conversion, convert, turn back

The Greek that is often rendered in English as “to be converted” or “to turn around” is (back-) translated in a number of ways:

  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “change completely”
  • Purepecha: “turn around”
  • Highland Totonac: “have one’s life changed”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “make pass over bounds within”
  • San Blas Kuna: “turn the heart toward God”
  • Chol: “the heart turns itself back”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “self-heart change”
  • Pamona: “turn away from, unlearn something”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “turn around from the breast”
  • Luvale: “return”
  • Balinese: “put on a new behavior” (compare “repentance“: “to put on a new mind”)
  • Tzeltal: “cause one’s heart to return to God” (compare “repentance”: “to cause one’s heart to return because of one’s sin”)
  • Pedi: “retrace one’s step” (compare “repentance”: “to become untwisted”)
  • Uab Meto: “return” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart upside down”)
  • Northwestern Dinka: “turn oneself” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Central Mazahua: “change the heart” (compare “repentance”: “turn back the heart”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Western Kanjobal: “molt” (like a butterfly) (source: Nida 1952, p. 136)
  • Latvian: atgriezties (verb) / atgriešanās (noun) (“turn around / return”) which is also the same term being used for “repentance” (source: Katie Roth)
  • Isthmus Mixe: “look away from the teaching of one’s ancestors and follow the teachings of God”
  • Highland Popoluca: “leave one’s old beliefs to believe in Jesus” (source for thsi and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

complete verse (Acts 28:27)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 28:27:

  • Uma: “Because their hearts are unmoving/stiff, they have made-themselves-deaf and made-themselves-blind: they refuse to see with their eyes, they refuse to hear with their ears, they refuse to have their hearts made to understand. In the end, they will not return to me, and I will not give them salvation/goodness.’ ‘” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Because the people of this tribe their heads are hard (hard-headed). They stop/close their ears, they close their eyes. If their eyes would see and their ears could hear and their minds/thoughts would understand, they would come back/return to me,’ God said, ‘and I would heal them.’ ‘” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Therefore I speak these words because as for this people their minds are hard. They stop up their ears and they shut their eyes, because if they didn’t they would be able to see and they would be able to hear, and they would understand what is right, and they would trust me and I would heal them.’ ‘” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “because those people, their mind/thoughts have already become-stubborn (lit. hard). They turn-a-deaf-ear-to the truth while-simultaneously they close-their-eyes lest they be-able-to-see, able-to-hear and able-to-understand and turn-to-face me so that I will heal them.’ says the written word of God.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Really as for these people, they have hardened their heads. They cause their ears to let things go right through and they are closing their eyes. For if it wasn’t like that, they may indeed be able to see, able indeed to hear, able indeed to understand, and they would indeed return to me, that I would indeed make them well, however they won’t.”” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

For the Old Testament quotes, see Isaiah 6:10.

Translation commentary on Acts 28:26 – 28:27

In Greek, verse 26 begins a participle (literally “saying”), which the Good News Translation has rendered for he said. The Old Testament passage cited in these verses is Isaiah 6.9-10, and, as quoted here, it is in almost word-for-word agreement with the Septuagint. Both in Isaiah and in its use in Acts the phrase to this people is a specific reference to the Jewish people.

Listen and listen … look and look (Jerusalem Bible “hear and hear … see and see”) translate Hebraic idioms which indicate intensive action. The contrast between listening and understanding, and between looking and perceiving, may be rendered in some languages as “though you listen and listen you will not understand, and though you look and look you will not perceive.” However, in certain languages emphasis cannot be indicated by a mere repetition of a verb in phrases such as listen and listen or look and look. It is necessary to indicate that this is an intensive action—for example, “You will listen very intently but not understand; you will look very hard but not really see.”

The word rendered minds is literally “hearts,” but in Hebrew thought the heart was the center of the intellectual activity. One should not translate the term dull in this type of context to mean that the people’s minds are simply below normal in intelligence. It is not their lack of intellectual capacity, but their stubborn refusal to understand what their senses tell them. In some languages one must translate “because the minds of this people are hard,” while in other languages precisely the opposite idiom would be employed “because the minds of this people are soft.” Basically what is required here is an idiom which indicates refusal to comprehend. In some languages this is rendered as “because these people do not wish to understand.”

The Hebraic idiom “they hear with ears of heaviness” has been transformed into an English idiom: they have stopped up their ears. This expression stopped up their ears may be rendered as “covered over their ears,” “have put something in their ears,” or even “have closed their ears.”

Two other Semitic idioms, “lest they should see with their eyes … hear with their ears,” have also been transformed into more natural English expressions: otherwise, their eyes would see, their ears would hear. In a number of languages one cannot say “their eyes see,” but one can say “they see with their eyes and they hear with their ears.”

In some languages it is necessary to specify the relationship of the last two lines of verse 27 to what has preceded. This can be indicated as “and as a result they might turn to me.”

The verb heal should be understood in the broadest possible sense, since it should include not just physical healing but spiritual transformation as well—for example, “cause them to be well again.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .