altar

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “altar” in English is translated in a number of ways:

  • Obolo: ntook or “raised structure for keeping utensils (esp. sacrifice)” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Muna: medha kaefoampe’a or “offering table” (source: René van den Berg)
  • Luchazi: muytula or “the place where one sets the burden down”/”the place where the life is laid down” (source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff. )
  • Tzotzil: “where they place God’s gifts” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.)
  • Tsafiki: “table for giving to God” (source: Bruce Moore in Notes on Translation 1/1992, p. 1ff.)
  • Noongar: karla-kooranyi or “sacred fire” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “offering-burning table” (source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “place for sacrificing” (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “burning-place” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tibetan: mchod khri (མཆོད་​ཁྲི།) or “offering throne” (source: gSungrab website )
  • Bura-Pabir: “sacrifice mound” (source: Andy Warrren-Rothlin)
The Ignaciano translators decided to translate the difficult term in that language according to the focus of each New Testament passage in which the word appears (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight

Willis Ott (in Notes on Translation 88/1982, p. 18ff.) explains:

  • Matt. 5:23,24: “When you take your offering to God, and arriving, you remember…, do not offer your gift yet. First go to your brother…Then it is fitting to return and offer your offering to God.” (The focus is on improving relationships with people before attempting to improve a relationship with God, so the means of offering, the altar, is not focal.)
  • Matt. 23:18 (19,20): “You also teach erroneously: ‘If someone makes a promise, swearing by the offering-place/table, he is not guilty if he should break the promise. But if he swears by the gift that he put on the offering-place/table, he will be guilty if he breaks the promise.'”
  • Luke 1:11: “…to the right side of the table where they burn incense.”
  • Luke 11.51. “…the one they killed in front of the temple (or the temple enclosure).” (The focus is on location, with overtones on: “their crime was all the more heinous for killing him there”.)
  • Rom. 11:3: “Lord, they have killed all my fellow prophets that spoke for you. They do not want anyone to give offerings to you in worship.” (The focus is on the people’s rejection of religion, with God as the object of worship.)
  • 1Cor. 9:13 (10:18): “Remember that those that attend the temple have rights to eat the foods that people bring as offerings to God. They have rights to the meat that the people offer.” (The focus is on the right of priests to the offered food.)
  • Heb. 7:13: “This one of whom we are talking is from another clan. No one from that clan was ever a priest.” (The focus in on the legitimacy of this priest’s vocation.)
  • Jas. 2:21: “Remember our ancestor Abraham, when God tested him by asking him to give him his son by death. Abraham was to the point of stabbing/killing his son, thus proving his obedience.” (The focus is on the sacrifice as a demonstration of faith/obedience.)
  • Rev. 6:9 (8:3,5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7): “I saw the souls of them that…They were under the table that holds God’s fire/coals.” (This keeps the concepts of: furniture, receptacle for keeping fire, and location near God.)
  • Rev. 11:1: “Go to the temple, Measure the building and the inside enclosure (the outside is contrasted in v. 2). Measure the burning place for offered animals. Then count the people who are worshiping there.” (This altar is probably the brazen altar in a temple on earth, since people are worshiping there and since outside this area conquerors are allowed to subjugate for a certain time.)

See also altar (Acts 17:23).


In the Hebraic English translation of Everett Fox it is translated as slaughter-site and likewise in the German translation by Buber / Rosenzweig as Schlachtstatt.

Translation commentary on Exod 20:25

And if you make me an altar of stone provides an alternative to the “altar of earth” in verse 24. You is singular and stone is plural. You shall not build it uses a different word from make. The word for build means to erect or construct. Of hewn stones means stones that have been cut or shaped with a tool. New International Version and New Jerusalem Bible call them “dressed stones.” Good News Translation has “cut stones.” Contemporary English Version combines the phrase hewn stones with the following clause and says “do not use any tools to chisel the stones.”

For if is one word that has several meanings—for, if, because, when, or indeed. It must be translated according to the context. “Because” is probably the best rendering (so Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version). The rest of the sentence is literally “your chisel you move back and forth upon it and you will profane it.” “Chisel” (Good News Translation) is probably a better term, since it refers to the tool used by stone cutters. Wield suggests the continuous movement of the tool on the stone, but “use” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version) may be a more natural term. You profane means that you “defile” (New International Version) or “desecrate” (New American Bible) the stone. Good News Translation clarifies what this means: “you make them unfit for my use.” One may also say “You make the altar unfit for worshiping me.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• If you use stones to build an altar, do not use any tools to chisel [or, cut] the stones. If you do that the altar will be unfit for worshiping me.

Quoted with permission from Osborn, Noel D. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Exodus. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1999. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

first person pronoun referring to God

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a first person singular and plural pronoun (“I” and “we” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. The most commonly used watashi/watakushi (私) is typically used when the speaker is humble and asking for help.

In these verses, where God / Jesus is referring to himself, watashi is also used but instead of the kanji writing system (私) the syllabary hiragana (わたし) is used to distinguish God from others.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

See also pronoun for “God”.