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The Second Edition of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament is now available in paperback, hardback, and Acrobat Reader® eBook formats. It can be ordered from the publisher via their Web site AuthorHouse or by calling toll-free: 1-888-280-7715. The ALT2 is also available in Microsoft Reader® eBook format at Analytical-Literal Translation Preview. The article below is a new appendix that appears in ALT2.
Translation Decisions and Explanations of Notations
There are many decisions a translator must make when translating the Greek New Testament. And in translating the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament (ALT), this translator struggled and prayed over every one.
Translation of Words, Alternative Translations, and Transliterations
First among these decisions is to decide which English word best represents the original Greek word. In most cases this decision is relatively easy. The Greek word has one basic meaning, so the only decision is which of various synonymous English words best expresses the connotation of the Greek word. But in many other cases, the Greek word has more than one basic meaning. But generally, the context indicates which of these meanings best "fits" in the text.
However, in some cases more than one meaning of the Greek word would fit in the particular context. So it is not certain which meaning the author had in mind. It is for this reason that the ALT includes alternative translations within brackets within the text. These are indicated by the notation, "or."
When alternative translations are used, the reader should realize the alternative translation is just as legitimate of a rendering as the translation in the text. In other words, it could go either way. So the alternative translation in the text cannot be ignored. It must be seriously considered in interpreting the text.
For instance, in John 15:2, Jesus could be saying about His Father, "Every branch in Me not bearing fruit He takes it away." Or the last phrase could be, "He lifts it up." This difference is important as it has a bearing on the theological question of eternal security. But the reader needs to consider the implications of each of these as both are possible translations of the Greek word.
At other times, the alternative translation represents a more traditional translation than the one used in the text. For instance, where the ALT uses "holy ones" most other versions will have "saints" (e.g. Romans 1:7).
The notation "or" is also used when a Greek phrase or sentence can be translated in more than one way. Again, the phrase or sentence in the text and the one in brackets are both legitimate renderings of the Greek text. So when Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, it could be rendered as, "the [one] righteous by faith will live" or as "the righteous will live by faith" (Romans 1:16).
The notation "or" is also sometimes used when a literal translation of a Greek phrase is particularly awkward. What follows is a slightly less literal rendering of the preceding literal translation. But the deviation from a strictly literal rendering is relatively minor. So this rendering also needs to be seriously considered as it is a legitimate translation.
For instance, in Matthew 5:22, Jesus refers to "the hell of the fire." The alternative translation of "the fiery hell" is given. The former is a strictly literal rendering while the latter is not quite as literal. But it would still be considered a word for word rendering as the grammatical form of the word "fire" can indicate an adjectival sense.
Another notation seen in brackets is "Gr." What follows is the original Greek word, with the Greek letters transliterated (changed) into English letters. These are given when the actual Greek word might be of interest to the reader. For instance, in Titus 1:5, Paul begins to give the qualifications for "elders." Following is, "[Gr. presbuteros]." This Greek word is the source of the English word "Presbyterian."
Additional Bracketed Materials
Other than the "or" or "Gr." bracketed materials, all other information seen in brackets is not directly indicative of material seen in the original Greek text. It represents information that has been added as an aid to the reader in understanding the text. So such material can be ignored if the reader so chooses. However, it is this translator's hope and prayer that this bracketed information will prove useful to the reader.
First among such additions are words added for clarity. These are included in the text without any preceding notations. They are included as very often the Greek text omits words that English grammar or normal usage would require. And without these words, the text would be excessively awkward and even "choppy. " If is for this reason that the "Copyright Information" page states that these words cannot be omitted when quoting from the ALT.
For example, the first phrase of Matthew 26:17 without the words added for clarity would read, "Now on the first of the Unleavened Bread." But with the words, it reads, "Now on the first [day] of the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread."
However, in some cases these clarifying words are interpretive, such as the addition of "sexually" to the end of 1Corinthians 7:1. This verse, the possible interpretations thereof, and my reasons for adding the clarifying word are discussed in detail in my book Differences Between Bible Versions, so I will not pursue the discussion here. But suffice it to say, cases where the added clarifying words are interpretive are rare in the ALT.
But a couple of instances are of particular note. After the word "brothers" is generally added "[and sisters]," and after the word "sons" is often added "[and daughters]." This is done as the Greek words can indicate a group of only males or a mixed group of males and females. Which is meant can sometimes be difficult to determine but can sometimes have important implications. So the inclusive possibility is given but in brackets so the reader can decide for yourself.
The next type of material seen in brackets is figurative renderings, indicated by the notation "fig." These are used when the preceding literal translation is excessively awkward or hard to understand. So the text has been paraphrased.
For instance, in Matthew 1:16, it is said that Mary, "was found having in [the] womb." Most readers probably could figure out that what this means. But to be sure, following the literal translation is, "[fig., to have become pregnant]."
Also seen in brackets are explanatory notes, indicated by the notation "i.e." These provide the type of information found in commentaries and in the footnotes of study Bibles. I have included such notes when I thought that some kind of explanation was needed to help the reader understand the text.
For instance, at His birth, Jesus was given gifts of "gold and frankincense and myrrh." People know what gold is, but many do not know what the latter two are. So I added, "[i.e., an expensive incense and ointment, respectively]" (Matt 2:11).
Similar to the above, also seen in brackets are modern-day equivalents for measurement and monetary units and time designations. The measurements are introduced by "about" and the monetary units and time designations by "i.e."
For the measurement units I have included both English and metric equivalents. This would seem pretty straightforward, but in many cases it is not exactly certain what an ancient unit referred to. But I have tried my best to research each unit so as to give the most likely equivalent.
Monetary units were even harder to give an equivalent for. Indicating equivalent USA dollar values would be one possibility. But due to inflation and other factors, over time such a value would become out of date. Also, it would not be useful to those from other countries.
So in most cases I decided to indicate the equivalent value in terms of ounces and grams of gold or silver as these precious metals have relatively consistent values over time. But in some cases I have given the equivalent in terms of the typical wage for a day or hour of work. Such values are for field laborers.
For most of the New Testament, equivalents for time designations are based on the Jewish method. With it, the day starts at our 6:00 a.m. and the night starts at our 6:00 p.m. and is broken up into four "watches" each lasting three hours. But in the Gospel of John, Roman time is most likely being used. But there is some debate on this, so both Jewish and Roman time is given. Roman time is the same as ours, with the hour count starting at either 12:00 midnight or 12:00 noon.
Meanings of proper names are sometimes indicated in brackets within quotation marks. This is done only when the meaning has significance to the text. For instance, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to call his Son "Jesus." Placed in brackets is, "Yahweh saves." Jesus' mission was to "save His people from their sins," so the meaning of His name is significant (Matt 1:21).
And finally, also seen in brackets are Scripture references. These include the sources for quotations from the Old Testament, along with cross-references. The former are given without any preceding notations while the latter are introduced by "cp." (for "compare") or by "see."
The sources for the OT quotations are generally rather obvious. But in some cases it is difficult to determine exactly which verse the NT writer is referring to as there is no verse in the OT that is identical to how the quote appears. Sometimes this is due to the writer paraphrasing or quoting from memory, and sometimes two or more verses are merged together. In such cases, the various possible sources are indicated.
But more often, the NT writer is quoting from the Septuagint instead of the original Hebrew text. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT from the third century B.C. It is abbreviated as "LXX." The name and abbreviation are based on the tradition that 70 or 72 Jewish scholars worked on the translation, six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The "LXX" notation is included in the ALT after the OT verse reference when the wording of the quote in the NT differs from the wording of the source verse in the Hebrew but is similar or even identical to that of the LXX. This will enable the reader to know when the use of the Septuagint is the reason for the difference between the quote as it appears in the NT and the OT source.
The cross-references generally come from my own Bible studies and indicate verses that I have found to be helpful in understanding the particular verse.
The original Greek text was written in all capital letters, with the letters all running together. It was also written without any punctuation marks. This means there was no distinction between small and capital letters in the original text, and the text was not divided into words, sentences, and paragraphs. It should also be noted that the chapter and verse divisions were not added to the text until hundreds of years after the New Testament was completed. So they are not reliable indications of the beginnings of sentences and paragraphs.
The Byzantine Greek Majority Text that I used for translating the ALT, as with most published Greek texts, includes spaces between words and includes the chapter and verse divisions. And rather than all capital letters, it prints the entire text in small letters simply because they are easier to read than capital letters. But this still means there is no distinction between small and capital letters. And the Byzantine text does not include any punctuation.
So in every case where a word is capitalized and where a new sentence or paragraph is started, it was this translator's decision without specific backing in the Greek text. But the text must be broken up into sentences and paragraphs for it to be readable by today's standards. And in most cases, this was relatively easy. I simply compared the practice used in other Bible versions and followed them. But in some cases, the versions differed, and so I was "own my own" so speak.
For instance, 1Corinthians 14:33 ends with the phrase "as in all the assemblies of the holy ones." Most versions include this as the last phrase of the paragraph running from verses 29-33. However, some versions make it the first phrase of the next paragraph (verses 34-35). This difference is important as Paul uses the phrase to emphasize the point he is making. But is he emphasizing the point of the former or of the latter paragraph?
In the first edition of the ALT, I included the phrase as the last phrase of the paragraph running from verses 29-33. But after having looked at it carefully, I realized it really could go either way. So for this second edition, I kept the phrase in the same place, but I then added the following note in brackets: "[or, The final phrase could instead be the first phrase of the next paragraph.]." I used the notation "or" since this is the notation used in the text to indicate two equally legitimate possibilities.
Besides the beginning of sentences, English usage also requires the use of capital letters for proper names. In such cases, there usually is not much difficulty in deciding when to capitalize such words. But what was possibly controversial was the decision to capitalize pronouns referring to deity.
I decided to do so for two main reasons. First, I simply believe it is a sign of respect to capitalize such pronouns. Secondly, there are times in the text when it can be difficult to determine who is speaking or being referred to. But the capitalization of such pronouns helps to clear up the confusion.
However, in capitalizing pronouns referring to Jesus, I am making a decision as to the deity of Jesus, and some would disagree with this decision. So I am using this page to indicate that the reader is free to disagree with this decision.
A similar decision was whether or not to use capitals in verses like John 8:58. In this verse, many believe Jesus is making a reference to Exodus 3:14 when He declares, "before Abraham came to be, I Am!"
In the first edition of the ALT, I did not capitalize the "am" as I felt it was too interpretive. But in this second edition I did capitalize the word. The reason for the change is that as I read over the text, it simply seemed inconsistent to capitalize pronouns referring to Jesus but not to capitalize the "am" here. I also included a cross-reference to Exodus 3:14 to indicate the possible connection. But again, the reader is free to disagree with this decision.
As indicated above, neither the original Greek text nor the Byzantine text includes any punctuation. So all punctuation seen in the ALT is added. And this was actually an area that caused me great difficulty. It required a review of proper English punctuation practices and careful proofreading of the text to be sure the correct punctuation was included in the appropriate places.
In most cases, where to use what punctuation was simply a matter of determining the correct English practice. But in some cases, it required a decision that affected the reading of the text.
For instance, probably the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16. But who is the source of this verse? Jesus is clearly speaking in the preceding verses. But from verses 16-21, it is unclear if Jesus is continuing His discourse, or if it is narrative by John the Gospel writer.
Similarly, later in the same chapter, John the Baptist is speaking in verses 27-30. But are verses 31-35 continuing discourse from John the Baptist or additional narrative by John the Gospel writer?
In the first edition of the ALT, I punctuated verses 16-21 as Jesus speaking and verses 31-35 as John the Baptist speaking. But after studying the issue for this second edition, I changed the punctuation to indicate both sections are narrative by John the Gospel writer. This change does not affect the interpretation, but it does change what the reader pictures in mind while reading these verses.
I have included this appendix in this second edition of the Analytical-Literal Translation to give the reader some idea of the many decisions and difficulties encountered when translating the New Testament. I also hope this appendix helps the reader better understand the reasons for the decisions made and how to best make use of the many helps included within the ALT text.
It is my hope and prayer that God has been guiding me in my decisions and that He uses the ALT to His glory and the spiritual growth of His people.
The Second Edition of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament is now available in paperback, hardback, and Acrobat Reader® eBook formats. It can be ordered from the publisher via their Web site AuthorHouse or by calling toll-free: 1-888-280-7715. The ALT2 is also available in Microsoft Reader® eBook format at Analytical-Literal Translation Preview.
Translation Decisions and Explanations of Notations Copyright (c) 2005 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this Web site April 1, 2005.
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