What is Young's Literal Translatione?
Young's Literal Translation is a translation of the Bible into English, published in 1862. The translation was made by Robert Young, compiler of Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible and Concise Critical Comments on the New Testament. Young used the Textus Receptus (TR) and Majority Text (MT) as the basis for his translation. Young produced a "Revised Version" of the translation in 1887, which was based on the Westcott–Hort text that was completed in 1885. After Robert Young died on October 14, 1888, the publisher released a new Revised Edition in 1898.
The Literal Translation is unusual in that, as the name implies, it is a strictly literal translation of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The Preface to the Second Edition states, If a translation gives a present tense when the original gives a past, or a past when it has a present; a perfect for a future, or a future for a perfect; an a for a the, or a the for an a; an imperative for a subjunctive, or a subjunctive for an imperative; a verb for a noun, or a noun for a verb, it is clear that verbal inspiration is as much overlooked as if it had no existence. THE WORD OF GOD IS MADE VOID BY THE TRADITIONS OF MEN. [Emphases in original.]
Therefore, Young used the present tense in many places in which other translations use the past tense, particularly in narratives. For example, the YLT version of Genesis begins as follows:
1 In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth — 2 the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters, 3 and God saith, 'Let light be;' and light is. 4 And God seeth the light that it is good, and God separateth between the light and the darkness, 5 and God calleth to the light 'Day,' and to the darkness He hath called 'Night;' and there is an evening, and there is a morning — day one. 6 And God saith, 'Let an expanse be in the midst of the waters, and let it be separating between waters and waters.' 7 And God maketh the expanse, and it separateth between the waters which under the expanse, and the waters which above the expanse: and it is so. 8 And God calleth to the expanse 'Heavens;' and there is an evening, and there is a morning — day second. 9 And God saith, 'Let the waters under the heavens be collected unto one place, and let the dry land be seen:' and it is so. 10 And God calleth to the dry land `Earth,' and to the collection of the waters He hath called 'Seas;' and God seeth that good. 11 And God saith, 'Let the earth yield tender grass, herb sowing seed, fruit-tree (whose seed in itself) making fruit after its kind, on the earth:' and it is so. 12 And the earth bringeth forth tender grass, herb sowing seed after its kind, and tree making fruit (whose seed in itself) after its kind; and God seeth that good; 13 and there is an evening, and there is a morning — day third.
Young's Literal Translation in the 1898 Edition also consistently renders the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (divine name) throughout the Old Covenant/Testament as "Jehovah", instead of the traditional practice of representing the Tetragrammaton in English as "LORD" in small capitals, but editions prior to 1898 do say "LORD" in small capitals.
Young's translation is closer to the Hebrew than the better-known versions of this passage in English. The Revised Standard Version (RSV), which is based on Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, for example, treats Genesis 1:1–3 in this way: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. Bereshith bara elohim, the RSV's "In the beginning God created...", is in the construct state (bereshith), not the absolute (barishona), meaning it refers to an action in progress, not to a completed act. Similarly, there is no license in the Hebrew for the RSV's division of these verses into three sentences (ancient Hebrew lacked punctuation, and sentence divisions have to be inferred), as the order of the words wa ha-aretz hayetha (subject-verb) points to the rendering "the earth being" (Young's "the earth hath existed"), while the RSV's "and the earth was" requires words in the order wa tehi ha-aretz (verb-subject).
Young's usage of English present tense rather than past tense has been supported by scholars ranging from the medieval Jewish rabbi Rashi (who advised, "[I]f you are going to interpret [this passage] in its plain sense, interpret it thus: At the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, when the earth was (or the earth being) unformed and void . . . God said, 'Let there be light.'") to Richard Elliott Friedman in his translation of the Five Books in "The Bible with Sources Revealed" (2002).
The translation has been criticized by some as falling short in some respects. It renders Luke 24:1 as "And on the first of the sabbaths" while it translates Acts 20:7 as "And on the first of the week" even though the two phrases are identical in the Greek texts. To quote the preface "Every effort has been made to secure a comparative degree of uniformity in rendering the original words and phrases. Thus, for example, the Hebrew verb nathan, which is rendered by the King James' translators in sixty-seven different ways... has been restricted and reduced to ten, and so with many others. It is the Translator's ever-growing conviction, that even this smaller number may be reduced still further." David Dewey, in A User's Guide to Bible Translations, mentions that "his method of translating Hebrew tenses makes his Old Testament in places virtually unreadable."
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