The Greek that is translated into English as “crucify” is translated into Naro with xgàu which literally means “to stretch” as is done with a skin after slaughtering in order to dry it. The word is also widely accepted in the churches. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

Similarly, Balinese and Toraja-Sa’dan also translate as “stretch him” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel) and in Rendille as lakakaaha — “stretched and nailed down” (source: Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 33).

In Ghari it becomes “hammer to the cross” (source: David Clark), in Loma “fasten him to a spread-back-stick” (source: Bratcher / Nida), in Sundanese “hang him on a crossbeam” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Aguaruna “fasten him to the tree,” in Navajo “nail him to the cross”, in Yatzachi Zapotec “fasten him to the cross” (source for this and two above (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in Apali the different aspects of the crucifixion have to be spelled out: “nail to a tree piece put cross-wise, lift up to stand upright (for the crucified person) to die (and in some contexts: to die and rise again)” (source: Martha Wade).

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how crucifixion was done in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also cross.


The Greek that is translated as “cross” in English is often referred to a description of the shape (in Chinese, for instance it is translated as 十字架 shízìjià — “10-character-frame” because the character for “10” has the shape of a cross), elsewhere it refers to the function, e.g. a coined term, made up of two Sanskrit words, meaning “killing-pole” (Marathi NT revision of 1964), “wood to-stretch-out-with” (Toraja-Sa’dan), or “nailing pole” (Zarma). A combination of the two seems to be used in Balinese, which employs a word for the crossbeams in a house, derived from a verb that can refer both to a beam that stretches from side to side under a roof, and to a person stretched out for torture (source for this and above: Reling / Swellengrebel). Similarly, in Lamba it is translated “with umutaliko — ‘a pole with a cross-piece, on which maize was normally tied’ from the verb ‘talika’ which, strangely enough, is used of ‘holding down a man with arms and legs stretched out, someone gripping each limb.'” (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)

“In Mongolian, the term that is used is togonoltchi mott, which is found in the top of a tent. The people on the steppes live in round felt-yurts and the round opening on the top of the tent serves as a window. The crosswood in that opening is called togonoltchi mott. ‘Crucified’ is translated ‘nailed on the crosswood.’ This term is very simple, but deep and interesting too. Light comes to men through the Cross. What a privilege to be able to proclaim such a message.” (Source: A. W. Marthinson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 74ff.)

In Mairasi it is translated as iwo nasin ae: “chest measurement wood.” “This term refers to the process of making a coffin when a person dies. The man making the coffin takes a piece of bamboo and measures the body from head to heel. He then breaks the stick off at the appropriate point. For the width he measures the shoulders and then ties the two sticks together in the shape of a cross. As he works, he continually measures to make sure the coffin is the correct size. At the gravesite, the coffin is lowered. Then the gravecloth, palm leaves, and finally the chest measurement stick are laid on top of the coffin before the dirt is piled on. This term is full of meaning, because it is in the shape of a cross, and each person will have one. The meaning is vividly associated with death.” (Source: Enggavoter, 2004)

In Lisu it is translated as ꓡꓯꓼ ꓐꓳ ꓔꓶꓸ DU — lä bo tɯ du: “a place to stretch the arms across.” (Source: Arrington 2020, p. 215)

See also crucify.

the Jews (the authorities in Jerusalem)

In the English Good News Bible (2nd edition of 1992), this occurrence of the Greek hoi Ioudaioi, traditionally “the Jews” in English, is translated with “the authorities (in Jerusalem)” in contexts that imply that the referred groups are hostile to Jesus For an explanation of the differentiated translation in English as well as translation choices in a number of languages, see the Jews.


The Greek that is translated as “Sabbath” in English is rendered as “day we rest” in Tzotzil whereas in Mairasi it is the “Jew’s Rest Day.”

Shilluk translates it as “day of God” and Obolo as Usen Mbuban: “Holy Day.”

(Sources: Tzotzil: Marion Cowan in Notes on Translation with Drill, p. 169ff; Mairasi: Enggavoter 2004; Shilluk: Nida 1964, p. 237; Obolo: Enene Enene)

In the old Khmer version as well as in the first new translation this term was rendered as “day of rest” (Thngai Chhup Somrak). Considered inadequate to convey its religious meaning (not only about cessation of work, but also in honour of Yahweh as the Creator), the committee has decided to keep the Hebrew word and use its transliterated form Thgnai Sabath. The Buddhist word Thngai Seil “day of merits” used by some Catholics was once under consideration but was rejected because it did not receive unanimous support.” (Source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 233ff.)

In Spanish, the translation is either día de reposo (“day of rest”) or sábado (usually: “Saturday,” derived from the Greek and Hebrew original. Nida (1947, p. 239f.) explains that problem for Spanish and other languages in its sphere of influence: “In translation “Sabbath” into various aboriginal languages of Latin America, a considerable number of translators have used the Spanish sábado, ‘Saturday,’ because it is derived from the Hebrew sabbath and seems to correspond to English usage as well. The difficulty is that sábado means only ‘Saturday’ for most people. There is no religious significance about this word as the is with ‘Sabbath’ in English. Accordingly the [readers] cannot understand the significance of the persecution of Jesus because he worked on ‘Saturday.’ It has been found quite advantageous to use the translation ‘day of rest,’ for this accurately translated the Hebrew meaning of the term and resolves the problem in connection with the prohibitions placed upon some types of activities.”

complete verse (John 19:31)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 19:31:

  • Uma: “The day that Yesus was crucified was the day of preparation (meaning, the day before the Sabat Day) and according to the taboos of the Yahudi people there could not be a dead person hanging on a cross during Sabat Day. Even more so because that Sabat Day was more important than usual. That is why the Yahudi rulers asked Pilatus so that those people who were crucified [have] their legs broken, so that they would quickly died and their bodies taken down.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Because that was a Friday hep, the leaders of the Yahudi went to Pilatus to ask permission to command that the lower-legs of the three people nailed to the posts be broken so that they would die faster and could be taken down already while the day of-no-work had not yet started. They did not want that the corpses would be left on the posts during the Saturday for that day of-no-work was a very important day.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “It was then afternoon on the day of the preparation for the Feast of Passing By. And the leaders of the Jews, they went to Pilate and begged him that he have the legs broken of those who were nailed to the cross in order that they might die, so that it might be possible that their bodies be taken down from the cross before the Day of Rest. Because that Day of Rest was a special day to the Jews.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The tomorrow of that day, it was the day for-resting, and it was an important day as well, because it coincided with the fiesta. So the leaders of the Jews, they went and told Pilato that the soldiers should fracture the legs of those who were nailed on the crosses so they would die immediately so their bodies would then be taken-down. Because the Jews, they considered-it-taboo/improper if the day for-resting would arrive and the bodies were still on the cross.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “That day was called the Preparing, because the following day was the far-from-ordinary Day of Rest, that being the focal-point (lit. eye) of that Fiesta. Well, since the Judio didn’t want that when those who were nailed were now dead, they just be left on the cross when it was now the Day of Rest, that’s why they made arrangements with Pilato. They requested that the legs of those who were nailed on a cross would be broken so that they would then die quickly/easily and be removed from there.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The next day would be the day of rest. The Jews did not want the corpses on the crosses on the day of rest because it was the important day of the Passover celebration. Therefore the leaders of the Jews told Pilate to order the legs of those who were on the crosses to be broken so that they would die. Then when they were dead, the corpses would be taken down from the crosses.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)