The Greek that is often translated as “flesh” in English (when referring to the lower human nature) can, according to Nidq (1947, p. 153) “very rarely be literally translated into another language. ‘My meat’ or ‘my muscle’ does not make sense in most languages.” He then gives a catalog of almost 30 questions to determine a correct translation for that term.
Accordingly, the translations are very varied:
See also spirit / flesh.
The Greek that is often translated as “desires of the flesh” in English is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “human desires.”
In Enlhet it is translated as “wantings of the innermost.” “Innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind (for other examples see here). (Source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff.)
See also flesh (human nature).
Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 2:3:
- Uma: “Previously, we all were the same as them: our behavior followed the evil desires of our hearts, and we did the evil desires of our hearts and of our thoughts. At that time it was fitting that God be angry with us, because that was how our behavior was, the same as other people’s behavior.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “We (incl.) all were like them formerly because we (incl.) always did whatever we (dual) wanted even if/though we (dual) knew that that was bad. Whatever our (dual) bodies wanted and whatever our (dual) livers were happy about/what we took a fancy to that is what we (dual) always continually did. Therefore we (incl.) like the others were ‘wrathed’ by God because that is what was fitting for us (incl.).” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for us (incl.) also, we (incl.) long ago did evil according to the evil desires of our (incl.) bodies and our evil minds, and because of this we were still subject to punishment at that time, just like other humans who are not subjects of God.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “Even also all of us previously, what we indeed also were doing was what we desired that was bad. Even anything that our bodies wanted and was in our thoughts, that’s what we were following. Therefore our former/original status/situation was that we were worthy to be punished the same as the original status of all people.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “The truth is, in the past, just like that were the nature/ways of us all for (we) were just following/obeying our congenital nature/ways which were evil. (We) were indulging the evil desires of the body and whatever was in the mind/thinking. Therefore in those nature/ways of ours in the past, we were really being-included among the people whom God would punish, for there is no other reward for us sinful people.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “At that past time, all of us did like the people who do not know God do. We did what we ourselves desired. The evil which settled on our hearts is what we did. Therefore we were going to suffer the punishment which God gives, just like the punishment which will be given to the people who do not now know God.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
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 inclusive form (including the reader of the letter).
Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999)