The Translators’ Awesome Task

Tow Siang Hwa

The translation of God’s Word is an awesome task fraught with grave responsibility. What mortal being is worthy to handle and translate the words of the Almighty? Even as those who teach the Word of God must exercise utmost care: “… the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little …” (Isaiah 28:13), so must they who translate God’s Word exercise the utmost care.

Those who handle God’s Word are warned: “Every word of God is pure: … Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5, 6). In repelling the tempter, our Lord used only God’s Word, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Every word in the Bible is important! Every word must be faithfully and precisely translated without distortion, without variation, and without addition or subtraction.

Only with utmost reverence then should one handle God’s Word. Such was the attitude of the men who translated the KJV. Those godly men of rare scholarship, holding a “high view” of Holy Scripture, endeavoured to translate word for word and phrase for phrase so as to capture the very spirit of the original text, and thus express the mind of God faithfully.

This precise “word for word” method (“formal equivalence” or “verbal equivalence”) ensures that the KJV conveys God’s message with a degree of literal and grammatical fidelity unrivalled by any other version.

One Translator’s Reckless Methodology

Eugene Nida is an unregenerate man who denies the blood atonement, the reality of angels and miracles, and the infallibility of Holy Scripture. Yet he occupied a key position in the Translations Department of the United Bible Societies.

By the introduction of his new translation methodology, “Dynamic Equivalence,” Nida has become the most influential person in the field of Bible translation. The theory behind Nida’s “Dynamic Equivalence” goes something like this:

  1. The message and events of Scripture are bound in the culture of the past.
  2. The strict “word for word” translation being static does not release the message of God.
  3. “Dynamic Equivalent” unbinds the message which “leaps out” at the reader in today’s language and culture.
  4. By this method the translator is at liberty to express just how he feels were the Author’s thoughts.
  5. Instead of “word for word,” it is now “thought for word,” i.e., man’s thoughts in place of God’s Word.

Eugene Nida’s theory is theological liberalism, which is unbelief. It reduces God to man’s level. It implies that God is unable to communicate with His creatures in an intelligible manner without man’s aid. A man of unbelief is a “corrupt tree” which “bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17).

The corrupted Modern English Bibles have come by the “Dynamic Equivalence” method of translation. A corrupt methodology gives rise to corrupt versions: “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

Heed the warning of the Scripture: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). It is supreme folly and reckless presumption for any man to venture to “think God’s thoughts” by wanton manipulation of God’s inspired Word.

Dynamic Equivalence in Action

When corrupt men take it into their heads to put man's thoughts for God's Word, the result is “textual corruption” in the translation. Here are a few examples from Kenneth Taylor's “The Living Bible” (TLB):

KJV (“verbal equivalence”) vs. TLB (“dynamic equivalence”)

  1. 1 Samuel 20:30 “… Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman …” (KJV)
    “You son of a bitch!” (TLB first edition)
  2. 1 Kings 18:27 “… Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing …” (KJV)
    “… Perhaps he is talking to someone or is out sitting on the toilet …” (TLB)
  3. Job 3:26 “I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” (KJV)
    “I was not fat and lazy, yet trouble struck me down.” (TLB)
  4. Psalm 34:20 “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.” (KJV)
    “God even protects him from accidents.” (TLB)
  5. Luke 11:1 “… one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray …” (KJV)
    “… one of his disciples came to him as he finished and said, Lord, teach us a prayer to recite …” (TLB)

These are just five examples out of hundreds of blatant mistranslations and wanton manipulation of God's Word.

Example (d) is a Messianic prophecy of our Lord's crucifixion which Taylor destroys by his “dynamic equivalence.”

Example (e) is used by Taylor (with Catholic sympathies) to give credence to the pagan practice of reciting rosary prayers.

Satan delights in “dynamic equivalence.” It is “demonic equivalence.”

Rev. Dr. S. H. Tow is the senior pastor of Calvary Bible-Presbyterian Church.

– Published in Bible Witness, Vol 2 Issue 4 (October – December 2002)