Interpreting the "Compare Versions" graphics

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Jeremy Writebol | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Oct 31 2018 2:06 PM

Given that there is no key (apart from the translations designated color) - how does one interpret the "Compare Versions" graphic that the Passage Guide will pull up? I've attached a screenshot for help. 

What do I do with this?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Oct 31 2018 2:11 PM

MJ. Smith:

How do I "read" Compare Bible Versions in the Passage Guide?


Shawn Drewett:

I have searched both Help in L4 and the tutorial videos online and can find no detailed explanation of how the Compare Versions option works within the Passage Guide. Can someone help?

How it works is a mystery.  I have no idea what the algorithms etc. are.  But I suspect you're asking what it means?

Let's run a PG on Matthew 3:13-17 to find out....

Looking at the picture of the section it provides two essential pictures of the same data: viz.  How close is the wording of various translations?

Since I've clicked settings you can see that my base resource is set to NASB95, which means all of the other Bibles listed are compared to it.   You can change that setting and watch the rest of the graph move around.  Note also that you can change the number of resources from 3-9, I've chosen 5 the default.  I've also set it to 3D because I happen to like it, and that's about it. 

Now then, let's decipher the data....

In the left-most portion you can see the dot separation.  Each dot has a number of variables.  First is how far apart is the word of this translation from the NASB95?  Second is How far is this translation from others?

The right hand river view is essentially a verse by verse view of the same data. Like the dots, the variable line widths measure word choices as they differ from the base version.

So what do I gain from this chart?

The versions that have come up  (I think as a result of my prioritization) rank nicely on a spectrum of Formal to Dynamic Equivalence.

I would basically put these versions on a trajectory chart thus:


FORMAL EQUIVALENCE  <<< _____NASB95_____ESV___________NET__NIV_________________NLT_____>>>Dynamic Equivalence.

My little line chart is just an estimate but consider what I gain from this knowledge.

Look how different the apparent wording is from the ESV and the NASB95, and then how far away the NIV is from the NASB95.  For the most part four of the translations almost "line up" while the NLT is hanging out farther away.

Obviously in terms of word choice then, the ESV is closer than the NIV, while the NLT is perhaps closer to the NASB95 than the NIV (which is surprising!)  The NET which tries to strike a balance in translation theories is, as I would expect it somewhat centered.

In the river I note that the NET appears to be really different (thicker line) at verse 15, but very similar at v14.  The NLT maintains a fairly consistent width strip, which to me means that word choice is consistently different, but not so different that it's in any way alarming.  Finally note how the NIV contours away starting at V15-17.  It just appears that the NIV is closer in similarity at v13 and 14, while it peals away afterward.

Now I'm left with a few questions that help me to focus my study.

  1. What word choices are there in the NIV that makes it so different from the NLT and the NASB95?
  2. Why then did the translators choose those words instead of others? 
  3. Of course I'm going to center my quest at V15 which by appearance of the "bump" in the river view has the greatest variation.  What is it about Matthew 3:15 that is so open to variant interpretational word choices? 

If I'm going to have  a limited time to spend in this passage (don't we all), I'm going to spend a touch more of that precious commodity on the fifteenth verse.  By contrast the very close lines of the 14th verse don't make me want to spend much time there determinign word choice.

Of course all of this is highly subjective.  But it helps me to see at a glance where I might want to focus my next phase of study.


In the aftermath I pulled up a text comparison of v15 and I can see that the difference is in the wording "permit it at this time" (NASB95) and the NIV's "Let it be so now".  Obviously two very different word choices but with minor difference in meaning.  Both of them adequately interpret ἄφες. 

So what have I gained in this particular endeavor?  Not a lot I guess, but it took me much longer to type this than it did for me to visually see something that might have been an interesting variance, see what it really was and judge that it wasn't that vital. 

Sometimes it works the other way, you catch a quick variance and find that there is a relatively large difference that needs to be accounted for. 

In short, it's just one more way of seeing the text which sometimes yields intriguing results.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2018 4:51 PM

I was trying to figure out how to use this today too but I noticed my options are different from MJ's

Did this change in L8?

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