prayed to God that it might soon be day.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then they became afraid because the ship might run into some rocks. Therefore, they attached four weights on the after end of the ship and then they desired that it might become morning.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “That made-them -frightened lest the ship be-smashed-against the rocks. So they lowered four hooked irons from the rear of the ship in order to cause-it-to-stop koma, after that they prayed that dawn (lit. its-getting-light) would not be-long.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “Because they were afraid now that we might run aground on something just under the surface, what they did was, they let four anchors fall from the stern. And they were praying that hopefully day would now dawn.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)