One thing that I think readers of the TEB might find interesting is the translation method I have used over the years. It is only possible through the use of sophisticated Bible software. For years I worked on a standard PC platform and used Bibleworks, which I found to be the absolute best for Microsoft Windows users. Back in 2004 I switched to Apple and have used a Mac laptop every since and I use the software program Accordance, that I consider to be the absolute gold standard in the Bible software business. Rather than simply beginning in Genesis, and working through verse by verse, one book after the other, from beginning to end, I have used an entirely unique approach. What I have done is to translate each key verb, and its associated nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, throughout the entire Hebrew Bible, one by one, as consistently and literally as possible. The Hebrew language is mostly based on these verbal roots. For example, the word “create” in Genesis 1:1 (bara’ in Hebrew) occurs precisely 54 times in 46 different verses in the Hebrew Bible. In order to obtain the most consistency possible, I have gone to all 46 of these verses, stretching from Genesis 1:1 to Malachi 2:10, and translated each occurrence. For example, in Joshua 17:15 the King James Version has translated the verb as “cut down” in the sense of clearing a forest—but it is the same verb, bara’ in Hebrew. In Ezekiel 21:19 this verb is translated by the KJV as “choose.” The noun, beri’ah, based on this very same verb, found in Numbers 16:30, is translated “a new thing,” which carries an entirely different verbal meaning—that of “newness” rather than “creation.” I believe it is important to be as consistent as possible, so in each and every occurrence I have tried to use the same English term—to create, even though in many places it appears that verbs like “do” “make” “put” or even “cut” might be appropriate. I am not suggesting that words in Hebrew, or in any language for that matter, never vary in their usage and meaning, and one can adopt a completely mindless and wooden method of translation. What we have attempted to do, however, is to reflect a more consistent pattern for a given verbal root, and try to get at the “heart” of the concept or meaning that the verbal root/word carries.
I have identified hundreds of these important “conceptual verbal roots,” some of which occur many hundreds of times, and followed them through the entire Bible. What this means is that my translation has grown like a giant grid, with more and more words being fit into the overall product all the time, and more and more verses of the Bible being included. Common words like eat, sleep, walk, run, and so forth, present little difficulty, in any language. The problem comes with trying to be accurate and consistent with the conceptual terms. For example, there are five main Hebrew verbal roots dealing with the concept of “sin,” but the common English translations use a long list of terms such as blame, fault, trespass, offense, wrong, iniquity, perversion, crookedness, wickedness, etc. These are just mixed together in a totally arbitrary manner, as if there is no distinction, and the English reader has no sense of what the original term conveys. In fact, one Hebrew word carries more the meaning of “missing the mark” or failing to meet a standard, while another has to do with “twisting” or perverting the standard, and the third deals with rebelling or actually going against, or that is opposing, the standard. Since each of these verbs, and their associated nouns and adjectives, occur hundreds of times all through the Hebrew Bible, the task of being consistent throughout is greatly compounded.
In the first Genesis sample just released some have already written to ask, “Why did you use the English word ‘bad’ in Genesis 2:9, rather than the more traditional term ‘evil’ with reference to the ‘knowledge of good and evil?” The answer has to do with my attempt to get at the root meaning of the term, and to avoid standard translations that often have more of a theological than a linguistic basis. This can be a very difficult task, and there is no way anyone can carry out such an ideal method perfectly. There are always ambiguities and exceptions. Still, the general attempt is really amazing in terms of how it changes the way English readers can follow and understand the original–hence the name of this translation–the transparent English Bible.
Then there is the matter of the New Testament, written in Greek, rather than Hebrew. However, since we have an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint (done in the 2nd century B.C.E.), we actually have a record of precisely how all the key Hebrew terms were first rendered into Greek. In addition we have literally thousands of quotations and allusions from the Hebrew Bible, in Greek, within the New Testament itself. This offers us the possibility to carry over, into the New Testament writings, the same conceptual consistency, that has been established for the Hebrew Bible. So, in my example above, with the three terms for sin, we can search for approximate Greek equivalents, and when they exist, attempt to maintain that same consistency throughout the New Testament as well.
In future posts I will illustrate this method and discuss some of the problems we have faced along the way in this regard, and the solutions we have come up with.