The Holy Spirit And Unclean Spirits

"We have nine words for evil spirits in our language" the Krupto translators answered. "Uh-oh," I thought, "this is really going to be a challenge. We definitely need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit on how to translate evil spirits in Krupto."

It turns out the nine Krupto words are for very specific kinds of evil spirits with reference to their location and kind of activity. However, they have no general word for evil spirit. Since the Krupto are an animistic people, we want to be careful not to bring pagan ideas unintentionally into the translation and end up with them having a syncretistic theology of the spirit world.

The New Testament text has two primary words, and our goal is to render these as consistently as possible when we translate. In Mark 1:23 we have the first of these words, pneuma akatharton, "unclean spirit." Pneuma akatharton is best understood as "a spirit (which makes the man) unclean," through ceremonial, moral, and spiritual defilement or pollution. The other Greek word used is found in Mark 7:26 and is daimonion. As you can probably guess, the English word "demon" is just a borrowing of this Greek word. In the New Testament, this Greek word signifies a supernatural being hostile to God.

When Krupto translator training was conducted in 2019 and the first few chapters of Mark's Gospel were translated, we explored the nuances in each of their nine words and tentatively chose one of them for "unclean" spirit. However, when I did a content checking workshop on the entire Gospel of Mark in March 2021, I noticed that the translations of "unclean spirit" and "demon" were rendered by five different phrases—there was no consistency. As we were checking the passage about Legion in Mark 5, I noticed that one of the words in the Krupto phrase for "grave" (madhi) contained one of the same words used with spirits. Discussion with the translators revealed that "madhi" means "dead." So one of the words we had been using for unclean spirits was literally "spirits of the dead," reflecting the pagan belief that demons are human spirits after death that come back to control people! This is very unbiblical so we were immediately able to toss this word out. Another of their words did indeed mean "unclean" but could only be used with things like dirty clothes and made no sense as "dirty spirits." Our final solution was to use a word for "unclean" that is borrowed from the Bible in another language and modified to the pronunciation of Krupto. Similarly, we found a word for demon that is literally "hostile spirit."

As we continue with the Krupto translation work, we are continually reminded that it is the Holy Spirit who is our helper to give us wisdom, time, and ability to study the Greek and the Krupto languages. Pray that the Holy Spirit will penetrate the heart of the Krupto tribe, so that more of them will believe the Gospel and be freed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ from the oppression of demons and unclean spirits, the "gods of this age" who darken the minds of unbelievers.