unleavened bread

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “unleavened bread” in English is translated in various ways:

  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “bread that doesn’t have its medicine that makes it puff up”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “bread without its sour”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “bread that has no mother” (source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Mairasi: “bread without other ingredient” (source: Enggavoter 2004)


The Greek that is usually translated as “scribe” in English “were more than mere writers of the law. They were the trained interpreters of the law and expounders of tradition.”

Here are a number of its (back-) translations:

  • Yaka: “clerk in God’s house”
  • Amganad Ifugao: “man who wrote and taught in the synagogue”
  • Navajo: “teaching-writer” (“an attempt to emphasize their dual function”)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “book-wise person”
  • San Blas Kuna: “one who knew the Jews’ ways”
  • Loma: “educated one”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “one knowing holy paper”
  • Central Mazahua: “writer of holy words”
  • Indonesian: “expert in the Torah”
  • Pamona: “man skilled in the ordinances” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Sinhala: “bearer-of-the-law”
  • Marathi: “one-learned-in-the-Scriptures”
  • Shona (1966): “expert of the law”
  • Balinese: “expert of the books of Torah”
  • Ekari: “one knowing paper/book”
  • Tboli: “one who taught the law God before caused Moses to write” (or “one who taught the law of Moses”) (source for this and 5 above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Noongar: Mammarapa-Warrinyang or “law man” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Mairasi: “one who writes and explains Great Above One’s (=God’s) prohibitions” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Chichewa: “teacher of Laws” (source: Ernst Wendland)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “teachers of law”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “writer”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “person who teaches the law which Moses wrote”
  • Alekano: “man who knows wisdom” (source for this and four above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Saint Lucian Creole French: titcha lwa sé Jwif-la (“teacher of the law of the Jews”) (source: David Frank in Lexical Challenges in the St. Lucian Creole Bible Translation Project, 1998)
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “one who teaches the holy writings”
  • Atatláhuca Mixtec: “teacher of the words of the law”
  • Coatlán Mixe: “teacher of the religious law”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “one who is a teacher of the law which God gave to Moses back then”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “one who know well the law” (Source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Huixtán Tzotzil: “one who mistakenly thought he was teaching God’s commandments”(Huixtán Tzotzil frequently uses the verb -cuy to express “to mistakenly think something” from the point of view of the speaker; source: Marion M. Cowan in Notes on Translation 20/1966, pp. 6ff.)
  • German das Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022): “theologian”
  • English translation by Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023): Covenant Code scholar

In British Sign Language it is translated with a sign that combines the signs for “expert” and “law.” (Source: Anna Smith)

“Scribe” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

complete verse (Mark 14:1)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 14:1:

  • Uma: “In two more days it would be Paskah Day and the Feast of Bread that has no Yeast. The leading priests and the religion teachers were searching for a scheme to ambush Yesus so they could kill him quietly.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Na, it was two days yet before the celebration/feast they called Feast for Remembering and the feast when they ate bread not mixed with leaven (lit. for-rising). The leaders of the priests and the teachers of the religious law, they kept-thinking-about as to how they could seize and kill Isa so that the people wouldn’t know it.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Two days after that would be the Feast of Passing By and the Feast of Eating Bread Without Yeast. The chief priests and the teachers of the law are trying to find a way so that they might arrest Jesus without the many people knowing so that they might kill him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “It was lacking two days until the arrival of the fiesta of the Jews called Passed-By at which they ate the bread with no yeast. And the leaders of the priests and the teachers of the law, they were searching for how they could arrest Jesus without it becoming-known so that they would have-him -killed.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “In just two days it would be when they have their Fiesta of Passed-by and Fiesta of Bread Without Raising-agent. As for the chiefs of the priests and the explainers of law, they continued discussing how they could deceive Jesus so that they could arrest him and have him killed.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Mark 14:1


to pascha (14.12, 14, 16) ‘the Passover’: the Greek word is the transliteration of the Aramaic pascha’ (Hebrew pesach), the Hebrew festival of Passover, commemorating the day when the Lord ‘passed over’ (Hebrew Pasach) the homes of the Hebrews in the slaughter of the first-born of Egypt (cf. Ex. 12.13, 23, 27). The pascal lambs were slain on the afternoon of 14th Nisan (March-April) and the meal eaten that evening, between sundown and midnight (by Jewish reckoning 15th Nisan, since the day began at sundown).

ta azuma (14.12) ‘(the feast of) Unleavened Bread’: this feast lasted from the 15th to the 21st Nisan, and during the time unleavened bread was eaten (cf. Ex. 12.8, 15-20). The two religious feasts, running together, were celebrated as one.

meta duo hēmeras ‘after two days’: in accordance with Jewish reckoning this could mean ‘the next day’ (so Bengel). Cf. in 8.31 the phrase meta treis hēmeras ‘after three days.’

en dolō (cf. 7.22) ‘by deceit,’ ‘by cunning,’ ‘by stealth.’

The other words in this verse have already been dealt with: for zēteō … pōs ‘seek … how,’ ‘consider … how’ cf. 3.22; 11.18; hoi archiereis ‘the chief priests’ cf. 8.31; hoi grammateis ‘the scribes’ cf. 1.22; krateō ‘seize,’ ‘arrest’ cf. 1.31; apokteinō ‘kill’ cf. 3.4.


Now is translatable as ‘then,’ ‘by that time,’ or ‘the time was.’ In Yaka the introductory expression is translated as ‘it was two days and then the feast for….’

Passover is usually translated as ‘the passing over,’ but this expression has little or no meaning except as it is placed in an adequate context. For example, ‘the passing over’ may be rendered as ‘feast to remember the passing over’ (Yaka), ‘day to commemorate the passing over,’ or ‘feast concerning the passing over’ (Southern Subanen). In some languages there is a term already used to designate Easter. For example, in Tzeltal the word cuxibal, meaning literally ‘instrument of living’ or ‘instrument of life’ is the long-employed word for Easter, having been introduced by early Roman Catholic missionaries. Because of its traditional use and its basic acceptability in meaning, it has been incorporated into the Tzeltal New Testament.

Feast of Unleavened Bread usually involves a distinctly idiomatic treatment of the relationship indicated by the English preposition of, e.g. ‘feast at which the people ate unleavened bread,’ ‘feast at which was eaten unleavened bread,’ or ‘feast where there was unleavened bread.’ One should not, of course, do as some translators have done – namely, make the ‘unleavened bread’ the possessor of the feast.

Unleavened Bread is ‘the bread which has not risen,’ ‘the bread without yeast,’ or ‘unswollen bread’ (Shipibo-Conibo). In some languages yeast is ‘beer foam,’ ‘wine froth’ or ‘sour water’ (Yucateco), but in many instances a term is borrowed from the dominant language of the area.

By stealth is not always easily translated, for the noun stealth must often be rendered by a verb, in which case one must determine precisely who is the object of the deceit or trickery. Some translators have rendered this phrase so as to mean that the chief priests and scribes sought to have Jesus arrested in such a way that the ‘crowds would not know about it’ (cf. Mark 12.12 and 14.2). Others have interpreted the passage to mean that the officials sought to trick Jesus into committing some act which would provide an excuse for his arrest (cf. the numerous questions which had been asked Jesus in order to snare him into giving some treasonable answer), e.g. ‘were trying to find a way to deceive Jesus and thus to arrest him.’

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1961. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .