bread, loaf

The Greek term that is translated in English as “bread” or “loaf” is translated in Samo, it is translated as “Sago,” which serves “like ‘bread’ for the Hebrews, as a generic for food in the Samo language. It is a near-perfect metonymy that has all the semantic elements necessary for effective communication.” (Source: Daniel Shaw in Scriptura 96/2007, p. 501ff.)

In Chol it is translated as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla. (Click or tap here to see the rest of this insight)

John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f. ) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”

Robert Bascom adds his thoughts to this in relation to other Mayan languages (in Omanson 2001, p. 260): “In many Mayan languages, ‘bread’ can be translated waj or kaxlan waj. The first term literally means anything made from corn meal, while the second term literally means ‘foreigner’s waj,’ and refers to the local wheat-based sweet breads which are so popular within the broader European-influenced culture of the region. On the one hand, waj would be a better dynamic equivalent in cases where ‘bread’ meant ‘food,’ but in cases where the focus is literal or the reference well-known, kaxlan waj would preserve a flour-based meaning (though in biblical times barley was more in use than wheat) and not insert corn into a time and place where it does not belong. On the other hand kaxlan waj is not the staff of life, but refers to a local delicacy. In cases such as these, it is even tempting to suggest borrowing pan, the Spanish word for ‘bread,’ but native speakers might respond that borrowing a foreign word is not necessary since both waj and kaxlan waj are native terms that cover the meaning (though in this case, perhaps not all that well).”


The Greek that is translated “scripture” or “scriptures” in English is translated as “God’s word which people wrote” in Guerrero Amuzgo (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125) and “paper writings” in Copainalá Zoque (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.).

While the term “Bible,” often used as a synonym, does not appear in the Bible itself, there’s an interesting translation of that word in Dehu. Missionaries had translated “Bible” as “Container of the Word” until they realized that this was also used for “penis sheath.” (Source: Clifford 1992, p. 87)

For other translations of scripture see all scripture is inspired by God and examined the scriptures.

complete verse (John 13:18)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 13:18:

  • Uma: “‘What I said earlier does not apply [lit., strike] all of you. I knew ahead-of-time whom I chose. But the words of the Holy Book must be fulfilled that say: ‘The person who eats-with-me [implies one plate/bowl], he will be the one who becomes my enemy.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Isa said, ‘I am not speaking about you all. I know as to who the people are which I have chosen to follow me. But the saying in the holy-book has to be fulfilled, ‘I am betrayed by one of my companions who eats with me.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “I am not talking to all of you because I know what the breath is of each one of you that I have chosen. There is one of you that is going to betray me. The reason that this will take place is so that the prophecy of long ago in the written word of God might be fulfilled which says, ‘My companion who ate with me, he has become my enemy.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘I am not talking about all of you, because I know the minds of all of you whom I have chosen. But I have chosen you nevertheless so that what God caused-to-be-written will be fulfilled which says, ‘The one who ate-with me, he became my enemy.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Jesus added, ‘It’s not all of you to whom I’m referring in this which I am saying that you can be happy, because I recognize/know what kind of people are the ones I chose. But I chose like this so that what is contained there in the writing which is the word of God might be fulfilled, which says, ‘I was rewarded with evil by the person with whom I shared my food.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “This being fortunate does not apply to all of you. For I know whom I have chosen and whom it applies to. Because it must be as it is written in the Holy Book, ‘He who eats with me is even my enemy.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

the last supper (image)

Click here to see the image in higher resolution.

Willy Wiedmann, the artist, commented on this picture: “In spite of some difficulty, and unlike Leonardo da Vinci [see here ] I did not set my last supper in a theatrical scene with Jesus in the center behind an elongated table with all the disciples, with two at each end so that that there are 11 seated behind the table. And not like the panel by Juan de Juanes (1623-79) [see here ] in which the six disciples left and right are very dynamic figures. And also not like Martin Schongauer’s Last Supper [see here ] with a slightly shorter table (also incidentally very similar to Juanes in the attitudes of the figures) and two figures seen from the back in the foreground of the panel. Instead I have given the Master the middle place to the foreground, with his back to us to finally leave the controversial Jesus-existential questions unanswered. Slightly symbolically it means that he is leaving his world. The iris color is meant to transfer the rainbow to Jesus, that God once linked to Noah (my kingdom is not of this world). I attempted to present answers that correspond to the characters of each individual.”

Image and text taken from the Wiedmann Bible. For more information about the images and ways to adopt them, see here .

For other images of Willy Wiedmann paintings in TIPs, see here.


Painting by Wang Suda 王肅達 (1910-1963),
Copyright by the Catholic University Peking, China.

Text under painting translated from Literary Chinese into English:

Beginning of the Holy Communion
You have this as food and this is my body.

Image taken from Chinese Christian Posters . For more information on the “Ars Sacra Pekinensis” school of art, see this article , for other artworks of that school in TIPs, see here.

the last supper (icon)

Following is a contemporary Ukrainian Orthodox icon of the last supper by Ulyana Tomkevych.


Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )

formal pronoun: Jesus addressing his disciples and common people

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.

In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.

Translation commentary on John 13:18

I am not talking about all of you (see verses 10-11) is an obvious reference to Judas.

I know those I have chosen may be taken in one of two ways: (1) It may mean “I know those men whom I have really chosen, but I have not chosen Judas”; (2) or it may mean “I know the kind of men I chose” (New American Bible). The second interpretation implies that Jesus did choose Judas, though he knew all along what his character was, even as he knew the character of the other men he chose. On the basis of passages such as 6.64,70, the second alternative seems to be the meaning here. That is, even the choice of the one who would betray Jesus was within the divine purpose; Jesus did not choose him without knowing his character.

In rendering I know those I have chosen, the term for know should be chosen carefully. It should not be an expression which merely means “be acquainted with.” The rendering of this clause should suggest “I know the kind of men I have chosen” or “I realize what sort of persons I have chosen.”

Come true translates the same verb used in 12.38 (most translations “be fulfilled”). Must come true may be rendered in some languages “must surely happen,” for example, “But what is written in the scriptures, ‘The man who ate with me turned against me,’ must surely happen.”

In the scripture quotation, which comes from Psalm 41.9, there is a textual problem. The text may read who ate my food (Good News Translation, Moffatt, Goodspeed, Phillips, Revised Standard Version, Zürcher Bibel, Luther); or it may read “who ate food with me” (New American Bible, New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, La Sainte Bible: Nouvelle version Segond révisée). Because of the complexity of the problem, the UBS Committee on the Greek text rates the reading retained in the text a “D” choice, indicating a high degree of doubt. The manuscript evidence for “with me” is much stronger than for “my,” which is also the reading of the Septuagint. But the UBS Committee prefers the latter reading, because “with me” may be an assimilation to Mark 14.18. It is difficult to explain the basis for Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch, which seems to follow a composite reading: “with whom I have shared my bread.” Whereas the specific term “bread” occurs in the Greek text, Good News Translation substitutes the more generic term food.

Turned against me (so also New English Bible, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch) is literally “has lifted his heel against me” (Revised Standard Version). Jerusalem Bible translates “rebels against me.” In the Near East to show the bottom of one’s foot to someone was a mark of contempt, or even possibly a threat of violence. It was an especially treacherous thing to do after eating at someone’s table, because eating a meal with a superior was a pledge of loyalty to that person (note 2 Sam 9.7, 13; 1 Kgs 18.19; 2 Kgs 25.29). Turned against me may be rendered in some languages “became my enemy” or “began to fight against me.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .