THE word kalougata that appears in the first edition of the Holy Bible printed in the iTaukei language does not mean snake god.
Rather, it means sharp God or the sharpness of God's love and care for His people, says Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma general secretary Reverend Tevita Banivanua.
Mr Banivanua made those comments in response to the move by business tycoon and Fiji's former ambassador to China, Sir James Ah Koy, in printing and freely circulating thousands of copies of the New Fijian Translation Bible (NFTB) that has the word kalougata and its derivatives omitted from it.
Sir James believes the word curses the people of Fiji whenever it is used.
He says that word does not acknowledge the God of Heaven but the snake god, which according to him is the meaning of the word kalougata; — but used widely to mean blessing as practised over 175 years to date.
"I don't know where he got that meaning from but that word used in the Bible refers to the sharpness of God's love and care to the people, that's the definition those involved in the translation of the Bible used and we have always known that," Mr Banivanua said.
He added that the Fijian Bible was also directly translated from the Hebrew and Greek language.
He referred to the first edition of the iTaukei dictionary that also defined the word as sharpness of God's blessing.
Former Methodist Church president Reverend Josateki Koroi said the interpretation of the NFTB on the word kalougata was "unfounded".
He said every iTaukei knew since their birth that no one had worshipped snakes and that there was no snake god.
"We understand Vanua Levu's ancestor was Dakuwaqa, in other places it was an octopus, dwarf or animal but not snakes. This is like a myth and legend," Mr Koroi said.
"Everyone understands the meaning of kalougata derived from when the first missionaries (William Cross and David Cargill) settled in Fiji.
"It means blessings and fortune for the land and its people," he said.
Central Christian Centre (CCC) senior pastor and Assemblies of God general superintendent Reverend Pita Cili said the interpretation of that word and the context in which it was used was up to believers to decide.
University of the South Pacific linguist Paul Geraghty said the word kalougata used in the Bible did not mean the snake god, nor snake for gata as interpreted by Sir James.
He said the word gata in kalougata meant sharp — like the sharpness of a knife to symbolise the sharpness of the God Christians worshipped.
Dr Geraghty said the word kalougata was also used as is in the dialect of villages in Fiji, unlike the word gata that was pronounced differently in every dialect.
In response, Sir James said those were their opinions but he maintained that the word was still not appropriate to be associated with the God of Heaven.