complete verse (Romans 7:23)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 7:23:

  • Uma: “But I don’t end up following the Lord’s Law, because there is another power in my life that defeats me. In my heart I really want to follow the Lord’s Law, but the power of sin in my life is at-odds with what my heart wants, with the result that I am defeated by sin.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But there is also something in my liver urging me telling/commanding me not to follow/obey the law approved-of/consented-to (by) my thinking/mind. It is really as if I were the slave of my inborn sinning/old nature therefore I can’t-do-anything-about-it.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “However, here in my body something different controls me for the evil desires of my body that I transgress the right custom that my breath wants. It’s as if I am a slave to my evil desires and I have to obey the desires of my body.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “but I-now-realize that what is ruling my body is different. And this that is ruling my body, which is my sinfulness, it wars-against God’s law which my mind desires/likes so that I sin. Thus the result is that I am as if a prisoner of my sinfulness.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But in my heart there was a thought that didn’t look well upon the good I decided that I would do. This word though, is what was caused by sin which had grabbed my heart. It didn’t let me do good.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)


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.)