lion

There are no lions in Bawm country, so the Bawm Chin translation uses “a tiger with a mane” where the Greek term for “lion” is used and in Sranan Tongo the “roaring lion” in 1 Peter 5:8 is a krasi tigri, an “aggressive tiger.”

In the Kahua culture, lions are not known either so the Kahua translation used “fierce animal.”

In 1 Peter 5:8, the Uripiv translation uses “a hungry shark” instead of a roaring lion.

Sources: David Clark for Bawm Chin and Kahua, Japini 2015, p. 33, for Sranan Tongo, and Ross McKerras for Uripiv)

wolf

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “wolf” is translated in Muna as da’u ngkahoku: “forest dog,” because there is no immediate lexical equivalent. (Source: René van den Berg)

In Asháninka, it is translated as “ferocious animal,” in Waffa and Kui as “wild dog,” and in Navajo as “Coyote” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125), and in Odia as “tiger” (source for this and for Kui: Helen Evans in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff. )

In Lingala it is translated as “leopard.” Sigurd F. Westberg (in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 117ff. ) explains: “The wolf, for example, does not exist here, but its relative the jackal does and we have a name for it. But the jackal does not prey on domestic animals as the wolf did in Palestine, nor is he as fierce. The equivalent from these points of view is the leopard. Hence in Genesis 49 Benjamin is likened to a ravenous leopard, and the basic meaning is approached more closely than if we had been governed by scientific classification.”

Mungaka also uses “leopard” (see also bear (animal)) (source: Nama 1990). Likewise in Klao and Dan (source: Don Slager).

Michel Kenmogne comments on this and comparable translations (in Noss 2007, p. 378 ff.): “Some exegetical solutions adopted by missionary translations may have been acceptable during that time frame, but weighed against today’s translation theory and procedures, they appear quite outdated and even questionable. For example, Atangana Nama approvingly mentions the translation into Mungaka of terms like ‘deer’ as ‘leopard’, ‘camel’ as ‘elephant’, and ‘wheat’ as ‘maize,’ where the target language has no direct equivalent to the source text. These pre-Nida translation options, now known as adaptations, would be declared unacceptable in modern practice, since they misrepresent the historico-zoological and agricultural realities in the Bible. Nowadays it is considered better to give a generalized term, like ‘grain,’ and where necessary specify ‘a grain called wheat,’ than to give an incorrect equivalence. Unknown animals such as bears, can be called ‘fierce animals,’ especially if the reference is a non-historical context.”

Translation commentary on Jeremiah 5:6

There are many verses in Jeremiah where it is difficult, if not impossible, to define with precision who the speaker may be. Such is the case with this verse. In Good News Translation it is Jeremiah who speaks, whereas Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch defines the speaker as the LORD. Fortunately, the end result is the same here, and translators may follow either pattern without undue concern.

As a result of the people’s rebellion against the LORD, wild animals will be turned against them (compare 2.15; 4.7). During biblical times the lion was a familiar animal in the Eastern Mediterranean region, though today lions no longer inhabit that area. The singular (a lion) is best taken in a collective sense: “lions” (Good News Translation). In 4.7 the lions were said to come from their “thicket” (Revised Standard Version) or “hiding place” (Good News Translation), though in the present passage they are said to come from the forest. In biblical times much of the territory of Israel was covered with thick forests, but for the most part these too have been destroyed.

In the previous occurrences of the lion in Jeremiah (2.15 and 4.7), it stood for invaders, but here it could be understood either literally or figuratively. Therefore translators should retain lion.

Shall slay (Good News Translation “will kill”) comes from a verb that more literally means “strike down” (see Revised English Bible), as in verse 3, but it may also have the more precise meaning represented by Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation. New Jerusalem Bible renders “will slaughter.”

This is the only place in the book of Jeremiah where a wolf is mentioned; it should also be understood in a collective sense, “wolves” (Good News Translation). If this animal is not known, translators may have to say “ferocious animals like large dogs,” possibly even adding “called wolves.” The desert is first mentioned in 2.6, where it is rendered “wilderness.”

A leopard is mentioned only twice in Jeremiah, here and in 13.23. Again, where leopards are unknown, translators may have to use an expression like “dangerous animals like lions [or, like large wildcats].” But since all three animals mentioned in this verse probably represent invaders or attackers, translators should not be too concerned about identifying each of them precisely, particularly if the result is to place too much emphasis on their exact description instead of on the fact that the LORD is sending something or someone to attack Israel. It doesn’t matter that the leopard has spots, for example, only that it is an animal that is a dangerous hunter. For both wolf and leopard, translators should be careful not to use such a long descriptive phrase that the poetic nature is lost. A local equivalent would be better.

Watching against translates the same construction rendered “watching over” in 1.12. “Waiting to attack” or “looking [at the cities] to see when to attack” conveys the meaning. New Jerusalem Bible uses a present tense (“lurks round”), while Good News Translation (“will prowl through”) and Revised English Bible (“will prowl about”) express the verb as a future.

Every one who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces may be understood as the activity of the leopards: “a leopard will prowl about their towns and maul any who venture out” (Revised English Bible). Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch is similar to Revised English Bible.

As we said above, most translations give readers the impression that lions, wolves, and leopards are to be understood literally. However, at the beginning of the verse Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch equates these animals with Israel’s enemies: “These people will be destroyed by their enemies! They [their enemies] will fall upon them as a lion … as a wolf … As a leopard….”

The noun rendered transgressions (Good News Translation “sins”) is used only here in Jeremiah; it is made from the same stem as the verb rendered “transgressed” by Revised Standard Version in 2.8. See the comment there. Their transgressions are many may need to be restructured: “they have sinned against me many times.” Their or “they,” of course, refers to the inhabitants of the cities, not the wild animals.

Apostasies is first used in 2.19. “Apostasy” means to reject or turn away from your religion. Their apostasies are great may also need to be restructured; for example, “they have turned away from me many times” or “they turn only their back to me” (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch).

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on Jeremiah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2003. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .