OET Literal Version

  • The Literal Version is less concerned about English fluency and more focussed on translating individual Hebrew and Greek words. It’s designed to be ‘a window into what’s actually written in the Hebrew and Greek’.
  • The OET Literal Version is more literal than most other ‘literal’ translations. We’re able to do this, because we know that the Readers’ Version is right next to it to smooth things over. (One easily noticeable difference from other ‘literal’ translations is that we don't omit Hebrew or Greek words which are usually untranslated in English.)
  • The Literal Version retains the ancient units (useful for historical and symbolic studies) whereas the Readers’ Version uses modern units for all measurements (easy to understand and visualise).
  • The Literal Version retains the original figurative language (even if it’s not a figure of speech that we are familiar with).
  • 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 and the Literal Version transliterates all proper nouns. If it’s a name from the Hebrew scriptures, then the first time it’s used in a New Testament book, it will also have a Hebrew transliteration. (If you have difficulty following the names in the Literal Version, you can always look across to the Readers’ Version for help.)
  • 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 too 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).
  • Up and down in the original languages (and thus in the Literal Version) refer to uphill and downhill.
  • 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:
    1. to raise from sitting, we’d want: stand up
    2. to raise from bed, we’d want: get up
    3. to raise from the grave, we’d want: come back to life
    4. to raise an object, we’d want: lift up
    5. to raise a person, we’d often want: exalt or praise
    Alert readers might be aware that there’s a play on words here in the gospels. When Jesus talked about himself being raised up, it was deliberately ambiguous because his hearers didn’t understand until right near the end that he was going to be executed so coming back to life wasn’t on their minds. So we, looking back in history, know that he was talking about coming back to life, but at the time, they were just very confused and didn’t understand what he meant. But amazingly, as well as referring to his resurrection, raising also refers to his crucifixion as the victims on the stakes were also raised. (See John 3:14.) Sadly, it’s not usually possible to make a translation easy to read and understand in our current times, without losing some of the underlying meaning or ambiguities or word-plays that were presented to the original hearers. That’s exactly why it’s good to have two different translations side-by-side!
  • 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:
    1. The Old Testament starts with “In the beginning, Elohim created…” and the New Testament starts with “In the beginning was the message…”.
    2. Acts ends up right after the first book by its author Luke.
    3. It just reminds readers that the order of the “books” in the Bible is not set by sacred degree—only by tradition.
    (Some do complain that the traditional order of the first four gospel accounts represent the lion, the calf, the man, and the eagle of Rev 4:6-7 which allegedly match with the banners (not described in the Bible) of the four divisions of the tribes of Israel mentioned in Numbers 2.)
  • 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:
    1. 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).
    2. 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”.
    Always check the Readers’ Version carefully for how it is translated into modern, idiomatic English before jumping to any conclusions of your own about what the original language or the Literal Version says or doesn’t say.