The term that is translated as “lamb” in English is typically translated as “offspring of a sheep” in Ixcatlán Mazatec since there is no specific word for “lamb.” Since this could distract readers with thoughts of God being the sheep when the “lamb” refers to Jesus the translation into Ixcatlán Mazatec chose “little (individual) sheep” for those cases. (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Dëne Súline the native term for “lamb” directly translated as “the young one of an evil little caribou.” To avoid the negative connotation, a loan word from the neighboring South Slavey was used. (Source: NCAM, p. 70)

For the Kasua translation, it took a long process to find the right term. Rachel Greco (in The PNG Experience) tells this story:

“To the Kasua people of Western Province, every four-legged animal is a pig. They call a horse a pig-horse, a cow, a pig-cow, and a sheep, a pig-sheep, because all of these animals have four legs, which is kopolo, or pig, in their language.

“When the translation team would translate the word, ‘sheep’ in the New Testament, they would translate it as ‘pig-sheep’. So when Jesus is referred to as the ‘Lamb,’ (John 1:29; Rev. 12:11; Rev. 17:14), they translated as ‘pig-sheep’ so that in John 1:29 it would read: ‘Behold, the pig-sheep of God.’

“When some members of the translation team attended the Translators Training Course, they had the opportunity to observe and study sheep for the first time. As they watched and learned more about the animals’ behavior, their understanding of these creatures—and God’s Word—rotated on its axis.

“Once during the course, Logan and Konni — the translation team’s helpers — were driving with the team to a Bible dedication when Amos, one of the team members, said passionately, ‘We can’t use the word kopolo in front of the word, ‘sheep’! Pigs know when they’re about to die and squeal and scream.’ The team had often watched villagers tie up pigs so they wouldn’t escape.

“’But,’ Amos said, ‘Jesus didn’t do that.’ The team had learned that sheep are quiet and still when death walks toward them. They had observed, as they translated the New Testament, the words of Isaiah 53 fulfilled: ‘Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he did not open his mouth.’ And now they understood what it meant. For this reason, the team decided not to put pig-sheep in the New Testament for the word ‘sheep,’ but used sheep-animal or, in their language, a:pele sipi.

“The Kasua translation team also chose to discard the word ‘pig’ before sheep because pigs are unclean animals to the Jews. The team knew that Jesus was called the ‘Lamb of God’ in the New Testament to show that he is unblemished and clean. Hopefully the Lord will open up the Kasua villagers’ eyes to these same truths about Jesus as they read of Him in their own language.”

See also sheep.

complete verse (Revelation 12:11)

Following are a number of back-translations of Revelation 12:11:

  • Uma: “Those our relatives have won, they have defeated the King of Evil-ones. They defeated him with the power of the blood of the Lamb who died to redeem their sins. They defeated him because they kept on confessing/admittingthat the Lamb was their Lord. Although they were persecuted or even killed, they did not retreat from that confession of theirs.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But he has been defeated by our (incl.) brothers. They can no longer be reached/affected by accusation because of the blood of Isa the one called the Sheep, his blood that was spilled to take-away their sins. The leader of demons is also defeated by the true teaching that they spread/made-known. And they submitted their lives even if they were killed.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “These our brethren, they have defeated the ones accusing them by means of the blood of the sacrificed young sheep and by means of the true doctrine which they spread. They did not hold thier life dear, but rather they let themselves be killed because of their faith.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Our brothers have defeated (him) because of the blood of the Sheep that flowed-out at his death and also because of the good news that they confirmed. They didn’t give-up but rather they continued to believe even though that was their death.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Satanas has been defeated by those brethren of ours through the strength of the shed blood of the one referred to as Young Sheep and through their testifying to the truth concerning him who is Jesu-Cristo. For they really didn’t value their lives, just because of their believing in him.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “These brothers of ours have conquered the devil now because the fact of the Lamb dying has power to clear their sins. These have not feared to say that they believe in the Lamb. They didn’t fear to speak the word even though they were killed.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Revelation 12:11

In order to make clear who is the subject of this verse, it may be well to imitate Good News Translation: “Our fellow servants (or, Our brothers and sisters) have defeated him (the Devil)….”

They have conquered him: for the verb see 2.7. Here the defeat of the Devil is attributed to the faithful believers, the followers of Jesus Christ.

By the blood of the Lamb: see 1.5; 5.9; 7.14. By means of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, believers are able to defeat Satan.

By the word of their testimony: this, of course, is the gospel; “by means of the message they announced” or “by means of the truth they proclaimed” (see 1.2, 9). In certain languages it will be well to reorder these clauses and say “The blood of the Lamb and the true message that they proclaimed let them (or, caused them to) have the victory over the Devil.” In other languages the word of their testimony has been translated as “the word of God that they proclaim.”

For they loved not their lives even unto death: this is not too clear in English; New Revised Standard Version is better: “for they did not cling to life even in the face of death” (see Mark 8.35; John 12.25). The force of the statement is that they were willing to pay the price of martyrdom in order to be faithful to Jesus Christ. It may be that Revised Standard Version for (also Translator’s New Testament; New Jerusalem Bible “because”) correctly interprets the Greek conjunction, which is normally understood to mean “and.” But it is difficult to understand how for relates to what precedes. It seems better to interpret as Good News Translation has done (also Revised English Bible, New American Bible, Revised, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible), as an additional reason, or as the underlying attitude that enabled them to defeat Satan. One may also say “and they were even willing to die if necessary,” “holding their lives lightly, they were prepared to die,” or “They said, ‘Let them kill us (if need be).’ They did not fear death.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on The Revelation to John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .