About the OET
The Readers’ Version (OET-RV) and the Literal Version (OET-LV) side-by-side, together make up the OET.
So why two versions? Well, many people ask the question:Which English Bible translation should I use? And often the answer is that there’s no single Bible translation which can meet all of the needs of the thoughtful reader. Why not? It’s because we often have two related desires that we need answered:
- What does the original (Hebrew or Greek) text actually say? and
- What did the original writer mean? (i.e., What should we understand from it?)
Our answer has always been that it’s best to use two translations—one more literal to give a window into the actual Hebrew or Greek words, and one more dynamic that’s easier for us modern readers to understand—as much to do with our quite different cultures as to do with our different languages.
So the OET gives both side-by-side, and with the advantage that both the Readers’ Version and the Literal Version have been specifically designed to be used together in this way. We suggest reading down the Readers’ Version on the left (in our Reader), and if something stands out and you think in your mind “Does it really say that?” or “Could it really mean that?”, then flick your eyes across to the Literal Version and see for yourself what’s really there in the original texts.
On the other hand if you’ve been reading the Bible for a few decades already, maybe it would be fun to work through the Literal Version to get fresh insight into what’s actually written there in those original languages. It won’t be easy reading, but it should be insightful as the different wording will require more concentration.
Goals and intended audience
The OET has the following goals:
- The primary goal of the Open English Translation is to make the Bible more accessible to this current generation with the best of a free-and-open, easy-to-understand Readers’ Versionalongside a faithful Literal Version so that readers themselves can checkout what was said and what is interpreted.
- Part of the motivation comes from our work on the street and door-to-door where we worked hard to explain the Good Message about Jesus to people without any church background. The Readers’ Version strives to replace jargon and terminology that’s only heard at church with words and phrases that should be understood by modern English speakers.
- A further goal is to expose more people to some of the background of where our Bibles come from and how translators make decisions, i.e., to teach a little more about original manuscripts and to challenge a little more about English translation traditions (some going back to the 1500’s) that can possibly be improved.
- Finally, we also want a translation that can be read by Christians with many years of Bible reading experience, but who might benefit by reading the accounts in slightly different words that make it fresh and interesting, and hopefully it will provoke deeper thought into what the original speakers or writers were likely meaning to say.
The OET has the following distinguishing points:
- An easy-to-understand Readers’ Version alongside a very Literal Version
- A generous open license so that the Open English Translation can be freely used in any Bible app or website, or printed in your church Bible-study notes without even needing to request permission.
- The Readers’ Version speaks like people around you. Because the history and legacy of English Bibles now goes back for hundreds of years, many things have been carried over that readers don’t even realise. For example, we might all smile at Yoda saying, “Strong is the force.” That’s because naturally we would say, “The force is strong.” So think about “Great is your faithfulness.” (At least Miles Coverdale improved it in 1535 if you look carefully in our parallel Bible pages.) But our aim isn’t at all to criticise those who came before (because we very-much build on their shoulders)—we just want our readers to be able to share the Good News of Jesus the Messiah with others, without them thinking that Christians speak like dinosaurs (or Yoda)!
- The Readers’ Version has section headings and cross-references and most of the other features that help modern Bible readers.
- The Readers’ Version uses modern units for all measurements (easy to understand and visualise), whereas the Literal Version retains the ancient units (useful for historical and symbolic studies).
- The Readers’ Version keeps well-known figures of speech, but if the original figure of speech is not readily understandable, it explains the point that the author appears to be trying to express. On the other hand, the Literal Version retains the original figurative language (even if it’s not a figure of speech that we are familiar with).
- Up and down in the original languages (and thus in the Literal Version) refer to uphill and downhill. However, in the Readers’ Version, up and down are used to refer to north and south respectively as per our modern norm.
- The Readers’ Version is less formal than most modern English Bible translations, for example, we would use contracted words like we’ll and didn’t, especially when it’s in direct speech. (Always remember that the Bible was written in the languages of the common people.)
- The Readers’ Version uses section headings which are very helpful to skim through when trying to locate a certain passage. However, you’ll quickly notice that they are formatted in such a way as not to break the flow of the letter or narrative. This is to visually help the reader to appreciate the full context of the part they’re reading, and not to ignore the connections with what came before and what follows.
We’ve also tried to focus our section headings on principles that are being taught, rather than just focusing on the events happening at the time.
We’ll also be providing a list of these section headings that you can quickly skim through (and we hope to also include extra, alternative headings to help users find what they’re looking for).
- Being a 21st century translation done in an era when there is much more effort in general to respect speakers of other languages (including the languages of ethnic minorities in our own countries) and to pronounce their names and placenames correctly, the OET attempts to do the same for Biblical names and placenames. (All this is a little complex when we have both Hebrew and Greek versions of names and placenames—more below.) Certainly by showing a little more respect for Hebrew names, we hope to make this Bible translation a little more “Jew-friendly”. If you have difficulty following the names in the Literal Version, you can always look across to the Readers’ Version. (Most English readers looking at names in the Bible all the way from Jericho to Jesus would have no idea that there’s no J letter or sound in either Hebrew or Greek, plus there’s absolutely no such name as James in the New Testament manuscripts—it’s a historical accident carried through from an inconsistency by John Wycliffe—see this article for example.
- In addition to wanting to get names and placenames more accurate, we’ve also attempted to modernise and simplify the spelling (transliterations) of these names to make it easier for readers to pronounce them as they come across them, e.g., using f instead of ph, so Epafras instead of Epaphras. (Oddly, even traditional English Bible translations surprisingly do use Felix and Festus.)
- With regular words, we’ve tried to do the opposite, i.e., to use less Greek rather than more wherever possible. So a word like baptise (which is an adapted transliteration of the Greek verb), actually gets translated, so this example becomes immerse.
- Italics are only used for emphasis, not to indicate added words as historically done in older translations due to limitations of the original printing processes. The OET fixes the problem where most modern books use italics for emphasis whereas older Bibles use italics for the words which should actually be deemphasised, i.e., the words which actually aren’t in the original manuscripts!
- The English Christ is an adapted transliteration of the Koine Greek word Kristos used for the original Hebrew Messiah. (It’s not Jesus’ surname!) It seems to make sense to only use one word consistently rather than using two words for the same thing (just because they came from two different languages), so the OET has elected to only use messiah. However, these words actually have a meaning, just as President is not just a title, but someone who presides over governmental meetings. So going a step further, we have chosen to use the contemporary meaning of the word in the Literal Version. The original meaning is one who is anointed (by having a hornful of oil poured over them), but we use the extended meaning which is one who is selected/chosen (by God).
- Most readers living in modern democracies have never been familiar with the concept of an ancient king or lord who has the power of life and death over them. Thus the title Lord Jesus is easily said, yet relatively few actually live with Jesus as the lord of their thoughts and actions and daily activities. (Just think how many would embarrassingly rush to turn off the video they’re streaming if Jesus appeared in the room.) As a reaction to the word Lord seemingly becoming so cliché for many Christians, we use the translation master as a way to get readers to at least think a little more about what the concept might mean. (The word boss felt a little informal.)
- The Literal Version tries to add as little as possible that’s not actually there in the original manuscripts. Of course, we add spaces between words so we can read it faster, and we add capitals at the start of sentences as per standard, modern English, but we don’t capitalise words like Kingdom of Heaven or even He when it refers to Jesus, because the concept of capital and small letters didn’t even exist when original manuscripts like this portion were written. (Our policy has more to do with accuracy and education than it does with “lack of respect” or any such thing. Often this goes against religious tradition of the last few centuries, but just because something is traditional, does not necessarily mean that it is correct or even helpful.)
- Most dialects of modern English don’t distinguish between you (singular) referring to just one person, and you (plural) referring to a group of people. However, the original languages clearly distinguish these, so in order to indicate this to our readers the Literal Version uses you_all for the plural form (although we are aware that some modern dialects now prefer yous).
- Because the Literal Version so closely follows the original languages, it’s important to remember that words often don’t match one-to-one between languages. This is one reason why the OET-LV reads strangely: because we try to avoid using different English words if we can; knowing that the OET-LV will not be natural English. Again, this is because we want the OET-LV to be a window into what’s actually written in the original languages. For fluent English (like in the Readers’ Version) the same Greek word might require several different translations when used in different contexts. For example, the Greek word translated raise in the OET-LV would likely require the following changes:
- to raise from sitting, we’d want: stand up
- to raise from bed, we’d want: get up
- to raise from the grave, we’d want: come back to life
- to raise an object, we’d want: lift up
- to raise a person, we’d often want: exalt or praise
- These particular pages use British spelling, but American spelling will also be available in the future.
- Our preference in most editions is to place The Gospel according to John before Matthew. This has a couple of advantages:
- The Old Testament starts with “In the beginning, Elohim created…” and the New Testament starts with “In the beginning was the message…”.
- Acts ends up right after the first book by its author Luke.
- It just reminds readers that the order of the “books” in the Bible is not set by sacred degree—only by tradition.
- Beware of some traps interpreting the Literal Version. Because it’s not designed to be used alone (but rather alongside the Readers’ Version), it’s much more literal than most other “literal versions”. You’ll quickly notice lighter colours that mark the deemphasis of words that had to be added to make the English sentences even make sense. But there’s at least two other things that aren’t necessarily changed in the English Literal Version:
- Other languages use the negative differently, especially when it’s doubled or tripled in the sentence. If you don’t understand this, you could easily think that the original means the opposite of what the words actually appear to say. For example the double negative: “You are_ not _caring_about no one.” (adapted from Matthew 22:16). In natural, fluent English, we would have to reverse the second negative to get the expected meaning, ending up with anyone as you’ll find in the Readers’ Version. But in Greek, the second negative adds emphasis rather than reversing the first negative. So our Literal Version shows you the words that are actually there (in the Greek in this case).
- Other languages may omit (or elide) words which are clearly implied to the original reader, but which the modern English reader finds strange, e.g., a son may be divided against his father, and a daughter her mother. The elided words are “may be divided against”.
The Open English Translation of the Bible has been planned since before 2010 and an early draft of the account about Jonah was made around then, but other commitments prevented much progress until it was restarted again in mid-2022.
The initial vision came after Robert Hunt switched from Windows to Linux on his laptop used for Bible translation in the Philippines. (This was mostly done to avoid the spread of computer viruses.) After some time, he came to realise that the components and programs used on the free Linux operating system had all been donated by clever programmers, but this was in contrast to the Bible resources on the same laptop that were all encrypted and their use was tightly controlled. This didn’t seem to match either the origin of the scriptures nor did it match the theme of Jesus’ gift to mankind. (Shouldn’t Christians be more generous than secular programmers, not less? Isn’t the Bible often called ‘God’s’ word? Even today, it’s much easier to find a pornography download on the internet than to find a free, modern Bible text download that you could use in your own app or on your own website. Try finding one—you’ll find plenty of apps but not the source files.)