The choice of Translation
The Short Version:
It's formally literal (close to the syntax and idiom of the original languages), and its English is beautiful, sophisticated and literary.
The Long Version:
1. The ASV was the first major alternative to the King James Version (1611) and the Geneva Bible (1560) for American readers in nearly 300 years. Much had been discovered about the ancient languages & cultures in that span of time, and the translators of the ASV applied that knowledge while preserving the beauty of earlier translations.
Conversely, the translators of the ASV were committed to as much formal accuracy as possible, and therefore it is superior to most in preserving the idiom, repetition, and syntax of the original languages.
Editing the Translation
At times the English of the ASV can be overly flowery/convoluted where the original Hebrew or Greek is comparatively terse/concise. So, as a supplemental text, I will occasionally incorporate the syntax (word-order) of Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) of 1862 (though I am using the revised edition of 1898), which was even more committed to formal literalism than the ASV. Although it is at many points overly technical and even unintelligible, sometimes Young’s translation is profoundly closer to the economy of means of the original Hebrew and Greek than the ASV. (This is probably owing to the fact that, unlike the committee of the ASV, Young was not concerned with preserving the style of the King James Version.) My basic rule is that I use Young’s translation only if it is closer to the syntax of the original languages, and is at least as intelligible as the ASV.
More Information about Editing the ASV with the YLT:
Since the launch and funding of this project, I've discovered there are quite a few out there who are understandably concerned about the amalgamation of the ASV and Young's Literal Translation.
Before I get into this I would like to state that I did anticipate, for this campaign at least, that I would not, and could not, please everyone in this regard. Although, I hope the success of this project will allow me to make this set available in other translations and even languages in the future.
One's preference of translation is ultimately a matter of personal taste and theological bent. I chose the ASV because it is my favorite complete translation; the one among all I would change the least (besides, obviously, the redundant archaisms). And Young's would be on the same plane if it weren't for his strange, yet defensible, choices with grammatical tense.
I appreciate, and view as unsurpassed, many aspects of both translations I've chosen to utilize. The ASV was aiming for a formal literalism beyond that of the King James, but was also concerned with preserving the excellent literary character of the English. To that end, it even reintroduced phrases and vocabulary from earlier translations, as far back as Tyndale, the father of the English Bible (whose excellent but incomplete translations I considered incorporating as well). Young strove to remain true, more than any other English translator before him, to the syntax, idiom, and grammatical tense of the Hebrew and Greek.
In short, I regard both of these translations as authoritative and excellent as any contemporary translation—and I am not alone in that opinion. I have chosen them because I believe they suit the aim of this project: to provide a rich, engaging literary experience of the biblical literature in English.
One very important note: I would like to be clear that the use of the YLT will be extremely minimal. I am estimating less than 1%. Also, the changes will be mainly to syntax, not vocabulary.
The ASV has, "[ . . . ] male and female created he them."
Young has, "[ . . . ] a male and a female He prepared them."
Let's say I decide that the use of two consecutive pronouns, "he them," in the ASV is too strange. I would not then change the ASV to Young's,
"[ . . . ] male and female He prepared them."
"[ . . . ] male and female he created them."
It's only the syntax, under Young's authority, that I've adopted; the only change being the placement of the words "he" and "created." I will not be making choices on a whim, but only in places such as this, where intelligibility and readability are in question.
Perhaps the above example is not the best, since I am not sure I would actually change the ASV here, but it does illustrate my approach. Sometimes this approach will result in the rearrangement of an entire sentence in which Young has been more frugal with his words, but again, only if clarity in the ASV is an issue.
I will be faithful to the meaning and the sense of the ASV. Even in places where I disagree, I will not change the meaning or the sense.
The Name of God
The name of God in Hebrew ( יהוה ), is most commonly represented in contemporary bibles as "The LORD." This comes from a Jewish tradition that replaced the name of God when spoken aloud with "Adonai" (Lord) out of reverence for the Holy Name.
Somewhat controversially, the translators of the ASV chose to represent the name of God as "Jehovah," a word coined in English by Tyndale. Jehovah is the German transliteration of the Hebrew letters (J-H-V-H) with the vowel sounds of Adonai placed between the consonants. This was controversial because adding vowel sounds suggests pronunciation, which is prohibited by Orthodox Judaism; for that matter, the actual pronunciation is lost to us.
I have gone one step further—or one step backward, depending on how you look at it—and will be using the English transliteration of the name of God; that is, YHWH, set in all small capital letters. This way, pronunciation is not suggested, but the name of God is still represented, rather than replaced.
This seemed appropriate to me because the name of God in Hebrew is indeed a unique personal name, not an honorific title preceded by a definite article (i.e. the master, the king, the lord). It is my opinion that using "The LORD" in place of the name of God creates an impersonal barrier between the character of God and the reader that does not exist in the earliest manuscripts, and was not intended to exist by the original authors. As a simple example, there is an obvious disparity in the two statements, "I, the king, care for you," and "I, George, care for you." Even if George is the king, it is significant if he has chosen to use his personal name when speaking to you rather than his honorific title.