How to Identify Idioms in the ESV and NASB

read between the lines

A Logos user recently contacted me with this question:

The ESV is my preferred Bible and I enjoy using the interlinear pane that displays at the bottom of the Bible. I recently noticed italicized English text for some of the words. In the KJV italicized text indicated inserted words in English that weren’t in the original. In this interlinear pane, however, I clearly see Greek words below the English, so why are some English words italicized?

The user not only asks an excellent question, but he also has keen eyes! This is an important feature that can easily be overlooked. Generally speaking, the italicized text in the ESV and NASB interlinear panes usually indicates the presence of an idiomatic expression.

For example, let’s say a biblical author wrote “It’s raining cats and dogs outside.” The English Bible may translate that phrase as “It’s raining hard outside,” but the interlinear pane would then italicize the phrase “It’s raining hard outside.”

Thus we’re alerted to a possible idiom, meaning the English translation conveys the meaning of the idiom, rather than a word-for-word translation of the original.

Let’s see this in action:

  • Open the ESV to Galatians 1:15 (A)
  • Click the Interlinear icon on the Bible’s toolbar (B)
  • Notice the interlinear pane appears at the bottom of the Bible (C)


  • Right click on the word surface in the interlinear pane (D)
  • Select whatever lines of information you like but be sure to select the Lemma (E)


  • In the Bible itself, click the English word “born” in Galatians 1:15 (F)
  • Notice the interlinear pane moves to the phrase before I was born and it’s italicized (G)


As you look up the meaning of each Greek word in the phrase, you’ll discover the very wooden, word-for-word translation of the phrase is “from womb of my mother.” However, the wording in the ESV text is before I was born, which is the obvious meaning of the idiomatic expression. So the phrase is italicized in the interlinear pane to alert us to the idiom or figure of speech!

The same italicized text also appears in the interlinear pane for the NASB. This is a small but very important marking in both of these Bibles. As you work with the interlinear pane you’ll also see other markings such as bullets, arrows, triangles, and numbers; all of these are indicating something about the translation from the original text to English.

For detailed instructions about all of these markings, please check out the chapter Reverse Interlinears in the Logos 6 Training Manual Volumes 1 & 2 BundleAlso, plan on kicking off the fall with three days of hands-on training at our live Camp Logos in Phoenix, AZ on September 13th through the 15th. 

Morris Proctor
is a certified trainer for Logos Bible Software. Morris, who has trained thousands of Logos users at his two-day Camp Logos seminars, provides many training materials.


  1. Is there any way within Logos to search for these idioms identified in ESV interlinear?


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