Tuesday, May 25, 2010

OET Literal Version

Most Bible translations consist of only one version, but a number of editions, perhaps with British vs. American spellings, with or without cross-references or study notes, mini-concordance, etc. However, the Open English Translation (OET) of the Bible comes from the beginning with more than one version with different aims, but expected to be used together just like a modern builder might use a nail-gun for many tasks, but pick up his hammer for others.

The first OET version I want to introduce is the Literal Version (OET-LV). Here's an initial list of some of the Literal Version features:
  • It will attempt to follow the original (Hebrew and Greek) Scriptures as closely as possible (at the expense of sounding "wooden" in English)
  • This means being as literal as possible -- trying to match pretty much word-for-word (thus idioms won't be adjusted)
  • Any non-trivial words that must be added to the English for understanding will be clearly marked as additions
  • Every attempt will be made to make the English glosses consistent (at least for the primary meanings of words)
  • Primary and extended meanings of words will be marked using slashes, e.g., (מַלְאָךְ) messenger/angel
  • Slashes may also be used to denote an English range of meaning that's perhaps different from the word in the original languages, e.g., sorrow/mourning
  • Underscores may be used to join English words coming from a single source language word, e.g., cause_to_stumble, except that small grammatical features like articles, prepositions, and conjunctions maybe be exempted from this
  • Where it seems to critically affect the meaning, grammatical features that are not normally in English (such as marking gender or distinguishing between you singular and plural) will be marked
  • The divine name will simply be rendered as YHWH
  • People and place names will be transliterated more accurately, e.g., Yonah instead of Jonah, Yesous instead of Jesus (but not going to the trouble of using additional markings to distinguish the long and short vowels, etc.)
  • Only proper nouns (and sentence beginnings) will be capitalised in the text, thus there will be no God only god
  • The translation will be rendered into English sentence by sentence (with ambiguities marked in footnotes), i.e., the 19th sentence of the English New Testament should match the 19th sentence of the Greek.
  • There will be no section headers or paragraph markings -- it will generally be displayed by sentence (as traditional chapter and verse numbers will be downplayed in all OET versions)
  • Only original measurements will be used, e.g., cubits not metres.
  • There will be extensive footnotes about variants (and missing or unclear sections) in the early manuscripts
  • The  OET-LV is aimed at readers and students who don't read the original languages themselves, but want to get a good idea of what they actually say
  • It is hoped that the web-based publication can also provide live links to facsimiles of the original documents.
A very rough sample of a small book can be seen here: Jonah

Please note your suggested improvements in the comments -- I want to hear your ideas for improvements.

So hopefully you can see that the OET-LV is aimed to give pastors and all those studying the English Bible relatively good access to the original texts, even if they are impeded by not being able to read the original languages.


  1. I like the idea of having different flavors of a translation for different purposes: literal edition, reader's edition, children's, dramatized audio edition, etc. What would be especially cool is if these different editions were all linked together, so that as you're reading the the reader's edition (in a web app for example) you could look behind the text to see the literal edition, or visa-versa. By having all of the editions linked together, it would also help with keeping them in sync with each other.

  2. Actually, I am trying to distinguish "versions" from "editions". To me, a different edition is a different package -- maybe with or without notes, pictures, cross references, etc. The Scripture text remains the same, except perhaps for small things like switching between British/American spelling conventions. A version has changes in the rendering of the Scripture text.

    And yes, I am anticipating that it will be valuable to link the versions together. I see that as one of the useful design distinctives of the OET.