Author: Pastor F. William Darrow
IS INERRANCY ENOUGH?
A defense of the KJV
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:
1. Formal Equivalency
2. Dynamic Equivalency
Let me start from the bottom up. Paraphrasing is simply taking what the text says and rewriting it to what you think it says.
The big problem with paraphrasing is that it simply becomes the opinion of the translator as to what a passage means. Once you enter this area of practice it is no longer the Words of God but some individual’s opinion of what it says. A paraphrase is not a Bible translation but a commentary. A paraphrase should not be called a translation or even the Bible.
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.
“A literal translation is based upon the idea that the purpose of a translation is to let the reader know what the Bible says rather than what the Bible means. Yet many modern readers use meaning-for-meaning versions and paraphrases because they think the meaning of the Bible has been made clear. In reality, it is the meaning of the translators that has been made clear.” (Faith Pulpit July/August by Myron J. Houghton)
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.