Monday, April 09, 2018

Young’s Literal Translation

The Holy Bible, Consisting of the Old and New Covenants; Translated according to the Letter and Idioms of the Original Languages, 3rd Edition. Robert Young, Edinburgh: George Adam Young & Co., 1898 (originally published in 1863; revised edition 1887; Third edition 1898.)

The translation, commonly known as Young’s Literal Translation, is unique in the world of English Bible translations. According to, “Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible was first translated in 1862 by Robert Young, a Scottish publisher who was self-taught and proficient in various ancient languages. Young also compiled Young’s Analytical Concordance and Concise Critical Comments on the New Testament. A revised version of the YLT was published in 1887 and a new revised version in 1898, a year after Young’s death.” In his literal translation Young “attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings…It very likely is the most strictly literal English translation ever developed. The literal renderings of the verb tenses are especially unique and can be quite valuable in studying God’s Word. Aspects that are usually only clear to those who can study the original Greek are clarified in the YLT. The strictly literal translation method can make Young’s Literal Translation somewhat difficult to read and in some instances very unnatural sounding in English.” Its extreme literalness and unnatural English are what make it unique, and a possible useful secondary tool for Bible study. This seems to have been the initial reason for his work, as noted in his Preface to Young’s Literal Translation First Edition:
“This work, in its present form, is not to be considered as intended to come into competition with the ordinary use of the commonly received English Version of the Holy Scriptures, but simply as a strictly literal and idiomatic rendering of the Original Hebrew and Greek Texts.”[i]
I have for many years owned and used Young’s Concordance, preferring it over the more popular Strong’s Concordance.[ii] The YLT can be read free online at the initial link above, at Bible Study Tools, or searched and compared with other versions at Bible Gateway.

[i] Despite the statement concerning competition in his Preface, Young seems to have become increasingly antagonist toward the King James Version of the Bible over the course of his work.
[ii] Nevertheless, I usually refer to Strong’s in writing, because of its availability and in the personal libraries of Christians I know.

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