IS INERRANCY ENOUGH?
(A defense of the KJV)
Pastor F. William Darrow
Notes From The Adult Classes 2006 Evening Vacation Bible School
After serving some 42 years as a pastor I have learned that things are constantly changing in the realm of the church. Trends and fads, yes, even in churches, come and go. Some are good some are bad. Change is a way of life but not always good. Allow me to give you an example.
I have attended many ordination councils over the years. Even in those, the evidence of trends and issues become prevalent. Areas that were questioned heavily 25 years ago do not even draw a question today. I remember years ago that a candidate would be grilled heavily over "verbal plenary inspiration". The candidate had to know and be able to explain that "inspiration" is God breathing into man the very words He wanted him to write. "Verbal" meaning that the Holy Spirit guided the writers of the Bible in the very words that they used. "Plenary" means fully or completely as to the fact that every word was inspired by God from beginning to end.
I am not sure when it started, but it seems to me that in the late sixties or seventies a new word, or at least a more frequently used word, came on the scene. That word is "inerrancy". In many doctrinal statements of more recent days the word "inerrancy" appears but not the phrase "verbal plenary inspiration". I began to question in my mind why the term "inerrancy" had replaced "verbal plenary inspiration" even though it is a fine word but it does not say enough. Since new versions of the Bible keep coming on the scene and some have become preferred over the old, tried and proven KJV, I have sought to read for answers. It has been a learning experience. One of which has helped me to understand why the term "verbal plenary inspiration" is no longer being used.
I also was at a conference where a speaker made the statement, as he held up his Bible, "inerrancy, no, infallibility yes". He did not believe that the present Bibles we have are inerrant, just infallible. What he meant by that is since we do not have the original manuscripts, which are inerrant, our translations are not inerrant but we have enough evidence from different old texts so at least we can say they are infallible, or trustworthy. I do not agree with this at all.
There are three basic techniques in Bible translation work. Quoting the National Religious Broadcasters, January 1996 issue, an article by Harry Conay: "With regard to popular Bible translation, we frequently use terms like formal equivalency (‘this is how we write what they wrote), dynamic equivalency (‘this is how we would say what they meant’), and paraphrasing (‘this is how I think their intent can be more clearly stated’). (Printed in the Foundation magazine, January-February 1996 issue).
The three techniques are:
Let me start from the bottom up. Paraphrasing is simply taking what the text says and rewriting it to what you think it says.
Myron Houghton, a professor at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, IA, made an explanation that helps understand the difference between a paraphrase and literal translations.
Dynamic Equivalency is not following a word-for-word translation but changing, adding, or subtracting from the original to make it flow as the translator sees fit. It is a step up from paraphrasing. Dr. D.A.Waite defines it in his book on Defending the King James Version page 89, as " 'Dynamic' implies 'change' or 'movement.' These versions take a sort of idiomatic rendering from Hebrew or Greek into English. It is idiomatic in the sense that they didn't take a word-for-word method (even when it made good sense), trying to make the words in the Hebrew or Greek equal to the words in the English. Instead they added to what was there, changed what was there and/or subtracted from what was there." Robert J. Barnet in his book The Word of God on Trial, page 24, uses another name for it; calling it "concept inspiration". He said, "The author of a paraphrase is not trying to communicate word-level truth. He is giving us his own interpretation of what he thinks the Bible means. He is giving us concept-level communication." Dr. D.A.Waite has a study available of examples where the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION uses this method some 4,000 times, the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 6,653 times and the NEW KING JAMES VERSION over 2,000 times. (Page 105, Defending The King James Version).
The AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of 1901 followed strict formal equivalency. However our issue with the 1901 ASV has to do with the text from which it was translated. The NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION translators followed dynamic equivalency so were much more loose in their translating. They utilized dynamic equivalency to the degree that their work is almost a running paraphrase and not a translation. Dynamic Equivalency, therefore, allows for a great deal of subjectivity on the part of the translators to interpret the biblical text. (Touch Not the Unclean Thing by David Sorenson – page 239)
The third method is Formal Equivalency, or sometimes called, Verbal Equivalency. This method of translation takes the Greek and Hebrew words and renders them as closely as possible into English. This is the method used by the King James translators and is certainly a superior method.
"In favor of using modern English, it should be noted that the Bible was written in the language of the day. The New Testament, for example, was written in koine, or common Greek. And we do not normally use thee, thou, and ye in our speech today. On the other hand, thee and thou distinguished you in the singular from ye which is you in the plural. Sometimes the correct interpretation of a passage is helped by knowing the difference between the plural or singular use of you." (Faith Pulpit – July/August 2006 by Myron J. Houghton)
The King James Bible is the only English translation today that follows this strict accurate literalness.
It should be understood that in any translation, there has to be some diversion from the literal to make the sentences flow.
"It is understood that all translating from one language to another is a mixture of literal rendering as well as allowance for cultural idioms and forms of syntax." (Touch Not the Unclean Thing by David Sorenson – page 121)
"Of course, no English translation can always adhere to this pattern and achieve understandable sentences. Sometimes words must be added to make a sentence clear in English. Nevertheless, a literal translation would identify those added words, usually by placing them in italics." (Faith Pulpit July/August 2006 by Myron J. Houghton)
However, one still must push for literalicy.
Perhaps here is the place to mention where Dynamic Equivalency came from. Eugene Nida has been associated with the American Bible Society and the United Bible Society since 1946. He was instrumental in the development of the first edition of the United Bible Society Greek Test. He was the Translation Research Coordinator of the United Bible Society from 1970 to 1980. It was Eugene Nida who widely popularized the notion of Dynamic Equivalency. Following are listed his views on religion and communication:
Dr. D.A.Waite in his book, Defending The King James Version, page 98 says "If you take a DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCY approach to translation as a technique instead of verbal equivalency or formal equivalency--that is, the forms and the words being rendered from Hebrew or Greek into English as closely as possible--if you take the position that it really doesn't matter what the words are, what difference does it make which text you use? What difference does the Greek or Hebrew text make? You can change it any time you wish."
I refer again to the article in the National Religious Broadcasters by Harry Conay, printed in the Foundation magazine, "The more one descends on this scale from literalism to paraphrase, the more editorial interpretation takes place--and with it greater potential for human bias and error. It has been common practice for translators and editors to stress their truthfulness to the original language based on a study of extant manuscripts; few have had the hubris to inform readers they have deliberately altered, added to, and otherwise improved God's Word, until now." This is the evaluation of a man who at one time championed DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCY but now gives a clear warning concerning where it leads.
David Cloud in his book Myths About Modern Bible Versions indicates that there are six different names used for dynamic equivalency and we list them here.
David Cloud also summarized the principles of dynamic equivalency into three principles.
He then lists three reasons why this is dangerous.
David Cloud also points out that dynamic equivalency avoids common ecclesiastical terms. This is the principle which has resulted in Today’s English Version’s obliteration of such "churchy" terms as "justification," "sanctification," "saint," "redemption," "propitiation," "elder," "deacon," and "bishop". Terms such as those have been changed to ones the unsaved can understand, even when this has meant changing or weakening the meaning. Consider some examples of The Contemporary English Version:
Another point made by David Cloud is that dynamic equivalency adopts the wording of the translation to the culture of the receptor people. Dynamic equivalency translators believe that real communication is broken when the difference between Biblical and modern culture is not considered. Though dynamic equivalency advocates claim to honor the meaning of the Bible text, in practice they do not! In practice they change, twist, and pervert Scripture. A man working in northern India was translating and because the people did not know what a sacrificial lamb was he translated John 1:29 as "Behold the cock of God, which taketh away the sin of the world". These people had sacrificed roosters to their gods in the past. Another example is given where they did not know what snow was. Therefore they translated Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as the inside of a coconut". In the United Bible Society’s translation in the Ulithian language of the South Pacific, "dove" was changed to a local bird called a "gigi".
It is not the job of the translators to become the evangelist and preacher in the process of his work as a translator. In any country the answer is to do what historically has always been done. Explanatory notes can be added, dictionaries made, commentaries written and other teaching tools produced. This is far wiser than changing the Word of God.
Let me finish with an illustration that contrasts the New International Version with the King James Bible.
KJV - 1 Corinthians 7:36 "But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry."
NIV – 1 Corinthians 7:36 "If any thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married."
The problem here is that the NIV translators interpreted the word VIRGIN to mean someone to whom a man is engaged. Actually, I believe the term virgin is referring to a man’s virgin daughter. They have taken extreme license to the text in giving it their interpretation. When someone picks up the NIV and reads it he is going to assume he is reading the Word of God, when he is not. He is reading what some translator thought the text meant. That is an example of dynamic equivalency rather than formal equivalency. A translator has the responsibility to give the literal translation and let the readers determine what it means.
My conclusion is that if you use the DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCY method
of translation, you can no longer believe in VERBAL PLENARY
INSPIRATION. That is why there has been a quiet and subtle
dissolving of the term and replacing it with INERRANCY. I believe
the Bible is VERBAL PLENARY INSPIRED and that demands a VERBAL
EQUIVALENCY translation. Are you using the WORD OF GOD or someone’s
opinion of what God said?