The goal of the Disciples’ Literal New Testament is to help all Bible readers better understand the New Testament from the original writers’ point of view. This is accomplished in two primary ways. First, the translation reflects the Greek forms, grammar, and sentence structure, rather than using elegant English like our standard translations. Second, the paragraphs are arranged to display the flow of thought in the Apostles’ minds as revealed in their Greek writings, rather than the artificial 460 year old chapter and verse structure we are used to seeing. The New Testament is opened up to English readers in a depth formerly available only to those who carefully studied their Greek New Testament. Used together with your standard Bible version, you will now have the best of both languages.
This is the companion volume to the 1025 page New Testament TransLine, which presents this same translation in outline format. First published by Zondervan and now by Wiph & Stock, it includes extensive notes on the meaning and usage of the words of the New Testament, notes that explain the meaning of a passage where needed, notes that list the different interpretations when the meaning is not clear, and notes on over 3000 textual variations in the Greek manuscripts that lie behind all English translations. Pastors and Bible students wanting more depth and detail will find it useful. A sample of this book can also be found on the website above.
Features of the Disciples’ Literal New Testament
Outline. The first thing you see is the detailed outline of the book, which directly corresponds to the paragraphing and indentation of the translation that follows. The words of the outline are taken directly from the words of the book itself. This gives you a thorough overview of the book, a big picture view of what the writer intends to communicate.
Interpretive Headings. Next you will notice that each paragraph has a descriptive, interpretive heading intended to make the original writer’s flow of thought more explicit to you by summarizing the main point of the paragraph in its context in the book. In fact, if you read through a book’s paragraph headings first, you will get a solid picture of the flow of the book.
Intelligent Paragraphing. The arrangement of the text is broken into thought paragraphs reflecting the Apostle's flow of thought. The paragraphs are indented in a kind of outline grouping so that major thoughts and subordinate thoughts can easily be seen. This will help you follow the main points and see the tangents! Greek is so different from English that some mechanism like this is needed in order to clearly display the connections of thought contained in the Greek.
Chapter And Verse Numbers. As you may know, after the invention of the printing press, the chapter and verse numbers were added to the New Testament in 1551 by Robert Stephanus. Unfortunately, as often pointed out from the pulpit, they are sometimes not at all helpful in following the thought contained in the Greek writings. They sometimes prevent you from easily seeing the flow of thought in the author’s mind, and hinder you from even asking the right questions. This hurdle to our understanding has been eliminated in the Disciples’ Literal New Testament. The verse numbers are still included for your reference, but the paragraphing and sentence structure reflects what was originally written.
Literal Translation. The Disciples’ Literal New Testament is a literal reflection of writing style, ways of speaking, sentence and thought structures, and word patterns of the New Testament writers. It is not intended to be an elegant English translation like the nasb, nkjv, esv, nrsv, or to recast itself in even more natural English like the niv or nlt or The Message. But using the Disciples’ Literal New Testament you will be able see more deeply into the minds of the original writers, and understand their intent more clearly than ever. And you will be able to see how those translations transformed the Greek ways of speaking into pleasing and effective English ways of speaking.
Italics, Brackets, Bold Type, Hyphenated Words. Italics are used for words not in the Greek, but implied by the grammar of the Greek word, phrase, or sentence structure, or required in normal English grammar. Don’t skip over them; they are part of the literal translation. [Brackets] are used for words added to clarify the meaning of a word, phrase or sentence. Skip over these words if you like, and what remains will be the literal translation. Bold type is used for words actually emphasized in the Greek by the biblical writer. For example, sometimes a subject is emphasized, “But I say to you,” or, “they will be comforted.” Sometimes the Greek word order is arranged so as to place emphasis on a word. Hyphenated words are single Greek words translated by multiple English words. For example, “announced-as-good-news” represents a single Greek word. Such words are hyphenated when linked to notes and on some other occasions, but not on every occurrence.
Notes. Each chapter has some translation and interpretive notes at the bottom of the page. These will help you better understand the text, the meaning, and the Greek ways of speaking. You can find much more detail on these matters in the New Testament TransLine.
What is a literal translation?
Translations such as the nasb, nkjv, esv, rsv, mean by ‘literal’ that their translation reflects the words and grammar of the Greek as much as possible in an elegant English translation. They seek to strike the perfect balance between what was said in Greek and how we would say it in beautiful English. In technical terms, there is a significant degree of ‘formal equivalence’ between the Greek and the English. In layman’s terms, these are word-for-word translations, within the bounds of pleasing and proper English. We like these translations because we feel they are the most accurate.
Other versions seek to literally communicate the meaning intended by the original writers to an English speaking audience, using normal and pleasing English ways of speaking. In doing this, these translations rephrase sentences and clarify thoughts as needed so that the intended meaning in the Greek is conveyed to the English reader. This is done to various degrees depending on how far the focus is moved from the Greek to the English, and how much ‘interpretation’ is added to the ‘translation.’ At one extreme the translation remains close to the Greek, but enhances or clarifies the meaning in English. The nrsv is an example. At the other extreme the translation is a paraphrase completely rewritten into words and phrases chosen by the translator. The Message is an example. In technical terms, this method is called ‘dynamic equivalence.’ In layman’s terms, these are thought-for-thought translations. We like these translations because they feel so natural to us. They speak to us in a way we can more easily understand, or even in an exciting and thought-provoking manner.
How does the Disciples’ Literal New Testament compare to other translations?
Imagine a translation scale of zero to ten, where zero is the Greek New Testament and ten is an exciting paraphrase such as The Message. A one would be a Greek-English interlinear. A five would be a translation that seeks to perfectly balance the Greek and English. The nasb, nkjv, rsv and esv would be examples of a five. The nrsv would be a six; the niv a seven. There are many wonderful translations available between five and ten. The Disciples’ Literal New Testament would be a three, opening a new view into the New Testament for English readers.
Is the Disciples’ Literal New Testament better than the other translations?
Better as your standard English translation? No. Since it more closely follows the Greek ways of speaking, it is of course more foreign-sounding, and therefore inferior as an English translation to all the versions mentioned above. But as a reflection of the Greek mind and thought processes and intent of the original writers, it is indeed a fuller display of the ancient writings. To get any closer to the mind of those writers, you would have to learn Greek! And as a basis from which to evaluate and understand the adjustments made to accommodate the English language by the translations in the five to ten range mentioned above, it is superior. Every translation strives to accomplish a certain balance of translation goals, a balance of Greek accuracy and English expression. There can be no perfect translation. To illustrate, the niv expresses the thoughts contained in the Greek using the full breadth and beauty of English, foregoing strict conformity to the Greek phraseology. The Disciples’ Literal New Testament expresses much more of the breadth and beauty of the Greek phraseology, sacrificing normal English idiom. So ‘better’ is not really a proper question, because each translation serves its purpose. The Disciples’ Literal New Testament, the nasb, the niv, and The Message, to use these four as examples, are each better at what they are trying to do than the others. Which is better for you depends on what you are trying to accomplish at the time.
Can a one-man translation be any good?
Many have been done, all along the scale above from five to ten. But a team of Greek and English scholars is certainly best for an authoritative translation seeking to perfectly balance the Greek and English, or an accurate thought-for-thought translation like the niv. But a translation such as the Disciples’ Literal New Testament can indeed be done well by one person. Why? Consider how the translation process takes place. First you would make a straightforward translation that accurately reflects the Greek as your starting point. Then you would revise this initial translation from the English point of view, making the adjustments and adding the nuances that would transform it into a polished English translation. It is precisely at the stage of making these adjustments and nuances that a team of people is superior to a single individual. But the initial translation from the Greek could be made by any one of the team members. The Disciples’ Literal New Testament is consistently and accurately and thoroughly done at that initial level of translation, deliberately stopping short of smoothing and nuancing in English. That is its strength. It allows you to see the Greek ways of writing and expressing thoughts before the translation is adjusted into better English sentences.
Copyright © 2011 Michael J. Magill. All Rights Reserved. Published by Reyma Publishing
The text of the Disciples’ Literal New Testament may be freely used for personal study and not-for-sale ministry. The initials DLNT must appear at the end of the quotation.
This translation was previously published by Zondervan in the New Testament TransLine: A Literal Translation in Outline Format © 2002 Michael J. Magill, and by Wiph & Stock © 2008 Michael J. Magill.