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Analytical-Literal Translation:

Unique Features

By Gary F. Zeolla

There are a number of features in the Analytical-Literal Translation: Second Edition (ALT) which make the ALT unique or different from any other currently available Bible version. Some of these unique features are indicated by the three words comprising the name Analytical-Literal Translation.

"Analytical"

"Analytical" refers to the detailed analysis which was done on the vocabulary and grammar of the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Words:

A variety of Greek lexicons (dictionaries) and other reference works were utilized to determine as exactly as possible the meanings of each Greek word. Translations were used which are as understandable and vivid as possible while remaining faithful to the meaning of the original words.

In addition, as much as possible, different Greek terms were translated by different English words and the same, or at least, a very limited number of different English words were used to translate the same Greek word.

Different words were used for the same original word when the original word clearly has more than one distinct meaning or when the flow of the context required it. And the same English word is used to translate different original words when the original words are clearly synonymous and/ or there is simply not two different English words that express nuances between the words, or again, when the flow of the context requires it.

Thus the ALT recognizes that both consistency in translation is important but also that words can have different meanings in different contexts (think, for instance, of varying meanings the English word  "trunk" can have). So the ALT uses different translations for the same word but limits the differing translations to a smaller number than most versions.

Grammar:

Greek grammatical works were consulted to express as accurately as possible all the details of the original grammar. In several cases, this analysis results in the ALT rendering the text in unique ways compared to most versions.

The "Grammatical Renderings" section discusses in detail these unique renderings. It also explains the reasons for these renderings and quotes from Greek grammatical references to show why they are the most accurate renderings of the grammar.

The basic standards for the expression of analyses of both vocabulary and grammar in the ALT are: lexical and grammatical accuracy, context, consistency, readability, and vividness of description (in that order).

See Reference Works Consulted for a list of resources which were utilized in the analysis of words and grammar.

"Literal"

"Literal" refers to the words, word order, and grammar of the original languages having been rendered as closely possible with only minimal changes made for readability sake.

Translation Method:

The translation method used in the ALT was a literal method. The only other English versions which use this method are Jay Green's Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV) and Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

This translation method produces a version that is even more accurate than the "formal equivalence" translation principle seen in The King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV).

The YLT was used as a starting point in the production of the ALT. However, YLT was produced in the late 1800's. So much of the language is now archaic and needed updating. This was done at the initial stage of the production of the ALT. Many changes beside just the updating or archaic language were then made to the text.

The LITV, meanwhile, is a very worthwhile version and is recommended highly. But the ALT differs from the LITV and YLT in its expression of the detailed analysis of words and grammar as described above.

Literal and formal equivalence translation principles differs from the less literal "dynamic equivalence" method used in most modern versions. For discussions of these different types of translation philosophies, see this writer's book Differences Between Bible Versions for more details in this regard.

Added words:

Any words, and only words, not specifically indicated by the vocabulary or grammar of the Greek text but which were added for clarity are offset in brackets. This practice is seen in the above mentioned versions, but it is generally not followed in the more popular dynamic equivalence types of versions.

Word order:

Greek word order differs significantly from English word order. For instance, Greek word order generally puts the verb before the subject, rather than the subject before the verb. For example, John 4:7 in Greek word order would begin, "Comes a woman...." Most every version renders this as "A woman comes ...." And this English word order is followed in the ALT.

However, if it appeared like the Greek is in a particular order for a specific reason, such as putting a word first or last in a sentence for emphasis, the Greek word order was retained. In other words, if there seemed to be a specific reason other than simple linguistic differences for the word order it was retained in the ALT. But if the difference was simply the linguistic difference between Greek and English, for readability sake, the English word order was utilized.

"Translation"

Translation vs. Transliteration:

Many words have been brought over from Greek into English with very little change, other than transliterating the Greek letters into English letter. But in some cases, the current connotation of the English word does not fully capture the meaning of the original Greek word. And at times, the English words has taken on connotations which are not seen in the Greek word. In these kind of cases, the ALT translates rather than transliterates the word. So "translation" in the name Analytical-Literal Translation means many words traditionally transliterated were often translated in the ALT

The most notable examples of this practice are: assembly rather than church and realm of the dead rather than Hades or hell. For the first, the traditional transliteration is placed in brackets, and for the latter the transliteration of hades is bracketed. The chapter "Glossary and Translation Notes" details the reasons for translations such as these.

Exception:

A notable example where the Greek word was transliterated rather than translated is in regards to the Greek word baptizo, rendered "baptize." See Baptism in Bible Translation for an in-depth discussion on this rendering.

Additional Unique Features

Original Language Text:

The New Testament in the KJV, NKJV, LITV, and YLT are based on the Textus Receptus (TR). Most other modern-day versions are based on the Critical Text. Of these two Greek texts, this writer strongly believes the TR is to be preferred, but somewhat better than the TR is the Majority Text (MT).

Since the ALT was an updating of YLT in its initial stage, the ALT was initially based on the TR, but it was later converted to the MT, specifically The Greek New Testament: Byzantine Textform. Second Edition.

To date, the only other regular translation of this MT available is the World English Bible (WEB). The WEB is a rather worthwhile version, but it is not really that literal. It is basically a cross between a "formal equivalence" and a "dynamic equivalence" version. The WEB doesn't even offset words added for clarity. The ALT, on the other hand, goes even beyond "formal equivalence" to the point of being a literal version and offsets added words in brackets.

Moreover, the WEB is based on the first edition of the Byzantine Majority Text while the second edition of the ALT is based on the second edition of the Byzantine Text. Maurice Robison, one of the compliers of the Byzantine text, provided a list of changes from the first to the second editions of his text to the translator of the ALT before the Byzantine text was even translated. In this way, the second edition of the ALT is based on the most up-to-date Greek text possible.

The only other translation of the MT available is the English translation in the NKJV Greek English Interlinear by Arthur L. Farstad, et.al. This interlinear utilizes Hodges & Farstad's version of the MT. This text differs slightly from the Byzantine Majority Text. The NKJV Interlinear is very worthwhile and is one of the references which were consulted in the production of this translation. But it is not what you would call a standard translation and is now out of print.

For discussions on the different, published Greek texts available, see this writer’s book Differences Between Bible Versions.

Textual Variants:

I struggled considerably over whether I should include textual variants in ALT. I personally have found the variant notes in the NKJV to be helpful. And I do believe they help to dispel confusion that can be caused at Bible studies by different readings in different versions.

However, variant notes do seem to give credence to the CT. They can make it sound like the CT is just as good as the TR or MT.

So for the ALT, I came up with a compromise. I decided to include textual variants, but rather than as notes on the same page as the text, they are in a separate appendix in the back of the Bible. I also did not use any kind of superscript footnote markers like the NKJV does to indicate where there are variants within the text. So someone can easily ignore the variants by simply not turning to the back of the Bible.

Moreover, the first two sentences in the introduction to the variants reads, "This second edition of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible is based on the forthcoming second edition of the Byzantine Majority Text. The translator believes this Greek text most accurately reflects the original manuscripts." So I made it clear that I believe the MT is superior to the CT and even the TR. I also referred readers to my book Differences Between Bible Versions for a discussion on why this is so.

So the ALT is unique in including textual variants which many versions do not, but it is also unique in not including them on the same page as the text as is done in most versions that do include them.

Controversial Translations:

There are times when a word has two possible translations, and one translation favors one theological viewpoint, and the other favors a different theological viewpoint. In such cases, most translations generally only give one of these possible renderings. But the ALT generally gives both—one in the text and one in brackets as an alternative translation. So the ALT does not "fix" the meaning to one theological viewpoint. Which rendering is used in the text and which in brackets was decided on a case-by-case basis. See Baptism in Bible Translation for discussion of two such words.

Inclusive Language:

Most older versions have more masculine language than is required by the original text. They include words like "he" or "man" where such words are not actually in the original texts or could legitimately be rendered in a more inclusive manner.

On the other hand, many recent, modern-day versions alter the text to make it more inclusive than the original text allows. They will change words like "he" or "man" to "they" or "people" even when the original text is singular.

The ALT strikes a balance between these extremes by rendering the translation as inclusive as possible but without sacrificing any fidelity to the original text.

Second-Person Pronoun:

English does not have separate words for the second-person, singular and second-person plural pronouns. In both cases "you" is used. The same situation occurs for the second-person possessive. For both the singular and plural "your" is used. Greek, however, does have separate pronouns for the two forms for both the pronoun and the possessive.

The ALT shows the distinction by putting an asterisk after "you" or "your" when the original is plural (e.g. you* or your*). When the pronoun is singular no special mark is used.

At times, such as in commands, the "you" is understood and thus generally not translated (e.g. "Be seen!"). But if the number is not clear from the context, the "you" is included with or without the asterisk as appropriate (e.g. "You* be seen!"). Using such a marker might be a slight distraction, but it will help clear up some ambiguous passages.

Emphasized Pronoun:

Greek grammar has a way of putting an emphasis on a pronoun in the text. Such an emphasis is generally not shown in Bible versions as it can be awkward to do so.

But the ALT shows the emphasis of the pronoun by underlining such pronouns. Showing the emphasized pronoun is important as it is being used for, well, emphasis. Either the speaker is emphasizing his role in the action or there is an emphasis on the person being spoken to or being spoken about.

Measurement, Monetary, and Time Equivalents:

Modern day equivalents are given in brackets within the text for measurement and monetary units and time designations. The measurement equivalents are based on the equivalents given in various reference works. The monetary units are generally given in equivalents of weights of gold or silver. The chapter "Measurement and Monetary Units" lists the equivalents that were used in figuring the values to include in the text.

The time equivalents are based on the Jewish reckoning of the day stating at sunrise (i.e. 6:00 a.m.), except in the Gospel of John. It is uncertain whether John used the Jewish timetable or the Roman (which is the same as ours). So in John, both the Roman and Jewish methods are given. An argument in favor of John having used the Roman method is that he was writing after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke were writing before that event.

Capitalization:

Pronouns referring to Deity are capitalized. This practice is used in some modern versions. But the KJV and most modern versions use lower case letters. It is believed such capitalization shows respect for God. It also helps to clear up some ambiguous passages.

Also capitalized are terms like "the Gospel." Such terms generally are not capitalized in most versions. But they are capitalized in the ALT to show their importance and since they are referring to specific concepts.

Use of Brackets

Brackets are used to offset words added for clarity or explanation. The former are words needed for sense in English which do not actually occur in the text. The latter is basically the type of information generally found in footnotes.

Some of these bracketed materials have been discussed above. For a summary, and to introduce some additional bracketed materials, below is a list of what can be found in brackets in the ALT. 

1.  Words added for clarity.

2.  The meanings of proper names when the meaning is significant (in quotation marks).

3.  Modern-day equivalents for measurements and monetary units in the original ("about" then the equivalent).

4.  Time equivalents (using "i.e." follow by modern equivalents).

5.  The traditional transliteration of a word the ALT translates ("or," followed by the traditional rendering).

6.  An alternative translation for the preceding word or phrase or less literal translation when the literal translation is unclear ("or," followed by the alternative or less literal translation).

7.  Figurative meaning or paraphrase of the preceding literal translation ("fig.," followed by the figurative meaning).

8.  A transliteration of the Greek word previously translated ("Gr." followed by the transliteration in quotation marks).

9.  Explanatory notes (using "i.e." follow by the explanation)

10.  Verse references for OT quotations in the NT.

11.  Cross references (using "cp." -  for "compare" or "see").

The reason for placing footnote type of material within brackets rather than in footnotes is two-fold. First, it is recognized most people generally do not read footnotes. So they often miss important information which might help to clarify the text.

Second, footnotes are generally "lost" when a Bible text is used in a software program. But by placing such material within the text it will be retained.

Placing such information within the text or at the end of verses in brackets might make the text more awkward to read. But it is even more awkward for those who read footnotes to be reading the text, see a footnote notation, move to the footnote section, read the footnote, then try to find their place in the text to continue reading.

Moreover, the attempt was made to keep bracketed materials to a minimum so as not to disrupt the flow of the text too much. Also, it is possible to read the text while ignoring bracketed materials for a truly literal translation. But the bracketed materials, it is believed, aid in the comprehension of the text.

Conclusion

None of the above features are found collectively in any currently available Bible version. So the Analytical-Literal Translation is truly an "alternative" and unique version. For further details on many of the above features, see the eBook Companion Volume to the ALT Bible.


Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article was first posted on this Web site January 8, 1999.
It was last updated to be in accordance with the second edition January 31, 2005.

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