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Blog / Eugene Nida, Father of Dynamic Equivalence, Dies at 96

Eugene Nida, Father of Dynamic Equivalence, Dies at 96

Eugene Nida, 1914-2011.

Eugene Nida, the father of the “dynamic equivalence” Bible translation philosophy, passed away today at age 96.

Nida’s name might not be familiar to many Christians, but his ideas had a massive influence on modern Bible translation. Nida’s dynamic equivalence translation philosophy (also known as functional equivalence) encourages Bible translators to convey the thoughts and ideas expressed in Bible passages, rather than translating each phrase word-for-word. The driving goal behind the philosophy is to make the meaning of each Scripture passage clear and accessible to modern readers, even if it means sacrificing the exact form of the passages in their original language.

Bibles that are heavily shaped by the dynamic equivalence philosophy include the Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation, and the New Century Version. On the other end of the spectrum of Bible translation philosophy are Bibles that follow the formal equivalence (literal) philosophy, such as the King James Version and English Standard Version. Most modern English Bibles sit somewhere between both ends of the spectrum; many Bibles which don’t fully embrace Nida’s approach are nevertheless influenced by it.

Nida was particularly famous for applying the semantic domain concept to Bible translation. Nida believed that translators could arrive at the most accurate meaning of a particular Greek word by first examining all other uses of that word in Scripture and then determining which meaning fits best in a specific verse. His (along with J.P. Louw) Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains applies this theory, and is considered a standard lexicon for New Testament word studies.

His might not be a household name, but Nida’s work and ideas had a lasting influence on many of the Bibles on our bookshelves—and on the way that scholars today approach the task of translating Scripture.

(Image from the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship website.)

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