they are a law to themselves

The Greek that is often translated into English as “they are a law to themselves” is translated into Bilua as “they follow their own law.” (Source: Carl Gross)

In Huehuetla Tepehua it is translated as “it is just as if they had a law in their hearts,” in Highland Totonac as “on their own they think of the law they should do,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “what their head-hearts tell them to do is like the law for them,” in Chicahuaxtla Triqui as “their very hearts is a law which issues orders to them,” in Tzeltal as “it is because there are commandments in their hearts,” and in Sierra de Juárez Zapotec as “show that they themselves know what they ought to do.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)


The Greek that is often translated as “gentiles” in English is often translated as a “local equivalent of ‘foreigners,'” such as “the people of other lands” (Guerrero Amuzgo), “people of other towns” (Tzeltal), “people of other languages” (San Miguel El Grande Mixtec), “strange peoples” (Navajo) (this and above, see Bratcher / Nida), “outsiders” (Ekari), “people of foreign lands” (Kannada), “non-Jews” (North Alaskan Inupiatun), “people being-in-darkness” (a figurative expression for people lacking cultural or religious insight) (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and three above Reiling / Swellengrebel), “from different places all people” (Martu Wangka) (source: Carl Gross).

Tzeltal translates it as “people in all different towns,” Chicahuaxtla Triqui as “the people who live all over the world,” Highland Totonac as “all the outsider people,” Sayula Popoluca as “(people) in every land” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), Chichimeca-Jonaz as “foreign people who are not Jews,” Sierra de Juárez Zapotec as “people of other nations” (source of this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), Highland Totonac as “outsider people” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), Uma as “people who are not the descendants of Israel” (source: Uma Back Translation), and Yakan as “the other tribes” (source: Yakan Back Translation).

See also nations.

complete verse (Romans 2:14)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 2:14:

  • Uma: “Non-Jews do not know the Lord’s Law that was written by Musa. But sometimes their own hearts teach them to do good behavior, like the behavior that is written in the Lord’s Law. Even though they don’t know the Lord’s Law that is written, their own hearts become like the Lord’s Law to them.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The tribes who are not Yahudi, the law of God is not there with them. But even if the law of God is not there with them, sometimes they can/happen-to follow some commands in the law because they know in their minds as to what are the good things to be done. That’s why it is as if they have a law in their minds/thoughts.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And as for the people who are not Jews, they do not know about the Law which was left behind by Moses, but there is a time when they obey what is commanded in the Law, for even though they do not know the Law, there is in their breath that which teaches them what is good to do; and because of this, we can say they have a Law there in their breath.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Even though the Gentiles don’t know the written law of Moses, they nevertheless follow some of the commands of that law, because their minds are like their law which directs them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Although there are people who have never heard of the word written in the law which the Jews follow, yet they also know in themselves what the good is that God commands them to live by. Because they know in their own thoughts what good they should do. This also meets with the good which is written in God’s law.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Nyongar with a capitalized form of the term for “words” (Warrinya) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

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.)