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.

circumcise, circumcision

The Hebrew and Greek terms that are translated as “circumcise” or “circumcision” in English (originally meaning of English term: “to cut around”) are (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Chimborazo Highland Quichua: “cut the flesh”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec, Navajo: “cut around”
  • Javanese: “clip-away”
  • Uab Meto: “pinch and cut” (usually shortened to “cut”)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun, Western Highland Purepecha: “put the mark”
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “put the mark in the body showing that they belong to God” (or: “that they have a covenant with God”)
  • Indonesian: disunat — “undergo sunat” (sunat is derived from Arabic “sunnah (سنة)” — “(religious) way (of life)”)
  • Ekari: “cut the end of the member for which one fears shame” (in Gen. 17:10) (but typically: “the cutting custom”) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Hiri Motu: “cut the skin” (source: Deibler / Taylor 1977, p. 1079)
  • Garifuna: “cut off part of that which covers where one urinates”
  • Bribri: “cut the soft” (source for this and the one above: Ronald Ross)
  • Amele: deweg cagu qoc — “cut the body” (source: John Roberts)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “cut the flesh of the sons like Moses taught” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Newari: “put the sign in one’s body” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Central Mazahua: “sign in his flesh”
  • Hopi: “being cut in a circle in his body” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

brother (fellow believer)

The Greek that is translated in English as “brother” (in the sense of a fellow believer), is translated with a specifically coined word in Kachin: “There are two terms for brother in Kachin. One is used to refer to a Christian brother. This term combines ‘older and younger brother.’ The other term is used specifically for addressing siblings. When one uses this term, one must specify if the older or younger person is involved. A parallel system exists for ‘sister’ as well. In [these verses], the term for ‘a Christian brother’ is used.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Martu Wangka it is translated as “relative” (this is also the term that is used for “follower.”) (Source: Carl Gross)

See also brothers.

complete verse (Galatians 5:11)

Following are a number of back-translations of Galatians 5:11:

  • Uma: “Relatives, there are people who say that I myself teach people to follow the circumcision custom of the Law of Musa. Those words are not [emphatic] true! If my teaching were like that, the Yahudi wouldn’t be opposing me. My teaching is: we must believe in Kristus, for only because of the death of Kristus crucified do we become straight in God’s sight. Precisely because of this teaching of mine, the Yahudis are dead-set / out-to oppose me.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “My brothers who trust in Isa Almasi, there are people who say that I yet teach reportedly, that we (incl.) ought to be circumcised so that we (incl.) are considered straight by God. If this is true why am I yet persecuted by the Yahudi? If I were teaching that a person ought to be circumcised, I would no longer be the-object-of-their-anger even though I taught also about the death of Isa Almasi on the post.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “My brothers, there’s some people who say that I have not yet given up teaching that it’s necessary that we (incl.) be circumcized. But if this were true, why are the Jews still trying to harm me? Because if I taught that it is necessary to be circumcised, they would not be angry with me even if I also teach the death of Christ as our (incl.) substitute.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “As for me, there are those who reportedly are saying I am teaching that Gentiles need to get-circumcised when/if they believe, but think-about this brothers. If that were true, why then am I still being-hardshipped? Because if I were teaching that it was necessary for a person to get-circumcised, the Jews would then not be offended at what I am preaching concerning Cristo’s death on the cross.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “My brethren, don’t believe what some are saying, that even I, I indeed am teaching that people need to be circumcised in order to be saved. But how can that be the truth, for if I truly were teaching this, why am I still up to this time being hardshipped/persecuted by my fellow Jews? For of course if I am teaching that it’s necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved, I am not teaching that only the death of Cristo on the cross is where we can obtain salvation, which is the thing-being-stumbled-and-fallen-over by these fellow-countrymen of mine.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But, I, my dear brethren, if I told you to mark your bodies, then the Jews wouldn’t hate me. But now they are angry with me because I teach that the only thing that saves a person is that Christ died on the cross.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)