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This page provides a review of a reference work that was consulted while working on the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament (ALT). To purchase a copy of the third edition, click here.

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Young's Literal Translation of the Bible

By Robert Young

Very literal translation, but can be improved upon

I used YLT as the starting point for my own Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament (ALT). The first step was to update the archaic language in YLT. And that would be the first difficulty the average reader would have with YLT.

YLT also very strictly follows the Greek word order. I tried to keep this word order as much as possible. However, Greek word order often differs significantly from English word order, and this can make the text unnecessarily awkward. For instance, Greek word order generally puts the verb before the subject. For example, John 4:7 in YLT begins, “There cometh a woman....” I updated this for the ALT to, “A woman comes….”

Otherwise, YLT offsets words added for clarity as I strongly believe should be done. However, in working on the ALT, I found many instances of the added definitive article (“the”) that Young did not bracket.

I especially like that YLT did a rather good job of literally translating Greek tenses. For instance, Young translated Greek “historical presents” as what they are, present tense. He does not change it to past tense as generally is done. For example, YLT renders all of John 4:7 as, “There cometh a woman out of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith to her, ‘Give me to drink.’” The ALT updates this verse to, “A woman comes from Samaria to draw water. Jesus says to her, ‘Give Me to drink.’”

Similarly, YLT renders the futuristic present as present, not future as in most versions. For example, YLT renders Matthew 26:2, “Ye have known that after two days the passover cometh, and the Son of Man is delivered up to be crucified.” Note Jesus’ words “is delivered” are in the present tense even though the event is yet future at the time Jesus is speaking. Most modern versions change this present tense to the future tense. The ALT retains Young’s rendering of this “futuristic present” and updates this verse to, “You* know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Humanity is being handed over to be crucified.”

However, YLT misses some other finer points of Greek grammar. For instance, YLT does not bring out the sense of the prohibitive, present imperative. This construction indicates that an action in progress should be stopped. But like most versions, YLT does not bring out this finer point of grammar. For example, the first phrase of Colossians 3:9 has a prohibitive, present imperative. YLT renders it as, “Lie not one to another ...” The ALT indicates the sense of the prohibitive, present imperative by using the word “Stop” at the beginning of such constructions. So this verse is rendered, “Stop lying to one another ....”

So in many respects YLT is a very worthwhile and literal version. But with its archaic language and by slavishly following the Greek word order, YLT is rather awkward to read. It brings out some of the finer points of the Greek grammar, but missed the chance to indicate others.

However, the above discussion is in regards to the NT. For the OT, Young had some rather unorthodox ideas in regards to the “waw conversive” in the Hebrew text of the OT. Without going into technical details, it will just be said that Young did not believe this construction had any significance whereas most every other translator and Hebrew scholar does. This is not a minor point as it affected the way verb tenses are rendered throughout the OT in YLT. So Young’s ideas in this regard basically leave his OT considerably different from other versions and most likely wrong in its renderings.

For further details on finer points of Greek grammar that are often missed in Bible versions, see the “Grammatical Renderings” section in my Companion Volume to the ALT. And for an updated literal translation, see my ALT.

Review of Young's Literal Translation of the Bible Copyright (c) 2008 by Gary F. Zeolla.

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