Christian Scriptures are ‘Spiritual’ and Timeless, not the ‘Vocabulary of the Time’

Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD
7 min readMar 7, 2023

Suppose a story that is written in Yoruba, one of the three major languages in Nigeria, the most populous country in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. For context, one of every four persons in Sub-Saharan Africa is Nigerian.

There exists two different approaches to the interpretation of the hypothesized story into English. In the context of the first approach, you take the story as given, search for the English words most appropriate to each Yoruba word, then construct the sentence in English. Refer to this approach as the ‘Verbatim Vocabulary Translation (VVT)’.

In context of the second approach, you attempt to adapt the translation into English, such that it caters to the existing nuances of the English language. In stated respect, you impose your understanding of each of English speaking persons and the English language on the translation, with outcome you arrive, not just at a translation, but also at an Interpretation. Refer to this alternate approach as the ‘Interpretive Vocabulary Translation (IVT)’.

The most popular translations of Christian Scriptures, such as the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), or the New International Version (NIV), etc., all are IVTs.

The interpreters meant well, that is, sought to relate the interpretation of Christian Scriptures to the vocabulary of that time.

The only interpretation of the Bible that has characterization as a VVT is the Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) of the Bible. Robert Young did such a good job of the verbatim translation, which has been around since 1898, there has been, and there is not any need of any new effort for arrival at a VVT of Christian Scriptures. Robert Young, who did not have the support of the institutional churches, engaged with the effort for a VVT, because he felt English speakers ought to have at their disposal exactly what Christian Scriptures say, as opposed to the interpretation that was conferred on what Christian Scriptures say by the men who arrived at the KJV of Christian Scriptures. The NKJV is, of course a modernized version of the KJV of Christian Scriptures.

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Oghenovo Obrimah, PhD

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos