Checking parallel passages is a crucial task for Bible translation teams. It is important to preserve both the commonalities and the distinctiveness of the wording in these parallel passages so that the perspectives of the original authors and the accuracy of the text is preserved. It is most helpful to do this while viewing the texts side by side in the Parallel Passage Tool.
In response to user feedback, recent updates to Paratext (9.3 and following) give users the option to hide the Greek and Hebrew text in the Parallel Passage Tool to conserve space.
Why would they do this, you might ask? Isn’t the Greek and Hebrew essential to understand how similar or different passages are from each other?
Well, the reality is that many translators have not fully mastered the original languages. Even if they have, it can be much more helpful to compare and contrast differences using a model text in a widely spoken language. In this article, we will outline a method of using the Paratext Parallel Passage Tool with a model text in a widely spoken language instead of with the source languages.
💡 Above is a screenshot of checking parallel passages in the APT4 project by comparing it to the Revised Standard Version (RSV). BTE is the back translation of APT4.
Review of the Parallel Passages Tool in Paratext
If you would like to review how to use the Parallel Passages tool see the following video:
Parallel Passages Defined
Depending on what one considers to be a parallel passage, there are hundreds if not thousands of parallels in the Bible. So how do we define a parallel passage?
The widely accepted definition of “parallel passages” pertains to instances where the same story or event occurs in different parts of the Bible. Many scholars also consider Old Testament quotations in the New Testament as parallel passages. (See: Beale and Carson.) These sets of verses containing the same story or quotation are considered parallel passages, regardless of whether the wording is identical, similar, or different.
To ensure accuracy, translators must carefully examine and compare the passages to identify shared and differing words. They are most commonly found in the four Gospels, and the History books: 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, but occur throughout the Biblical text.
Comparing and checking parallel passages can be a difficult task, because the parallels are seldom identical. The Parallel Passage Tool in Paratext helps organize parallel verses in the vernacular and model translation for comparison. It requires meticulous work to verify that the vernacular verses are the same where they should be the same, and that they are different where they should be different.
One common mistake when dealing with so much information is to include a specific detail from one passage in a different parallel passage. For example, adding a detail from Matthew to the parallel passage in Luke, even though that particular detail is not actually present in Luke’s account.
When faced with differences between passages, such as between Luke and Matthew, it is best to compare the Greek versions of Luke and Matthew to see what is the same and what is different in the original text. However, this can be a problem for teams that don’t have someone who can understand the Greek-English interlinear provided by the Parallel Passage Tool.
Importance of Doing Other Checks First
Before comparing parallel passages, it is assumed that the texts of Matthew, Mark and Luke have already been thoroughly checked to ensure nothing is missing or added, and the key terms have been checked. Failing to do these checks first will make the parallel passages check even more challenging.
A Solution for Checking Parallel Passages without Using Hebrew or Greek
A possible solution for teams that cannot work with the original Biblical languages is to select a formal equivalent translation in a language they are familiar with and use it as the first comparative text in the Parallel Passage Tool. For example, resources like the following can be used:
- Revised Standard Version (English),
- Reina Valera (Spanish),
- João Almeida Fereiro (Portuguese),
- Novelle Bible Segond (French), etc.
Additionally, the Greek/Hebrew text can be hidden in the Parallel Passage Tool to save space and reduce distraction. Below, I will show an example of what that might look like.
Note: Only use the back translation if it has been kept up-to-date with changes in the vernacular.
The Greek text will be hidden, and the Tool will look something like this:
Now I can use the formal equivalent resource (for example, RSV) to guide me in evaluating the parallel passages in this vernacular translation. Consider using a setup like this, if you are not able to compare your parallel passages to the Greek or Hebrew.
A note about checking parallel passages in a meaning-based translation
Checking a meaning-based translation poses more challenges, as the team focuses on adhering to the idioms, grammar, and discourse of the target language, rather than the formal equivalence approach. If there is a language of wider communication (LWC) that serves as a model for your team’s meaning-based translation, it is advisable to base the Parallel Passage Tool on that resource instead of a formal equivalent translation, as discussed earlier.
However, you must be prepared to account for greater differences between the languages. Prior to using the Parallel Passage Tool, ensure that the verses in the vernacular have already undergone meticulous checking for key terms, as well as any missing or added information. The purpose of the Parallel Passage Tool is to ensure consistency among the vernacular passages.
It is crucial to avoid adding material that is not present in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. When utilizing the Parallel Passage Tool, your focus should solely be on modifying the expression of terms and ideas to achieve consistency where the Hebrew, Greek, or the followed LWC resource align. If you find yourself frequently adding or removing material, I strongly recommend that the team rechecks the passages before further use of the Parallel Passage Tool.