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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Does inerrancy matter?? or is dynamic equivalence sufficient

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Joined: 2007/2/3
Posts: 835
Alberta, Canada


When looking for an exact equivalence translation I usually check Romans 6.6 and Revelation 1.1.

The KJV for Rev. 1.1 has, “...and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”

“Signified” in the Greek is (and I am just roughly transliterating) “esemanen,” which comes from the root “semeion” which means “sign.”

It’s rare to find a translation that translates “semeion” faithfully, yet the word “signified” is a critical key to the understanding of this wonderful book. It is chock full of signs.

The NIV (a dynamic equivalence translation) has, “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John...”

The ESV (which is touted as being one of the exact equivalent translations) also has, “He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John...”

So these two translations both obscure what the One who inspired the scriptures had in mind in the original Greek. And in doing so they deprive the reader of a precious and important truth.

Now Romans 6.6. The King James Version has, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The Greek word translated “man” here is “anthropos,” and that is exactly what the word means: “man.”

But the NIV (dynamic equivalence) has, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

The ESV (supposedly exact equivalence) has, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6.6 ESV).

I realize that for “self” the ESV has “man” in a footnote. But to change the words “old man” to “old self” right in the text is a serious theological blunder; it obscures what actually happened at Calvary, and destroys Paul’s parallel between the old man and the new man.

So I don’t know why the ESV is considered one of the exact equivalent translations. It seems to me it is more a dynamic equivalent translation. So I am cautious when reading it.

In any case, with all the versions and translations and paraphrases that are available in the English language it seems necessary to choose both a good exact equivalence translation and also a dynamic equivalence one. The dynamic equivalence translations can be helpful, but I am careful not to put my trust in them. I’m pretty guarded about the NIV although I do check it at times. I always go to an exact equivalent translation and compare. My preference because of long use is the good old KJV.

Young’s Literal Translation is a true example of exact equivalence, I would say, and I go to it quite a bit, although it lacks readability. I also like Rotheram’s Emphasized Bible (for another literal translation). The New King James is also a good exact equivalence translation. And the New American Standard (although it too has "self" in Rom. 6.6 and for "signified" has "communicated" in Rev. 1.1).

...I hear, by the way, that the Holy Spirit is working on a translation of the Word of God, one that is to be “known and read of all men.” I’m really looking forward to this one!


Allan Halton

 2013/1/19 0:05Profile

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936

 Re: bearmaster

Hi bearmaster

You bring up a good point and one that I believe could be directly related to this topic and that could be why our nation has become one of increasing biblical illiterates.

while various publishing companies play marketing games the reverence for the Bible is increasingly diminishing, throw 17 sound versus out of the Bible and no body cares, nobody cares what the words actualy say, every ones has an apathetic attitude toward the actual words.

as far as my personal bible study or bible reading is concerned, my wife can testify That I wear a new bible out almost one a year.
The Key to having a desire for reading or studying the Bible is believing what you are reading, the reason for our nations increase in biblical illiterates is because few really believe it

 2013/1/19 0:27Profile

Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4582


Hi proudpapa,


ccchhhrrriiisss I am well aware of the difference of the recieved text(the Textus Receptus)and the Eclectic Alexandrian text, and where they differ in our translations.

I apologize if it seemed like I made it seem like I thought otherwise. That was not the case. I simply wanted to point this out for some who might venture into the thread. Some are unaware that a major reason for variances in the words, usage, grammar and even meaning between various translations is because some versions (like the KJV) primarily consulted Erasmus's Textus Receptus while alluding to other contemporary ecclesiastic translations; Others (like the NIV) consulted the TR, Alexandrian text type and other ancient manuscripts.

In the past, there have been individuals who alleged that differences between the NIV and KJV were due to translators infusing doctrinal views in order to change a verse to favor a particular viewpoint. In reality, the translators had a wider collection of manuscripts and relied upon those that were deemed more trustworthy. For instance, the translators of the NIV have explained that they sincerely and honestly translated (via peer review) from the manuscripts that they deemed most trustworthy but also noted when there were variances in the various text sources available.

While you and I are aware of these things, there are often individuals who are not.

Sometimes, the focus of such discussions is on the suggestion that "dynamic equivalence" led to the variations in translation when a great many of them are actually variations in the source texts. This sometimes gets lost in these sorts of discussions because there is a debate over "dynamic equivalence v. formal equivalence" -- especially when, in the past, individuals have repeated such things or suggested that the KJV is a "literal" translation when it is not entirely true or that the NIV relied entirely entirely upon dynamic equivalence which is also not true.


I have already showed clearly one tenent in the NIV, that neither Finney nor Paris Reidhead would have approved of since they clearly spoke against such a doctrine

I will have to disagree with you on how "clearly" you claim this to be. Just because a translation committee deemed usage of the words "sinful nature" does not mean that they endorsed Calvinism. In fact, the translators of the NIV included footnotes for possible alternate renderings. The translators of the KJV also did this, but these were kept out of the completed work. Personally, I think that "sinful nature" fits quite well with the gist of what is being said...and I am certainly not a Calvinist. Whether we want to call it the "flesh" or a "sinful nature" that men are born with, it is undeniably a sinful condition that is an enemy of God but which, when a person does not give themselves wholly over to God, makes them prone to sin.

Like you and many others, I too have studied this subject thoroughly. I have become well-versed on multiple sides of this. I have also brought many of the issues up to the publishers, translators and text critics too in my effort to know why they feel as they do about such things. This is especially true of the rumors or accusations that often float around.

In keeping with the topic (as you previously asked), I think that it is very important to know that the translators of the NIV have stated that they used a literal "formal" method whenever possible and resorted to "dynamic equivalence" only when they thought it was necessary given the language and usage of the text. The same can be said about the KJV. It was not quite so "literal" or "formal" because, as in the example that I used, words were added or altered to express what was deemed to be the intent of the passage.

If you have a link or citation for any works (books or papers) that you suggest for review, I would greatly appreciate it! You mentioned some names, but if you know the title of the works themselves, that could assist me in locating them. I am blessed to have access to some great libraries and scholarly databases that might have some of them available. Thanks brother!


 2013/1/19 3:03Profile

Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4582


Yes, these are very good points, Bearmaster!

I have known individuals who know so very little of the Word of God. I have also known individuals who read it once or twice through but now delegate their "study" of God's Word to what they hear or study in Sunday school or Church meetings. One brother confided that his hunger and love for God's Word has become something of a "fading memory" over the last few years. It baffles my mind that this could happen!

Like brother Allan said, the Holy Spirit has provided us the "inspired" version of the Word of God. When our physical translation are studied through the lens of the Holy Spirit, I suppose that only then will our knowledge of God increase while our passionate fire for the Word of God never dims. If we live it out as "living epistles," then the world might hunger to know Him as desperately as we hunger to know Him.


 2013/1/19 3:09Profile

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936

 Re: ccchhhrrriiisss

Hi ccchhhrrriiisss

ccchhhrrriiisss wrote
///I will have to disagree with you on how "clearly" you claim this to be. Just because a translation committee deemed usage of the words "sinful nature" does not mean that they endorsed Calvinism. In fact, the translators of the NIV included footnotes for possible alternate renderings. The translators of the KJV also did this, but these were kept out of the completed work. Personally, I think that "sinful nature" fits quite well with the gist of what is being said...and I am certainly not a Calvinist. Whether we want to call it the "flesh" or a "sinful nature" that men are born with, it is undeniably a sinful condition that is an enemy of God but which, when a person does not give themselves wholly over to God, makes them prone to sin.///

I will agree that many who do not consider themselves Calvinist per se, have still have bought into Augustines Original Sin doctrine of which the phrase sinful nature is derived from. But as I have pointed out such doctrine is not universely excepted, it is rejected by many including Finney and Paris Reidhead and thus is proof that the NIV translators took unwarranted liberties under the heading of "dynamic equivalence" .
I do not wish to make this thread one of the original sin debate but rather only make the the point that the term "sinful nature" is not universely excepted

Paris Reidhead on sinful nature

Charles Finney on sinful nature

'The NIV reconsidered A fresh look at a popular translation'
1990 Kerugma,inc by Earl Radmacher BA and MA from Bob Jones University and ThM and ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and Zane Hodges BA degree from Wheaton and ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary


In this verse we meet, for the first time in Romans 8, a typical NIV interpretive translation. The Greek word for "flesh" becomes "sinful nature," as it does also in Romans 7:5, 18, 25 and in many of the verses following this one (8:5, 8, 9, 12, 13). yet it is not handled this way consistently, as we shall see. The result of the NIV's freewheeling treatment of this basic Greek word is confusion compounded by confusion!
Is it in pursuit of "clarity" and "intelligibility" that the NIV opts for "sinful nature" rather than the more literal, and familiar, rendering "flesh"? If so, it is more than doubtful that actual clarity has been achieved.
What indeed does the term "sinful nature" signify? Since the English word "nature" has more than one basic meaning, which one should the English reader understand here? Of themeanings offered by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1969 edition), we have at least these options:
1. The intrinsic characteristics and qualities of a person or thing.
7. Theology. Man's natural state, as distinguished from the state of grace.
9. The aggregate of a person's instincts, penchants, and preferences: "She was only strong and sweet and in her nature when she was really deep in trouble" (Gertrude Stein).
10a. A particular kind of individual character or disposition; temperament: "In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature" (Louisa May Alcott).
11. The natural or real aspect of a person, place or thing. (All italics are as in the dictionary.)
No knowledgeable user of contemporary English can believe that the word "nature" is self-explanatory in a phrase like "sinful nature." The very reverse is the case.
We might ask whether the word "nature," in connection with "sinful," refers to some intrinsic feature of man's makeup, or does it simply refer to an aggregate of characteristics which he displays? Does it reflect his "temperament" only, or is it something metaphysical in its essence?
How are we supposed to know the answer to any of these questions when we read the NIV phrase "sinful nature"? And why didn't the NIV leave well enough alone and simply translate the Greek word by "flesh," as did the KJV and NKJV? Such biblical/theological terms are better left for expositors to explain.
Nevertheless, we get the NIV's commentary on the Greek word "flesh," but before the light can dawn for us we must have a commentary on the commentary! The NIV's adoption of the phrase "sinful nature" is conspicuously ill-advised. It does not seem to have been carfully thought through at all.
Additionally, we might ask whether the NIV is precisely on target when it reads, in this verse, as follows:
For what the law was powerless to do in that [it was weakened by the sinful nature].
Compare with this the NKJV:
For what the law could not do in that [it was weak through the flesh].
The two renderings are not quite identical. The phrase "it was weakened by the sinful nature [= flesh]" might not mean exactly the same thing as "it was weak through the flesh." The NIV leaves the impression that, somehow, man's sinful nature sapped the law of strength which it otherwise possessed, as when one might say, "The man was weakened by his exertions." But does Paul mean to imply this?
Probably not. Ther is nothing in paul's thought about the law, either in Romans or elsewhere, to suggest that the law in some way became weaker than it once was. Rather, the law had an inherent incapacity to meet man's need because it had nothing to offer the sinner by way of deliverance from his sinful condition. When Paul says that "the law was weak through the flesh," he means to indicate that the law was ineffectual in coping with man's sinful condition.
The NIV adoption of a passive verb phrase in English to render the active verb phrase in Greek is certainly not a case where "faithful communication...[demands]...frequent modifications in sentence structure". On the contrary, it is an undesirable "modification" and potentially misleading.
Finally, the NIV concludes verse 3 as follows:
And so he condemned sin in [sinful man].
But the words "sinful man" translate exactly the same Greek ward (sarx, "flesh") that the NIV rendered "sinful nature" earlier in the verse. Thus the underlying verbal connection between "sinful nature" and "sinful man" is lost in the NIV, except for the word "sinful" which is a paraphrase to begin with.
In the previous sentence in this verse we also read "sinful man" where the NIV translates "by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man." This time, however, there is a word for "sin" in the Greek text which, more literally, reads: "in the likeness of (the) flesh of sin." The NKJV renders: "in the likeness of sinful flesh."
Observe, then, the NIV treatment of three uses of "flesh" in verse 3:
through the flesh
the likeness of sinful flesh
sin in the flesh

by the sinful nature
the likeness of sinful man
sin in sinful man
Whatever else may be said, it is clear that the NIV is either correct in its interpretive renderings, or it is mistaken and misleading. unlike the NKJV, which does not attempt to interpret the word "flesh" for its readers, the NIV does so and thus asks the readership here, as in so many other places, to trust the expository acument of its translators and editors.
But is the NIV really accurate here? And can the reader in fact pick up the obvious Pauline tie between "flesh...flesh...flesh"? Of course he cannot, and the loss of this element in the intended Pauline meaning must be compensated for by some other significant gain from the NIV renderings.
But the gains are dubious at best. At worst, they are not gains at all, but losses. let us consider the issues involved.
The reason Paul likes the word "flesh" as a term for describing man's inward bent toward evil is because he sees this bent as situated in man's physical being--in his body. This is quite clear from Romans 7:22-25. To erase the word "flesh" from the text is to destory this implicity pauline link with man's physical experience.
Moreover, the phrase "in the likeness of sinful man' misses the fact that Paul is indicating that the incarnation of the Son was indeed physical, or bodily, but that it was also sinless. It was"in the likeness of sinful flesh" that He came. That is, He came in flesh which was not sinful. As Paul would later say, He was "manifest in flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16).
but the statement of teh NIV that He came "in the likeness of sinful man" loses the direct implication of physicality found in the word "flesh." yet, in first-century Christianity, this was an important issue since some intellectual and religious currents of thought resisted the notion of a divine being actually living in physical flesh (see 1 John 4:2,3; 2 John 7).
Moreover, the NIV follows this use of "sinful man" with a second use of the same expression to translate the simple word "flesh." But does Paul mean only that "sin in sinful man" is condemned, or does he mean to affirm that "sin in man's physical being" is condemned? The latter is almost certainly his intended thought. Paul thus anticipates our ultimate freedom from a physical body in which sin dwells. And, as he will say later in the chapter, "the glorious freedom of the children of God," in a coming day, will be the model for the freedom of all creation from "its bondage to decay" (verse 21).
Thus the loose, paraphrasing way the NIV treats the Greek word for "flesh" in verse 3, fails to accomplish any significant clarification. Instead, the NIV reader is left at a serious disadvantage when it comes to entering more fully into the Pauline concepts expressed in this verse.
The NIV's showing in Romans 8:3 is deeply disturbing to those who wish their translation to give them careful and reliable guidance into the original author's outlook and perspective.

 2013/1/19 11:54Profile

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