How do you define literal? And are the terms 'formal equivalence' and 'word-for-word' synonymous with 'literal'? For a working example, how should the Greek word sunagoge(soon-ag-o-gay) be literally translated in James 2:2? The word transliterates into English as 'synagogue'. It is a reduplicated form of sunago, meaning 'to gather'. Thayer's lexicon states that the word has three possible meanings: 1) a bringing together, gathering; 2) an assembly of men; 3) a synagogue - either the physical building or the group of Jews formally gathered there. Strong's lexicon (#4864) states that it means "an assemblage of persons; specially, a Jewish synagogue - the meeting or the place; by analogy, a Christian church: assembly, congregation, synagogue." The context of this verse begins with the first verse of the book: James states that he is writing "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." He calls the readers "my brethren" and also "my beloved brethren" both before and after our verse. Generally, James is about faith without works being worthless; specifically, here the apostle condemns a sinful regarding of the rich, and despising the poor. The KJV otherwise translated this word as "synagogue" (55 times; "congregation" once, and "assembly" only at James 2:2). Many others (NKJV, ESV, RSV, NASB, and NET which does have a note about the Greek word) also render this word as "assembly". I would agree with the KJV at the 52 places through the Gospels and Acts that this word is probably referring to a Jewish institution. It does not appear that "synagogue" had a different meaning before or after 1611. The other two occurrences, besides the verse under discussion, are in Revelation (both read "synagogue of Satan" in the vast majority of versions). Another 'dynamic' version (NIV) also renders this word as "meeting". The Houghton Mifflin online thesaurus displays "meeting" and "assembly" as synonyms. It seems that the KJV and others that use "assembly" are being just as 'dynamic' as the NLT and NIV with this word. Is the KJV a literal translation? Other versions considered 'literal' (ASV, Darby) also render this word as "synagogue". The American Heritage online dictionary defines "synagogue" as: 1) a building or place of meeting for worship and religious instruction in the Jewish faith; 2) congregation of Jews for the purpose of worship or religious study; 3) the Jewish religion as organized or typified in local congregations. It would seem that in today's English the word "synagogue" can only mean a Jewish place of gathering, or its Jewish membership; not a 'generic' assembly (much less a 'Christian' gathering). Now the Greek language has another word ekklesia (Strong's #1577) which is also translated "assembly" but more often "church" in the Christian sense of gathering for worship or religious meeting. This is the word rendered as "assembly" at Acts 19:32, for example. The Holy Spirit could have used ekklesia but chose instead sunagoge. Why? It would seem a risk of 'interpretation' to make sunagoge an assembly or meeting of non-Jews (or more likely, a mixture of converted Jews and gentile Christians). Would anything other than "synagogue" be more literal in this context? And in this case, is the word most literal (your definition) also the most 'accurate' word in context? As a reader, what is the difference between having to determine: the proper definition of a supplied word (may require a dictionary); or if the word supplied is correct for the context (may require ancient language skills)?