The Greek that is translated as “sacrifice” in English is translated in Huba as hatǝmachi or “shoot misfortune.”

David Frank (in this blog post ) explains: “How is it that ‘shoot misfortune’ comes to mean sacrifice, I wanted to know? Here is the story: It is a traditional term. Whenever there were persistent problems such as a drought, or a rash of sickness or death, the king (or his religious advisor) would set aside a day and call on everyone to prepare food, such as the traditional mash made from sorghum, or perhaps even goat. The food had to be put together outside. The king or his religious advisor would give an address stating what the problem was and what they were doing about it. Then an elder representing the people would take a handful of that food and throw it, probably repeating that action several times, until it was considered to be enough to atone for all the misfortune they had been having. With this action he was ‘shooting (or casting off) misfortune’ to restore well-being to his people. As he threw the food, he would say that this is to remove the misfortune that had fallen on his people, and everybody would respond by saying aɗǝmja, ‘let it be so.’ People could eat some of this food, but they could not bring the food into their houses, because that would mean that they were bringing misfortune into their house. There is still a minority of people in this linguistic and cultural group that practices the traditional religion, but the shooting of misfortune is no longer practiced, and the term ‘shoot misfortune’ is used now in Bible translation to refer to offering a sacrifice. Aɗǝmja is how they translate ‘amen.'”

presentation in the temple (image)

This is a contemporary tempera/gouache on leather painting by an unknown Ethiopian artist. Source: Sacred Art Pilgrim website .

Following is a painting by Chen Yuandu 陳緣督 (1902–1967):

Housed in the Société des Auxiliaires des Missions Collection – Whitworth University.

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.

complete verse (Luke 2:24)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 2:24:

  • Nyongar: “They also must sacrifice two birds as the Law of God said, dove or pigeon.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “They also carried their offering, according to the command written in the Book of the Law of the Lord: one dove and two pigeons.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “And they also went to sacrifice as is commanded in God’s law that two doves ko’ (it says) or two pigeons which have recently started to fly should be given as a sacrifice.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Mary and Joseph, they had a sacrifice there because according to that commanded long ago by the Lord, it was necessary to sacrifice two doves or, if not, two pigeons.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When the day arrived for Jose and Maria to fulfil what the law of Moses commanded concerning one who has just-given-birth, they went to Jerusalem to go offer to God what that law said which was two doves or two young pigeons. They also took-along the baby in order to offer him to the Lord God. For what was written in that law of the Lord God, ‘It is necessary to offer to God all firstborn males.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “They went right on from that to do that which was-instrumental-in-cleansing in the sight of God, for that also was said by the law, that they were to give to be burned, two birds which were doves, or even wood-pigeons, as long as they were young ones, and there were two of them.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Nyongar with a capitalized form of the term for “words” (Warrinya) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)


The Hebrew adonai in the Old Testament typically refers to God. The shorter adon (and in two cases in the book of Daniel the Aramaic mare [מָרֵא]) is also used to refer to God but more often for concepts like “master,” “owner,” etc. In English Bible translations all of those are translated with “Lord” if they refer to God.

In English Old Testament translations, as in Old Testament translations in many other languages, the use of Lord (or an equivalent term in other languages) is not to be confused with Lord (or the equivalent term with a different typographical display for other languages). While the former translates adonai, adon and mare, the latter is a translation for the tetragrammaton (YHWH) or the Name of God. See tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the article by Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff. for more information.

In the New Testament, the Greek term kurios has at least four different kinds of use:

  • referring to “God,” especially in Old Testament quotations,
  • meaning “master” or “owner,” especially in parables, etc.,
  • as a form of address (see for instance John 4:11: “Sir, you have no bucket”),
  • or, most often, referring to Jesus

In the first and fourth case, it is also translated as “Lord” in English.

Most languages naturally don’t have one word that covers all these meanings. According to Bratcher / Nida, “the alternatives are usually (1) a term which is an honorific title of respect for a high-ranking person and (2) a word meaning ‘boss’, ‘master’, or ‘chief.’ (…) and on the whole it has generally seemed better to employ a word of the second category, in order to emphasize the immediate personal relationship, and then by context to build into the word the prestigeful character, since its very association with Jesus Christ will tend to accomplish this purpose.”

When looking at the following list of back-translations of the terms that translators in the different languages have used for both kurios and adonai to refer to God and Jesus respectively, it might be helpful for English readers to recall the etymology of the English “Lord.” While this term might have gained an exalted meaning in the understanding of many, it actually comes from hlaford or “loaf-ward,” referring to the lord of the castle who was the keeper of the bread (source: Rosin 1956, p. 121).

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Following are some of the solutions that don’t rely on a different typographical display (see above):

  • Navajo: “the one who has charge”
  • Mossi: “the one who has the head” (the leader)
  • Uduk: “chief”
  • Guerrero Amuzgo: “the one who commands”
  • Kpelle: “person-owner” (a term which may be applied to a chief)
  • Central Pame: “the one who owns us” (or “commands us”)
  • Piro: “the big one” (used commonly of one in authority)
  • San Blas Kuna: “the great one over all” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Guhu-Samane: Soopara (“our Supervisor”) (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)
  • Balinese: “Venerated-one” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Yanesha’: “the one who carries us” (source: Nida 1952, p. 159)
  • Northern Emberá: Dadjirã Boro (“our Head”)
  • Rarotongan: Atu (“master or owner of a property”)
  • Gilbertese: Uea (“a person of high status invested with authority to rule the people”)
  • Rotuman: Gagaja (“village chief”)
  • Samoan: Ali’i (“an important word in the native culture, it derives from the Samoan understanding of lordship based on the local traditions”)
  • Tahitian: Fatu (“owner,” “master”)
  • Tuvalu: Te Aliki (“chief”)
  • Fijian: Liuliu (“leader”) (source for this and six above: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 329ff. )
  • Bacama: Həmə miye: “owner of people” (source: David Frank in this blog post )
  • Hopi: “Controller” (source: Walls 2000, p. 139)
  • Iyansi: Mwol. Mwol is traditionally used for the “chief of a group of communities and villages” with legal, temporal, and spiritual authority (versus the “mfum [the term used in other Bantu languages] which is used for the chief of one community of people in one village”). Mwol is also used for twins who are “treated as special children, highly honored, and taken care of like kings and queens.” (Source: Kividi Kikama in Greed / Kruger, p. 396ff.)
  • Ghomala’: Cyəpɔ (“he who is above everyone,” consisting of the verb cyə — to surpass or go beyond — and — referring to people. No human can claim this attribute, no matter what his or her social status or prestige.” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn )
  • Binumarien: Karaambaia: “fight-leader” (Source: Oates 1995, p. 255)
  • Warlpiri: Warlaljamarri (owner or possessor of something — for more information tap or click here)

    We have come to rely on another term which emphasizes God’s essential nature as YHWH, namely jukurrarnu (see tetragrammaton (YHWH)). This word is built on the same root jukurr– as is jukurrpa, ‘dreaming.’ Its basic meaning is ‘timelessness’ and it is used to describe physical features of the land which are viewed as always being there. Some speakers view jukurrarnu in terms of ‘history.’ In all Genesis references to YHWH we have used Kaatu Jukurrarnu. In all Mark passages where kurios refers to God and not specifically to Christ we have also used Kaatu Jukurrarnu.

    New Testament references to Christ as kurios are handled differently. At one stage we experimented with the term Watirirririrri which refers to a ceremonial boss of highest rank who has the authority to instigate ceremonies. While adequately conveying the sense of Christ’s authority, there remained potential negative connotations relating to Warlpiri ceremonial life of which we might be unaware.

    Here it is that the Holy Spirit led us to make a chance discovery. Transcribing the personal testimony of the local Warlpiri pastor, I noticed that he described how ‘my Warlaljamarri called and embraced me (to the faith)’. Warlaljamarri is based on the root warlalja which means variously ‘family, possessions, belongingness’. A warlaljamarri is the ‘owner’ or ‘possessor’ of something. While previously being aware of the ‘ownership’ aspect of warlaljamarri, this was the first time I had heard it applied spontaneously and naturally in a fashion which did justice to the entire concept of ‘Lordship’. Thus references to Christ as kurios are now being handled by Warlaljamarri.” (Source: Stephen Swartz, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 415ff. )

  • Mairasi: Onggoao Nem (“Throated One” — “Leader,” “Elder”) or Enggavot Nan (“Above-One”) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Obolo: Okaan̄-ene (“Owner of person(s)”) (source: Enene Enene)
  • Angami Naga: Niepu (“master,” “owner”)
  • Lotha Naga: Opvui (“owner of house / field / cattle”) — since both “Lord” and YHWH are translated as Opvui there is an understanding that “Opvui Jesus is the same as the Opvui of the Old Testament”
  • Ao Naga: Kibuba (“human master,” “teacher,” “owner of property,” etc.) (source for this and two above: Nitoy Achumi in The Bible Translator 1992 p. 438ff. )
  • Seediq: Tholang, loan word from Min Nan Chinese (the majority language in Taiwan) thâu-lâng (頭儂): “Master” (source: Covell 1998, p. 248)
  • Thai: phra’ phu pen cao (พระผู้เป็นเจ้า) (divine person who is lord) or ong(kh) cao nay (องค์เจ้านาย) (<divine classifier>-lord-boss) (source: Stephen Pattemore)
  • Arabic often uses different terms for adonai or kurios referring to God (al-rabb الرب) and kurios referring to Jesus (al-sayyid الـسـيـد). Al-rabb is also the term traditionally used in Arabic Christian-idiom translations for YHWH, and al-sayyid is an honorary term, similar to English “lord” or “sir” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).
  • Tamil also uses different terms for adonai/kurios when referring to God and kurios when referring to Jesus. The former is Karttar கர்த்தர், a Sanskrit-derived term with the original meaning of “creator,” and the latter in Āṇṭavar ஆண்டவர், a Tamil term originally meaning “govern” or “reign” (source: Natarajan Subramani).
  • Burunge: Looimoo: “owner who owns everything” (in the Burunge Bible translation, this term is only used as a reference to Jesus and was originally used to refer to the traditional highest deity — source: Michael Endl in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 48)
  • Aguacateco: Ajcaw ske’j: “the one to whom we belong and who is above us” (source: Rita Peterson in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 49)
  • Konkomba: Tidindaan: “He who is the owner of the land and reigns over the people” (source: Lidorio 2007, p. 66)

Law (2013, p. 97) writes about how the Ancient Greek Septuagint‘s translation of the Hebrew adonai was used by the New Testament writers as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments: “Another case is the use of kurios referring to Jesus. For Yahweh (in English Bibles: ‘the Lord‘), the Septuagint uses kurios. Although the term kurios usually has to do with one’s authority over others, when the New Testament authors use this word from the Septuagint to refer to Jesus, they are making an extraordinary claim: Jesus of Nazareth is to be identified with Yahweh.”

See also Father / Lord.

Translation commentary on Luke 2:24


kai tou dounai thusian ‘and in order to make an offering’; the articular infinitive tou dounai is co-ordinate with the final infinitive parastēsai ‘in order to present’ in v. 22; both are dependent upon anēgagon ‘they brought up.’ V. 24 is the continuation of v. 22. thusia (also 13.1) ‘sacrifice,’ ‘offering,’ either the act or the thing that is sacrificed; here the latter. didonai thusian ‘to give, or, make an offering’ is often translated ‘to offer a sacrifice’ (cf. Revised Standard Version) but the offering of sacrifices was the task of the priest (cf. Lev. 12.8) and didonai thusian is used nowhere to denote this priestly task. The purification-offering was handed over to the priest at one of the temple-gates (cf. Strack-Billerbeck II, 119f). It is to this act that didonai thusian refers, not to the actual sacrificing on the altar.

kata to eirēmenon en tō nomō kuriou ‘in accordance with what is said in the law of the Lord.’ Quotations from the Old Testament are often introduced by this or a related formula. There is no difference in usage between expressions derived from the verb erō ‘to say’ or related verbs and those derived from graphō ‘to write.’

zeugos trugonōn ē duo nossous peristerōn ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’ Syntactically the phrase is an apposition to thusian ‘offering,’ but separated from it by kata to eirēmenon en tō nomō kuriou (see preceding note) which marks it as a quotation. Lev. 12.8 names two turtledoves or two young pigeons as the purification-sacrifices for those who cannot afford a lamb. The turtledove is a smaller migratory species of the pigeon. Pigeons and turtledoves were the only species of poultry allowed by the law as sacrificial gifts. Since the idea of an Old Testament offering was that of a gift, spent from the property of the donor, pigeons and turtledoves must have been domesticated birds in Bible times and land. That two species are mentioned is due to the fact that turtledoves were fit for sacrifice as soon as they were full grown, but doves only as long as they were young, cf. Strack-Billerbeck II, 123. Doves were considered very clean and peaceful animals. (Communication of Dr. Jordt Jørgensen, Denmark.)

zeugos (also 14.19) ‘yoke,’ ‘pair,’ here not of male and female but simply equivalent to the numeral ‘two,’ cf. Lev. 5.11.

trugōn ‘turtledove.’

nossos ‘the young (of a bird).’ Most translations render it by means of the adjective ‘young.’

peristera (also 3.22) ‘dove.’


If v. 23 has not been rendered as a parenthesis, one has to make it clear that v. 24 is a continuation of v. 22, e.g. by saying, “They also went to offer a sacrifice” (Good News Translation).

Offer a sacrifice. In some languages one can use an expression that does not specify whether the worshipper himself performs the cultic act, or the priest does so in his behalf. Elsewhere it is better to be more specific as to the role of the agent, e.g. ‘give to be sacrificed to God’ (cf. Tboli), ‘hand over the sacrifice to the priest,’ ‘bring the sacrifice to the temple.’ When the usual rendering is some descriptive phrase, e.g. ‘slain offering,’ ‘killed gift,’ the form will have to be adapted here, e.g. ‘gifts/offerings to be killed/slain.’ Some receptor languages, on the other hand, are rich in specific terms forming part of an elaborate sacrificial system, which may include purification sacrifices. Then a translator naturally will try to use such a term, which shares the principal components of meaning with the Biblical sacrifice, i.e. (1) performed not for a community, but for its individual members, (2) the performer a temple priest, (3) implying the slaughter of an animal and the shedding of blood, and (4) offered in order to worship a good, celestial deity, not to exorcize demons or bad spirits. On investigation, however, it may become clear that the sacrificial vocabulary, however rich it may be, does not yield an acceptable specific term and that the translator, therefore, has to use a rather generic term, such as ‘tribute-of-homage’ (Tae,’ Balinese).

According to what is said in serves to introduce a quotation from Scripture in much the same way as does “as it is written in”; hence the renderings may closely resemble each other, or may coincide.

A pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. If no two acceptable distinctive names can be found, one may say something like, ‘two small pigeons or two children of (i.e. young) pigeons of another kind,’ making use of the fact that difference in size is one of the distinctive features.

Quoted with permission from Reiling, J. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1971. For this and other handbooks for translators see here . Make sure to also consult the Handbook on the Gospel of Mark for parallel or similar verses.