Literal Bible Versions

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

Those of us who are “Bible Geeks” tend to make use of a wide variety of Bible versions, translations and the occasional paraphrase. So, every time I discover a new one, I am compelled to investigate. Once again this has happened: I recently discovered the Literal Standard Version, released this past February. As you can tell, I’m late to the table with my thoughts on this one. (I’ll blame it on the pandemic, which really has nothing to do with it).

My Pastor has said that all translations are but commentaries on the original text. I agree with that statement — it’s hard not to. That being said, there are different types of commentaries that are either literal or dynamic in nature. For the purpose of studying the sacred text, I prefer literal versions. However, I also avail myself of some of the fine dynamic translations like the NIV or NLT to often see a different perspective.

In keeping with the topic of this post, I’ll stick to a discussion of some of the more literal versions. Aside from the recently released Literal Standard Version I already mentioned there are others worthy of note, such as Young’s 1898 literal translation (the LSV is based on Young’s work). There is also the very capable Lexham English Bible. Other (less literal) word-for-word translations that are excellent for study include the New American Standard Bible, its parent the American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the New King James Version and the King James Version. It should be noted that both the ASV and YLT frequently use the term “Jehovah” for the name of God rather than Lord, Yahweh or YHWH. That might be an issue for some. I know in my mind and heart when I see an interpretation of God’s name I immediately think of Yahweh, not Jehovah. What is key here is that we pay attention to the fact that the name of God is being referred to, right?

I will spend some time with the LSV and offer a brief review at a later time — in case anyone might be interested in picking up a copy (I purchased a paperback edition from Amazon well under $20).

To wrap this up, literal versions have advantage for the serious Bible student. They tend to offer less bias and guesswork than dynamic translations such as the very capable NLT or NIV. I use both versions often and appreciate them on their own merits, but they are not the first text I use when studying a more intriguing topic or passage. They are best consulted after reading a more literal version. I often find the resources in the NIV Study Bible and the HCSB Study Bible as invaluable. The best thing you might do is to check out different versions on an app like YouVersion or Bible Gateway, or a wealth of other choices. Happy studying!

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