An eccentric translation of the bible

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[This is a guest post by IA]

Speaking of religion and language, among the various 'sacred name Bibles' the most interesting I've seen is called the Literal English Version. (Though there is certainly nothing 'literal' about it in the sense of Young's Literal Translation.) It's online here.
Here are some quotes from it.

Luke 6:13-19
13 When it was day, He called His talmidim, and from them He chose twelve, whom He also named sheliḥim: 14 Shimon, whom He also named Kepha; Andreas, his brother; Ya'aqov; Yoḥanan; Philippos; Bar-Talmai; 15 Mattithyahu; Taom; Ya'aqov, the son of Ḥeleph; Shimon, who was called the Zealot; 16 Yehudah the son of Ya'aqov; and Yehudah Ish-Qerioth, who also became a traitor. 17 He came down with them, and stood on a level place, with a large crowd of His talmidim, and a great number of the people from all Yehudah and Yerushalayim, and the sea coast of Tsor and Tsidon, who came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases;
Luke 1:26-35:
26 Now in the sixth new moon, the messenger Gavri'el was sent from Elohim to a city of the Galil, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Yoseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Miryam. 28 Having come in, the messenger said to her, "Rejoice, you highly favored one! יהוה is with you." 29 But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be. 30 The messenger said to her, "Do not be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favor with Elohim. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and give birth to a son, and will call His Name 'ישוע.'  He will be great, and will be called the Son of Elyon. יהוה Elohim will give Him the throne of His father, David, 33 and He will reign over the house of Ya'aqov to the ages. There will be no end to His Kingdom." 34 Miryam said to the messenger, "How can this be, seeing I have not known a man?" 35 The messenger answered her, "The Set-apart Ruaḥ will come on you, and the power of Elyon will overshadow you. Therefore also the set-apart One who is born will be called the Son of Elohim.
Now how is it that it is necessary to give the words for what we conventionalists might just call Jehovah (or Yahweh) and Jesus as Hebrew-alphabet logograms (הוה and שוע)? The reason given is basically that because in both cases the possible vowels (which are not indicated by the original Hebrew/Aramaic) are much too political (i.e., divisive, liable to argument, bitterness, and rancour). For this, read 'About the Names' starting on PDF page 5, and in which:
Regardless of this, however, the reader is still encouraged to pronounce (or not pronounce) His Name however they feel led. That is between the reader and The Almighty.
Aside from in the Preface, word-choice is also explained in Appendix A – Explanatory Notes starting on PDF 903. Here's one sample note:
Set-apart. The common English rendering of "Holy" has been changed in the LEV to "Set-apart." The Hebrew word commonly rendered as "Holy" is קדוש (qadosh) and means literally "set-apart." While "Holy" is usually defined as "something dedicated to God" we find that it does not entirely convey the same message in English. The Greek word in question is ἅγιος (hagios) and means the the same as qadosh. Likewise, rather than use a separate word for "consecrate" it is simply written as an action, without the hyphen. So the adjective – and noun – ("Holy") becomes set-apart, while the verb ("consecrate") becomes set apart.
Also,  'Christ' is avoided in favor of 'Messiah' for reasons that seem rather convoluted and non-convincing to me. The section about this word-choice starts:
For our Messiah, we chose to avoid the stigma over the word "Christ."
(And 'stigma'? If it were me, I'd want to avoid the punning potentiality of the word!)
[end of guest post by IA]

Notes on talmud and talmid

By Jeffrey Tigay

The triliteral toot is l-m-d, "learn, study." The noun talmid = student, disciple, scholar, while the the noun talmud = oral teaching, lesson, learning. As a proper noun Talmud is the name of two classic collections of interpretations and discussions about the teachings of the early rabbinic authorities of ca. the first 2 centuries CE. The two collections are known as (1) the Babylonian Talmud and (2) the Talmud of the Land of Israel, aka the Palestinian Talmud, or the "Jerusalem" Talmud.

By Michael Carasik

The root is למד l-m-d — “learn” in the basic conjugation, “teach” in the Piel/D/intensive conjugation, and so on.
תלמיד is actually a biblical word (once, in 1 Chr 25:8, where his master/teacher is called a מבין meivin).  Neither talmud or talmid strikes me as a particularly common biblical noun pattern, but I see these patterns do exist.  And it is not unusual for ת to be used to create noun patterns (mishkalim).
Why Talmud became the name of those books I don’t know — but talmud is not restricted to that meaning.  For example, there’s a phrase talmud lomar which means something like, “Here’s the biblical verse that tells us this.”

Selected readings


  1. AntC said,

    May 1, 2024 @ 9:52 pm

    He called His talmidim, and from them He chose twelve, whom He also named sheliḥim …

    Thank you Prof Mair/IA. In what sense is this text any sort of translation? Does it come with a glossary or parallel commentary? (I see there are copious footnotes)

    'talmidim', 'sheliḥim', are not words of English, and even retain the Hebrew plural. The text seems so imbued with taboo-avoidance/controversy-avoidance as to be unreadable.

    If there's a translation for those terms, why not inline it in the text? Putting a translation/gloss elsewhere doesn't avoid the difficulties; it's just tiresome.

    If it were me, I'd want to avoid the punning potentiality of the word!

    Indeed. Above I nearly wrote 'shibboleth-avoidance'.

  2. AG said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 3:06 am

    I really enjoyed how the wikipedia article on "sacred name bibles" linked to above somehow finds several opportunities to mention that these bibles are not particularly popular or respected.

  3. Colin Watson said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 3:42 am

    @AntC: The editor of this translation is either affiliated to or strongly influenced by the Sacred Name / Hebrew Roots / Messianic movements (I found enough of their writing to be confident of that, but not a clear assertion of what they consider themself to be). I strongly suspect that within that movement the Hebrew loanwords here are relatively familiar jargon, much as many English-speaking Jews use terms borrowed from Hebrew (or Yiddish, etc.) where they feel more accurate or familiar.

    FWIW, I am in no way Messianic or similar and would run a mile from those movements, but linguistically, given a basic level of Hebrew I found this translation surprisingly easy to follow. Most of it reads as relatively standard English with a few substitutions of particular Hebrew loanwords, and of course a refusal to Anglicize (or in most cases even Hellenize) names.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 3:43 am

    I take a very different perspective. This is the first time that I have encountered the Literal English Version, and I found it a complete eye-opener. For the first time I felt that I began to understand who the disciples/shelihim actually were — Shimon (named Kepha), Andreas (his brother), Ya'aqov, Yoḥanan, Philippos, Bar-Talmai, Mattithyahu, Taom; Ya'aqov (son of Ḥelep), Shimon the Zealot; Yehudah (son of Ya'aqov), and Yehudah Ish-Qerioth. I have never understood how people living in that part of the world could possibly have mundane English names such as Simon (called Peter), Andrew, James (really Jacob), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (also really Jacob) Simon and Judas. Of the KJV disciples, only Lebbaeus has a non-anglicised name (and most seem to refer to him as Jude), and the whole affair has puzzled me for as long as I have been aware of the seeming conflict. A very sincere "thank you", LEV team.

  5. ardj said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 7:18 am

    While I am not quite as surprised as Phillip Taylor, I agree that it is good to remember the actual names. One can argue both ways, make them original, for why not, authenticity &c. or make them familiar to make the story acceptable. But – I write with no Hebrew and arguably less Greek – Andreas looks to be a Greek form, unlike most of the others.

    I have seen suggested that it was a nickname or a translation of the original Hebrew name, but maybe it was already in use at the time in Palestine, given that there was sometimes unease at Greek influences.

    I must confess to some unease at the use of plurals like Adonai and Elohim, to the insistence on e.g. Ruah for spirit and so forth. The enterprise seems uncertain in its aim – but since I am not among its intended audience, why worry.

  6. Lasius said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 9:09 am


    But – I write with no Hebrew and arguably less Greek – Andreas looks to be a Greek form, unlike most of the others.

    Since Israel by that time had been a part of different Hellenistic states for centuries, Greek names were not uncommon among Jews. Several other ostensibly Jewish biblical figures have Greek names.

  7. GeorgeW said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 9:19 am

    I think using the acutal Hebrew names is useful, after all, that was their names. But, "set apart" for holy is a little too much.

    While the Hebrew root (, from which qadosh was derived, does have a sense of "set apart," the "BDB Hebrew and English Lexicon" gives a English translation of "sacred/holy" for qadosh and cites a number of passages which have a clear 'holy' meaning.

  8. GH said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 12:06 pm

    I think using the acutal Hebrew names is useful, after all, that was their names.

    Well, perhaps. If they all existed in the first place. (The fact that the Gospels don't agree on the names of the twelve disciples raises some doubts, for starters.)

    I think Philip Taylor is right that using Hebrew or Aramaic names imparts a sense of authenticity, but it thereby also obscures the distance of the Gospels, composed in Greek probably outside of Judea, from the historical people and events they supposedly describe and recount.

    To me it seems a little like "correcting" Shakespeare's Falstaff to Fastolf: It implicitly assumes straightforward historicity, and glosses over the complicated relationship between the literary figure and his historical models.

    Now, I would assume that to the translator, this is unproblematic because the historicity of the Gospels is an article of faith, but for a more critical reading I think it can be perilous.

  9. KeithB said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 12:10 pm

    Sarah Ruden, as mentioned here:
    Also keeps a lot of the Aramaic names.

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 12:28 pm

    1. The Gospels have been extant in Aramaic for a very long time, almost certainly in excess of 18 centuries and conceivably closer to 19 although the view that the Aramaic text is independent of the Greek text rather than an early translation from the Greek is not a mainstream one. It would be interesting to know to what extent the deliberately Semitic-looking lexemes here do or don't match up with a transliteration of the words used in the traditional Aramaic version versus that just not being a source these translators (if that's the right word for them) consulted or thought to have any great authority. The extent to which the Aramaic in which those early Gospel versions exist differs from the dialect thought to have been spoken in the Galilee in the time of Jesus is I believe the topic of an extensive literature with which I am not familiar.

    2. The Gospels have also been extant in Hebrew in various translations done from the Greek over the last few centuries. It would be interesting to know the answer(s) to the same question(s).

    3. I don't know anything about the process that produced this text but I am not so charitable as to start with a strong default assumption that they really just sat down with (some version of) the Greek text in front of them and then worked out an English version verse by verse as opposed to more or less starting with a couple recent English translations and just marking them up to Semiticize whichever words they thought looked insufficiently Semitic.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 1:00 pm

    Sorry, I should have googled this rather than speculated in my point 3 above. Wikipedia says that this LEV version used the World English BIble ("WEB") as its starting point, with insufficiently Semitic-looking lexemes then being modified and other changes made (by some sort of worldwide team of possibly anonymous volunteers?) based on the sponsors' theories of what an appropriate English version should be like.

    The WEB is an attractive starting point because it is fairly recent and was deliberately placed in the public domain rather than copyrighted, so anyone can use it as a starting point for their own ideas. I don't know how "good" it is.* The primary fellow behind it apparently started without the Hebrew and Greek skills necessary to do any sort of decent translation, tried diligently to acquire those skills, and then quite sensibly shifted to the more modest aim of taking an extant public-domain version (the ASV, published 1901 in what was already a then-archaic style/register) and tweaking it into more contemporary English.

    *OK, while I haven't read much commentary on the WEB by those with experience in comparing the pluses and minuses of various recent English translations, in the interests of fairness I just went and googled up its rendition of a specific passage that popped into my head (from the 4th chapter of 1 John, on which I wrote a paper for a New Testament Greek class a bit over 37 years ago) and … it seems okay. Fairly formal style and diction like the KJV, but purged of overt archaism. I've definitely seen recent English translations done under more "professional" auspices that seemed worse.

  12. GeorgeW said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 2:18 pm

    @GH "Well, perhaps. If they all existed in the first place. (The fact that the Gospels don't agree on the names of the twelve disciples raises some doubts, for starters.)"

    Even ficitional Hebrew characters 2 thousand years ago would not have names like Peter, James or John.

  13. Ben said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 3:16 pm

    @J. W. Brewer
    "It would be interesting to know to what extent the deliberately Semitic-looking lexemes here do or don't match up with a transliteration of the words used in the traditional Aramaic version."
    Most Aramaic translations (including the Peshitta, the official translation of the Syriac Orthodox church) use semiticized names. A few late Aramaic translations transliterate the Greek.
    The modern UBS translation of the New Testament into Hebrew uses semiticized names as well, though older translations like Hutter and Delitzsch transliterate.

  14. GH said,

    May 2, 2024 @ 5:32 pm


    No, but in a Greek text they would have (and do have!) names like Petros, Iakobos or Ioannis (transliterated).

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 3, 2024 @ 12:20 am

    This is a minor point but I am confused by the assertion that "Lebbaeus has a non-anglicised name." "Lebbaeus" seems anglicized to exactly the same degree as "Thaddaeus," no more and no less. In both cases the English spelling mirrors without further change the Latin variation on the Greek, where the Greek spellings would transliterate as "Lebbaios" and "Thaddaios," respectively. The difference is that Thaddaeus is an extant, although fairly rare, male given name in current Anglophone societies (often with its spelling simplified to "Thaddeus," at least in the U.S.), but Lebbaeus isn't. "Thomas" is, you might say, even less anglicized than either, since the English spelling is identical to the standard transliteration of the Greek Θωμάς, although we pronounce its first consonant as /t/ rather than /θ/ because of how it was mediated through Latin before entering the English lexicon.

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    May 3, 2024 @ 3:08 am

    JWB: "Lebbaeus" seems anglicized to exactly the same degree as "Thaddaeus" — agreed. But I made no mention of "Thaddaeus", as in the text to which I was referring (below), "Thaddaeus" appears only as a surname.

    Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

    3 Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;

    4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

    I now see that I should have consulted Luke, not Mathew, but overlooked this when originally looking for the names as they appear in the KJV.

  17. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 3, 2024 @ 9:55 am

    It's Mark who has (chapter 3, verse 18) Thaddaeus appearing under that name only. Even if a surname presumably an early analogue to the modern practice where e.g. Ian Stewart may be commonly referred to only as Stu, or Marvin Smith only as Smitty. One can find churches (not many but some) dedicated to St. Thadd(a)eus, but a quick google doesn't pop up any named Saint Lebbaeus, although e.g. the website of the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago mentions Lebbaeus among the multiple other names that have been associated with the same (or so they believe) apostle.

    Truth be told, many-to-most recent English Bible translations don't mention Lebbaeus at all but just have Thadd(a)eus in Matthew 10:3, since some early manuscripts have the reading the KJV followed but others don't and fashions have shifted as to which reading to prefer.

    But here's a modern translation of the relevant bit of Matthew from the Peshitta (attr. Glenn David Bauscher), which tries to transliterate the Aramaic versions of the names: "But the names of the twelve Apostles were these: the first of them, Shimeon who was called Kaypha, and Andraeus his brother, and Yaqob Bar Zebedee, and Yohannan his brother, and Philippus, Bar Tolmay, and Thoma, and Mattay the Tax Collector, and Yaqob Bar Halphi, and Lebai who was called Thadi, and Shimeon The Zealot, and Yehuda Skariota, he who betrayed him."

  18. Andreas Johansson said,

    May 8, 2024 @ 6:07 am

    If God saw fit to have the NT written in Greek, isn't there a whiff of the presumptuous, even blasphemous, about "correcting" the names back to their supposed original Hebrew or Aramaic forms?

  19. IA said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 12:55 am

    The Syriac NT is this: . Here — — choose the translation of it by Etheridge, and you will see for example:

    'Matthew 1:18 – NOW the nativity of Jeshu the Meshicha was thus: While Mariam his mother was betrothed to Jauseph, before they could be consociated, she was found to be with child from the Spirit of Holiness.'

    Also (but I'm not going to copy any of this here) select 'transliteration: English' (Hebrew and Arabic also available); and if you want to see the Syriac script, click 'use BFBS/UBS Peshitta text', and then for the vowel signs, choose either western or eastern. The western ones are the modified Greek vowel letters that angelically float above consonants.

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