The Short Version:
- Accuracy First and Always. We use a formally equivalent (also called “literal” or “word-for-word”) approach and won’t sacrifice accuracy for anything. Sometimes a Greek word has additional, relevant meaning that can’t be captured by a single English word. In such cases, we’ll use as many English words as necessary to capture the meaning of the Greek. We call this a “word-for-words” approach.
- Open-Source and Accountable to All Christians: Meaning anyone can comment, criticize, and especially suggest improvements on the translation through the attached forum. (Anyone can suggest; but only the website admin can make changes. Majority doesn’t rule; Truth does.)
- Readability is Second Only to Accuracy. Jesus used the normal language of the people. We will follow his example to ensure anyone – especially unbelievers – can read and understand the BOS Bible. Therefore, we will avoid “Christianese” words as much as possible.
Here’s the Goal:
“More literal than the NASB, more readable than the NLT, more accurate than both.“
That’s the goal.
The Long Version:
In more depth, here is our translation philosophy.
Accuracy Above All Else
Accuracy is the #1 goal and guiding light of this translation. We won’t sacrifice accuracy for anything. Ever. That means several things when it comes to translation:
A Brand New Translation, Not Based on Any Previous Translation
Most modern Bible are revisions of previous translations. That’s not a bad thing, and is often a good thing when done well. However, the BOS Bible text is completely new and not based on any previous edition of the Bible.
Translate, not Interpret or Change
If the Bible was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, then every single word should be treated as if it came from the mouth of God Himself. To alter even a single word is – in effect – telling God that He made a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes.
There are several passages and phrases in the Bible that have taken on “traditional interpretations” that have no basis in the Greek text. Translation will be made on the basis of word definitions in the lexicon; not based on church tradition. To be clear: every translation choice will be backed by appropriate lexicon support or scholarly article. (which anyone can double check; see the section on being open-source below.)
At the end of the day, we should change our theology to match the Bible; not change the Bible to match our theology.
(Personal Note: I had to re-examine some long held beliefs after starting to read the Bible in Greek. It was painful, but ultimately helped me to understand God and my faith better. It was uncomfortable, but worth it.)
This translation style is often referred to as a “word-for-word” translation. The goal is to take the words in Greek, and translate them into the closest English word. Ideally, every English word corresponds exactly to a Greek word. In practice, this isn’t the case for several reasons:
- Greek has types of words that English doesn’t (like grammatical particles). It’s nearly impossible to translate these into English words (because we don’t have them) despite their significant effect on a Greek sentence. Their meaning must be conveyed in other ways.
- Greek has grammatical functions that English doesn’t have. Because of these features, often more English words are required to convey the sense in English. For example, in English, we say “will pray” to indicate the future tense (the praying will happen in the future). In Greek, changing a few letters serves the same function of making a verb future tense, and thus it remains only one word.
In order to accurately convey the original meaning, the BOS Bible does the following:
- English words that don’t have a direct link to a Greek word will be italicized. For example, part of Matthew 1:23 literally reads: “The virgin will carry in her womb”. That sounds strange to English ears though, so two words were added for clarity. These added words were italicized: “The virgin will carry a child in her womb”. The italics let you know the words were added for readability, and aren’t original. (Several other translations do this, most notably the NASB.) Every word without a direct link to a Greek word will be italicized.
- Words that have a direct link to a Greek word won’t be italicized. In the example above (“will pray”), the word “will” wouldn’t be italicized because it’s expressing a function of Greek (future tense).
The one deviation from formal equivalence
Idioms are common expressions whose’ meaning can’t be understood from merely understanding the definition of the words. For example, let’s say you wanted to indicate that careful attention was required to achieve a goal. You might say “If he plays his cards right, he’ll succeed.” However, no English speaker will think a game of cards will be played. In a figurative sense, it means “do things very carefully”, and this idea is expressed by the English idiom “plays his cards right”.
However, translating it literally will likely leave non-English speakers extremely confused. It will also completely miss the sense of the passage.
Unfortunately – as you can see – Idioms stubbornly resist literal translation.
Certain idioms need no altering to be understood because they are cross-cultural. (like “stay on the narrow path” = be moral). Others make no sense unless they are translated according to their idiomatic sense.
However, there are problems when translating idioms according to their meaning (instead of literally).
For example, the traditional interpretation of Matthew 6:22-23 is something like: “the eye is good” and “the eye is evil”. However, these are both idioms referring to “being generous” and “being stingy” respectively. Translating the idioms according to their meaning (instead of literally) destroys Jesus’ clever wordplay and would make the passage confusing. (In the BOS Bible, a literal translation was chosen and the idiomatic meaning footnoted.)
Because of these complications, idioms will be translated on a case-by-case basis.
As always, we will show preference to the literal rendering when it can be understood. (Like “stay on the narrow path” = be moral.) Preference will also be shown to the literal rendering when a idiomatic translation would make the passage confusing. (Like the “eye” bit in Matthew 6:22-23). In both cases, footnotes will be added to explain the idiom unless it’s self-evident.
Very rarely, if the meaning of the passage will be completely missed because of a literally translated idiom, a non-literal translation will be used. Likewise, a non-literal translation will be used if a literal translation would result in a wrong conclusion. These cases will be very few in number, footnoted, and only used as a last resort.
Word Type and “Form”.
Greek has nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. just like English. Except in certain rare cases (because of differing grammar rules) Greek nouns will be translated into English nouns. Likewise, Greek verbs into English verbs, Greek adverbs into English adverbs, etc. The Greek word type will nearly always be maintained.
For example, most translations start the genealogy in Matthew 1:2 with “Abraham was the father of Isaac”. However, the phrase “was the father of” in Greek is a verb. Therefore, the BOS Bible renders it: “Abraham fathered Isaac”. This keeps the Greek verb as an English verb.
The “form” of the verb will be preserved too. For example, Greek active verbs (He threw the rock) will be translated as English active verbs. Greek passive verbs (the rock was thrown by him) will be translated as English passive verbs.
(One exception is Greek participles. Because of the Greek rules of grammar, they can accurately be translated as non-participle verbs in certain specific cases. See the section on Gender below for examples. However, they will remain participles as often as context permits.)
The perfect tense
Of particular note is the BOS Bible rendering of the Greek perfect tense. Greek has more tenses than English. Their perfect tense is (sort of) a combination of our past and present tenses. For example, if someone says “I study the Bible” in the perfect tense, you would understand that they have studied the Bible in the past, and continue to study it in the present. The BOS Bible would render it “I did – and still do – study the Bible” for a more accurate sense of the Greek.
This format will be used consistently to alert the reading that the Greek perfect tense is being used. Some examples include (but aren’t limited to) the following:
- They were – and are – lost
- They have – and do – search
- They did – and do – seek.
When combined with a negative (not/not) it will typically be formatted like this:
- They weren’t – and aren’t – lost
- They haven’t – and don’t – search
- They didn’t – and don’t – seek.
The gender of the original Greek words will be maintained wherever it’s possible to do so in English. (Greek is able to express gender more often than English.) This is easiest to explain with some examples.
English has two (2) third-person pronouns (they/them), neither of which convey gender. In Greek, the third person pronoun can convey gender. Therefore in places where gender matters to the meaning, it might be translated as “the men” (or something similar) instead of “they” to keep the original meaning/gender intact. Similarly, the Greek definite article (“the” in English), can be used as a pronoun. When used this way, the gender of the article will be accurately reproduced whenever possible.
Further, in Greek you can create short, relative clauses with the definite article (“the”) and a participle (a verb ending in “ing”) when they match case, gender, and number.
For example, the Greek might literally be “the reading”. But when they match case, number, and gender; it means:
- “The man who reads” – with a masculine article/participle
- “The woman who reads” – with a feminine article/particle
- “The one who reads” – with a neuter article/participle
Many Bibles translate it “the one who reads” to be gender inclusive, even when a masculine article/participle is used. However – because we strive for the highest possible literal accuracy – we will accurate reflect the original Greek gender (typically masculine).
The Greek word “ἄνθρωπος” (anthrópos) literally means “man”. It can mean “a male human being“, but also often refers to “mankind” i.e. “the whole race of human beings, including both men and women“. Because of our strict commitment to literal accuracy, anthrópos would virtually always be translated “man” because that’s the literal definition.
Some translations render it “people” or “humans”, which accurately conveys the meaning. However, it’s less literally accurate. For example:
- “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Everyone knows this refers to both men and women. It’s more accurate in a literal sense.)
- “People shall not live by bread alone” (Just as accurate to the meaning, but less accurate in a literal sense.)
Again, wherever possible the original Greek gender will be maintained for the highest possible literal accuracy.
The one exception to gender-accurate language: Satan is often refer to as “the evil” in the Greek masculine form. A literal translation might be “the evil man”. However, that would make readers think a man – not Satan – is being discussed. In order to avoid this confusion, the BOS Bible will render it “the evil one” instead of “the evil man” in such cases.
Avoiding “Linguistic Baggage”.
English words often have nuance of meaning just like Greek words. Sometimes this nuance is helpful. But often the English nuance isn’t shared with the Greek. This can obscure the intent of the Greek.
For example, the Greek word “ἀγάπη” (agapé) is one of the words typically translated “love”. Our English word “love” focuses primarily on feelings but agapé doesn’t: (the other Greek word we translate love – phileó – does focus on affection/feelings.)
26 agápē – properly, love which centers in moral preference. So too in secular ancient Greek, 26 (agápē) focuses on preference; likewise the verb form (25 /agapáō) in antiquity meant “to prefer“ (TDNT, 7). In the NT, 26(agápē) typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers)
The word agapé is typically translated “love” but it doesn’t focus on feelings. It focuses on moral preference; on what we choose by our mind and will; not our feelings. Our English word does focus on feelings, and that extra “linguistic baggage” obscures the intent of the original Greek.
(The Greatest commandment isn’t “have affection/feelings for the Lord”. It’s about obedience: “show preference to the Lord”.)
Special care will be show to ensure this “linguistic baggage” of English words doesn’t alter the original intent of the Greek words.
Every translation needs a source text. In this case, the source text might sound odd at first, but makes perfect sense when you understand the “Open-Source” aspect of this translation.
The base text of this translation is the Greek of the Interlinear Bible on BibleHub.com.
(Disclaimer: the BOS Bible and bosbible.com have no relationship with Biblehub.com. Biblehub.com has not endorsed the BOS Bible or bosbible.com.)
Reason #1: It’s a compilation text.
There are several good, modern Greek New Testaments you can translate from. However, the authenticity of some words or verses is debated. Because of this, none of these New Testaments contain the exact same words/verses. (Though the differences are very small.)
The Biblehub.com interlinear took several of the best Greek New Testaments and merged them to ensure every significant variation is included. We are not experts at deciding which verses belong. Therefore, our approach is to: “translate them all and let Christians sort them out.”
The majority of the Greek text is where the NA27 and SBL text agree perfectly, which is over 99% of the New Testament. Further, the differences are typically very small (often a single word which doesn’t change the meaning at all)
- The NA27 (Nestle Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, published 1993) Is a highly respected Greek text, almost the standard for Greek New Testaments. Most modern Bible translations base their New Testaments on an edition of the Nestle Aland text. (Though which edition depends on when it was translated)
- The SBLGNT (Society of Biblical Literature Greek New Testament, published 2010) It’s agreement with the NA27 is incredible, proving the accuracy of the Greek documents we have today. (The NA28 and SBL have perfect agreement 0n ~99.6% of New Testament verses)
Where the NA27 and SBL don’t agree – which is again rare – the text from the 1904 Nestle is used. Additional support is supplied from the Westcott and Hort text.
Major textual variants not included in these documents were supplied by The Byzantine Majority Text (published 2005) and Schrivener’s Textus Receptus (published 1896). These major variants include such passages as the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and 1 John 5:7-8.
Any significant textual variants will be marked with brackets: [like this] to indicate there isn’t 100% agreement on them. Thereafter, readers can do their own research. Single word textual variants which don’t change or alter the meaning of a passage will not be marked for ease of reading.
Reason #2: Open, easy access to word definitions for everyone.
The interlinear Bible on BibleHub.com is the easiest way for most people to access the definitions of Greek words. They include several different lexicons on a single page for each word. Further, the words in every verse contain links to their definitions. This will allow all Christians to “double-check” the translation work.
Open Source and Accountable to All Christians
As far as I’m aware, there has never been an “Open-Source” Bible translation. By “Open-Source”, I mean all Christians can have input in the translation.
It isn’t democratic though.
While anyone can suggest changes/improvements, only the website admin can change the text. Changes will be made whenever a solid reason is presented to make a change. Reason can be better word definitions, scholarly articles, plain logic, context, readability (as long as it doesn’t compromise accuracy) etc.
No one is without bias. Unfortunately, that includes Bible translators. In an effort to minimize translator bias, the Berean Open-Source Bible is just that; open source.
The idea is this: any one person’s bias can be countered by everyone else’s bias. It’s the same reason that translation committees are often composed of many dozen people; more than 100 isn’t uncommon. The hope is that all these differing opinions will guide the translation closer to the truth.
We hope that by making this translation open-source, it will (eventually) be the least biased Bible available. That’s the hope anyway.
Readability is Second Only to Accuracy
The greatest boat in the world is useless if it can’t float. Likewise, the greatest translation in the world is useless unless it can be understood. (you can tell this because no one uses an interlinear Bible as their main study bible) Here are the primary ways we’ll make sure the text is easy to read.
A Note first:
God is an incredible wordsmith.
He uses very simple words to communicate very complex ideas. The “simple language” of the Bible often stands in stark contrast to the complex ideas discussed. While Jesus spoke the common language of the people, He never “dumbed-down” what He said for the audience. Therefore, we will follow his example here. We will avoid complicated language and obsolete words, but we won’t “dumb down” what He said.
Shorter Word Length When Possible
Which of the following sentences is easier to read?
- “Don’t use big words when small words will do.”
- “Never utilize sesquipedalian words when diminutive words will suffice.”
As much as possible, we will use shorter, more easily understood words. Likewise, we will avoid longer, uncommon, and hard to read words whenever possible. However, we won’t shy away from technical terms when they communicate the Greek better.
Some background first.
Virtually all of the earliest Greek manuscripts were written in an “uncial” font. Uncial fonts are all uppercase letters. Further, they had no punctuation whatsoever, or even spaces between the words! It would be like reading the following:
(No, they often didn’t even make sure words were all on one line, hence the narrow column of text.)
You could punctuate that block of uncial text in a couple of ways:
- This is what uncial text looks like when there are no spaces or punctuation. I think you would agree these words are hard to read.
- This is what uncial text looks like. When there are no spaces or punctuation, I think you would agree these words are hard to read.
Our modern Greek New Testaments have inserted punctuation to make it easier to read. However, no one knows where the original punctuation went. In the above example, you could validly add punctuation in more than one place.
Therefore, we will select for shorter sentences whenever possible to make it easier to read.
However, we won’t break up longer sentences when they serve to communicate a complex idea. Paul often uses long, multi-verse sentences to communicate complex ideas. While occasionally they can be broken up into smaller sentences without changing the meaning, typically (and unfortunately) they can’t. Since accuracy is our highest aim and goal, these longer, more complex, multi-verse sentences will often remain a single sentence in English.
The word order in Greek reflects Greek grammar, style, and syntax rules. Preference will be shown to the original word order when possible. However, since the rules of Greek grammar are different than the rules of English grammar, Greek word order is often strange to English ears and harder to read.
For example, Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:10. Both versions below include the exact same words, though the Greek word order requires a few more commas to be readable in English.
- Greek Word order: “For it was revealed to me, about you my brothers, by Chloe’s men, that there are quarrels among you.”
- BOS Bible Word order: “For about you my brothers, it was revealed to me by Chloe’s men that there are quarrels among you.”
Exact same words, but some slight rearranging make a huge difference in readability. Too-strict adherence to Greek word order is often why the more literal translations are harder to read. Thus, the BOS bible will often employ some slight word order changes (minor, like the example above) to dramatically improve readability.
The goal is to create a Bible an unbeliever can pick up, read, and understand… without knowing the purely Christian terms that aren’t used outside the faith. (Which they won’t know.)
For example, “sanctification” is a fine word and has a significant meaning inside Christian theological circles. However, but it holds almost no meaning outside of Christian circles. Because of that, an unbeliever reading that word will have no clue what is being discussion. Therefore, we will avoid the word “sanctification” and instead translate in accordance with the definition.
The Greek word we translate as “sanctification” is “ἁγιασμός” (hagiasmos). It refers to “the process of advancing in holiness“. So instead of translating it “sanctified”, we might translate it “made holy”, or “becoming holy” or something similar depending on the Greek sentence structure and context. Anyone – even unbelievers – can understand “made holy”; only Christians will understand “sanctified”.
Where this is done, a footnote will typically be added to reference the common translation.
Use of Contractions
Contractions (“do not” > “don’t”, etc.) will be used, though not all the time. They will be primarily used in speech, but also in other text because they make it easier to read.
Contractions will be avoided when it would confuse the intended meaning. For example, in John 8:58, Jesus says “before Abraham was born, I am.” to indicate His Deity. Translating that as “before Abraham was born, I’m.” would make zero sense and cloud what Jesus was trying to say. Obviously, we wouldn’t use a contraction there.
Capitalizing God’s Titles and His 1st and 3rd Person Pronouns
The motivation for this is two-fold. First, it gives God the respect and reverence due to the almighty creator of the universe.
Second, it will make it easier to read in English. In Greek, 3rd person pronouns (he/him) can be repeated very often and still make perfect sense without confusing the reader. That’s not the case in English. Therefore, when the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit are referred to by 3rd person pronouns (He/Him), we will capitalize those pronouns.
If you disagree with this translation philosophy and/or want to help make the BOS Bible better, please visit the How To Suggest Improvements to the BOS Bible page.
Welcome to the team and God Bless. 🙂