cross

The Greek that is translated as “cross” in English is often referred to a description of the shape (in Chinese, for instance it is translated as 十字架 shízìjià — “10-character-frame” because the character for “10” has the shape of a cross), elsewhere it refers to the function, e.g. a coined term, made up of two Sanskrit words, meaning “killing-pole” (Marathi NT revision of 1964), “wood to-stretch-out-with” (Toraja-Sa’dan), or “nailing pole” (Zarma). A combination of the two seems to be used in Balinese, which employs a word for the crossbeams in a house, derived from a verb that can refer both to a beam that stretches from side to side under a roof, and to a person stretched out for torture (source for this and above: Reling / Swellengrebel). Similarly, in Lamba it is translated “with umutaliko — ‘a pole with a cross-piece, on which maize was normally tied’ from the verb ‘talika’ which, strangely enough, is used of ‘holding down a man with arms and legs stretched out, someone gripping each limb.'” (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)

“In Mongolian, the term that is used is togonoltchi mott, which is found in the top of a tent. The people on the steppes live in round felt-yurts and the round opening on the top of the tent serves as a window. The crosswood in that opening is called togonoltchi mott. ‘Crucified’ is translated ‘nailed on the crosswood.’ This term is very simple, but deep and interesting too. Light comes to men through the Cross. What a privilege to be able to proclaim such a message.” (Source: A. W. Marthinson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 74ff.)

In Mairasi it is translated as iwo nasin ae: “chest measurement wood.” “This term refers to the process of making a coffin when a person dies. The man making the coffin takes a piece of bamboo and measures the body from head to heel. He then breaks the stick off at the appropriate point. For the width he measures the shoulders and then ties the two sticks together in the shape of a cross. As he works, he continually measures to make sure the coffin is the correct size. At the gravesite, the coffin is lowered. Then the gravecloth, palm leaves, and finally the chest measurement stick are laid on top of the coffin before the dirt is piled on. This term is full of meaning, because it is in the shape of a cross, and each person will have one. The meaning is vividly associated with death.” (Source: Enggavoter, 2004)

In Lisu it is translated as ꓡꓯꓼ ꓐꓳ ꓔꓶꓸ DU — lä bo tɯ du: “a place to stretch the arms across” (source: Arrington 2020, p. 215) and in Nyongar as boorn-yambo: “crossed tree” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

The English English translation of Ruden (2021) uses “stake.” She explains (p. xlv): “The cross was the perpendicular joining of two execution stakes, and the English word euphemistically emphasized the geometry: a cross could also be an abstract cross drawn on paper. The Greeks used their word for ‘stake,’ and this carries the imagery of what was done with it, as our ‘stake’ carries images of burning and impaling. ‘Hang on the stakes’ for ‘*crucify’ is my habitual usage.”

See also crucify.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Col. 2:14)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

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 inclusive form (including the addressee).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

complete verse (Colossians 2:14)

Following are a number of back-translations of Colossians 2:14:

  • Uma: “Actually, we have all done wrong and it is fitting that we be punished and separated from God, because we have transgressed his law. But from [i.e., because of] the death of Yesus on the cross, God wiped away all our transgressions, and he released us from the law that we transgressed, with-the-result-that it no longer happens/comes-about that we are punished.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Before/Formerly, sentence had been pronounced (lit. judgment dropped) on us (incl.) that we (incl.) should be punished because we (incl.) did not follow/keep the law. But when Almasi died on the post, the authority of the law over us (incl.) was taken away by God, therefore there is no longer any reason for punishing us (incl.).” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And even though we (incl.) have not obeyed His written Law, by means of the death of Christ on the cross, He removed the Law and so now there is no longer any reason to punish us.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “What God has done for us can be compared to this: he took the list of our sins or debts to him that are-due-to our not obeying his law and he nailed it to the cross, meaning to say, he threw-away the list along with the laws that were accusing us by means of Cristo’s death on the cross.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “That writing on which was written in the past all the law of God, it was like our enemy for it was exposing the big-size of our opposition to him. But now, God has removed its strength for it’s like he caused it to be included with Cristo in being nailed to the cross.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “We had sin because we broke God’s law. But God erased our sins because Christ died on the cross.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)