In certain languages some types of possession simply cannot be used. For example in Hopi one cannot speak of [what is translated in English as] “(Yahweh) my God,” for God cannot be possessed. One must say, “the God in whom I believe.” (p. 206)
Apali: “God’s one with talk from the head” (“basically God’s messenger since head refers to any leader’s talk”) (source: Martha Wade)
Michoacán Nahuatl: “clean helper of God” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
Nyongar: Hdjin-djin-kwabba or “spirit good” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
Wè Northern (Wɛɛ): Kea ‘a “sooa or “the Lord’s soldier” (also: “God’s soldier” or “his soldier”) (source: Drew Maust)
Iwaidja: “a man sent with a message” (Sam Freney explains the genesis of this term [in this article): “For example, in Darwin last year, as we were working on a new translation of Luke 2:6–12 in Iwaidja, a Northern Territory language, the translators had written ‘angel’ as ‘a man with eagle wings’. Even before getting to the question of whether this was an accurate term (or one that imported some other information in), the word for ‘eagle’ started getting discussed. One of the translators had her teenage granddaughter with her, and this word didn’t mean anything to her at all. She’d never heard of it, as it was an archaic term that younger people didn’t use anymore. They ended up changing the translation of ‘angel’ to something like ‘a man sent with a message’, which is both more accurate and clear.”)
Some languages do not have a concept of kingship and therefore no immediate equivalent for the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin that is translated as “king” in English. Here are some (back-) translations:
Faye Edgerton retells how the term in Navajo was determined:
“[This term was] easily expressed in the language of Biblical culture, which had kings and noblemen with their brilliant trappings and their position of honor and praise. But leadership among the Navajos is not accompanied by any such titles or distinctions of dress. Those most respected, especially in earlier days, were their headmen, who were the leaders in raids, and the shaman, who was able to serve the people by appealing for them to the gods, or by exorcising evil spirits. Neither of these made any outward show. Neither held his position by political intrigue or heredity. If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior. If the shaman failed many times in his healing ceremonies, it was considered that he was making mistakes in the chants, or had lost favor with the gods, and another was sought. The term Navajos use for headman is derived from a verb meaning ‘to move the head from side to side as in making an oration.’ The headman must be a good orator, able to move the people to go to war, or to follow him in any important decision. This word is naat’áanii which now means ‘one who rules or bosses.’ It is employed now for a foreman or boss of any kind of labor, as well as for the chairman of the tribal council. So in order to show that the king is not just a common boss but the highest ruler, the word ‘aláahgo, which expresses the superlative degree, was put before naat’áanii, and so ‘aláahgo naat’áanii ‘anyone-more-than-being around-he-moves-his-head-the-one-who’ means ‘the highest ruler.’ Naat’áanii was used for governor as the context usually shows that the person was a ruler of a country or associated with kings.”
My God: the personal pronoun My is dropped in Good News Translation. This may be necessary in languages where the possessive form gives the wrong idea. Or in other cases the meaning may be translated by “The God I worship,” to avoid the idea of a personal possession of God.
His angel: the same Aramaic term as in 3.28.
Shut the lions’ mouths: the subject of the verb here is not indicated in Aramaic. Grammatically it may be either God or his angel, but since the angel was fulfilling the will of God who sent him, there is no real difference between the two. It is probably better to translate so that the angel is the subject of the verb.
And they have not hurt me: the conjunction and really gives the reason for the closing of the mouths of the lions. Hence it may be better translated “so that” in many languages. This, in fact, is the reading of New Jerusalem Bible and New Revised Standard Version.
Because …: while the sentence continues in Revised Standard Version, reflecting the original, it may be advisable to begin a new sentence here, as is done in Good News Translation.
I was found blameless before him: this is technically a passive in Revised Standard Version and will have to be made active in many cases. The meaning is rather “he considered me innocent.” A literal rendering of the Aramaic is “innocence (or purity) was found in me before him.” Some other models are “I am not guilty in his eyes” or, in legal terms, “he acquitted me.”
Quoted with permission from Péter-Contesse, René & Ellington, John. A Handbook on Daniel. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1994. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .