swear, vow

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “swear (an oath)” or “vow” is translated as “God sees me, I tell the truth to you” (Tzeltal), “loading yourself down” (Huichol), “to speak-stay” (implying permanence of the utterance) (Sayula Popoluca), “to say what he could not take away” (San Blas Kuna), “because of the tight (i.e. “binding”) word which he had said to her face” (Guerrero Amuzgo), “strong promise” (North Alaskan Inupiatun) (source for all above: Bratcher / Nida), “eat an oath” (Nyamwezi — source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext), or sswa nak/”drink an oath” (Jju — source: McKinney 2018, p. 31).

In Bauzi “swear” can be translated in various ways. In Hebrews 6:13, for instance, it is translated with “bones break apart and decisively speak.” (“No bones are literally broken but by saying ‘break bones’ it is like people swear by someone else in this case it is in relation to a rotting corpse’ bones falling apart. If you ‘break bones’ so to speak when you make an utterance, it is a true utterance.”) In other passages, such as in Matthew 26:72, it’s translated with an expression that implies taking ashes (“if a person wants everyone to know that he is telling the truth about a matter, he reaches down into the fireplace, scoops up some ashes and throws them while saying ‘I was not the one who did that.'”). So in Matthew 26:72 the Bauzi text is: “. . . Peter took ashes and defended himself saying, ‘I don’t know that Nazareth person.'” (Source: David Briley)

See also swear (promise) and Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’, or ‘No, No’.


The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “sell” in English is translated in Noongar as wort-bangal or “away-barter.” Note that “buy” is translated as bangal-barranga or “get-barter.” (Source: Bardip Ruth-Ang 2020)

See also buy and buying / selling.


The Hebrew, Latin, and Greek that is transliterated as “Jacob” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with a sign that signifies “lentil,” referring to the soup he gave his brother in exchange for his birthright (see Genesis 25:34). Note that another Spanish Sign Language sign for Jacob also users the sign for Jewish. (Source: Steve Parkhurst)

“Jacob” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

In German Sign Language it is a sign that shows the touching of the hip, described in Genesis 32:25:

“Jacob” in German Sign Language (source: Taub und katholisch )

In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the signs signifying “smooth arm” (referring to the story starting at Genesis 27:11). (Source: Tarja Sandholm)

“Jacob” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

See also Esau.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Jacob .

complete verse (Genesis 25:33)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 25:33:

  • Kankanaey: “Jacob then said, ‘You (sing.) swear then.’ So Esau swore turning-over his authority/right as firstborn to Jacob.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “Jacob said — ‘First of all the first turn, make the promise.’ Then he made the promise. In this way he sold his right as first-born son.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “Jacob replied, ‘If that is the case, [you (sing.)] swear first to me.’ So Esau swore that his rights as the older-one would now belong to Jacob.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Jacob said, ‘Swear to/Solemnly promise me that you are giving me the privileges that you will have from being the firstborn son!’ So that is what Esau did. He sold his birthright to Jacob.” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Japanese benefactives (chikatte)

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 benefactive construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

Here, chikatte (誓って) or “swear” is used in combination with kudasaru (くださる), a respectful form of the benefactive kureru (くれる). A benefactive reflects the good will of the giver or the gratitude of a recipient of the favor. To convey this connotation, English translation needs to employ a phrase such as “for me (my sake)” or “for you (your sake).”

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