your sins are forgiven

The Greek that is translated as “your sins are forgiven” in English” are translated in Lengo as “I forgive your sins.”

Paul Unger (see here) explains:

“In many languages, ‘demoting the subject’ is a key function of the passive. But the Lengo language of the Solomon Islands has no passive option. All sentences are active, which means we can’t hide ‘whodunnit’ with a passive.

“This raises significant issues for translating the New Testament (…) [since] 3,588 of the Greek New Testament’s 28,114 verbs are passive.

“What is a Lengo translator to do? Sometimes the subject isn’t demoted, so we can simply switch subject and object to make an active sentence. In Mark 1:9, ‘Jesus was baptized by John’ becomes ‘John baptized Jesus.’ Sometimes we can add a generic third-person subject. Mark 1:14 changes from ‘after John had been arrested’ to ‘after they had arrested John.’

“But those strategies don’t always work. Take, for example, the healing of the paralyzed man. Rather than healing the man at the outset, Jesus, seeing the faith of his friends, said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’

“By using a passive to demote the subject, Jesus set up a scene rich with meaning beyond a ‘mere’ healing. Jesus doesn’t say who forgave the man’s sins, just that it was accomplished. The teachers of the law picked up on the passive right away: ‘Why does this man speak that way? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Jesus then tips His hand by asking which was easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk?’ And then the punchline: ‘So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . get up, pick up your mat, and go home.’

“We thought hard about how to render this section in Lengo. In the end, we had Jesus say, ‘My child, I forgive your sins.’ It’s somewhat unsatisfying to have Jesus tip His hand before the crucial moment, but it is an accurate and clear translation. Sometimes, the language compels us to make tradeoffs in attaining those hard goals.”

As the word about him spread people brought friends to him because they knew he cared (image)

“Successful Thai gatherings are always crowded. Four people carrying a wooden bed is a symbol of death to Thai people. Here Jesus symbolizes resurrection by raising the man from the sick bed back to health in body and soul.”

Drawing by Sawai Chinnawong who employs northern and central Thailand’s popular distinctive artistic style originally used to depict Buddhist moral principles and other religious themes; explanation by Paul DeNeui. From That Man Who Came to Save Us by Sawai Chinnawong and Paul H. DeNeui, William Carey Library, 2010.

For more images by Sawai Chinnawong in TIPs see here.

Mark 2:1-12 in Russian Sign Language

Following is the translation of Mark 2:1-12 into Russian Sign Language with a back-translation underneath:

Source: Russian Bible Society / Российское Библейское Общество

A few days passed. There was a house in the town of Capernaum. Jesus came there. A rumor went around among the people that Jesus was there. Many, many people began to come to the house. The house was full, it was very crowded, there was no room, even outside. Everyone wanted to hear Jesus. And Jesus preached to them.

There was one man there, a sick man. He was paralyzed, his body was not moving. He was lying down and four men were carrying him on a stretcher. They wanted to help him, to bring him to Jesus so that Jesus could heal him. And so they carried the sick man. There was a crowd of people around. Those men tried to push the crowd apart, but it was very crowded. There was no way through. They began to think what to do. They saw that the roof of the house was flat, and there was a ladder attached to the house, which led directly to the roof. And they decided: let’s climb up! All four of them climbed up to the roof. They took a thick stick and began to break a hole in the roof. The roof was flat, made of clay and reeds. And so they made a hole in the roof and pulled apart the clay and reeds. It was a big round hole. They looked down and there was Jesus preaching. They got excited. Jesus looked up at them from below and smiled.

— “I know you have faith in me!

And the four men used ropes to pull the stretcher with the sick man up onto the roof, and then carefully lowered him down into the hole below. Jesus watched the stretcher being lowered, and when it came down in front of him, he said:

— My son, your sins are forgiven!

And in the midst of the crowd sat several teachers of the law. They shuddered with indignation, and began to talk and point at Jesus:

— How dare Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven”! God alone can forgive sins! And Jesus says such things! He is insulting God.

They were very indignant.

Jesus realized what they were thinking and said:

— Enough! Why are you slandering me? I am asking you a question. There are two things: which one is easier?

First I say to him, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The second thing: Here is a paralyzed man lying down. I say to him, “Get up, roll up your mat, and go home!”

Which of these two things is easier? The first thing is easier. It’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.”

And so you see I’m here on earth right now. I have the power to forgive the sins of people who sin and do evil deeds. So here I am saying to this paralyzed man, “Get up, roll up your mat and get on your feet.”

The crowd around was amazed. Look, look — everyone said — we know this man could not walk, but he stood up. We have never seen such a miracle before! Everyone was amazed and glorified God.

Original Russian back-translation (click or tap here):

Прошло несколько дней. В городе Капернаум был один дом. Туда пришел Иисус. Между людьми повсюду пошел слух, что там Иисус. И многие-многие люди стали приходить в этот дом. Дом переполнился, было очень тесно, места не было даже снаружи. Все хотели послушать Иисуса. И Иисус им проповедовал.

Там был один человек, больной. Он был парализован, его тело не двигалось. Он лежал, а четыре человека несли его на носилках. Они хотели помочь ему, поднести его к Иисусу, чтобы Иисус исцелил его. И вот они несут больного. Кругом толпа народа. Те люди пытались раздвинуть толпу, но было очень тесно. Нет пути. Они стали думать, что делать. Видят они: у дома крыша плоская, а к дому приставлена лестница, которая ведет прямо на крышу. И решили: давайте заберемся! Все вчетвером забрались на крышу. Взяли толстую палку и стали пробивать дыру в крыше. Крыша была плоская, была она сделана из глины и тростника. И вот они делают дыру в крыше, раздвигают глину и тростник. Получилась большая круглая дыра. Смотрят вниз, а там Иисус проповедует. Они обрадовались. Иисус снизу на них посмотрел, улыбнулся.

Иисус говорит:

— Я знаю, у вас есть вера в Меня!

А эти четыре человека на веревках подтянули носилки с больным на крышу, а потом аккуратно опустили в дыру вниз. Иисус смотрел, как носилки опускаются, и когда они перед ним опустились, он сказал:

— Сын мой! Твои грехи тебе прощаются!

А среди толпы сидели несколько учителей закона. Они даже вздрогнули от возмущения и стали недовольно переговариваться, показывая на Иисуса:

— Да как же Иисус смеет говорить «твои грехи прощены»! Только один Бог может прощать грехи! А Иисус такое говорит! Он оскорбляет Бога.

Они были очень возмущены.

Иисус понял, о чем они думают, и сказал:

— Довольно! Зачем на меня клевещете? Я вам задаю вопрос. Есть две вещи: какая из них проще?

Первая вещь. Я ему говорю: «Твои грехи прощены».

Вторая вещь. Вот парализованный человек лежит. Я ему говорю: «Вставай, сверни свой коврик и ступай домой!»

Что из этих двух вещей проще? Первая вещь проще. Проще сказать: «Твои грехи прощены».

И вот вы видите, что я сейчас здесь, на земле. Я имею власть прощать грехи людей, которые грешат и совершают злые дела. Вот я говорю этому парализованному человеку: «Вставай, скатай свой коврик и ступай».

И о чудо! Этот человек поднялся, тело его сделалось здоровым. С восторгом он смотрит на свои руки и ноги. Он скатал свой коврик, взял его под мышку и радостный пошел.

Толпа вокруг была изумлена. Смотрите, смотрите — говорили все — мы знаем, этот человек не мог ходить, а он встал. Мы такого чуда никогда раньше не видели! Все изумлялись и прославляли Бога.

Back-translation by Luka Manevich

<< Mark 1:40-45 in Russian Sign Language

Mark 2:13-17 in Russian Sign Language >>


The Greek that is translated as “paralytic” in English is translated by the Panjabi translation in Persian script with the common expression “one struck by paralysis.” (Source; Yousaf Sadiq in The Bible Translator 2021, p. 189ff.)

forgive, forgiveness

The concept of “forgiveness” is expressed in varied ways through translations. Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:

  • Tswa, North Alaskan Inupiatun, Panao Huánuco Quechua: “forget about”
  • Navajo: “give back” (based on the idea that sin produces an indebtedness, which only the one who has been sinned against can restore)
  • Huichol, Shipibo-Conibo, Eastern Highland Otomi, Uduk, Tepo Krumen: “erase,” “wipe out,” “blot out”
  • Highland Totonac, Huautla Mazatec: “lose,” “make lacking”
  • Tzeltal: “lose another’s sin out of one’s heart”
  • Lahu, Burmese: “be released,” “be freed”
  • Ayacucho Quechua: “level off”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “cast away”
  • Chol: “pass by”
  • Wayuu: “make pass”
  • Kpelle: “turn one’s back on”
  • Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “cover over” (a figure of speech which is also employed in Hebrew, but which in many languages is not acceptable, because it implies “hiding” or “concealment”)
  • Tabasco Chontal, Huichol: “take away sins”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Javanese: “do away with sins”
  • San Blas Kuna: “erase the evil heart” (this and all above: Bratcher / Nida, except Tepo Krumen: Peter Thalmann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 25f.)
  • Eggon: “withdraw the hand”
  • Mískito: “take a man’s fault out of your heart” (source of this and the one above: Kilgour, p. 80)
  • Western Parbate Kham: “unstring someone” (“hold a grudge” — “have someone strung up in your heart”) (source: Watters, p. 171)
  • Hawai’i Creole English: “let someone go” (source: Jost Zetzsche)
  • Cebuano: “go beyond” (based on saylo)
  • Iloko: “none” or “no more” (based on awan) (source for this and above: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
  • Tzotzil: ch’aybilxa: “it has been lost” (source: Aeilts, p. 118)
  • Suki: biaek eisaemauwa: “make heart soft” (Source L. and E. Twyman in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 91ff. )
  • Warao: “not being concerned with him clean your obonja.” Obonja is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.)
  • Martu Wangka: “throw out badness” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Mairasi: “dismantle wrongs” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Nyulnyul: “have good heart” (source
  • Koonzime: “remove the bad deed-counters” (“The Koonzime lay out the deeds symbolically — usually strips of banana leaf — and rehearse their grievances with the person addressed.”) (Source: Keith and Mary Beavon in Notes on Translation 3/1996, p. 16)
  • Ngbaka: ele: “forgive and forget” (Margaret Hill [in Holzhausen & Ridere 2010, p. 8f.] recalls that originally there were two different words used in Ngbaka, one for God (ɛlɛ) and one for people (mbɔkɔ — excuse something) since it was felt that people might well forgive but, unlike God, can’t forget. See also this lectionary in The Christian Century .
  • Amahuaca: “erase” / “smooth over” (“It was an expression the people used for smoothing over dirt when marks or drawings had been made in it. It meant wiping off dust in which marks had been made, or wiping off writing on the blackboard. To wipe off the slate, to erase, to take completely away — it has a very wide meaning and applies very well to God’s wiping away sins, removing them from the record, taking them away.”) (Source: Robert Russel, quoted in Walls / Bennett 1959, p. 193)

See also this devotion on YouVersion .


The Hebrew and Greek that is typically translated as “sin” in English has a wide variety of translations.

The Greek ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō) carries the original verbatim meaning of “miss the mark.” Likewise, many translations contain the “connotation of moral responsibility.” Loma has (for certain types of sin) “leaving the road” (which “implies a definite standard, the transgression of which is sin”) or Navajo uses “that which is off to the side.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida). In Toraja-Sa’dan the translation is kasalan, which originally meant “transgression of a religious or moral rule” and has shifted its meaning in the context of the Bible to “transgression of God’s commandments.” (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21ff. ).

In Shipibo-Conibo the term is hocha. Nida (1952, p. 149) tells the story of its choosing: “In some instances a native expression for sin includes many connotations, and its full meaning must be completely understood before one ever attempts to use it. This was true, for example, of the term hocha first proposed by Shipibo-Conibo natives as an equivalent for ‘sin.’ The term seemed quite all right until one day the translator heard a girl say after having broken a little pottery jar that she was guilty of ‘hocha.’ Breaking such a little jar scarcely seemed to be sin. However, the Shipibos insisted that hocha was really sin, and they explained more fully the meaning of the word. It could be used of breaking a jar, but only if the jar belonged to someone else. Hocha was nothing more nor less than destroying the possessions of another, but the meaning did not stop with purely material possessions. In their belief God owns the world and all that is in it. Anyone who destroys the work and plan of God is guilty of hocha. Hence the murderer is of all men most guilty of hocha, for he has destroyed God’s most important possession in the world, namely, man. Any destructive and malevolent spirit is hocha, for it is antagonistic and harmful to God’s creation. Rather than being a feeble word for some accidental event, this word for sin turned out to be exceedingly rich in meaning and laid a foundation for the full presentation of the redemptive act of God.”

In Kaingang, the translation is “break God’s word” and in Sandawe the original meaning of the Greek term (see above) is perfectly reflected with “miss the mark.” (Source: Ursula Wiesemann in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 36ff., 43)

In Warao it is translated as “bad obojona.” Obojona is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions.” (Source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. ). See other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.

Martin Ehrensvärd, one of the translators for the Danish Bibelen 2020, comments on the translation of this term: “We would explain terms, such that e.g. sin often became ‘doing what God does not want’ or ‘breaking God’s law’, ‘letting God down’, ‘disrespecting God’, ‘doing evil’, ‘acting stupidly’, ‘becoming guilty’. Now why couldn’t we just use the word sin? Well, sin in contemporary Danish, outside of the church, is mostly used about things such as delicious but unhealthy foods. Exquisite cakes and chocolates are what a sin is today.” (Source: Ehrensvärd in HIPHIL Novum 8/2023, p. 81ff. )

See also sinner.

complete verse (Mark 2:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 2:5:

  • Uma: “Yesus saw the bigness of their faith, he said to the lame person: ‘My child, your (sing.) sins are forgiven!'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “When Isa saw that they really trusted in him, he said to the paralyzed person, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Jesus, when he understood that their trust in him was great, he said to the man whose body was paralyzed, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When Jesus saw their trust in him, he said to that cripple, ‘Your (sing.) sins are forgiven, friend/fellow.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When Jesus observed that the belief of those people was big, he said to that sick person, ‘Son, your sins are now forgiven.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

believe, faith

Translations of the Greek pistis and its various forms that are typically translated as “faith” in English (itself deriving from Latin “fides,” meaning “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence”) and “believe” (from Old English belyfan: “to have faith or confidence in a person”) cover a wide range of approaches.

Bratcher and Nida say this (1961, p. 38) (click or tap here to read more):

“Since belief or faith is so essentially an intimate psychological experience, it is not strange that so many terms denoting faith should be highly figurative and represent an almost unlimited range of emotional ‘centers’ and descriptions of relationships, e.g. ‘steadfast his heart’ (Chol), ‘to arrive on the inside’ (Chicahuaxtla Triqui), ‘to conform with the heart’ (Uab Meto), ‘to join the word to the body’ (Uduk), ‘to hear in the insides’ (or ‘to hear within one’s self and not let go’ – Nida 1952) (Laka), ‘to make the mind big for something’ (Sapo), ‘to make the heart straight about’ (Mitla Zapotec), ‘to cause a word to enter the insides’ (Lacandon), ‘to leave one’s heart with’ (Baniwa), ‘to catch in the mind’ (Ngäbere), ‘that which one leans on’ (Vai), ‘to be strong on’ (Shipibo-Conibo), ‘to have no doubts’ (San Blas Kuna), ‘to hear and take into the insides’ (Kare), ‘to accept’ (Pamona).”

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap here to read more):

  • Western Kanjobal: “truth entering into one’s soul”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “following close after”
  • Huichol: “conform to the truth”
  • Loma: “lay one’s hand on it”
  • Mashco Piro: “obey-believe”
  • Mossi: “leaning on God” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1952, p. 119ff.)
  • Tzeltal: “heart believe / heart obedience” (source: Marianna C. Slocum in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 49f. — see also wisdom (Proverbs))
  • Thai: “place one’s heart in” (source: Bratcher / Hatton 2000, p. 37)
  • Cameroon Pidgin: “to put one’s heart in God” (source: Jan Sterk)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Muna: kataino lalo or “stickiness of heart” (for “faithfulness”) (source: René van den Berg)
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “confidence” (source: Larson 1998, p. 279)
  • Limos Kalinga: manuttuwa. Wiens (2013) explains: “It goes back to the word for ‘truth’ which is ‘tuttuwa.’ When used as a verb this term is commonly used to mean ‘believe’ as well as ‘obey.'”
  • Ngiemboon: “turn one’s back on someone” (and trusting one won’t be taken advantage of) (source: Stephen Anderson in Holzhausen 1991, p. 42)
  • Mwera uses the same word for “hope” and “faith”: ngulupai (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Kwang: “put one’s chest” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here )
  • Yala: ɔtū che or “place heart” (in John 5:24; 5:45; 6:35; 6:47; 12:36; 14:1); other translations include chɛ̄ or “to agree/accept” and chɛ̄ku or “to agree with/accept with/take side with” (source: Linus Otronyi)
  • Awabakal: ngurruliko: “to know, to perceive by the ear” (as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch — source: Lake, p. 70) (click or tap here to read more)

    “[The missionary translator] Lancelot Threlkeld learned that Awabakal, like many Australian languages, made no distinction between knowing and believing. Of course the distinction only needs to be made where there are rival systems of knowing. The Awabakal language expressed a seamless world. But as the stress on ‘belief’ itself suggests, Christianity has always existed in pluralist settings. Conversion involves deep conviction, not just intellectual assent or understanding. (…) Translating such texts posed a great challenge in Australia. Threlkeld and [his indigenous colleague] Biraban debated the possibilities at length. In the end they opted not to introduce a new term for belief, but to use the Awabakal ngurruliko, meaning ‘to know, to perceive by the ear,’ as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch.”

  • Language in southern Nigeria: a word based on the idiom “lose feathers.” Randy Groff in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 65 explains (click or tap here to read more):

    What does losing feathers have to do with faith? [The translator] explained that there is a species of bird in his area that, upon hatching its eggs, loses its feathers. During this molting phase, the mother bird is no longer able to fly away from the nest and look for food for her hungry hatchlings. She has to remain in the nest where she and her babies are completely dependent upon the male bird to bring them food. Without the diligent, dependable work of the male bird, the mother and babies would all die. This scenario was the basis for the word for faith in his language.

  • Teribe: mär: “pick one thing and one thing only” (source: Andy Keener)
  • Tiv: na jighjigh: “give trust” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Luba-Katanga: Twi tabilo: “echo” (click or tap here to read more)

    “Luba-Katanga word for ‘Faith’ in its New Testament connotation is Twi tabilo. This word means ‘echo,’ and the way in which it came to be adapted to the New Testament meaning gives a very good idea of the way in which the translator goes to work. One day a missionary was on a journey through wild and mountainous country. At midday he called his African porters to halt, and as they lay resting in the shade from the merciless heat of the sun. an African picked up a stone and sent it ricocheting down the mountain-side into the ravine below. After some seconds the hollow silence was broken by a plunging, splashing sound from the depths of the dark river-bed. As the echo died away the African said in a wondering whisper ‘Twi tabilo, listen to it.’ So was a precious word captured for the service of the Gospel in its Luba Christian form. Twi tabilo — ‘faith which is the echo of God’s voice in the depths of human sinful hearts, awakened by God Himself, the answer to his own importunate call.’ The faith that is called into being by the divine initiative, God’s own gift to the responsive heart! (Source: Wilfred Bradnock in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 49ff. )

J.A. van Roy (in The Bible Translator 1972, p. 418ff. ) discusses how a translation of “faith” in a an earlier translation into Venda created difficult perceptions of the concept of faith (click or tap here):

The Venda term u tenda, lutendo. This term corresponds to the terms ho dumela (Southern Sotho), and ku pfumela (Tsonga) that have been used in these translations of the Bible, and means “to assent,” “to agree to a suggestion.” It is important to understand this term in the context of the character of the people who use it.

The way in which the Venda use this term reveals much about the priority of interpersonal relationships among them. They place a much higher priority on responding in the way they think they are expected to respond than on telling the truth. Smooth interpersonal relationships, especially with a dominant individual or group, take precedence over everything else.

It is therefore regarded as bad form to refuse directly when asked for something one does not in fact intend to give. The correct way is to agree, u tenda, and then forget about it or find some excuse for not keeping to the agreement. Thus u tenda does not necessarily convey the information that one means what one says. One can tenda verbally while heartily disagreeing with the statement made or having no intention whatsoever to carry out what one has just promised to do. This is not regarded as dishonesty, but is a matter of politeness.

The term u sokou tenda, “to consent reluctantly,” is often used for expressing the fatalistic attitude of the Venda in the face of misfortune or force which he is unable to resist.

The form lutendo was introduced by missionaries to express “faith.”

According to the rules of derivations and their meanings in the lu-class, it should mean “the habit of readily consenting to everything.” But since it is a coined word which does not have a clearly defined set of meanings in everyday speech, it has acquired in church language a meaning of “steadfastness in the Christian life.” Una lutendo means something like “he is steadfast in the face of persecution.” It is quite clear that the term u tenda has no element of “trust” in it. (…)

In “The Christian Minister” of July 1969 we find the following statement about faith by Albert N. Martin: “We must never forget that one of the great issues which the Reformers brought into focus was that faith was something more than an ‘assensus,’ a mere nodding of the head to the body of truth presented by the church as ‘the faith.’ The Reformers set forth the biblical concept that faith was ‘fiducia.’ They made plain that saving faith involved trust, commitment, a trust and commitment involving the whole man with the truth which was believed and with the Christ who was the focus of that truth. The time has come when we need to spell this out clearly in categorical statements so that people will realize that a mere nodding of assent to the doctrines that they are exposed to is not the essence of saving faith. They need to be brought to the understanding that saving faith involves the commitment of the whole man to the whole Christ, as Prophet, Priest and King as he is set forth in the gospel.”

We quote at length from this article because what Martin says of the current concept of faith in the Church is even to a greater extent true of the Venda Church, and because the terms used for communicating that concept in the Venda Bible cannot be expected to communicate anything more than “a mere nodding of assent”. I have during many years of evangelistic work hardly ever come across a Venda who, when confronted with the gospel, would not say, Ndi khou tenda, “I admit the truth of what you say.” What they really mean when saying this amounts to, “I believe that God exists, and I have no objection to the fact that he exists. I suppose that the rest of what you are talking about is also true.” They would often add, Ndi sa tendi hani-hani? “Just imagine my not believing such an obvious fact!” To the experienced evangelist this is a clear indication that his message is rejected in so far as it has been understood at all! To get a negative answer, one would have to press on for a promise that the “convert” will attend the baptism class and come to church on Sundays, and even then he will most probably just tenda in order to get rid of the evangelist, whether he intends to come or not. Isn’t that what u tenda means? So when an inexperienced and gullible white man ventures out on an evangelistic campaign with great enthusiasm, and with great rejoicing returns with a list of hundreds of names of persons who “believed”, he should not afterwards blame the Venda when only one tenth of those who were supposed to be converts actually turn up for baptismal instruction.

Moreover, it is not surprising at all that one often comes across church members of many years’ standing who do not have any assurance of their salvation or even realise that it is possible to have that assurance. They are vhatendi, “consenters.” They have consented to a new way of life, to abandoning (some of) the old customs. Lutendo means to them at most some steadfastness in that new way of life.

The concept of faith in religion is strange to Africa. It is an essential part of a religion of revelation such as Christianity or Islam, but not of a naturalistic religion such as Venda religion, in which not faith and belief are important, but ritual, and not so much the content of the word as the power of it.

The terms employed in the Venda Bible for this vital Christian concept have done nothing to effect a change in the approach of the Venda to religion.

It is a pity that not only in the Venda translation has this been the case, but in all the other Southern Bantu languages. In the Nguni languages the term ukukholwa, “to believe a fact,” has been used for pisteuo, and ukholo, the deverbative of ukukholwa, for pistis. In some of the older Protestant translations in Zulu, but not in the new translation, the term ithemba, “trust”, has been used.

Some languages, including Santali, have two terms — like English (see above) — to differentiate a noun from a verb form. Biswạs is used for faith, whereas pạtiạu for “believe.” R.M. Macphail (in The Bible Translator 1961, p. 36ff. ) explains this choice: “While there is little difference between the meaning and use of the two in everyday Santali, in which any word may be used as a verb, we felt that in this way we enriched the translation while making a useful distinction, roughly corresponding to that between ‘faith’ and ‘to believe’ in English.”

Likewise, in Noongar, koort-karni or “heart truth” is used for the noun (“faith”) and djinang-karni or “see true” for the verb (“believe”) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

See also this devotion on YouVersion .