When it comes to deciding which Bible to purchase, use, or trust, there is a good test to use. Since a new translation seems to come out about every fifteen minutes in this country, there is no way to have a memorized list of which translations to trust.
The test is simple: open the Bible and see if it is a literal translation or if it is a dynamic equivalent. This information will be located somewhere on the inside cover or in the first couple of pages. This final installment of the Bible Blog will show the difference between the two.
For the last 2,000 years the textus receptus, also known as the majority text, has been one the most trusted and accepted set of documents that we have. In the first century the Bible was just our Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew but was already available in Greek. So as the New Testament was written, it was written both in Greek and Latin. Therefore, the earliest Bibles were written mostly in Greek. Some of the best and most trusted documents made up what would later be known as the textus receptus.
It was from these documents that other translations came to be, including the 1611 King James Version. The reason that I am such a big supporter of the King James Bible is I am a big supporter of where it came from.
The KJV translators did a meticulous job of translating word for word, making sure that they had the best English translation of the Bible. They even continued to meet for almost two hundred years (other people, obviously) to make sure they still had the best. This word for word rendering is what is meant by the term literal translation.
In 1971 the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was produced by the Lockman Foundation, but instead of using the textus receptus, they used the Biblia Hebraica and Nestle’s Greek New Testament, 23rd edition. This project took over a decade, and this is considered by most scholars to be the best English Bible available.
A hundred years passed without an update to the KJV, and in 1982 Thomas Nelson Publishers commissioned 130 people to produce an updated version of the Bible. This team went right back to the textus receptus and translated what came to be known as the New King James Version of the Bible. They simply took what had been done in 1611 (and the next 200 years) and updated the English words, not the meaning of the document.
Other good literal word for words translation include, but are not limited to, the American Standard Bible (1901), and the English Standard Version (2001).
While the literal translation takes a word for word translation approach, the dynamic equivalence (or “functional equivalence”) takes more of a paraphrase approach. This method is not as concerned with getting the word for word message, but for just getting the message across. The obvious problem with this is that key words can be left out, we are not getting the Bible the way it was inspired, and we can lose a lot of the cultural heritage.
The most notorious dynamic equivalence is the New International Version (NIV), which debuted in 1978. I have problems with this translation for the reasons stated above, and also for the fact that this was a gateway translation in that it opened the door for more liberal documents to emerge. Not the least of these liberal documents was the NIV’s daughter, Today’s New International Version (TNIV, 2002), which was like a feminist’s rendition of the NIV.
The dynamic equivalence also gets messy when one considers that in 1971 The Living Bible (TLB) came out, which was not a translation of an ancient text, but a paraphrase of the KJV. TLB’s author, Kenneth Taylor, simply took his KJV and rewrote it.
It is a very dangerous game when we embrace a book that calls itself a Bible, and yet that book was not translated literally word for word. The margin of human error becomes magnified exponentially, and liberalism begins to creep in. This whole notion of just translating the gist is what eventually gave way to the heresy known as The Message.
When it comes time for you to make a decision on which Bible you will trust as the Word of God, use this little test to see if it is a word for word rendering of God’s Word, or if it is just the basic idea.
As one who has read many of the dynamic equivalences out there, believe me, there is nothing dynamic about it.