Several months ago I began to write my own new “translations” of key passages of scripture in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and other scripture. I thought the original translations were not clear enough, and did not communicate the truth very well that I have experienced in recent months and years. So I began to rewrite them as I understood this truth, to try to better convey that truth to a modern reader. I’ve called this the Bryce Haymond Translation (BHT). This is a short introduction to this new translation.
As I have noted elsewhere, I don’t feel like truth can ultimately be communicated well through language, and is often quite faulty and problematic. Direct experience is the best teacher, as it reaches a part of us that is much deeper than words. Language is symbol, and things can be said in so many different ways, with so many different words, in so many different languages, with so many different interpretations and meanings, that the underlying meaning can easily and very quickly be misunderstood, confused, and/or forgotten through time. The symbolism seems to get heavier and heavier and heavier over time, even thicker and thicker and thicker, until it is almost impervious. The scriptures become wholly dead to many of us, being so confusing, so archaic, so foreign, so symbolic, so metaphorical, so figurative, so veiled and hidden, that many people give up on them entirely, thinking they are worthless old stories that make no sense to us, and are not applicable to us today.
But language is often the only form of communication we have. It is one of the only forms of communication that the ancients had to try to convey their deepest insights and understandings of the truths about life and our place in the world. And so we have these holy books, these scriptures, the pseudepigrapha, and apocrypha, and other spiritual books from times past. These people were trying to say something meaningful to us, to record something important for future generations. They went to great lengths to record it, as it was not as simple as typing on a keyboard into a computer today. They felt that their understandings might be valuable to future people, that they had experienced something worthwhile for future people to know about, and so they tried their best to record their intuitions in the best forms of language that they knew in their time and place, often involving allegory, parable, and metaphor. It isn’t perfect, but it is all they had. They were pointing in the direction of truth, general truth about the human condition and experience, applicable across time and space and in all parts of the world. This truth was universal, but the language only pointed towards this truth, it wasn’t the truth in itself.
Over the last few years I have been practicing some traditional forms of deep spirituality that I had not been accustomed to before. These forms of spiritual practice go back many thousands of years, even to the most ancient of religions and spiritual traditions. They were ways of coming to know the deeper truths of one’s own human condition and experience that were perceived to be valuable in one’s life. These forms include mysticism, meditation, contemplation, and silent prayer. These terms are very closely related, even nearly synonymous in many cases.
Through the disciplined practice of them, and with guidance from teachers, one may begin to perceive these truths about the human condition within one’s own self. They simply appear within one’s awareness and consciousness. Sometimes these have been called insights, and other times they have been called revelations. And still other times they may have been called intuitions, epiphanies, enlightenments, or awakenings. They are a kind of knowledge about one’s self as a human being that is experiential, a kind of gnosis, that can only truly be known through one’s own experience of it. It simply can’t be told in language. Many described it as ineffable, indescribable, and beyond words. They seemed to reach past the realms of logic and reason in the mind, to dimensions that were much deeper in consciousness and the subconscious. And so many ancients didn’t even attempt to write them down, but guided followers directly. But others did attempt to write them. Even though they often felt entirely inept in doing so, they tried to capture their insights in language so that it could be shared and recorded for future generations.
I feel that I have also begun to have these insights and intuitions, as I have practiced meditation, and gone on lengthy silent meditation retreats. I feel I’ve begun to become aware of these deeper truths of the human condition that many prophets, saints, mystics, gurus, monks, and others have hinted at and recorded throughout history and throughout many spiritual traditions. And these experiences, I feel, have helped to open my eyes to the truth that is often hidden in the Judeo-Christian scriptures and other holy books, sometimes in radical awareness, beyond words. In some cases it has completely and fundamentally changed my perception of many passages of scripture. I feel I have begun to become aware of what the original authors of these texts may have been feeling and thinking as they were writing them, and which may be helpful to us today in understanding them, helping guide us to have those same experiential insights that I think can significantly change our lives.
It is not lost on me how presumptuous and pretentious this must seem to many people. I am not a credentialed scholar. I do not have an advanced degree in languages or theology. I have not studied the ancient world in detail. I have a degree in design. I was born into and have grown up Mormon (LDS), and have taught and studied Mormonism deeply, which I think has also given me an appreciation for many concepts that apply more universally to Christianity. I have also studied some of Buddhism, Hinduism, and other more mystically-inclined religions, sects, and spiritual traditions. These all come together to influence these translations, and should be taken into account.
Most importantly, I feel what qualifies me to be able to do anything like this is personal experience. I feel I have directly experienced what many scriptures are talking about, and through that experience I feel I can help to unpack them somewhat for other modern readers, perhaps akin to the Book of Mormon’s thought of “liken[ing] all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23).
How did I translate these scriptures? I used several tools such as interlinear translations, current Bible translations, cross references, lexicons, etymologies, and dictionaries. I went back to the original languages as they were thought to have been originally written, and studied each word and its meanings. In some cases I chose the same words as most translations. In other cases, I chose words in their definitions that seem to be more well known today. In other cases, I came up with my own words. First and foremost, I tried to convey what the original author might have meant by the verse, according to my own understanding and experiences, and I tried to convey that understanding as best I could in my own language.
Some translations are much more “tight,” or attempting word-for-word meaning. Other translations are much more “loose,” or liberally interpretive, according to my understanding and experiences, and to better convey the ideas behind the verse. It should be stated clearly that I do not think these translations are perfect, the “best” translation, or are immutable. As symbols, the language can change to attempt to better convey the truth the symbol is pointing at. I believe these scriptures could be translated in dozens of different ways, perhaps hundreds, with different words that might have many different shades of meaning, and may get at many different intricacies of meaning. I may even include multiple translations of the same verses, some more or less tight/loose, or choosing different words. These are living, changing, breathing, dynamic, open scriptures and translations.
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For many months I posted these translations on Facebook, and several of my friends thought they were good and insightful. I eventually began to call them the “Bryce Haymond Translation,” or BHT, for short. This comes out of my experience with Joseph Smith’s own translation of the Bible, the Joseph Smith Translation, or JST. Joseph Smith devoted a lot of time working on this throughout his life. He felt that his insights into God were significant, and that the scripture translation could be improved for better understanding. This is perhaps very similar to my own feelings, which is why I chose a similar name for it, a simple identifier.
I hope this translation is helpful to people, and I will continue to add to it over time, as well as change it, as I feel I should do so.