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Young's Literal Translation of the Bible


Robert Young, The Holy Bible, Consisting of the Old and New Covenants; Translated according to the Letter and Idioms of the Original Languages. Edinburgh: George Adam Young & Co., 1863. Revised edition 1887. Third edition 1898. Reprinted frequently under the title, Young's Literal Translation.

YLT was first translated in 1862 by Robert Young a Scottish publisher who was self taught (a lay theologian and orientalist) and proficient in various ancient languages. Robert Young also compiled Young's Analytical Concordance (containing every Word in alphabetical Order, arranged under its Hebrew or Greek Original.).

Robert Young joined the Free Church, and became a Sabbath-school teacher in 1843. He was a moderate Calvinist, a simple Presbyterian, and a strict textual critic and theologian. Young was celebrated as an editor and translator of Jewish and Biblical writings in various languages, especially in Hebrew, Samaritan, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and Gujarati.

A revised version of the YLT was published in 1887 and a new revised version in 1898, a year after Young's death.

Translation Method

Young's Literal Translation is an extremely/exceedingly literal translation that attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings.

Young's translation is designed to assist students in the close study of the Biblical text by reproducing in English the Hebrew and Greek idioms, in an exceedingly literal translation. In the New Testament his translation is based on the text of Estienne 1550.

Young tries to adhere to the word-order of the original, and he consistently translates a Greek word with the same English word in all of its occurrences. But in doing these things, he often fails to give the sense of the Greek correctly in English. It is doubtful whether the translation is really of much help to those who do not know Greek, because here the English is being forced to observe rules of the Greek language. The reader must become familiar with Greek syntax and vocabulary in order to make sense of the English!

The method of the translation and its rationale—including his theory of the Hebrew tenses—are fully explained in the Prefaces.

Young was especially concerned that many English translations changed the tenses of Greek and Hebrew verbs, and he insisted on using the present tense in many places in which other translations use the past tense, particularly in narratives. Young’s Literal Translation also consistently renders the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (divine name) throughout the Old Testament as "Jehovah," instead of the traditional practice of representing the Tetragrammaton in English as "LORD" in all capitals.

NOTWITHSTANDING the fact that the Revised Version of the Old and the New Testament has come into the field since the learned and lamented author first issued his Literal Translation of the Bible, the demand for it from year to year has continued remarkably steady. This indicates that it still fills a place of its own among helps to the earnest student of Holy Scripture. In 1887 Dr Young issued a Revised Edition, of which two impressions are exhausted. The work has been subjected to a fresh revision, making no alteration on the principles on which the Translation proceeds, but endeavouring to make it as nearly perfect in point of accuracy on its present lines as possible. The Publishers accordingly issue this new Revised Edition in the hope that earnest students of the Bible, by attaining to a clearer apprehension of the meaning of the inspired writer, may more clearly and fully apprehend the mind of the Spirit by whom all Holy Scripture has been given to us. — Publishers' Note to the Third Edition, Edinburgh, January 1898.

Pros and Cons

Young’s Literal Translation is very fitly named. 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.

This translation is the work of one person and does not benefit from the rigorous debate of committee sourced translations.

Regarding Young's translation of the Old Testament, F.F. Bruce writes that "it is largely vitiated by an eccentric theory about the tenses of the Hebrew verb." (The English Bible: A History of Translations, p. 132.)

Characteristic Passages

John 3:16 — for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.

John 1:14 — And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

Ephesians 2:8-9 — by grace ye are having been saved, through faith, and this not of you -- of God the gift, not of works, that no one may boast;

Titus 2:13 — waiting for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,

Romans 2:1 — Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man—every one who is judging—for in that in which thou dost judge the other, thyself thou dost condemn, for the same things thou dost practise who art judging,


  • (May 15, 2024)