The Greek and Hebrew that is translated in English as “love your neighbor as yourself” is translated in Shilluk, Anuak, and Nuer as “love your neighbors as yourselves.” In those and other languages a plural form has to be used if it is to be applied to more than one person where in English a singular can stand for many (compare everyone, each, whoever, any). (Source: Larson 1998, p. 42)
The Greek that is translated as “neighbor” in English is rendered into Babatana as “different man,” i.e. someone who is not one of your relatives. (Source: David Clark)
In North Alaskan Inupiatun, it is rendered as “a person outside of your building,” in Tzeltal as “your back and side” (implying position of the dwellings), in Indonesian and in Tae’ as “your fellow-man,” in Toraja-Sa’dan it is “your fellow earth-dweller,” in Shona (translation of 1966) as “another person like you,” in Kekchí “younger-brother-older-brother” (a compound which means all one’s neighbors in a community) (sources: Bratcher / Nida and Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Mairasi “your people” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Mezquital Otomi as “fellow being,” in Tzeltal as “companion,” in Isthmus Zapotec as “another,” in Teutila Cuicatec as “all people” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), and in most modern German translations as Mitmensch or “fellow human being” (lit. “with + human being”).
In Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Luke 10:29 it is translated into Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term that refers to a person who is socially/physically near. Ixcatlán Mazatec also has a another term for “neighbor” that means “fellow humans-outsiders” which was not chosen for these passages. (Source: Robert Bascom)
In Nyongar it is translated as moorta-boordak or “people nearby” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
Translator Lee Bramlett submitted this on the translation of the Greek word that is translated into English as “love” (referring to God’s love). This letter was then reposted by Wycliffe Bible Translators (see here ):
“Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people? What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?
“Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for ‘love.’ Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?
“Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, ‘Could you ‘ɗvi’ your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.
“‘Could you ‘ɗva’ your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.
“‘Could you ‘ɗvu’ your wife?’ Everyone laughed. ‘Of course not! If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘ɗvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.’
“Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, ‘Could God ‘ɗvu’ people?’
“There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. ‘Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.’
“One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from ‘I love you based on what you do and who you are,’ to ‘I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.’
“God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there — unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.
“The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25: ‘Husbands, ‘ɗvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘ɗvu’-d the church…'”
In Hawai’i Creole English the love that God has is often translated as love an aloha. Aloha has a variety of meanings, including “hello,” “goodbye,” “love,” “thank you,” etc.
The Philippine languages of Cebuano, Tagalog, and Pampanga use a word (gugma, pag-ibig, and lugud respectively) that is also used for a “noble, refined love of people for each other,” distinct from romantic love. (Source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
In Mairasi, the term that is used for love by God, for God and for people is the same: “desire one’s face.” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
Following are a number of back-translations of Galatians 5:14:
- Uma: “There is a command that says: "We must love our companion as we love ourselves." If we follow this one command, it’s the same as doing all the commands in the Lord’s Law.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “Because all commands of the law written by Musa we (dual) (happen-to) follow already if we (dual) follow this one command: ‘Love your companions/fellow men like you love yourselves.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The whole Law which was left behind by Moses can be thoroughly obeyed by means of just one command and it is this: ‘It’s necessary that you treat very well your companion. Think about him as just like your own breath.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “Because the commands of the law, they are all concentrated in this one command: ‘You (sing.) must love your (sing.) companion like the way-you-love yourself (sing.).'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “Because all these laws that came from God, the theme (lit. thing-(they)-keep-returning-to) is, ‘value your (sing.) fellowman just the same as you value your own body.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “Because in order to complete what all is written in the law, there is but one word that must be done. It is this word: ‘Love your fellowman like you respect yourself.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Nyongar with a capitalized form of the term for “words” (Warrinya) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
The whole Law here is, of course, the Jewish Law, not understood as a legalistic system but as an expression of God’s will. The verb translated summed up is literally “fulfilled” and can mean either “to summarize” (Good News Translation, Knox, Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible), “to complete,” or “to make perfect,” as some commentators suggest. If the meaning is “to summarize,” the content of the whole Law can be summed up in one statement. If the meaning is “to complete” or “to make perfect,” the intent of the Law can be carried out in the activity of love.
The whole Law may be rendered as “all the laws” or “all the laws given through Moses,” and an equivalent for summed up in one commandment may be “are equal to just one commandment” or “to one law.” Accordingly, the introductory statement in this verse may be translated as “for all the different laws together are really equal to only one law.”
The quotation is from Leviticus 19.18, and once more it is taken from the Septuagint. In its Old Testament setting, it is simply a command for Israelites to love their fellow Israelites; here, it is understood as a command for Christians to love one another, regardless of their race or nationality. Jesus also applies this quotation in a similar sense (Luke 10.25-37, where the one who does the loving is a Samaritan and the neighbor is a Jew).
As you love yourself is literally just “as yourself.” What the quotation is saying is that you must love your neighbor as you love your own self. Good News Translation makes this clear by supplying you love. In order to make this commandment applicable to all persons rather than simply a specific command to a particular individual to love a particular neighbor, it may be necessary in some languages to employ a plural form, for example, “you all must love your fellowmen as you love your own selves.”
Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1976. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .