Monday, August 18, 2008

My response to the Dynamic Equivalence translational methodology

After having a discussion on Bible versions and the TNIV, it soon became obvious that the fundamental issues at hand has nothing whatsoever to do with the TNIV or gender-neutrality/ inclusive language. Rather, it seems that there are many more fundamental problems with those who attempt such a defence, which are as follows:

1) Their practice of Dynamic Equivalence Methodology practically denies the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration of Scripture.

The whole idea of translating the "sense" of the verse and passage causes one to interpret them and tailor them to the audience or culture. While there is always an element of interpretation in translation, such interpretation should be minimized in order to preserve as much as possible the exact words in the original. This is not to translate it as some sort of wooden literalism, but the governing principle should be: Minimize interpretation unless absolutely necessary, NOT Use as much interpretation as you think necessary!

2) Committing the error of lexicography.

For example, the attempt to defend the translation of anthropos (ανθρωπος) to 'people' in Mk. 2:27 is based on the possible meaning of anthropos to mean both men and women in the lexicon (whether BDAG or Liddell-Scots). However, this ignores the fact that the phrase huios tou anthropou (υίος του ανθρωπου) in the consecutive verse Mk. 2:28 is translated as 'Son of Man'. The traditional rendering of anthropos as 'man' in Mk. 2:27 can thus flow with Mk. 2:28 with the rendering of 'Son of Man' in Mk. 2:28 , whereas such an analogy cannot be seen in inclusive versions like the TNIV which translates anthropos in Mk. 2:27 as 'people' yet retain the traditional translation of anthropou in Mk 2:28 as 'man'. Somehow the defence always comes down to a defence based upon lexicography independent of the entire context of the passage the verse is found, thinking that somehow since a broader semantic range of the word anthropos is included in Mk. 2:27, therefore the TNIV in Mk. 2:27 is "more literal" and has higher fidelity to the original.

3) The move towards a Protestant magisterium, and Neo-Gnostic tendencies

The suggested move towards the usage of many different versions sounds innocent enough, until one probes deeper beneath the surface. While it is indeed correct that not one version can give the total sense of the Scriptures, and thus it may (not must) indeed by helpful to utilize various translations, over-emphasis on the plurality of translations in a manner that shows total disregard whether any single translation is truly a legitimate translation would cause confusion to the flock. And who is to say which translation is better than the other, since there are no real guidelines in place? The only option is to study the Greek/ Hebrew/ Aramaic, which is good. However, if one insists on this as to truly know the sense of the verse and passage of Scripture, without which it cannot truly be known, then it must be asked if such a position smacks of Neo-Gnosticism reminiscent of the position of the Roman church seen at the time of the Reformation. Will there come a time when only those who are educated in the original languages will constitute an unofficial Magisterium on what the true senses of the texts are?

4) The refusal to set strict guidelines for translations and the primacy of the Essentially Literal style of translation, and instead depend on multiple translations, is a decadent and sinful luxury of the English-speaking Church

Let's face the fact: the English-speaking world has many many Bible versions to choose from. In effect, we are spoilt rotten with choices! We have the KJV, NKJV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, HCSB, ESV, NLT, NIV, NIVI, TNIV, GNB, TEV, CEV, Ph, Msg, LB , and possibly others I miss out. We have tons of Bible commentaries in English and a similarly large number of study Bibles. Yet in many other languages, having more than 3 translations would probably be a luxury, not to mention commentaries and study Bibles! In fact, there are still people groups without even a Bible in their native language. In such scenarios, surly the priority would be to have a good Bible which preserves as much as possible the text of Scripture so that they can use that one version (which may be the only one they have) for all purposes starting from evangelism to basic discipleship to even theological training? The "check out many versions" excuse so that poor versions are acceptable is surely a sign of the decadent indulgence of the English-speaking world especially in America.

5) The laziness in wanting a commentary-Bible version hybrid

The argument over having a Bible version that fits with the culture is legitimate to a certain extent only, in that the language must not be alien to the culture (ie 'thees' and 'thous' are not exactly commonly used words). However, when one goes further than that and desires a Bible version that expands upon a particular point or word that is perfectly understandable, then one has confounded the purpose of a commentary or study Bible with the text of Scripture. The entire gender-neutral/ inclusive language debate boils down to the fact that certain phrases which are perfectly understandable using modern English are stated to be not clear enough because it for example did not mention the opposite sex. Such clarifications should however be placed in a commentary if the problem is really that serious, because the problem is not with the language but with the worldview of such people. It is an attitude of laziness indeed in wanting to have a commentary in the text of Scripture itself (not just in the Bible as in study Bibles), as opposed to separate from it.

So, in application, the exact same reasoning of lexicography would result in certain translation decisions being unassailable. As long as the variant rendering you are proposing is a legitimate alternative based upon the variants of a lexicon, there is no legitimate reason whatsoever to reject it. With that, let us look at a good example of this principle at work.

It may be remembered by some that when the RSV came out, there was a huge uproar over the change in Is. 7:14 (a Messianic prophetic verse) of the word "virgin" with "young woman". Yet, the word there almah according to the lexicon is legitimately translated "young woman". Worse still is the fact that the word "young woman" is indeed the preferred meaning in other areas where the term is used in Scripture, and there is another term betulah which could be used if "virgin" is indeed to be made more explicit.

The question, and my challenge to all TNIV supporters who utilize such defence of lexicography, is for them to attempt to prove that the term almah in Is. 7:14 should be rendered "virgin" instead of "young woman" according to their own principles of translations. I doubt they can though.

So with that, I conclude this response to the Dynamic Equivalence methodology which seems so prevalent among the supporters of the TNIV. I am eagerly awaiting their attempted defence of the traditional rendering of Is. 7:14, but I am not holding my breath for their success.


tcrob said...

Daniel, I've given a response to your five lines of attack here.

Daniel C said...


I have posted this at your blog, and would post this here also.


Is this the best you can do? One-liner non-answers to serious questions? How about telling us why should almah in Is. 7:14 be translated as ‘virgin’ instead of ‘young woman’?

And of course, the fact that I have mentioned that the NASB, ESV, NKJV, HCSB, KJV and NIV is acceptable seems to escape your notice.

As for the NLT, if the TNIV is unacceptable, so is the NLT, so therefore I do not need to talk about the NLT since it is already invalidated.

R. Mansfield said...

The TNIV has "Or young woman as an alternate translation in the footnote to 7:14 for ‏עַלְמָה. I'm sure there were members of the committee who would have preferred "young woman." This is one of those verses that most Evangelical translations are afraid to touch, the most notable exception being the NET Bible.

They don't touch it because of the grief that the RSV received, of course, and the fact that the average church member doesn't know the issues surrounding ‏עַלְמָה or the fact that Matthew is quoting the LXX.

Could the TNIV be more accurate here? Certainly, but that doesn't invalidate it. Most Evangelical translations render John 3:16 incorrectly as well (the notable exception being the HCSB) because when evaluating a new translation, people in a bookstore will turn to this verse, and so it becomes "hands off."

Daniel C said...

R. Mansfield:

thanks for the information. And that example was just trying to show that there is inconsistency in the translational methodology of the TNIV and pro-TNIV apologists since they refuse to touch this sacred cow (OK, at least the TNIV did place young woman as an alternative translation). I would thus like to see whether they would dare to go all out and change this verse as well. If they do that, I would still think they are wrong, but at least they are consistent in their methodology.

With regards to Jn. 3:16 and the HCSB, may I know which part of the verse you think is incorrect in most evangelical translations as compared to the HCSB? I currently don't have my interlinear with me, so unfortunately I can't check the verse out in any level of detail. Thanks.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Something I have been toying with ... suppose we use symbolic logic and see if each translated verse is a logical equivalent of the original text/verse (whichever that is).

If it is not, it's a dead fallacy :P

Daniel C said...


=P. What are your views on this topic? I guess you would have an in-depth view of the entire topic of Bible translation? I'd really love to hear your take on this.

R. Mansfield said...

Regarding the HCSB's correction of John 3:16, from my review at --

Of course the most controversial correction has to do with the HCSB's rendering of John 3:16. Years ago, the NIV translators correctly opted to translate μονογενής as "one and only" instead of "only begotten" which had remained standard phrasing in translations of the Tyndale tradition. However, the HCSB translators went a step further and corrected the "so" of "God so loved the world... ." The average person reads the "so" in John 3:16 as meaning "God sooooooo loved the world that he gave his only begotten son" or that "God loved the world SO MUCH." Now, I won't deny God's perfect love for his creation, but that's simply not what the "so" means. The "so" is from the Greek word οὕτως and simply means "thus" or "in this way." In other words, to paraphrase, what the verse means is "This is the way in which God loved the world: that he he gave his one and only son... ." The HCSB renders John 3:16 as "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

Regarding the consistency you're trying to put on the TNIV, I think that perhaps you're putting a requirement upon it that NO translation matches. I've been comparing translations in depth for two decades, and they ALL have inconsistencies at some point. This is why I recommend reading them in parallel and not reading one exclusively.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Haha ... why worry of translation when one can't even figure out which is/are the best text/s?

But anyway, you should know my stand on translation methodology … I don’t agree with dynamic equivalence. Reasons are many, and I believe you know them well.

As I had said, a perusal of Burgon will benefit us.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Professor of New Testament, The Master's Seminary. It's in the Master's Sem Journal.

Daniel C said...

R. Mansfield:

I see. I guess I did not read the verse that way before (ie placing emphasis on the word 'so' so that the verse become just so much mushy sentimentality). Therefore, I do not see much of a difference between the HCSB and other versions.

With regards to the consistency on the part of the TNIV, please do take note that this point was not made in a vacuum. Obviously, it is ridiculous to expect such consistency throughout at every place in Scripture. But this is not what I am demanding from the TNIV. I am demanding this from certain TNIV supporters who use lexicographical arguments to claim that gender-neutral translations of words such as anthropos are "more literally" translated as 'people' rather than 'man'. Using the same absurd argumentation, they should use it consistently throughout the texts of Scripture, instead of just limiting it to gender language. That was what I was driving at.

Daniel C said...


thanks for the article. =)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the article, I'll have a look as well.