The Hebrew and Greek What is translated into English as “the wrath of God” (Good News Translation: “God’s anger”) has to be referred to in Bengali as judgment, punishment or whatever fits the context. In Bengali culture, anger is by definition bad and can never be predicated of God. (Source: David Clark)
In Kikuyu the whole phrase that is translated in English as “storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath” or similar is translated as “you are increasing for yourself God’s wrath.” (Source: Jan Sterk)
In Quetzaltepec Mixe it is translated with a term “that not only expresses anger, but also punishment” (source: Robert Bascom), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “the coming punishment of God on mankind” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), in Kankanaey as “God’s fearful/terrible future punishing of people” (source: Kankanaey Back Translation), in Tagbanwa as “the coming anger/hatred of God” (´source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), and in Tenango Otomi as “the punishment which will come” (saource: Tenango Otomi Back Translation).
The Greek that is translated as “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” or similar in English is translated in Huixtán Tzotzil as “You mistakenly think that if you receive baptism God will not punish you, you mistakenly think.” 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.)
The Greek that is a transliteration of the Hebrew Pərūšīm and is transliterated into English as “Pharisee” is transliterated in Chinese as Fǎlìsài (法利賽 / 法利赛) (Protestant) or Fǎlìsāi (法利塞) (Catholic). In Chinese, transliterations can typically be done with a great number of different and identical-sounding characters. Often the meaning of the characters are not relevant, unless they are chosen carefully as in these cases. The Protestant Fǎlìsài can mean something like “Competition for the profit of the law” and the Catholic Fǎlìsāi “Stuffed by/with the profit of the law.” (Source: Zetzsche 1996, p. 51)
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 3:7:
Uma: “There were also many leaders of the Yahudi religion who are called Parisi and Saduki people who came to be baptized by Yohanes. When he saw them come, he said to them: ‘He, you whose behavior is bent! Why are you coming requesting-to-be-baptized? Do you think you can evade the anger of God that is about to strike you!” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “There were also Pariseo and Sadduseo who went to him, they were the religious leaders. When he saw many Pariseo and Sadduseo coming to request being bathed by him, he said, ‘You there, your customs are like the customs of a deceiving snake. You perhaps think-mistakenly that if you have been bathed you will not be hit by God’s wrath which will soon come.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now John saw many Pharisee people and Sadducee people coming to him to be baptized. And he said to them, ‘You act like snakes in that you are liars. Why are you coming here? You probably suppose that you will be able to escape the punishment of God.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “But upon his seeing the many Fariseo (Pharisees) and Sadduceo (Saducees) who were coming to be baptized koma, he said to them, ‘Oh, you who are like crafty snakes are too much! Who perhaps told you that you will escape God’s punishing of you if you are baptized?” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “But well, Juan noticed that there were many Pariseo and Saduceo coming to him to be baptized also. He said to them, ‘Why are you here who are habitually-deceiving like the nature/way of a snake? Who said you could run away from the punishment which is coming?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “John saw that very many Jews were there who had come to be baptized. There were among them Pharisees, there were Sadducees. He told them: ‘You act like snakes who are fleeing from a fire. How is it that you know that the terrible punishment which is to be is coming?” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
About the translation of the Greek term that is usually transliterated with the terms “baptism” or “baptize” in English (for other English translations see below), Bratcher / Nida (1961) say this (click or tap for details):
“[It] has given rise not only to an immense amount of discussion in terms of its meaning within the Judaeo-Christian historical context, but also continues to introduce serious problems for translators today. In many instances the recommendation has been to transliterate, i.e. employing some indigenous equivalent of the sounds of the word in some more prestigious language spoken in the region, e.g. English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese. Though this solution tends to remove some theological controversies, it does not completely satisfy everyone, for not only does it avoid the problem of the mode of baptism, but it leaves the Scriptures with a zero word. Unfortunately, many of the controversies over the indigenous equivalent of baptism arise because of a false evaluation of a word’s so-called etymology. For example, in Yucateco the word for baptism means literally ‘to enter the water’, but this term is used freely by both Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, even though it might appear to be strictly ‘Baptist nomenclature.’ Similarly, in Kekchí, an even ‘stronger’ term ‘to put under the water’ is employed by Nazarenes and Roman Catholics. Obviously the meanings of these Yucateco and Kekchí words are not derivable from their literal significance but from the fact that they now designate a particular kind of Christian rite. To insist on changing such a well-established usage (and one to which immersionists could certainly not object) would seem quite unwarranted. The situation may, on the other hand, be reversed. There are instances in which immersionists are quite happy to use a term which though it means literally ‘to put water on the head’ [see below for the translation in Northern Emberá] has actually lost this etymological value and refers simply to the rite itself, regardless of the way in which it is performed. A translator should not, however, employ an already existing expression or construct a new phrase which will in its evident meaning rule out any major Christian constituency.
“There are, of course, a number of instances in which traditional terms for ‘baptism’ need modification. In some situations the word may mean only ‘to give a new name to’ (one aspect of christening) or ‘to be one who lights’ (referring to a custom in some traditions of lighting a candle at the time of baptism). However, in order to reproduce the core of significant meaning of the original Biblical term, it is important to explore the entire range of indigenous usage in order that whatever term is chosen may have at least some measure of cultural relevance. In Navajo, for example, there were four principal possibilities of choice: (1) borrowing some transliterated form of the English word, (2) constructing a phrase meaning ‘to touch with water’ (an expression which would have been acceptable with some groups in the field, but not with others), (3) using a phrase meaning ‘ceremonial washing’ (but this expression seemed to be too closely related to indigenous practices in healing ceremonies), and (4) devising an expression meaning ‘to dedicate (or consecrate) by water’, without specifying the amount of water employed. This last alternative was chosen as the most meaningful and the best basis for metaphorical extension and teaching.
“On the other hand, it would be wrong to think that the meaning of ‘washing’ must be rejected in all languages. For example, it is quite appropriate in Kpelle culture, since it ties in with male puberty rites, and in the San Blas Kuna society, since washing is a very important aspect of female puberty ceremonies, in some translations ‘water’ is introduced into the expression for baptism, but the quantity and means of administrating it are left quite ambiguous, e.g. ‘to get (take, receive) water’ (Tzeltal). Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona and Batak Toba render the verb ‘to pour water over, give a bath’.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida)
Muna: kadiu sarani “Christian bathing” (source: René von den Berg)
Halh Mongolian: argon ochial (“holy washing”) (“The people in Mongolia are strictly religious and understand the meaning very well. They are familiar with the idea of water being used as a symbol of a new life and having received ‘holy washing’ means to have entered into a new sphere of life.”) (Source: A. Marthinson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 74ff. ) (Note: In more recent Mongolian translations a transliteration of baptizo is used instead)
“The Yatzachi Zapotec know the practice of baptism and have a word to express it. There would thus seem to be no problem involved. Unfortunately, however, the word for ‘baptize’ is a compound, one part being a word nowhere else used and the other part being the word for ‘water.’ Perhaps ‘water-baptize’ is the closest equivalent in English. For most contexts this presents no problem, but if the word is used in Mark 1:8, it would say, ‘He will water-baptize you with the Holy Ghost.’ In Zapotec the idea is unintelligible. To meet the problem, the Spanish word ‘bautizar’ was introduced at this point though the Zapotec word is ordinarily used. The disadvantages of this substitution are obvious, but no better solution was found.”
Formerly in Uab Meto the word used for ’baptism” was ‘nasrami’ which actually came by way of Arabic from ‘Nazarene.’ Its meaning was ‘to make a Christian’ and the idea was that the one who baptized actually made Christians. Such an expression was obviously inadequate. We have used for ‘baptize’ the phrase in ‘antam oe’ which means ‘to enter into the water.’ This phrase can be used for sprinkling, for water is used as a symbol of the new life, and being baptized means for the Uab Meto to enter into a new sphere of life. Baptism is so frequently spoken of in connection with the giving of the Holy Spirit that the proper associations have arisen in the thinking of the people.”
Chinese: Catholic: 洗 xǐ (“washing”); non-Baptist Protestant 聖洗 shèngxǐ (“holy washing”); Baptist: 浸洗 jìnxǐ (“immerse and wash”) (In the history of Chinese Bible translation the translation of the Greek baptizo was a point of great contention, so much so that in the 19th Century Baptists had a completely different set of Bible translations and even today are using different editions with the different term of the same versions that other Protestants use.) (Source: Zetzsche 2008)
The disagreement about whether the translation of the Greek baptizo needed to include “immersion” not only caused conflict in China, it also led to splits — and different translations — in English-speaking countries: “The influential British and Foreign Bible Society had been a major supporter of the [Baptist] Serampore mission, but it finally severed its support in 1836 because of the Baptist interpretation of the Bible translations produced there. This led to the formation of the separate Baptist Bible Translation Society in Great Britain in 1840. Almost concurrently, in 1837, the American and Foreign Bible Society was founded in the United States as an offspring of the American Bible Society, over a controversy about a Baptist Bengali Bible translation. The American and Foreign Bible Society itself experienced another split in 1850, when a sub-group rejected the transliteration of baptizo in the English Bible and formed the American Bible Union, which published its own English New Testament in 1862/63″ that used the term “immerse” instead of baptize see here ). (Source: Zetzsche 2008)
Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how baptisms were done in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)