transgression, trespass

The Greek that is often translated as “trespass” or “transgression” in English is translated as “missing the commandment” in Kipsigis and “to step beyond the law” in Navajo. (Source: Bratcher / Nida 1961)

In Tepeuxila Cuicatec it is translated as “thing not reached.” Marjorie Davis (in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 34ff.) explains: “[This] implies that the goal was not reached, the task was not finished, or of finished, it was not satisfactorily done. According to the Cuicateco way of thinking of one does not what is expected of him, he offends [or: trespasses] and is an offence.”


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)

In Warao it is translated as “bad obojona.” Obojona is 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 sinner.

complete verse (Romans 5:16)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 5:16:

  • Uma: “The gift of God to us is different than the sin of Adam. That one person transgressed God’s command, the result being all people are guilty in God’s sight and must be punished. But from the free gift of God to us he wiped out our transgressions and said that we were straight in his sight.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The love-gift of God is-not-the-same as/cannot-be-compared-with the result of the sin of Apu’ Adam. The result of that one sin of Apu’ Adam is that judgment is dropped by God on all human-beings that they are sinful and ought to be punished. But this is the love-gift of God, even-though all people sin they are forgiven and considered straight by him.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “In the same way also, that which Jesus did because of the becoming righteous which God makes possible, was not like the transgression that the other man, Adam, did. Because of the transgression of Adam who was only one, the whole of mankind was judged to be punished by death. And at the time when the transgressions of people were very many, God showed His kindness and He made a way so that we (incl.) might be considered righteous, just as if we had never done any transgressions.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Another distinction between God’s gift and the result of one man’s sin is this. The result of that one sin was that all people were condemned to be punished, but because of God’s grace the many sins of all people can be forgiven and they can be counted as righteous in God’s sight.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “When sin began, God said that sin will have the payment of punishment. But when after very many people had committed sin, God said that he would do the favor of clearing people who have sin.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)