Saturday, April 27, 2013

Your New Favorite Second-Bible!

Anyone who's discussed the Bible with me eventually discovers that I'm a little OCD over which English Bible translation is best.  I freaked out when I learned the NIV was being updated a couple of years ago, only to reconcile with my favorite preaching Bible in its latest embodiment, the 2011 NIV.

The LEB:  One of the Most "Literal" English Bible Translations
The difficulty with English translations is that they are translations of Scripture which was originally God-breathed, and written down in Hebrew for the Old Testament (with a bit in Aramaic), and Koine Greek for the New Testament.  Learning the original languages is the best approach to comprehending the Word of God.  When I say learning I mean total language immersion.  Learning only primary Hebrew and Greek will confuse the student, as the biblical languages are full of idiomatic expressions.  For example, When Amos 4:6 says, "I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities," this is an expression for  lack of food rather than abundance of toothpaste!
I Often Go Overboard When Comparing Translations!
If you're not able or willing to exert the effort of saturating yourself with the text and culture of biblical language, the next best thing would be using Greek/Hebrew lexicons, and multiple Bible versions. Software, such as Accordance, and websites, such as Bible Gateway are great for doing side-by-side comparisons.  You should choose at least one "word-for-word," one "thought-for thought," and a good ESL or paraphrased Bible.

A simpler version of this method involves using a parallel Bible comprised of only two translations you rely on for getting as close as you can to what the text actually says and actually means.  This is where the LEB comes in.  I recently discovered the Lexham English Bible and have already started falling in love with its literal and readable style, which makes it a great compliment to the NIV.

The goal of the LEB is stated on its translators' website:  
The LEB complements your primary translation. Its transparent design and literal rendering helps you see the text of God’s Word from another angle. Whether you use the ESV, NIV, KJV, or another popular English translation, the entire translation process of the LEB helps you identify difficult texts, idiomatic phrases, grammatical issues, and more. The result? A better understanding of the Bible in English—whatever translation you use. 
So, the LEB strives to be a more literal, or "word-for-word" translation.  Now literal doesn't always mean most accurate.  A translation that conveys the meaning of a word or phrase can be just as helpful as simply copying the exact words over into English.  Such literal copying can actually loose original idioms from Hebrew and Greek.  Having said that, having a translation such as the LEB puts the reader closer to those original languages without having to learn them.

My only drawback so far is that there is not a module of the LEB available for my favorite Bible study software: Accordance.  This is maybe because their competitor, Logos, produced the LEB.

On a good note, the LEB is very flexible and free.  I found ePub, PDF, and other formats available for download at no charge!  I also love the way the translators bracket words and phrases that were translated from Hebrew or Greek idioms.  They translate them into intelligible English, but share the original idiom in the footnotes.  For example, in Matthew 4:19, Jesus says, "Follow me..."  The LEB footnote reveals the literal words used were, "Come behind me..." which comprises an idiom for "follow me."

I recommend you give this new translation a try as a side-by-side Bible to your current favorite!  You might supprise yourself and keep using it!

Note on idioms:  An idiom in a language is a group of words which are taken to mean something that's not obvious from the individual words.  In English you might say, "let the cat out of the bag," which means to reveal a secret, although it sounds as though it has nothing to do with that meaning.


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