swear, vow

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “swear (an oath)” or “vow” is translated as “God sees me, I tell the truth to you” (Tzeltal), “loading yourself down” (Huichol), “to speak-stay” (implying permanence of the utterance) (Sayula Popoluca), “to say what he could not take away” (San Blas Kuna), “because of the tight (i.e. “binding”) word which he had said to her face” (Guerrero Amuzgo), “strong promise” (North Alaskan Inupiatun) (source for all above: Bratcher / Nida), or “eat an oath” (Nyamwezi (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

In Bauzi “swear” can be translated in various ways. In Hebrews 6:13, for instance, it is translated with “bones break apart and decisively speak.” (“No bones are literally broken but by saying ‘break bones’ it is like people swear by someone else in this case it is in relation to a rotting corpse’ bones falling apart. If you ‘break bones’ so to speak when you make an utterance, it is a true utterance.”) In other passages, such as in Matthew 26:72, it’s translated with an expression that implies taking ashes (“if a person wants everyone to know that he is telling the truth about a matter, he reaches down into the fireplace, scoops up some ashes and throws them while saying ‘I was not the one who did that.'”). So in Matthew 26:72 the Bauzi text is: “. . . Peter took ashes and defended himself saying, ‘I don’t know that Nazareth person.'” (Source: David Briley)

See also swear (promise) and Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’, or ‘No, No’.


The Hebrew that is often translated as “courageous” in English is translated in Iu Mien as “blow up your gall-bladder.”

See also courageous.

Translation commentary on Josh 1:6

Verse 6 opens with a command expressed in Hebrew by two synonymous verbs: “be strong and be courageous” (also verses 7, 9, 18). These are translated in a variety of ways: New English Bible “be strong, be resolute”; Jerusalem Bible “be strong and stand firm”; An American Translation, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible “Be strong and brave”; Moffatt “Be strong, be brave.”

You will be the leader of these people as they occupy this land translates “you will cause this people to inherit the land.” The Hebrew verb translated “to inherit” expresses the basic idea that the land is a gift from the Lord to his people; they “inherit” it from him. After all is said and done, the land of Canaan will be theirs not because of their strength or prowess in battle but because the Lord gives it to them. Good News Translation avoids the use of the traditional “inherit” (Revised Standard Version), since for English readers this would imply that someone has died, and in the context it would be the Lord! One may restructure as two coordinate clauses: “You will lead these people, and together you will occupy this land.”

I promised translates the verb “to vow, to swear,” that is, to make a solemn pledge which is strengthened by an oath; it validates the promise and makes it permanently binding. The reader may be helped if this verse is arranged somewhat chronologically. For example, “I promised this land to the ancestors of this people. So be determined and confident and lead the people to occupy the land.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Newman, Barclay M. A Handbook on Joshua. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1983. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .