The Greek that is rendered in English as “conscience” is translated into Aari as “our thoughts speak to us,” in Nuer it is “the knowledge of their heart” (source: Jan Sterk), in Cheke Holo “to know what is straight and what is wrong” (source: Carl Gross), in Chokwe “law of the heart” (source D.B. Long in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 135ff. ), in Toraja-Sa’dan penaa ma’pakilala or “the admonishing within” (source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff. ), in Yatzachi Zapotec as “head-hearts,” in Tzeltal as “hearts” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), in Enlhet as “innermost,” in Northern Emberá as “thinking” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1975, p. 201ff. ), and in Elhomwe as “what reminds the heart” or “whole heart” (“since the idea of conscience is something that reminds the heart”) (source: project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

In Warao it is translated with obojona, 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.

See also conscience seared and perfect conscience / clear conscience, clear conscience towards God and all people, and brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.

complete verse (Romans 13:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 13:5:

  • Uma: “That’s why we must submit to the commands of the government. We submit so we won’t be punished. But more than that, we submit because we know in our hearts that is what is proper for us to do.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Therefore you ought to obey/follow the people who rule in your land/place so that you are not punished and because you know in your livers that this is what you ought to do.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “You obey the laws of the government, not because you are afraid of the punishment of God, but rather because you know that this is the right thing to do.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Therefore we must submit to the officials of the town/country, not only because we are afraid to be punished but because we know that that is the proper thing we ought to do.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Therefore it is important that what the authorities order be obeyed. But people should not obey the authorities just because they will thus escape punishment, but they must obey what the authorities say because it is right that what they command be obeyed.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Romans 13:5

For this reason refers back to the grounds of obedience given in the previous verse. God’s wrath (see also Revised Standard Version, An American Translation*, Moffatt) is literally “the wrath,” but in light of verse 4 (and in light of the way in which Paul uses the word “wrath” elsewhere in this letter) it is better to take this as a specific reference to God’s wrath. However, the New English Bible appears to try to avoid this conclusion and to make the word refer to the retribution imposed by the authorities. In a sense both of these translations are legitimate. Christians are encouraged to obey the civil authorities so that they will not be punished by them, but Paul definitely looks upon the punishment handed out by the civil authorities as God’s wrath on people who do evil. This seems to be the primary focus in the present passage.

In the first part of this verse the authorities is supplied by the Good News Translation as the understood object of the verb obey (An American Translation* “obey them”); most translations do not supply an object to the verb. For Paul the Christian is obligated to obey the civil authorities, not only out of the fear of punishment but for the sake of his conscience towards God. But also as a matter of conscience is rendered in some languages as “but because your heart also tells you to” or “because in your heart you know it is what you should do.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1973. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .