complete verse (Romans 2:12)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 2:12:

  • Uma: “People who don’t know the Lord’s Law, if they sin, they are still/nonetheless guilty and fit to be separated from God. God punishes them because of their sins, but he does not punish them because of their breaking of the Lord’s Law. So also people who know the Lord’s Law. If they sin, God will punish them as well, but them he will punish because of their breaking of the Lord’s Law.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The people not Yahudi they do not know the law of God written by Musa. When/if they sin God punishes them and they go to hell. But their punishment is not as is said in the law. The Yahudi, the ones who were given the law, when/if they sin they are judged (by) whether they were able to follow/obey the law or not. If they did not follow/obey, God punishes them like/as is said in the law.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for the people who are not Jews, they do not know what is commanded by the Law that Moses left behind, and when they do evil, they will be judged just the same in the future by God. However, He will not use the Law in His judging them, but He will punish them with death which is forever. And as for the people who are Jews, they by contrast know what is commanded by the Law, and if they do evil, God will judge them according to what they have transgressed there in the Law.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because all who have sinned, they will be separated from God to be punished forever. As for the Gentiles, they don’t know the law of Moses, so that will not be the basis for God’s condemning them, but they will be punished nevertheless. As for the Jews by-contrast, they do know the law of Moses, so God will use that law in condemning them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Now then, all people have sins and God will judge them. Concerning the people who do not know the law which the Jews follow, they also will be judged according to what they know. But concerning the people who know what is said in the law which the Jews follow, they will be judged according to that word which is written in the law.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “All those who owe sin, who do not know the law that Moses wrote, it will not be that law that will rule what punishment they have, but they will be punished. Also all those who do know that law but owe sin, they will have to be punished as that law commands.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)


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. 21 ff.).

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)

See also sinner.


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)