Translation Philosophy

Bible translations give us the words God spoke through his servants, but words can become very poor containers for revelation. Over time, the words change from one generation to the next. Meaning is influenced by culture, background, and many other details. You can imagine how differently the Hebrew authors of the Old Testament saw the world three thousand years ago!

Many excellent translations of God’s Word grace our shelves. Some versions translate the original form of words in the biblical languages to their new form in English (formal equivalence), believing the word-for-word rendering of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek should have priority. Other versions translate the function of the original biblical words in English (functional equivalence), believing the thought-for-thought message should have priority.

There is no such thing as a truly literal translation of the Bible, for there is not an equivalent language that perfectly conveys the meaning of the biblical text except as it is understood in its original cultural and linguistic setting. Yet, to transfer the meaning of the biblical narrative from one language to another requires interpretation. As Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss explain, “If the goal of translations is to reproduce the meaning of the text, then it follows that all translations involve interpretation.” Since every translation interposes a fallible human interpretation between the reader and an infallible text, a translation can be a problem. However, the problem is solved when we seek to transfer meaning and not merely words from the original text to the receptor language.

That’s the governing philosophy behind The Passion Translation: to transfer the essential meaning of God’s original message found in the biblical languages to modern English. We believe that the essential meaning of a passage should take priority over the literal form of the original words, while still ensuring the essence of those words is conveyed, so that every English speaker can clearly and naturally encounter the heart of God through his message of truth and love.

The Passion Translation is an essential equivalence translation. TPT maintains the essential form and essential function of the original words. It is a meaning-for-meaning translation, translating the essence of God’s original message and heart into modern English. We agree with Fee and Strauss: “Accuracy in a translation relates to equivalent meaning.”

This was the basic philosophy Martin Luther used when he translated God’s Word into German for his people: “I must let the literal words go and try to learn how the German says that which the Hebrew expresses. . . . Whoever would speak German must not use Hebrew style. Rather he must see to it—once he understands the Hebrew author—that he concentrates on the sense of the text, asking himself ‘Pray tell, what do the Germans say in such a situation?’ . . . Let him drop the Hebrew words and express the meaning freely in the best German he knows.”

We have prayerfully followed the same model, seeking to understand the essence of the text and express and reproduce its meaning in the best English we know. We have worked to remain faithful to the original biblical languages by preserving the essence of their meaning, going further at times than “literal” translations to capture ancient idioms and definitions. Yet we remain flexible to convey the essence of God’s original message in a way that expands its understanding for English readers. TPT is a balanced translation that tries to hold both the essence of Scripture’s literal meaning and original message in proper tension, resulting in an expansive, fresh, fiery translation of God’s Word.