Perspectives in Translation

Archive for the 'Old Testament' Category

Five Most Intriguing Changes in the Updated NIV

Posted in New Testament, Old Testament, Translation Philosophy by Collin Hansen on February 28th, 2011

Last year I enjoyed the privilege of moderating the Perspectives in Translation forum at Bible Gateway. This work put me in touch with some of the world’s most gifted Bible scholars, men and women committed to helping us understand God’s Word in many varied contemporary English translations.

We launched this project around the same time the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) released the updated NIV at Bible Gateway. NIV translators Doug Moo and Craig Blomberg participated in the Perspectives forum. But so did translators and/or supporters of several other versions, including the NLT, ESV, HCSB, CEB, and NET. That made for some vigorous discussion, especially regarding the best way to render passages related to gender roles. We welcomed such debate, because translation is a serious matter that carries serious consequences for Christian faith and practice.

Now the scholars have returned to their regular tasks of teaching and writing, so we will only update the Perspectives forum if we see occasion and reader demand to convene a group discussion. We’re grateful for the significant interested readers have shown in the forum and welcome any tips for special topics we might cover.

To recap our discussion so far, I wanted to look back on the updated NIV and observe what I regard as the five most intriguing changes unveiled in last year’s edition compared to the 1984 NIV. Scholars discussed most of these changes at Perspectives in Translation. Others were covered in the translation notes released by the CBT.

5.) Philippians 4:13

1984 NIV: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

2010 NIV: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Here we have one of the most popular and frequently memorized verses in the entire Bible. According to data compiled by Bible Gateway, this is the number four most-read Bible verse. It’s easy to memorize and packs a punch. But the 2010 translation helps us to understand the apostle Paul’s intent more clearly by encouraging us to examine the context of his remark. God granted him contentment in all circumstances, whether rich or poor, well fed or hungry. Indeed, we know from Philippians 4:7 that the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God does not promise to protect believers from all hardship. But he does promise to preserve us in it.

4.) Psalm 23:4

1984 NIV: ‟Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

2010 NIV: ‟Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

I don’t remember much from Sunday school as a child, but I remember memorizing Psalm 23. The King James Version of 1611 conveyed the beauty of this chapter with lyrical, rhythmic phrasing like the “valley of the shadow of death,” retained in verse four of the 1984 NIV. Some modern translations, such as the ESV an NASB, have preserved this beautiful language. The 2010 NIV, however, has joined the HCSB, NLT, NRSV, and NET by opting for broader comprehension with a simpler modern phrase: “darkest valley.” No matter how dark things appear in our lives, God will never leave us. There can be no greater hope!

3.) Romans 8:8

1984 NIV: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

2010 NIV: “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

I could have selected several other verses to illustrate this same change. The CBT’s translation notes explain that particularly in Paul’s letters, the word “sarx can mean either part or all of the human body or the human being under the power of sin.” Paul uses the word both ways, just as we use the same words today with both literal and figurative meanings. The 1984 NIV aimed to help readers by offering the figurative meaning whenever translators believed they could establish Paul’s intent. The 2010 NIV takes a more hands-off approach, more frequently translating sarx as flesh and urging the readers to make their own decisions about when Paul means to reference the sinful nature that misleads us.

Blomberg explained on the Perspectives forum more about the misconceptions prompted the CBT to make a change:

Through my seminary studies . . . I came to learn that it wasn’t as though Christians had two compartments to them, one in which the Spirit resided and one in which the flesh resided, so that one could speak of their spiritual and their sinful natures. The Spirit always indwells us, and sometimes fills us, but when he doesn’t it is because we are not fully yielded to him. Thus the flesh, as the common Scriptural opposite, is most naturally likewise understood as a power to which we can yield, to varying degrees.

2.) 2 Corinthians 5:17

1984 NIV: ‟Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

2010 NIV: ‟Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

However you translate it, this is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. Believers cling to this promise when overwhelmed with the weight of our sin and its effects on the ones we love. The 2010 NIV helps us to more clearly understand something profound: our union with Christ has cosmic implications! Far from minimizing the significance of the new birth, Paul teaches us that same re-creative power that raised Jesus from the dead now regenerates us, who were helpless in our sins. Indeed, Jesus is making all things new.

The CBT tells us more about Paul’s teaching:

Given his overall theology that the coming of Christ and the new era he inaugurated began the period of the restoration of all things that would culminate in new heavens and new earth, it is likely that Paul is making a much more sweeping claim than just the salvation of the individual believer. A new universe is in the works!

Blomberg argued at the Perspectives forum that Paul employs an attention-grabbing structure in the original Greek in order to show us that our individual conversions are part of God’s grand creative plan. This example demonstrates how translators consider both a verse’s sentence construction as well as the broader context of biblical theology.

1.) Philippians 2:6

1984 NIV:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”

2010 NIV: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”

This verse belongs to a beloved section of Scripture, Philippians 2:6-11, which explains the humiliation Jesus suffered on the earth and the exaltation he enjoys in heaven. Paul tells us we have the same mindset, looking not to our interests but to the interests of others, as Jesus did by enduring death on the cross.

This verse also bears tremendous theological importance. In particular, scholars have long debated the meaning of the rarely used Greek word harpagmos. The 1984 NIV translated it “something to be grasped.” But what does it mean that Jesus did not grasp equality with God? Isn’t he in very nature God? What’s the difference?

The CBT considered new scholarship in the last 25 years that led them to believe that harpagmos carried the meaning of someone who possesses something he does not use for his own advantage. Blomberg explained more on the Perspectives forum:

The point then of the verse is not that Christ, in choosing to give up his position, metaphorically, at the right hand of the Father in order to become human, gave up his deity or even his divine attributes, but that he didn’t consider them as something to be used to his own personal advantage. Evangelical theologians have often spoken of Christ giving up the independent exercise of his divine attributes apart from when it was his Father’s will.

More than any other change, I think, this verse illustrates how Bible translators serve the rest of us. A verse that has baffled me for so long now comes into clearer focus thanks to careful study of the original language in its ancient context. And now that I know more clearly what Jesus Christ did for me, I praise him and ask for the Spirit’s help in serving others to the glory of God the Father.

Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and editor of the Perspectives in Translation forum at Bible Gateway. He is the co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

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Note from Bible Gateway:

Looking for an opportunity to connect with other Christians who are passionate about carrying out the Great Commission in a world of rapidly-changing technology and social trends? The Gospel Coalition 2011 National Conference takes place in Chicago this April 12-14, and there’s a huge amount packed into its three days. More than 60 teachers—including Don Carson, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, and others—will lead workshops about diverse topics like business leadership, inner-city church planting, counseling, and sharing the gospel with Muslims. The conference website has a full speaker list and workshop schedule.

As an added incentive to attend, The Gospel Coalition (in partnership with Zondervan) will be giving away a premium copy of the NIV Thinline Reference Bible (ebony leather edition–a $129.99 retail value) to 35 conference registrants. It’s a powerful resource for pastors, seminary students, and Bible readers.

The Gospel Coalition partnered with us last year to create the Perspectives in Translation forum about Bible translation. They’re doing valuable work, and we encourage you to consider attending their national conference. Everyone who registers for The Gospel Coalition conference between now and Tuesday, March 8, will be eligible for the NIV giveaway.

What Is the Best Way to Convey What Happens to David in 1 Kings 2:10? Douglas J. Moo

Posted in New Testament, Old Testament by Douglas J. Moo on December 22nd, 2010

Note from the moderator: Students learning the biblical languages for the first time often produce wooden, overly literal translations dependent on what they know about words’ dictionary definitions. More experienced translators familiar with usage in ancient languages feel greater latitude when communicating God’s Word to contemporary readers. But in their zeal to bridge time and culture, translators must be careful not to disallow potential meaning embedded in literal phrases we no longer use today. This challenge emerges in passages such as 1 Kings 2:10.

Tremper makes good points. “Sleep with one’s fathers” has a certain literary quality to it which might resonate with a certain audience. On the other hand, “sleep with one’s fathers” might strike many modern readers as a bit outdated. It might even, more seriously, be misunderstood by some readers. It could, then, be an example of what some translators call “biblisch”: the preservation of certain English locutions (often handed down from the KJV) which are not used broadly in contemporary English. I think it generally best to avoid “biblisch,” since it tends to put an unnecessary barrier between the modern English-speaker and the biblical text.

Without, I hope, hijacking this thread, I might mention the related issue in texts such as 1 Thess. 4:13. By using the Greek equivalent to “sleep” is Paul making a point about the nature of Christian death? That is, is “sleep” for him a “live” metaphor? Or is it a dead metaphor, a simple euphemism for “die” (for which there is some evidence in Paul’s culture)—something like our “pass away”? If the latter, then nothing is lost and something in terms of clarity may be gained by simply translating “die.” But the evidence for “sleep” as a euphemism for death in Paul’s day is not very widespread, so it might be appropriate to keep the language here.

Douglas J. Moo is Blachard Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and chair of the Committee on Bible Translation.

What Is the Best Way to Convey What Happens to David in 1 Kings 2:10? Tremper Longman III

Posted in Old Testament by Tremper Longman III on December 21st, 2010

Note from the moderator: Students learning the biblical languages for the first time often produce wooden, overly literal translations dependent on what they know about words’ dictionary definitions. More experienced translators familiar with usage in ancient languages feel greater latitude when communicating God’s Word to contemporary readers. But in their zeal to bridge time and culture, translators must be careful not to disallow potential meaning embedded in literal phrases we no longer use today. This challenge emerges in passages such as 1 Kings 2:10.

Question: What is the best way to convey what happens to David in 1 Kings 2:10?

There is no single best way to render this verse. One has to first ask what the purpose of the translation is. Of course a literal translation of the verse is, “And David slept with his fathers/ancestors (both are literal) and was buried in the city of David.” And if the purpose of the translation is to render this verse literally and retain all original metaphors then the verb slept should be maintained.

However, if we want to render the verse into English that is more immediately understandable to a modern audience that does not tend to use slept to refer to death, we would better render it, “Then David died and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.” Both are equally accurate, but the latter is more readable and understandable for the majority of readers today, and the former retains the Hebrew idiom for those who want to study the theme. I think serious students will need to consult both (and learn Hebrew themselves).

Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has been active in the area of Bible translation by serving on the central committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.

What Difference Does It Make if We Capitalize ‘Son’ in Psalm 2? James M. Hamilton Jr.

Posted in Old Testament by James M. Hamilton Jr. on December 16th, 2010

Moderator’s note: The relationship between Jesus Christ and the Old Testament raises a host of interpretive questions. Preachers must decide how or even if Old Testament passages point forward to the new covenant. Translators face a similar challenge, but they can’t explain or equivocate. They must decide and stand behind their choice with the confidence of speaking authoritatively through God’s Word. When, for example, translators capitalize pronouns in the Old Testament, they identify the referent as God. The case of Psalm 2 proves particularly vexing. New Testament writers quote Psalm 2:7 several times (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5) with explicit reference to Jesus. Does that mean, then, that translators should capitalize ‘son’ to solidify the connection to Jesus for readers? Let’s hear from the panel of scholars.

Question: What difference does it make if we capitalize son in Psalm 2?

The promises to David from 2 Samuel 7:4–17 are clearly in view in Psalm 2, especially in verses 5–12. In 1 Kings 2:1–4 and several other passages these promises are specifically applied to Solomon. These promises are also significant in the accounts of kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah. There is a sense, then, in which the promises apply to the line of kings that descends from David. This line culminates in Jesus, in whom the promises are ultimately fulfilled.

The problem with capitalizing son in Psalm 2:7 is that it cuts straight from from 2 Samuel 7 to Jesus. It’s great to get to Jesus, but the short cut keeps readers from seeing the typological development that grows and deepens through the accounts of the sons of David. This can keep us from understanding what Jesus meant when he declared that one greater than Solomon had arrived (cf. Matt 12:42).

So capitalizing son in Psalm 2:7 gets the termination point right, but it can keep us from feeling the buildup of the development that swells and plunges between David and Jesus.

James M. Hamilton Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church.

What Difference Does It Make if We Capitalize ‘Son’ in Psalm 2? Tremper Longman III

Posted in Old Testament by Tremper Longman III on December 15th, 2010

Moderator’s note: The relationship between Jesus Christ and the Old Testament raises a host of interpretive questions. Preachers must decide how or even if Old Testament passages point forward to the new covenant. Translators face a similar challenge, but they can’t explain or equivocate. They must decide and stand behind their choice with the confidence of speaking authoritatively through God’s Word. When, for example, translators capitalize pronouns in the Old Testament, they identify the referent as God. The case of Psalm 2 proves particularly vexing. New Testament writers quote Psalm 2:7 several times (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5) with explicit reference to Jesus. Does that mean, then, that translators should capitalize ‘son’ to solidify the connection to Jesus for readers? Let’s hear from the panel of scholars.

Question: What difference does it make if we capitalize ‘son’ in Psalm 2?

Well, the difference that it makes is that if you capitalize son in Psalm 2 it shows you don’t understand the psalm. The son in Psalm 2 is the Davidic descendant who assumes the throne. [The psalm] was likely sung at inauguration services and other royal ceremonies. We can see this by the allusions to 2 Samuel 7, which speaks of David having a son on the throne forever.

Of course, as readers of the New Testament we know that Psalm 2 has a deeper significance that probably wasn’t known by its original composer or audience. After the monarchy failed, the faithful realized that the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7 was not found in the line of Davidic descendants whose rule came to an end in 586 BC. Thus, particularly in the late Old Testament time period and into the Intertestamental period, the eschatological significance of the Davidic covenant and the royal psalms were emphasized. Jesus is the greater son of David who is the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and also of course of Psalm 2 as the numerous references to the psalm in the New Testament indicates. However, Psalm 2 is not a messianic prophecy, which would be the only reason to capitalize son in this psalm.

Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has been active in the area of Bible translation by serving on the central committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.

How Do We Render Such an Important Word as ‘Chesed’ with No Simple Parallel in English? E. Ray Clendenen

Posted in Old Testament by E. Ray Clendenen on November 8th, 2010

Question: How do we render such an important word as ‘chesed’ with no simple parallel in English?

The difficulty not only of translating this Hebrew word, but even of clearly and fully understanding it, is shown by at least four scholarly monographs having been written in the twentieth century on this one word (by N. Glueck in 1927, B. M. Bowen in 1938, K. D. Sakenfeld in 1978, and G. R. Clark in 1993). The last work agrees with many scholars that chesed cannot be “adequately” translated into English, which is especially a problem since it occurs about 250x in the Hebrew Bible. I disagree with this in principle. I believe God gave us his Word with the intention of its being “adequately” translatable into all the languages of the world. Although not every nuance of the original languages—whether the content and intention of a book, paragraph, sentence, or word—can always be rendered fully into English or other languages, I believe it is contrary to biblical teaching to say that a word cannot be “adequately” rendered. Although Isaiah 55:11 is speaking of God’s word of promise rather than of translation, I believe its message applies: “My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

God’s inscripturated word will also communicate and accomplish what he intends, even when translated, and so is more than “adequate.” The principle of translation is found many times in the Bible either explicitly (Ezra 4:7,18; Neh 8:8; Matt 1:23; Mark 5:41; 15:22,34; John 1:38,41; Acts 4:36) or in the fact that when the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament as God’s word, they wrote it in Greek, usually quoting the Greek translation available at the time, the Septuagint.

Nevertheless, the difficulty of translating chesed is apparent. The translation “lovingkindness” originated with Miles Coverdale in 1535 and was also used in the KJV (26x) and NKJV (29x), and more consistently in the ASV (166x) and NASB (176x), although they and all translations must use other words at times, such as “mercy” or “kindness,” and sometimes “loyalty” or “faithfulness,” depending on the context. Clearly the word has a range of meanings.

Modern study in particular has revealed that the word has a strong semantic element describing covenant behavior and the kind of behavior expected of friends and relatives. We should be aware, however, that 75 percent of its uses apply to divine behavior. When God acts with chesed, he is coming to the aid of those to whom he has committed himself: for example, to deliver, to forgive, and to enable us to worship him. And his people are to act with chesed toward one another. The RSV started expressing this complex concept with “steadfast love,” also followed by NRSV and ESV. “Unfailing love” was used by the NIV, NLT, and TNIV; and the similar “constant love” occurs in the REB (though the more economical “love” is used at times in the NIV, TNIV, NAB, and JPS). It seems apparent the primary difficulty comes in trying to express the dual aspects of kindness, mercy, and love on the one hand, and commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness on the other. The HCSB used “faithful love.”

E. Ray Clendenen is Bible commentary editor for B&H Publishing and associate editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

How Do We Render Such an Important Word as ‘Chesed’ with No Simple Parallel in English? Tremper Longman III

Posted in Old Testament by Tremper Longman III on November 8th, 2010

Question: How do we render such an important word as ‘chesed’ with no simple parallel in English?

Many words in Hebrew find no simple parallel in English and indeed we can’t even find a phrase that will bring out all the nuances of this word in English. We make good approximations of the word, but there is no definitive translation. We can have adequate but not perfect translations of the word. Also it does not mean the same thing in every context. And besides that there are debates about such questions as to the relationship between this word and the covenant. I personally am persuaded that the word often (but not always) indicates the kind of love that is demonstrated by one covenant partner to another. Sometimes “covenant love” fits the context. Sometimes “love.” “Steadfast love” or “lovingkindness” are fine but stilted. In some contexts, “loyalty” works well.

Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has been active in the area of Bible translation by serving on the central committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.

Fourth Question: How Do We Render Such an Important Word as ‘Chesed’ with No Simple Parallel in English?

Posted in Old Testament by Collin Hansen on November 8th, 2010

Sitting in church one morning a few years ago, I heard a preacher talk about “chesed” as the most important word in the Old Testament. He insisted that every English equivalent fails to convey its full meaning, which so profoundly expresses God’s faithful, covenant love for his people. Thus, he suggested that pastors reach back in their throats to pronounce the word in Hebrew every time they see it in the text and preach about it. They should pause to teach its expansive meaning, so church members can eventually identify occurrences on their own, even if they only understand Hebrew.

Translators, however, do not have this option. They must make a decision. And nearly every translation makes a different one. So I posed this question to the Perspectives in Translation panel: “How does a translation render such an important word as chesed, which finds no simple parallel in English?”

Collin Hansen is the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

What Makes a Translation Accurate? Richard L. Pratt Jr.

Posted in New Testament, Old Testament, Translation Philosophy by Richard L. Pratt Jr. on November 1st, 2010

Question: What makes a translation accurate?

Imagine this. I’m teaching about 50 students in the first legal Bible school in a country whose alphabet I cannot descipher. I won’t tell you the name of the place to protect the innocent. Anyway, the students are excited to have brand new translations of the New Testament in their hands. I’m excited, too, because the man responsible for the translation is my interpreter for the class. He’s a Westerner who married into the nation. Well into the hour, I ask a student to read aloud from a passage in Romans, a short passage. It’s only one line in my Greek text. She pauses to take a breath, but then reads more and more. Convinced that she must be reading the wrong verse, I look over her shoulder. The numbers are right, but the verse is over half a page long. So I look up at my interpreter and say, “That’s a lot more than the Greek says.” But he shrugs his shoulders and replies with a wink, “Well, sometimes you have to do a lot of explaining to get the point across.” I just stand there, not knowing what to say.

That’s the problem with accuracy in translation. Translators are pulled in two directions. We want “to get the point across,” but we also don’t want to say “a lot more than the Hebrew or Greek says.” Some translators define accuracy more in terms of their anticipated readers and ask, ”Will my translation enable my readers to understand?” Other translators define accuracy more in terms of the biblical authors and ask, “Will my translation reflect what the authors actually wrote?”

Happily, we can find some guidance from the Bible itself. New Testament authors always translated the Old Testament when they referred to it. Like the various translators of the Septuagint, sometimes they were so concerned with getting the point across that they gave their readers highly interpreted translations, what most of us would call paraphrases. At other times, they were so interested in not saying a lot more than the Hebrew text said that they gave their readers rather wooden renderings, what most of us would call literal translations. If divinely inspired authors went in both directions as they translated Scripture, then surely it is not only permissible but also wise for us to do the same.

I approach this issue for myself with this adage in mind: “All responsible translation is interpretation, and all responsible interpretation is translation—so long as we know what’s coming.” Translation and interpretation go hand in hand, but we have choices to make. Will a translation project tend to clarify, explain, or interpret the biblical text for our readers/audiences? Will a translation project tend to leave obscure, unexplained, or uninterpreted what biblical authors left in that condition for their readers/audiences? Or will we aim for some middle ground? The full spectrum serves us well, “so long as we know what’s coming.” That is to say, the accuracy of a translation is measured by how well we communicate and meet our goals.

Richard L. Pratt Jr. is the president of Third Millennium Ministries. He chaired the Old Testament department and taught at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida, for 21 years.

What Makes a Translation Accurate? James M. Hamilton Jr.

Posted in New Testament, Old Testament, Translation Philosophy by James M. Hamilton Jr. on October 28th, 2010

Question: What makes a translation accurate?

Its ability to preserve the way that later biblical authors evoke earlier Scripture. The Bible was written by at least 40 authors from Moses in the 1400s BC to John around AD 90. Everyone who followed Moses learned from his work, and the later authors made heavy use of what the earlier authors had written.

When we consider “accuracy” in a translation, one factor that should receive more attention is the question of whether the influence of earlier Scripture on later Scripture has been preserved. The biblical authors are not always engaging earlier passages in ways that are obvious. The authors of biblical narrative do more “showing” than “telling,” and the authors of biblical poetry and prophecy have very subtle ways of evoking the promises and curses, patterns and portrayals from the narratives.

There is, of course, a spectrum of opinion about how best to translate. Those who present a dynamic equivalent may “accurately” communicate the meaning of a particular passage in the language into which the Bible is being translated. But what if the translator did not see a subtle connection the biblical author made to an earlier passage of Scripture? This could result from the fact that while the translator may be an expert in the Psalms, he may not have spent as much time as he would like in Deuteronomy or Genesis. Or, what if the translator did see the re-use of words or even whole phrases from an earlier passage (or passages) but thought it was of no significance and so did not preserve it in his dynamic equivalent? Yet a third possibility is that the translator saw the connections, thought they were significant, but thought that clarity in the translation was more important than the preservation of intertextuality. If the translator does not present a formal equivalent, will readers of the translation have the opportunity to evaluate the significance of subtle connections to earlier Scripture?

The more dynamic a translation is, the more often one is faced with these questions. Consider, for instance, the possibility that there are connections at word and phrase levels between Genesis 12, Genesis 15, 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 72, Luke 1, and Galatians 3. Will these connections be evident if one scholar presents a dynamic equivalent rendering of the relevant statements in Genesis 12 and 15, then another scholar does the same for 2 Samuel 7, perhaps without concern for or knowledge of how Genesis 12 and 15 have been rendered? What if this process is continued by a third scholar working on Psalms, a fourth on Luke, and a fifth on Galatians? Then the dynamic equivalents of the various scholars are forwarded to a final committee. Will the committee be in position to bring all these dynamic equivalents together “accurately” to represent connections between these texts and the myriads of others whose influence is operative?

This issue is ultimately a great motivation to learn the biblical languages! Most people will not have that opportunity. Will they have the opportunity to see more or less of the Bible’s inter-connectedness? Won’t more of the Bible’s inter-connectedness be preserved if the translation is presenting formal equivalence instead of dynamic equivalence? Because the influence of earlier Scripture is so often determinative for the meaning of later Scripture, I prefer more literal translations.

James M. Hamilton Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church.