anoint

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated in English as “anoint” is translated in Lakota with azilyA: “to smudge.”

Steve Berneking (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 121) tells the story of that translation:

“During one visit with the Lakota team, we were reading texts and discussing key biblical terms and how they are best rendered into Lakota. Reference was made to the ritual we label ‘anointing.’ When the Lakota word that had been glossed as ‘anoint’ was read aloud, I heard giggling among the reviewers. Knowing that this reaction called for some explanation, I asked.

“The people there told me that the Lakota verb that was used to translate ‘anoint’ was funny in that context. It is not that the verb is an uncommon one; quite the contrary. Lakota uses that verb frequently, but almost exclusively as a verb of food preparation; the verb belongs to the culinary domain. In other words, the Lakota verb used for ‘anoint’ actually referred to rubbing oil on something that was to be cooked or grilled, in this case, the apostles. The Lakota verb ipáṫaŋṫtaŋ ‘to apply oil on something’ was used quite innocently by the missionaries. The linguistic transfer was understandable: the missionaries needed a verb to translate ‘putting oil on something’; Lakota has a verb; they used that verb. The result was comical. So, during that conversation with the Lakota community, I encouraged the translators to come up with a Lakota verb that is used not simply in ‘the application of oil,’ but more pointedly in the consecration of something or somebody for a special task, or in the appointment of someone for a special purpose. Their response was almost immediate: azilyA or wazílyA ‘to smudge.’ That is how, they told me, warriors and messengers and tribal leaders have always been consecrated (or blessed) before being sent out on a special mission. Sage grass was burned, and the smoke was waved over the person or object. The trans-cultural process of using the traditional Lakota verb azilyA for the biblical notion of ‘anoint’ became, at that moment, part of the Lakota Bible.”

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

complete verse (Luke 7:46)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 7:46:

  • Uma: “You(s), you(s) did not oil my head according to our custom for visitors. But this woman watered/poured my feet with fragrant oil that is very expensive its price.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You did not put oil on my head to honor me but this woman has covered my feet with expensive fragrant oil.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “You also did not pour oil on my head; however, this woman, very expensive perfume she has poured out on my feet.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Neither did you (singular) oil my hair, but as for her, she has anointed (poured with focus on feet) my feet with perfume.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “You also didn’t give me even everyday oil to spread-by-hand on my head. But as for her, perfume is what she has spread-by-hand on my feet.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)