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).”

complete verse (John 6:7)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 6:7:

  • Uma: “Filipus said: ‘Even if we had two hundred silver coins to buy food and we just gave each person a little bit, it would not be enough.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Pilip answered him, he said, ‘The wages of a person working for eight months wouldn’t be enough to buy food to feed these people, in order that each one would eat just a little.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Philip answered, ‘Even if we spend a whole lot of money, even two hundred denarii, and we give them each one just a small pinch of food, that would still not go around.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Felipe said then, ‘Even-if how many thousands are what we use-to-buy bread, it won’t suffice for them all to get-some, even though they eat only-a-little-each.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Felipe answered, saying, ‘Expl., even if each of them was only given a small amount, bread which could be bought for the wages of eight months’ work really wouldn’t be-enough-for-everyone with a crowd of people like that.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Philip said, ‘If bread was bought worth two hundred day’s wages, it wouldn’t be enough to feed each a little bit.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on John 6:7

Good News Translation reverses the order of the clauses in this verse; for everyone to have even a little is the final clause in the Greek sentence.

Two hundred silver coins is literally “two hundred denarii” (Revised Standard Version). The problem is that the term “denarius” (plural “denarii”) means nothing to the average English reader, to whom this monetary unit is unknown. The denarius was the average day’s earnings for a laborer, and so New American Bible and Anchor Bible render it “two hundred days’ wages.” Some translations attempt a cultural equivalent by using a rather sizable sum of money. Moffatt has “seven pounds,” Phillips “ten pounds,” and New English Bible “twenty pounds.” Though earlier editions of the Good News Translation New Testament employed “two hundred dollars’ worth of bread,” the fourth edition reads, as noted above, two hundred silver coins to buy enough bread. The new rendering seems to be advisable in view of the frequent fluctuations in the purchasing power of currencies all over the world. Any amount stated in terms of the prices current at the time of translation may soon lose its significance for the average reader. Good News Translation‘s marginal note indicates that the silver coin represented approximately a day’s wage, and the total amount of money would be equivalent to “two hundred days’ wages worth.” Such a figure will remain significant for the reader regardless of any change in prices.

The purpose expressed, for everyone to have even a little may in some languages be rendered more effectively as a condition, for example, “if everyone is to have even a little.” The second part of this condition may then be expressed as: “it would be necessary to buy more than two hundred silver coins’ worth of bread.”

Philip was first mentioned in 1.43. Both in this passage and in 12.21-22 he is closely associated with Andrew.

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 .