Selections from Richmond Lattimore’s NT Translation

Bible

I recently obtained Richmond Lattimore’s New Testament translation. Nathan Stitt found a used hardcover (which is beautiful) for me that’s like new. Thanks again. The photo above is without the dust jacket. The dust jacket can be seen at the bottom of this post. A paperback edition is widely available.

This is a book book not a Bible-like book. It has pages that are the thickness of a regular book, single column and no verse numbers. I would like to read the whole NT using this sometime.

I looked up quite a few passages that I have memorized to see how they compare. It’s interesting to read a translation that’s fairly different than what I’m used to but not a wild paraphrase and then also look up the passages in 3-4 other translations. This was a great exercise.

Most of what I have memorized from the past is NIV and I’ll use TNIV for comparison.

Philippians 4:5-6 TNIV
Let your gentleness be evident to all. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:5-6 ESV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:5-6 Lattimore
May your goodness be made known to all men. The Lord is near; never be anxious, but in every prayer and entreaty let your requests be communicated with thanksgiving to God;

The first thing I noticed is the punctuation at the end of verse 5. I have vv. 6-9 memorized and never really thought about :5b being “an introduction to what follows” (see below). Most translations have a period at the end of verse 5 including NRSV, NASB and HCSB. ISV uses a colon. NET has an exclamation mark so I guess they thought Paul got really excited at that point in the letter!

Then about a week later I was reading Gordon Fee’s commentary:

…one cannot tell whether Paul intends it to conclude what precedes or introduce what follows, and therefore whether it expresses future or realized eschatology. Does he intend, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; and let your gentle forbearance be known by all, for the [coming of] the Lord is near’? or ‘Because the Lord is [always] near, do not be anxious about anything, but let your requests be made known to God’? or does he intend a bit of both, perhaps something as close to intentional double entendre as one finds in the apostle?

I included the ESV because it has the same punctuation and a little different wording. The ESV’s “the Lord is at hand” is an interesting take on it but like so much of the ESV, it’s so archaic I don’t really know what that means.

Hebrews 12:8 TNIV
If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate children at all.

Hebrews 12:8 Lattimore
If you go without the discipline which all are born to share, you are bastards, not sons.

That one is a little shocking but for you youngins keep in mind this is an older definition of the word, not the meaning of being a jerk. It’s still offensive though and probably to positive effect.

1 Peter 2:11 NIV
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11 TNIV
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11 Lattimore
I call upon you then, dear friends, as resident aliens and transients in this world to refrain from carnal desires, which take up arms against the soul.

(Digression: This shows that the TNIV is truly an update to the NIV, not just a gender inclusive version of the NIV.)

This was my favorite of the ones I looked at. Resident aliens and transients in this world really makes sense to me. Resident aliens is reminiscent of the OT. We are now living in this world but foreigners–in it but not of it (John 15:19, John 17:14). While “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col 1:13), in this world we are transients passing through until we are in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21:1).

Dust Jacket
Dust Jacket Image

20 Responses to “Selections from Richmond Lattimore’s NT Translation”


  1. 1 TCR

    Great effort by Lattimore! “All people” would have been better at Phil 4:5.

    Good job on Heb 12:8.

    “Foreigners” or something else would have been better than “aliens.”

    Good stuff!

  2. 2 Nathan Stitt

    Nice comparison there. It’s unfortunate you didn’t include the image from the dust jacket though, I find it intoxicating. Are you planning on posting some further comparisons?

  3. 3 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks.

    Yeah aliens can sound like we’re from outer space but resident aliens makes some sense. And all people would be nice.

    I could post a picture of the dust jacket sometime either finding one or taking one myself. I wanted to show what’s underneath which is really nice. They didn’t skimp there.

    I may do some comparisons in the future but probably not any time soon.
    Jeff

  4. 4 Nathan Stitt

    Feel free to steal and edit my image. I stole it from Amazon…

    http://discipuluscripturae.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/latt_nt.jpg

  5. 5 Nathan Stitt

    Hmm, did you change the CSS of your page? I’m using my dad’s massive 30″ screen though, so maybe it is just this particular computer.

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks, I added the dust jacket image.

    I changed the font attributes so they wouldn’t be so large. How does it look?
    Jeff

  7. 7 Nathan Stitt

    I’m glad you posted a picture of the book under the dust jacket. My copy is an ex-library and the dust jacket is covered and then taped to the book, so I’ve not removed it. I agree that it does look very nice underneath.

    The post text looks better, still clipping though. The comments still look larger in comparison, can they be dropped a(nother) size down?

  8. 8 Scripture Zealot

    Is it just the URLs or long words without spaces that are clipping? That will take more digging to fix.

    The comment text should now be the same size as the main post text.
    Jeff

  9. 9 Nathan Stitt

    Comment text still looks a size larger. I think you’re right, it looks like mostly just URLs that are clipping.
    (we can go back to emails if you want)

  10. 10 Scripture Zealot

    I’ve been experimenting with the CSS just now after your post. Right now it’s a size smaller and I made the main post text a bit larger but smaller than before. These are all relative sizes. I’m afraid to use fixed sizes because they may be too small for those with bad eyesight.

    You can comment here or email, whatever you prefer.
    Jeff

  11. 11 ElShaddai Edwards

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff. I’m really ill now that I didn’t get the hardback I ordered. I never sent back the paperback that the seller sent me by mistake, but maybe I will now…

    Also, well done on the CSS changes – it’s made a huge improvement in the site readability. I’m just about ready to dump WordPress.com and install the hosted software version.

  12. 12 Scripture Zealot

    I’m glad the CSS changes look good. Nathan gave me some construction feedback on some things I wasn’t aware of. I hope it works for everyone.

    The translation really brings out the literary quality of the Bible.
    Jeff

  13. 13 Dee

    I have enjoyed Lattimore’s translations from the Greek since I was in college {late 60s) and took a Classical Mythology class. Many of the texts we read were translated by him. Then I discovered his translation of the New Testament. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I own a paperback of the New Testament and 2 hardcovers – Acts & Letters of the Apostles, and the Four Gospels and Revelation – which comprise the whole. I didn’t know there was a hardcover of the whole New Testament. Please, can you share the ISBN and, maybe, where your copy came from? I’d love a hardcover like yours. And I agree – they made a beautiful book. Rare and wonderful these days. It’s archaic technology these days.And, don’t miss Lattimore’s description of his reasoning and methods of translation. Quite wonderful.

  14. 14 Scripture Zealot

    Hi Dee,
    Wow you have a lot of knowledge of him.

    I believe Nathan found a hardcover for me on half.com. It looks to be even more hard to find now. I believe this is the one but I’m not certain. Looks like $50 used. I hope that helps. Let me know if I can help further.

    You may want to bother Nathan to see if he can help.
    Jeff

  15. 15 JMH

    Can you tell me if this is a translation or a paraphrase? I have a friend who is not yet a Christian and has embarked on his search by purchasing this book.

  16. 16 Scripture Zealot

    Hi JMH,
    This is a translation as Lattimore is an expert in classical Greek translation. Translating the New Testament was his last translation project before he died.

    You can read about him here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_Lattimore

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080307040355/http://www.brynmawr.edu/classics/lattimore.html

    It’s not known if he was a Christian but that would make for a translation without theological biases. His translation is well respected.
    Jeff

  17. 17 Dee

    JMH
    This is a translation. Richmond Lattimore was one of the great translators from the Ancient Greek language to modern English. I read many of his translations, the Greek tragedies, the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc. I always enjoyed his translations in class. When I discovered, years later, that he had translated the New Testament, I was delighted. He notes, in the preface (I believe), that he is not translating from the point of view of religion, but as a poet & translator, trying to capture the rhythms and flow of the original in his translation, while maintaining accuracy and beauty.

    “I have held throughout to the principle of keeping as close to the Greek as possible, not only for sense and for individual words, but in the belief that fidelity to the original word order and syntax may yield an English prose that to some extent reflects the style of the original.”

    The preface goes on to give examples. It is a most interesting section to read. If you have not read this translation yourself, I most highly commend it to your attention. As Jeff says, Richmond Lattimore was very highly respected, and deservedly so.

    Just my not-so-humble opinion.

    Dee

  18. 18 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you very much Dee.
    Jeff

  19. 19 Rich

    Lattimore is deft at keeping an easy feel to his translations. I am amazed that few scholars and preachers use his work.

  20. 20 Scripture Zealot

    I’ve always wanted to read through the whole thing because it’s like a regular book with regular weight paper, no verses except the top and bottom of the page, no headers, single column etc. But I always want to read my translation. I should at least read some. Some of his renderings are so nice. In fact, I should read through Romans when I’m done reading through it very slowly.
    Jeff

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