The Greek hierus and its various forms that are typically translated as “priest” in English (itself deriving from Latin “presbyter” — “elder”) is often translated with a consideration of existing religious traditions. (Click or tap for details)

Bratcher / Nida (1961) say this:

However, rather than borrow local names for priests, some of which have unwanted connotations, a number of translations have employed descriptive phrases based on certain functions: (1) those describing a ceremonial activity: Pamona uses “tadu,” the priestess who recites the litanies in which she describes her journey to the upper or under-world to fetch life-spirit for sick people, animals or plants; Batak Toba uses the Arabic “malim,” “Muslim religious teacher;” “one who presents man’s sacrifice to God” (Bambara, Eastern Maninkakan), “one who presents sacrifices” (Baoulé, Navajo), “one who takes the name of the sacrifice” (Kpelle), and “to make a sacrifice go out” (Hausa); (2) those describing an intermediary function: “one who speaks to God” (Shipibo-Conibo) and “spokesman of the people before God” (Tabasco Chontal).

In Obolo it is translated as ogwu ngwugwa: “The one who offers sacrifice” (source: Enene Enene) and in Mairasi as agam aevar nevwerai: “religious leader” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

For Guhu-Samane, Ernest Richert (in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff.) reports this:

The [local] cult of Poro used to be an all-encompassing religious system that essentially governed all areas of life. (…) For ‘priest’ the term “poro father” would at first seem to be a natural choice. However, several priests of the old cult are still living. Although they no longer function primarily as priests of the old system they still have a substantial influence on the community, and there would be more than a chance that the unqualified term would (in some contexts particularly) be equated with the priest of the poro cult. We learned, then, that the poro fathers would sometimes be called “knife men” in relation to their sacrificial work. The panel was pleased to apply this term to the Jewish priest, and the Christian community has adopted it fully. [Mark 1:44, for instance, now] reads: “You must definitely not tell any man of this. But you go show your body to the knife man and do what Moses said about a sacrifice concerning your being healed, and the cause (base of this) will be apparent.”

For a revision of the 1968 version of the Bible in Khmer Joseph Hong (in: The Bible Translator 1996, 233ff.) talks about a change in wording for this term:

Bocheachary — The use of this new construction meaning “priest” is maintained to translate the Greek word hiereus. The term “lauk sang” used in the old version actually means a “Buddhist monk,” and is felt to be theologically misleading. The Khmer considers the Buddhist monk as a “paddy field of merits,” a reserve of merits to be shared with other people. So a Khmer reader would find unthinkable that the lauk sang in the Bible killed animals, the gravest sin for a Buddhist; and what a scandal it would be to say that a lauk sang was married, had children, and drank wine.

complete verse (Mark 1:44)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 1:44:

  • Uma: “don’t talk to anybody about what happened here. First go show yourself to the priest, so he can see that you(s) are well, and carry your (s) offering according to commands that are written in the Law of Musa, so that it will be clear to all the people that you(s) are really well.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Isa said to him, ‘Be sure (pa’in) not to tell to anybody (lit. even to who) about my healing you. Instead go show your body/self to the priest and sacrifice as Musa has commanded, making it a sign to the people that you are really healed.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then Jesus strictly commanded him saying, ‘Don’t tell anybody yet what has happened to you, but rather go to God’s sacrificer so that he might see that you are healed. And give him the sacrifice that Moses commanded a long time ago so that everybody might know that you are really healed.’ And then Jesus sent him away.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘Don’t you (singular) be relating this to even any person but rather go to show-yourself (singular) to the priest so he will see that your (singular) sickness is removed. Then give to him what Moses commanded that you (plural) offer to God so that the many-people will thereby-know that you (singular) have truly become-good/clean.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “‘Now please don’t tell anyone, but on the contrary go there at once to the priest to have him examine you. And then give the thank-offering, according to what was commanded by Moises, which is like a testimony to people that you are now well.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

complete verse (Mark 1:44)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 14:4:

  • Uma: “Several people who were there, they were angry seeing what the woman did. They spoke to each other, they said: ‘What is the use of fragrant oil being wasted like that!” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But some people who were there were angry and they spoke, ‘Why was that fragrant oil wasted/spoiled like that?’ they said.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Some of the people who saw this did not like it. They spoke to each other saying, ‘Why was the perfume wasted for no reason?” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Whereupon some who were there became-angry and spoke-to-one-another, ‘What-a-waste!” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Some of those there became angry. They were saying, ‘Why is that perfume being wasted?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)

“Moses” in Spanish Sign Language (source)

Another depiction in Spanish Sign Language (source: Carlos Moreno Sastre):

The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).

Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this recent article alludes to.