How to Quickly Transliterate Greek and Hebrew

how to transliterate greek and hebrew

“Transliteration” is not the same as “translation.” Tranliteration brings just letters across the divide between languages (if indeed the languages don’t already use the same alphabet). Спасибо becomes spasibo; 國語 becomes Guóyǔ. Scholars transliterate when they are writing about a foreign language for people who don’t speak or read it; they also do it sometimes, truth be known, because they themselves can scan text more quickly in their “mother characters,” the alphabet they’ve used since childhood.

I can transliterate pretty quickly in Greek, but Hebrew is more difficult, because its phonemic (sound) and orthographic (spelling) system is so much further from English than Greek is. And Hebrew transliteration presents even more options and requires even more choices. Sometimes you just need a simple transliteration to place in the footnote of a piece written for non-specialists. Sometimes you need a precise transliteration for an academic audience. Or (and this is my most common use of the tool) you need to keep the Hebrew text but strip out all the vowels, or all the cantillations—those myriad special marks I won’t get into describing here.

The Text Converter tool in Logos 6 does all that and more. Check it out.

Look at what Logos can do with the very first verse of the Hebrew Bible:

hebrew transliteration

You get similar options with Greek:

greek transliteration

If you are as excited right now as I was when I discovered this tool, you know who you are. I don’t usually like to front “efficiency” in Bible study of any kind, because my main goal is not quickness but depth. And I still think you should learn how to transliterate “by hand” before you lean on this techno-wonder-crutch. But transliteration—again, especially in Hebrew—can be very laborious, even for those who are good at it. It’s okay to outsource this one.

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Comments

  1. Bruce Nelson says:

    “…I still think you should learn how to transliterate “by hand” before you lean…” That is fine and dandy for those who can follow the text in the original languages, but I rather doubt I am the only Logos user who can’t. (why else would the tool exist?)
    Now, there was talk, way back when Logos 6 was first discussed (before it was released), that it would provide transliteration in all those advanced commentaries and other works that discussed Greek or Hebrew words. If the product will actually insert transliterations into existing resources (eg, NICNT, NICOT or WBC), then that would be the one good argument for me to cut into the grocery budget to purchase a crossgrade or base package.

    • I confess that it never occurred to me that people who don’t read Greek or Hebrew might use this tool to transliterate sections of original language text in commentaries or other works. Hey, more power to you!

      You could keep this window open next to a commentary and very quickly get transliterations for anything you needed.

      • Bruce Nelson says:

        I have often wished that authors would include a transliteration in their discussion of words and word meanings. When one does not read the language, the words in Greek or Hebrew characters make following the discussion very difficult. Why? We don’t read any phoneme symbol based language a character at a time, we read at worst a word or syllable at a time. Having the words being discussed uniformly transliterated into the same characters (but a different font) as the rest of the book means that the reader can then assign a “word sound” to the presented transliteration. For the purpose of following a written discussion, it does not matter if the “word sound” is a correct pronunciation of the original language word or not – it is simply a tool in the mind of the reader. (How many well educated people pronounce “pericope” correctly?)