transgression, trespass

The Greek that is often translated as “trespass” or “transgression” in English is translated as “missing the commandment” in Kipsigis and “to step beyond the law” in Navajo.

In Tepeuxila Cuicatec it is translated as “thing not reached.” Marjorie Davis (in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 34ff.) explains: “[This] implies that the goal was not reached, the task was not finished, or of finished, it was not satisfactorily done. According to the Cuicateco way of thinking of one does not what is expected of him, he offends [or: trespasses] and is an offence.”

death vs. life

The terms in the verse in 2 Corinthians that are translated as “death” and “life” in English are translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “physical death” and “spiritual life.”

The verse in Ephesians (in English: “dead”) is comparably translated as “spiritually dead.”

sin

The Greek with the original verbatim meaning of “miss the mark” and that is typically translated as “sin” in English is often translated by terms that have the “connotation of moral responsibility.” Loma has (for certain types of sin) “leaving the road” (which “implies a definite standard, the transgression of which is sin”) or Navajo uses “that which is off to the side.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida). In Toraja-Sa’dan the translation is kasalan, which originally meant “transgression of a religious or moral rule” and has shifted its meaning in the context of the Bible to “transgression of God’s commandments.” (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff.).

In Shipibo-Conibo the term is hocha. Nida (1952, p. 149) tells the story of its choosing:

“In some instances a native expression for sin includes many connotations, and its full meaning must be completely understood before one ever attempts to use it. This was true, for example, of the term hocha first proposed by Shipibo-Conibo natives as an equivalent for ‘sin.’ The term seemed quite all right until one day the translator heard a girl say after having broken a little pottery jar that she was guilty of ‘hocha.’ Breaking such a little jar scarcely seemed to be sin. However, the Shipibos insisted that hocha was really sin, and they explained more fully the meaning of the word. It could be used of breaking a jar, but only if the jar belonged to someone else. Hocha was nothing more nor less than destroying the possessions of another, but the meaning did not stop with purely material possessions. In their belief God owns the world and all that is in it. Anyone who destroys the work and plan of God is guilty of hocha. Hence the murderer is of all men most guilty of hocha, for he has destroyed God’s most important possession in the world, namely, man. Any destructive and malevolent spirit is hocha, for it is antagonistic and harmful to God’s creation. Rather than being a feeble word for some accidental event, this word for sin turned out to be exceedingly rich in meaning and laid a foundation for the full presentation of the redemptive act of God.”

In Kaingang, the translation is “break God’s word” and in Sandawe the original meaning of the Greek term (see above) is perfectly reflected with “miss the mark.” (Source: Ursula Wiesemann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 36ff., 43)

implicit exclusiveness (Eph. 2:1-2)

The translation in Yatzachi Zapotec had to make the inclusion of the writer in these verse explicit by changing the second person plural pronoun (“you”) to an inclusive first person plural pronoun (“we,” including the group that is addressed in the letter). Otherwise the writer of the letter would have been specifically excluded. (Source: Inez Butler in Notes on Translation 16, 1965, p. 4-5)

complete verse (Ephesians 2:1)

Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 2:1:

  • Uma: “Previously, before you believed in Yesus, it was like you were already dead, you did not-yet have life that is from God because you sinned and transgressed the commands of God.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Na, you formerly, you had no new life from God; you were figuratively like dead people because of your bad doings and your sins.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Long time ago it was as if you were dead because you did not yet have life forever, because you did not yet at that time obey the commands of God and because of your evil behavior.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Previously, before you believed, it was as if you were dead concerning God on account of your sins.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Really as for you in the past, an example of you was, like dead in the sight of God through the big-size of your sin which was contrary to his will. There was nothing at all which came into your mind concerning acknowledging him.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “In past times it was very evil that we did. It could be said that it was as though we were dead because of the sins we had.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)