Tales of Translation: Thought-for-Thought Translations

Thoughts from the Editors of BibleStudyTools.com
Tales of Translation: Thought-for-Thought Translations

What are Thought-for-Thought Translations?

Last week, we saw that word-for-word translations do just that: give us (approximately) one English word or phrase for every word or phrase in the original language. They even focus on keeping the same word order if possible. To explain the differences between that and thought-for-thought translations, it might be best to consider an analogy.

You’re probably familiar with the two basic types of printers available today: inkjet and laser. Inkjet printers shoot out ink a line or a few lines at a time. On the other hand, laser printers churn out pages by reproducing a single image on the paper. It’s all done at once, not line by line.

Thought-for-thought translations are like the laser printer. Instead of focusing on moving each word to English, thought-for-thoughts examine the whole sentence and do their best to move it over as an easily understood unit. That is, they rearrange the order of the words so that it makes the most sense to a modern English-speaking audience. They’re going for the meaning, not the exact wording.

That’s what makes thought-for-thought translations very readable to us. The scholars who produce the text are all committed to holding true to what God’s Word says in a way that’s easy to understand.

Thought for Thought Translations:

Here are some popular thought-for-thought translations: New Century Version (NCV) and New Living Translation (NLT)

Word-for-Word Translations:

A few others that start with word-for-word but also blend in thought-for-thought when necessary: Common English Bible (CEB), New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard (HCSB)

We’ll dive into paraphrases next week.