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 2:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 2:15:

  • Uma: “From that behavior of theirs we clearly know that there are commands from the Lord’s Law written in their heart. From their thinking also we know that there are laws in their heart, for they say in their hearts: ‘That action is wrong,’ or they say: ‘That action is good.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “It is seen by their deeds that they know in their livers as to what is said in the law of Musa. They know in their minds whether their deeds are good or bad. Sometimes they think that their deeds are bad and sometimes also they think that their deeds are good.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “By means of their good works, we can tell that their breath teaches them what is commanded by the Law. They know in their minds what is good and what is bad to do. For there are times when they say that their behavior is good, and times when they say that it’s bad.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Thus they show by what they do that the commands of the law are stored/put-away in their minds. Their minds also confirm that that is true, because their minds are the very-thing that tells them whether what they are doing is good or bad.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “By how they live it is apparent that they know in their thoughts the good which the law says to do. They know whether it is good or not good what they do.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Central Mazahua: “Those who aren’t Jews, when they do good, it is seen that they know in their hearts what the law says. They know in their hearts when they do good, when they do bad. Their thoughts, sometimes they think, Why did I do bad? Sometimes they know that they did good.”

  • Hopi: “For he who walks that way shows that he has a law in his heart. And he knows quickly when he has sinned. And he knows when he has done right.”
  • Isthmus Zapotec: “In this way they show they already have the law in their hearts. All by themselves they realize what is right and their minds make them understand if they are erring or if they are doing right.”
  • Central Tarahumara: “And they thus show that they obey well a commandment which is written like there in their hearts. And they know well in their own hearts that they are thus ordered, because they are accused by their own thoughts when they do evil. And they are not thus accused when they do good.” (Source for this and two above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)


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 Noongar 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.)

See also teaching / law (of God) (Japanese honorifics).

Translation commentary on Romans 2:15

When Paul says “they show,” he evidently means their conduct shows, which may be rendered as “by what they do they show” or “by their behavior they indicate.”

“The work of the Law” may be taken either in the sense of what the Law commands (see Jerusalem Bible, An American Translation*, Revised Standard Version), or with the meaning of “the effect of the Law” (New English Bible, Moffatt).

Written in their hearts may be rendered as “exists in their hearts” or “is found in their minds.”

Show that this is true basically means “give testimony as a witness” (see New English Bible “their conscience is called as witness” and An American Translation* “their consciences will testify for them”). Paul gives three evidences to indicate that the Gentiles are a law to themselves, though they do not possess the Mosaic Law: (1) their conduct (2) their consciences, and (3) their thoughts.

It is difficult in many languages to distinguish between “heart” and “conscience.” In some instances there may be a highly idiomatic expression for conscience—for example, “the little man that stands within” or “one’s innermost.” More frequently one must combine the concepts of both thought and heart—for example, “how they think in their hearts.”

The pronoun this in the phrase this is true must refer back to the fact that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. It may be necessary to make this explicit by translating: “what they think in their hearts shows that what the Law commands is written there.”

Their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them is a difficult clause in Greek, though most modern translations accept the same exegesis that the Good News Translation follows. The Greek of this clause is difficult because there is no expressed object of the verb accuse or defend. It is possible to render this as the King James Version does, “their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”; but the question is whether Paul is speaking of a person’s thoughts sometimes accusing and sometimes defending himself, or whether he is thinking of a person’s thoughts sometimes accusing and sometimes defending someone else. In light of the rest of the verse, the former of these possibilities is probably better. Accuse and defend are expressed in some languages as direct discourse—for example, “sometimes their thoughts say, You did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts say, You did right.”

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 .