What shall we say then

In Kadiwéu, it is not possible to use a rhetorical question for the purpose of linking subjects as is done in this case in the Greek (and English) text. Instead, the translators combined the two opening questions (“What then should we say? That the law is sin?” in English) in the translation to read “Is it possible for us to say (then) that the Law is evil?” (Source: Glyn Griffiths in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 25ff.)

See also here.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Rom. 7:7)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the writer of the letter and the readers).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, 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.

complete verse (Romans 7:7)

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

  • Uma: “We said earlier that Kristus released us from the Lord’s Law. But let’s not say/think like this: the Lord’s Law is bad. Those words are not true either! The Lord’s Law is good, because from the Lord’s Law we know what is called sin. If for instance there was no command that said: ‘Don’t desire another person’s things,’ I wouldn’t know the evil of the desire that is in my heart.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Perhaps you (plural) say, ‘Na, if it’s like that, the law is bad/evil – surprise.’ No. The law is not bad. If there were no law, it would not be plain/clear to us (dual) as to what sin is. For example, if there were not a law saying, ‘Don’t (singular) covet the wealth of your companion,’ I would not know that covetousness is bad.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now some suppose mistakenly that the Law is the origin of evil doings, but that is not it, because evil doings are prior to the Law. The Law is what teaches us (incl.) what evil doing is. For if the Law did not forbid coveteousness, the coveteousness that was already in my breath, I wouldn’t have known now that it is evil.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Does this mean to say that the law is evil? No, because if there were no law, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish the evilness of my behavior. For example, if there were no law that said, ‘Don’t covet (lit. grab-after what is not yours),’ I wouldn’t be able-to-distinguish that coveting is sin.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Since I say this word, do you think that I say that God’s law is bad? No, that isn’t it. Rather, the law is good. Yet if there were no law, then we wouldn’t know what sin is. For instance, the law says: ‘Do not want a thing which is owned by another,’ it says. Therefore now, we know that it is a sin we do if we want thing which owned by another.” (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)

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.)