The Greek that is translated as “wild honey” in English was difficult to translate in Toba and Iyojwa’ja Chorote.
Bill Mitchell (in Omanson 2001, p. 435) explains why: “Unlike urban, industrialized society, the indigenous way of life is inextricably linked with the land. A deep relationship with nature permeates all of life. This can sometimes be seen in the wealth of vocabulary for certain items. Mark 1:6 and Matthew 3:4 state that John the Baptist ate ‘wild honey.’ The Tobas of northern Argentina have ten different words for ‘wild honey,’ the Chorotes have seven or eight. The biblical text does not specify a type of wild honey, but Toba translators live in the Gran Chaco and harvest wild honey. They want to use the exact word; they do not have a generic term.”
In both cases the translators ended up using the most common term for “wild honey.”
The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “locust” is translated in Ayutla Mixtec as “insect like flying ants” because locusts are not known locally (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 3:4:
- Uma: “The clothes of Yohanes were made from the hair of camels. His belt was from leather. His food was locusts/grasshoppers and honey.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “The clothes of Yahiya were woven camels hair and his belt was of cow’s skin. His food were locusts and honey.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now John, he was shirted with woven (cloth) of the hair of a camel and he was belted with dried skin. Locusts and honey were what he lived on.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “Juan’s clothes were merely woven of camel (loan kamel) hair and his belt was animal skin. What he ate also, it was locusts and honey (lit. water) of wild-bees.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “Juan’s clothes were of cloth made from the hair of the kamelyo animal, and his belt was made from cow hide. Grasshoppers which are locusts and bees’ honey were his food.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “The clothing of John was cloth made from the hair of camels. He was belted with leather. Concerning what he ate, it was grasshoppers that he ate. And he also ate honey which was found in the wilds.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)