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 Greek that is translated as “sacrifice” in English is translated in Huba as hatǝmachi or “shoot misfortune.”

David Frank (in this blog post ) explains: “How is it that ‘shoot misfortune’ comes to mean sacrifice, I wanted to know? Here is the story: It is a traditional term. Whenever there were persistent problems such as a drought, or a rash of sickness or death, the king (or his religious advisor) would set aside a day and call on everyone to prepare food, such as the traditional mash made from sorghum, or perhaps even goat. The food had to be put together outside. The king or his religious advisor would give an address stating what the problem was and what they were doing about it. Then an elder representing the people would take a handful of that food and throw it, probably repeating that action several times, until it was considered to be enough to atone for all the misfortune they had been having. With this action he was ‘shooting (or casting off) misfortune’ to restore well-being to his people. As he threw the food, he would say that this is to remove the misfortune that had fallen on his people, and everybody would respond by saying aɗǝmja, ‘let it be so.’ People could eat some of this food, but they could not bring the food into their houses, because that would mean that they were bringing misfortune into their house. There is still a minority of people in this linguistic and cultural group that practices the traditional religion, but the shooting of misfortune is no longer practiced, and the term ‘shoot misfortune’ is used now in Bible translation to refer to offering a sacrifice. Aɗǝmja is how they translate ‘amen.'”

complete verse (Hebrews 9:9)

Following are a number of back-translations of Hebrews 9:9:

  • Uma: “All that is a for-instance talk [parable] that teaches us who live at this time. Its meaning: we cannot make our hearts holy in God’s sight in our offering livestock and other worship-gifts to him.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “This has a lesson for us (incl.) now. It means, even though people give and sacrifice to God, this cannot make their livers straight/righteous.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now this is a shadow which teaches us that the sacrifices of animals and the offerings, these cannot take away the sins of the people who worship there, for they understand that by means of these things, they were not yet made righteous.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “All those-things, they were just illustrations of what has now been fulfilled because of Cristo. Because the animals and other-things which were offered by those who worshipped God, they are not able-to-cleanse people’s minds.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “As for that, it was just a picture. What it was pointing-to was, this time now. For those things being done there which were thank-offerings and what was sacrificed with-which-to-ask-for forgiveness, they could not indeed cause those ones worshipping to be righteous. The sins that they had done were still heavy on their minds/inner-being.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “From this it is seen well that the sacrifices offered to God by the priests do not have power to finish making clear the hearts of the people who sacrificed.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Hebrews 9:9

What is a symbol? Translations which take the “first tent” in verse 8 to be the outer tent of the earthly sanctuary will take This to be the outer tent too; for example, Phillips has “For this outer tent we see a picture of the present time.” Translations which take “the first tent” to mean “the former tent” or “sanctuary” will understand This in verse 9 in a more general sense. Grammatically This is the tent, but all these arrangements connected with worship are included too.

In view of the fact that so much is potentially included in the symbolism of the sanctuary, it may be legitimate to translate the first sentence of verse 9 as “All of this is a symbol which points to the present time,” “All this shows us something about the present time,” or “All of this is a picture about what is important now.”

In place of It means it may be legitimate to repeat the subject of the first sentence; for example, “All this means” or “All this shows.”

Offerings and animal sacrifices: animal is implied since the reference is only to Old Testament worship, not as in 8.3. Animal sacrifices are contrasted with the sacrifice of Christ, to be mentioned in verses 11-14. The animal sacrifices were also offerings; one might translate “animal sacrifices and other offerings.”

Cannot make may be expressed as “cannot cause to be” or “cannot cause to become.”

Worshiper is “one who shares in the public worship” mentioned in verse 1.

Heart in Greek is literally “conscience,” as in verse 14; 10.2, 22; 13.18; compare Wisdom 17.10. Heart and make … perfect are keywords for describing the purpose of sacrifice, and thus of what Christ has done. See comments on 2.10 and 5.9.

The word usually translated “conscience” in the New Testament sometimes has the general meaning “consciousness,” especially consciousness of having done right or wrong. The function of the conscience is to cause inward pain when one has done wrong. However, sin often makes the conscience function badly, so that someone may not be conscious of the wrong he has done (a possibility suggested in 1 Cor 4.4), or he may suffer the pain of conscience over matters which should not trouble a Christian at all, because Christ has set him free (see 1 Cor 10.25-29). In Hebrews, except in 13.18, the situation is as follows: those who do not have faith in Christ suffer the pain of conscience because of the wrong they have done. The Old Testament sacrifices can do nothing to put this right. Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross makes believers clean from their sins, and thus their consciences cease to give them pain. The thought of this verse is developed in 9.14, and more fully in 8.10-11. In all these passages, the “conscience,” like the heart, is an aspect of a human being’s whole nature, and of his relationship to God.

In some languages the focal element of the feelings, will, and personality may not be the heart or even the conscience, but the liver, or the abdomen, or even the throat.

In speaking about the perfection of the heart or the conscience, one may talk about the way in which something “ought to be.” Therefore, cannot make the worshiper’s heart perfect may be rendered as “cannot cause the worshiper’s heart to be as it ought to be” or “… as good as it ought to be.”

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 .