How To Do A Parallel Bible Reading

We’re talking about using some digital tools for Bible study with emphasis on highlighting general pros and cons to each tool. If you recall, our text is John 1 but we left off still in the reading stage. This post is also going to be about reading but instead on a focus on parallel reading. (Note, to ward off any Evil Eyes: I intentionally changed the order of the Greek to visually correspond with the English so (1) I don’t want to hear the complaint and (2) it doesn’t matter because the subject is still essentially grammatically underscored. There, bases covered.)

Parallel reading in Bible Study has a somewhat different meaning, even if connected idea, with schooling.

In schooling, it’s when you have a student and a teacher (or a reader and a more proficient reader, or a parent and a child) read the same text, makes notes on it, and talk about it. We get to see how one reader interpreted a specific text versus another reader. As an example, get kids to read Animal Farm and then get them to read it in High School with their teacher.

Dual-language speakers know that all translation is interpretation. In other words, to get the words in the original language to mean something to the person reading in their own (and different) language, you have to do interpreting: be it words, idioms, or ideas.

So parallel reading in a Bible study is when you have two (or more) versions up against each other. Here’s our key text in a couple of different versions.

  • Online: All the online sites let you do parallel reading. Some (like Bible Study Tools) put the verse on one line which makes comparative reading simple. Few (like Bible Gateway) allow a comparison of more than two texts in the same window.  Others (like NET) just have the parallel in a tab listing the other versions—feels kind of clunky to me. Most of them do a horrendously poor job comparing with original languages either relegating the feature to the Interlinear Bible or not helping out the reader see where the words coincide. Even a reader of Greek might want to quickly see the textual comparison without hunting and gathering what the English translating committee finally settled on. The NET does the best job by highlighting the corresponding translated word as well as where the word is used in the same chapter. Also, the NET’s translation notes returns dividends for anyone who invests time with them. Anyone doing parallel reading online might have to use multiple tools.
  • Freeish: The Freeish downloaded tools usually have the ability to compare about 4 versions simultaneously. Of course you’re still limited to the versions you have a license for which means that it might not be as free as you first thought. The one to one comparison of the English and Greek text is usually not the greatest so you might find yourself falling back on the Online tools like the NET’s comparison tool.
  • Not-Free: Not all paid-for tools are created equal so you’ll find that some do a better job with the parallel reading feature than others. Logos gives you a ton of material to work with and uses a lot of tabs and windows (which can be daunting) but also has a handy translation river tool that visually shows you the variation from a particular version. Bibleworks does a fantastic job of comparing original language to a given translation and it’s really intuitive. I haven’t checked out Accordance in years so I can’t really comment on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is just as good as the other paid-for products.

What we’re doing here, if we don’t know the original languages, is understand what the original language is saying and consulting different versions, and the scholarship behind them, helps that. We’re not trying to pick which translation sounds the best.
Crossposted at The Bible Archive.

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