The Greek that is rendered in English as “conscience” is translated into Aari as “our thoughts speak to us,” in Nuer it is “the knowledge of their heart” (source: Jan Sterk), in Cheke Holo “to know what is straight and what is wrong” (source: Carl Gross), in Chokwe “law of the heart” (source D.B. Long in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 135ff. ), in Toraja-Sa’dan penaa ma’pakilala or “the admonishing within” (source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff. ), in Yatzachi Zapotec as “head-hearts,” in Tzeltal as “hearts” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), in Enlhet as “innermost,” in Northern Emberá as “thinking” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1975, p. 201ff. ), and in Elhomwe as “what reminds the heart” or “whole heart” (“since the idea of conscience is something that reminds the heart”) (source: project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

In Warao it is translated with obojona, a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. ). See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.

See also conscience seared and perfect conscience / clear conscience, clear conscience towards God and all people, and brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.


The Hebrew and Greek that is typically translated as “sin” in English has a wide variety of translations.

The Greek ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō) carries the original verbatim meaning of “miss the mark.” Likewise, many translations contain the “connotation of moral responsibility.” Loma has (for certain types of sin) “leaving the road” (which “implies a definite standard, the transgression of which is sin”) or Navajo uses “that which is off to the side.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida). In Toraja-Sa’dan the translation is kasalan, which originally meant “transgression of a religious or moral rule” and has shifted its meaning in the context of the Bible to “transgression of God’s commandments.” (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21ff. ).

In Shipibo-Conibo the term is hocha. Nida (1952, p. 149) tells the story of its choosing: “In some instances a native expression for sin includes many connotations, and its full meaning must be completely understood before one ever attempts to use it. This was true, for example, of the term hocha first proposed by Shipibo-Conibo natives as an equivalent for ‘sin.’ The term seemed quite all right until one day the translator heard a girl say after having broken a little pottery jar that she was guilty of ‘hocha.’ Breaking such a little jar scarcely seemed to be sin. However, the Shipibos insisted that hocha was really sin, and they explained more fully the meaning of the word. It could be used of breaking a jar, but only if the jar belonged to someone else. Hocha was nothing more nor less than destroying the possessions of another, but the meaning did not stop with purely material possessions. In their belief God owns the world and all that is in it. Anyone who destroys the work and plan of God is guilty of hocha. Hence the murderer is of all men most guilty of hocha, for he has destroyed God’s most important possession in the world, namely, man. Any destructive and malevolent spirit is hocha, for it is antagonistic and harmful to God’s creation. Rather than being a feeble word for some accidental event, this word for sin turned out to be exceedingly rich in meaning and laid a foundation for the full presentation of the redemptive act of God.”

In Kaingang, the translation is “break God’s word” and in Sandawe the original meaning of the Greek term (see above) is perfectly reflected with “miss the mark.” (Source: Ursula Wiesemann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 36ff., 43)

In Warao it is translated as “bad obojona.” Obojona is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions.” (Source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. ). See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.

Martin Ehrensvärd, one of the translators for the Danish Bibelen 2020, comments on the translation of this term: “We would explain terms, such that e.g. sin often became ‘doing what God does not want’ or ‘breaking God’s law’, ‘letting God down’, ‘disrespecting God’, ‘doing evil’, ‘acting stupidly’, ‘becoming guilty’. Now why couldn’t we just use the word sin? Well, sin in contemporary Danish, outside of the church, is mostly used about things such as delicious but unhealthy foods. Exquisite cakes and chocolates are what a sin is today.” (Source: Ehrensvärd in HIPHIL Novum 8/2023, p. 81ff. )

See also sinner.

complete verse (Hebrews 10:2)

Following are a number of back-translations of Hebrews 10:2:

  • Uma: “If for example the people who worshipped like that were really cleaned from their sins, they would have stopped bringing their worship-gifts, for they would know that their sins had been forgiven and they would no longer have been thinking about [lit., in-hearting] their being sinful.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “For if the people worshipping God were really clean/holy from their sins because of their sacrifices, they would no longer always think that they still had sin and they would no longer have to sacrifice again.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For if by means of that way the ones who were worshipping were made clean it would not be necessary to sacrifice again, because their sins would have been forgiven and they would have known that they would not be punished because of their evil behavior.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because if it were true that they were properly cleansed from their sins, they wouldn’t have continued making-offerings, because they wouldn’t have still felt that they had sins.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For if their sin really could be removed by sacrifices like these, well-then of course the sins that they have done would not now be heavy still on their minds/inner-beings. And is it not so that it would not still be necessary to make-sacrifice again?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “If it had been that their sins were taken away by their doing what all the law commanded, then they would no longer make sacrifices. Because concerning people who make sacrifices, they would do it just once if they thought that their sins were cleared, then their hearts would no longer be sad, thinking that they have sin.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Hebrews 10:2

This sentence may be understood either as a rhetorical question, as in Revised Standard Version and the UBS Greek New Testament, or as a statement, as in Good News Translation. Even if the Greek text is punctuated as a question, here again the translator must decide whether rhetorical questions are natural and easily understood in the receptor language.

Good News Translation arranges the three parts of the verse in their most natural order for English, although this is not necessarily the most natural order for other languages: (a) purified, (b) not feel guilty, (c) sacrifices would stop. The translator should not follow Good News Translation or any other translation mechanically. He should instead consider the relation between the following statements:
(a) The worshipers have once been purified.
(b) People are no longer conscious of sin.
(c) Sacrifices stop.

Part (b), and less directly part (c), are consequences of part (a). When the translator has found a provisional translation for these three statements, he should then take account of the fact that all this is an unreal condition, that is, something which would have happened if things were different, but which in fact did not.

Really translates the writer’s characteristic expression “once.” It contrasts with year after year in verses 1 and 3 and could therefore be kept in translation.

The noun phrase the people worshiping God may be restructured as a noun expression followed by a relative clause, for example, “the people who worship God.”

It may be difficult to speak of “being purified from sins,” and therefore it may be more appropriate to speak of “becoming rid of one’s sins” or “having one’s sins removed.” Sometimes the expression may be more effective in a negative form; for example, “had become no longer defiled by their sins.”

Feel guilty translates the Greek word which was translated heart in 9.9 and consciences in 9.14. As here, it usually implies “consciousness of sin,” that is, “a bad conscience.” They would not feel guilty of sin any more may be expressed as “they would no longer feel guilty because of the sins they had done.” However, the concept of “being guilty of sins” is often expressed in idiomatic ways; for example, “their hearts would no longer feel heavy because of their sins,” “their sins would no longer be following them,” or “their minds would no longer be killing themselves because of their sins.”

All sacrifices would stop may be rendered as “there would be no more sacrifices,” “people would no longer offer sacrifices,” “… cause sacrifices to be made,” or “… cause animals to be sacrificed.”

Quoted with permission from Ellingworth, Paul and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Letter of the Hebrews. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1983. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .