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)

Sabbath

The Greek that is translated as “Sabbath” in English is rendered as “day we rest” in Tzotzil whereas in Mairasi it is the “Jew’s Rest Day.”

Shilluk translates it as “day of God” and Obolo as Usen Mbuban: “Holy Day.”

(Sources: Tzotzil: Marion Cowan in Notes on Translation with Drill, p. 169ff; Mairasi: Enggavoter 2004; Shilluk: Nida 1964, p. 237; Obolo: Enene Enene)

In the old Khmer version as well as in the first new translation this term was rendered as “day of rest” (Thngai Chhup Somrak). Considered inadequate to convey its religious meaning (not only about cessation of work, but also in honour of Yahweh as the Creator), the committee has decided to keep the Hebrew word and use its transliterated form Thgnai Sabath. The Buddhist word Thngai Seil “day of merits” used by some Catholics was once under consideration but was rejected because it did not receive unanimous support.” (Source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 233ff.)

In Spanish, the translation is either día de reposo (“day of rest”) or sábado (usually: “Saturday,” derived from the Greek and Hebrew original. Nida (1947, p. 239f.) explains that problem for Spanish and other languages in its sphere of influence: “In translation “Sabbath” into various aboriginal languages of Latin America, a considerable number of translators have used the Spanish sábado, ‘Saturday,’ because it is derived from the Hebrew sabbath and seems to correspond to English usage as well. The difficulty is that sábado means only ‘Saturday’ for most people. There is no religious significance about this word as the is with ‘Sabbath’ in English. Accordingly the [readers] cannot understand the significance of the persecution of Jesus because he worked on ‘Saturday.’ It has been found quite advantageous to use the translation ‘day of rest,’ for this accurately translated the Hebrew meaning of the term and resolves the problem in connection with the prohibitions placed upon some types of activities.”

complete verse (Mark 16:1)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 16:1:

  • Uma: “After the worship day was past, Maria Magdalena, Maria the mother of Yakobus, and Salome, they went to buy fragrant stuff. Their intention was to go oil Yesus’ body with the fragrant stuff.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “After the Saturday was over, the day of-no-work, Mariyam the woman from Magdala, and Salome, and Mariyam the mother of Yakub bought ointment (fragrant) in order to go there and treat-with-ointment the body of Isa.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And when the Day of Rest was finished, Mary of Magdala, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices, for they were going to the grave to annoint the body of Jesus.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When the day for-resting was finished, Maria Magdalena, Salome and Maria the mother of Santiago went to go buy perfume in order that they would go and rub-it on Jesus’ corpse.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When the sun had set on that Day of Rest, Maria Magdalena, Maria the mother of Santiago, and Salome went to buy perfume to pour on the body of Jesus.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)