Identifying Idioms In the ESV

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 good 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.

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 for sure select the Lemma (E)


  • Click, in the Bible itself, the English word born in the Galatians 1:15 (F)
  • Notice the interlinear pane moves to the phrase before I was born and it is 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.

The wording in the ESV text is, however, 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 the 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 Bundle

Also, 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. 

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