Author Archives: bkoyen

MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS PRAYING TOGETHER

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

I’m proud to be an American, and to live in a country in which religious freedom is one of our cherished rights. (Within reason, of course. We don’t grant the freedom to murder others, even if doing so is part of one’s religion.) Freedom-loving American Muslims should have religious freedom, too, and do have it. Such Muslims are not murderous fanatics. They are peace-loving persons. But Christians need to understand that they do not worship the same God as Muslims. Muslims already know this to be a fact. Christians are Trinitarians. Muslims are not. Christians believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. Muslims do not. Christians pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Muslims do not. So, this is a big problem for Christians in attendance when a Muslim prays at a public event, such as the Republican National Convention, being held this week in Cleveland, Ohio. To endorse such prayers is contrary to Biblical teaching. The Muslim’s god, “Allah,” is a false god, an idol. The Bible, which is the Word of God, says the following in the last sentence of the last chapter of the apostle John’s first letter: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (The quote is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.) One way to guard ourselves from idols/false gods, is to not endorse prayers made to them.

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A GUIDING PRINCIPLE HARMING MANY CHURCHES AND MINISTRIES

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

WHAT IT IS
A harmful thing has become the guiding principle of many Bible-believing churches, and it needs to be understood and repudiated. It is pragmatism.

THE PRINCIPLE IS NOT ALWAYS BAD
But, first, let me say that pragmatism is not always bad.  For example, a pragmatic person is one who figures out how to get along with others, or how to get something done, or how to reach a goal. So, a pragmatic person knows that, to get along with others, one must not unnecessarily say things in an abrasive manner. And,  a pragmatic person will use a wheelbarrow to move a pile of rocks from one place to another, instead of carrying a few at a time. Therefore,  as stated above, pragmatism is not always bad.

THE PRINCIPLE HAS ITS DOWNSIDE
But it has its downside. And we see its downside at work in Bible-believing churches and Bible-believing ministries in a variety of ways. The goal of these churches and ministries is good: they want to reach as many persons as possible with the Gospel message. But often their mistake is to use pragmatism in ways that contradict Biblical teaching and Biblical principles.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED BY CHRISTIANS
A clear example of this mistake regarding pragmatism is the fact that many Christians have accepted the false and unbiblical idea that to reach the world with the Gospel, we must use music that conforms to the world’s music. Therefore,  many Christian musicians dress like non-Christian musicians. This is most notable in what are called Christian rock bands. Not only do they deliberately dress like secular rock musicians. Their appearance in other ways also conforms to the world. And although the words to their songs might be good, they use the same techniques as secular rock bands in the presentation of their music, which includes very loud music, unnecessary light shows, and excessive movement on the stage or platform. These techniques are used by Christian bands to give their audiences what they assume is a Biblical worship experience. But, intentionally or not, these bands are manipulating their audiences, just like secular bands intentionally do. This provokes some similar physical responses seen at secular rock concerts.

BIBLICAL TEACHING ABOUT THE MATTER
While these persons intentions might be good, their method is wrong because it is based on conformity to the secular world. The apostle Paul, in chapter 12, verse 2, of his letter to the Roman Christians, said Christians are not to be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. And in chapter 6, verses 14 – 17, of his second letter to the Corinthian Christians,  he made some powerful statements about the fact that Christians are to come out from the world and be separate from it. This applies in many ways to daily Christian living. And it certainly applies to Christian music and Christian musicians. Read, also, verses 13 – 16 of the first chapter of the first letter  by the apostle Peter, and note what he said to Christians about not being conformed to the world, and what he said about our need and duty to be holy. Christian music is supposed to draw us closer to God, which results in our holiness. And this requires it to be unlike the world, which, when given the opportunity, draw us away from him. But the principle of pragmatism, if not under control, makes us think, “If it works, don’t object to it.” But Biblical teaching and principles lead us to sometimes reject what “works.” Such is the case with the kind of music I’ve just brought to your attention.

Numerical Church Growth And The Biblical Purposes Of Church Services

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

NUMERICAL CHURCH GROWTH IS IMPORTANT TO CHURCHES. There are practical reasons for this. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually die out as the aging attendees can no longer attend, or they pass away. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually have no substantial reason to exist. If they don’t grow numerically, they will eventually run out of money and will, then, be unable to pay their expenses and will be forced to shut down. Most importantly, if churches don’t grow numerically, it means they have ceased to reach new persons in their communities with the Gospel message, and have failed to get them to attend their services.

ASTRAY FROM THE BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF CHURCH SERVICES. The fact that many churches are in serious numerical decline has caused a lot of them to stray from the Biblical purposes of church services. But what are the Biblical purposes for having church services? According to the New Testament, church services are to be held so that Christians can worship God together, pray together, be taught from the Word of God together, and to have fellowship with one another. But how have Bible-believing churches strayed from these God-ordained purposes? By making their services primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel of Christ. This focus, they hope, will not only win many persons to believe in Jesus Christ, but also become  a means of increasing the number of attendees at their services, and thereby keep the church from going out of existence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVANGELISM BECOMES THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR CHURCH SERVICES? It is certainly true that churches can and should be evangelistic. The Gospel can be made known during church services through music, through personal testimonies, through literature,  and through preaching and teaching the Word of God. But when reaching non-Christians with the Gospel displaces the God-ordained purposes for church services, it has serious negative consequences. Even though a church which has made this shift in its purpose for its services might still have a strong emphasis on worshiping God,  it is certain to spend less time teaching and preaching the Word of God to the Christians in attendance. The non-Christians are fed what they need to learn, and the Christians get little of the meat of God’s Word. This is comparable to what would happen if a family is made up of a wide variety of ages, but at meal time everyone is expected to eat what the youngest family members are able to eat. The youngest family members might thrive on such a diet, but not the older ones. But this is not the only negative consequence of church services becoming primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel. Another almost-inevitable negative consequence is that in such church services many truths of the Word of God will be skipped over because of their potential to offend and thus alienate the very ones the church is trying to reach with the Gospel. Preachers in such  churches will very likely not warn about specific false teachers and their falsehoods. Preachers in such churches will not likely specifically identify religious groups that claim to be Christian, but in fact are not. Preachers in such churches will not be likely to forthrightly say certain kinds of behavior are to be avoided because the ones they are trying to win to Christ are involved in those behaviors, and they don’t want to drive them away from the services. Such preachers might forthrightly condemn things that the Bible specifically condemns, and which most persons agree are wrong. But they will be hesitant to speak against things that might be only what could be called questionable, borderline, and known to lead to worse behavior. The moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages and moderate gambling are examples of what I mean. Preachers in such churches will most likely say, “Don’t get drunk.” But they won’t say, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all.” Preachers in such churches will say, “Watch out so you don’t become problem gamblers.” But they won’t say, “Don’t gamble at all.” Another almost-inevitable consequence of making evangelism the focus of church services is that the  music used will be the kind that is more acceptable to non-Christians. This means, it will be more entertaining than is appropriate in church services. And it means it will be more worldly or secular in style than it should be. Another way to put it is, the music will not be appropriate for worshiping  the Holy God revealed in the Bible. Here is an example of that very thing: One preacher told me and a couple other preachers of an experience he had as a guest speaker at church in serious numerical decline, and which was made up of mostly elderly Christians. He said that as he visited with the church folks before a service, someone began to play taped Christian rock music over the loudspeaker. He asked them why they were playing THAT kind of music. He was told it was done to appeal to the younger people. In our day it is common for older Christians to be criticized for objecting to much of the music used in contemporary churches.But those older Christians are justified in saying such music has no place in Bible-believing churches. To summarize the point of this paragraph, let me say that what happens when a church makes evangelism the primary purpose of it services is that it often gives itself over to accommodating the persons it is trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. This always weakens a church, even if it results in many more attendees. It weakens a church because this kind of accommodation is contrary Biblical teaching, and it, therefore does not develop strong Christians.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE GOD-ORDAINED PURPOSES FOR CHURCH SERVICES. Above, I said the New Testament tells that God has specific purposes for church services. But where we can these be read in the New Testament? I will give some of the chapters and verses to read, and you can look them up yourselves. As you read them, look for the statements indicating that the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to Christians was central to the meetings of the Christians. (We now would call the meetings church services.) Acts 2:41 – 47; Acts 14:21 – 28;  Acts 15:22 – 41; Acts 16:1 – 5; Acts 18:8 – 11 & verse 18, first sentence; Acts 18:24 – 28; Acts 19:7 – 11;  Acts 20:17 – 38; Ephesians 4:11 – 16; Ephesians 5:17 – 20; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 & 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5 & 16; 1 Timothy 4:6 & 13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Timothy 4:1 – 5; 1 Peter 5:1 – 4.

Numerical Church Growth And Humanity’s Sinfulness

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Most Bible-believing churches want to see their churches grow numerically. Many churches make it a priority. That is a good thing. But it is very important for us to keep in mind the Bible’s teaching concerning the sinfulness of man, which started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and which continues to this day. Those who are well-versed in Biblical truth know our inherited sinfulness results in our resistance to Biblical truth. In Genesis 6:5 we read a striking fact about the early years of human history. That verse says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that describes humanity all throughout the centuries since then.  God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righteous; no, not one.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” His Word tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” His Word tells us  in John 8:12 and John 9:5 that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the light of the world”. But we read this in John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” In other words, humanity prefers the darkness of sin over Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
      The fact is, the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make us look better than we really are. It confronts us with our sinfulness,  with our need of salvation, and with our need to repent and believe the Gospel in order to receive that salvation. And it confronts us with the reality of eternal punishment in hell for those who die as unsaved persons. The fact is, we sinful human beings are not eager to hear that sobering message. We avoid it like criminals avoid police officers. When we first are exposed to these Biblical truths, we hurry away from them, just like bugs hurry away when the rock under which they are hiding is turned over and they are exposed to the sunlight.
      It was this objection to Biblical truth that got some of the Old Testament prophets imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got John the Baptist beheaded by Herod. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got the Lord Jesus Christ ridiculed, maligned, beaten up, whipped unmercifully, and then nailed to a cross and left to die a slow, painful, shameful death, only to have his death hastened by a soldier who pierced his side with a sword.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that got many of the Lord’s apostles treated much the same way as their Lord.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that led the writers of the New Testament’s letters to warn that there will be an ongoing objection to that truth. Read, for example, the apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the second letter of the apostle Peter, and the first letter of the apostle John.
      In light of the massive amount of evidence from the Bible that men love darkness rather than light, it is utterly foolish for us to think that if we will just follow the advice of church growth experts on how to grow our churches numerically, success is sure to follow. Numerical success might be the direct result of shallow preaching and teaching, and of using unbiblical means to attract attendees. Packed churches mean little, if the attendees are not being taught the great Biblical themes of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, our consequent need of salvation that comes only to those who repent and believe the Gospel, and that God’s Word tells everyone who names the name of Christ to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). The New King James Version is quoted in this article.

Something Many English Bible Translations Have In Common

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

You might recall that some weeks ago Presidential aspirant, Donald Trump, spoke at Liberty University. During his speech, he referred to a certain book of the New Testament as “2 Corinthians.” He took some heat over his having called the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians “2 Corinthians.” It seems some folks thought it revealed his ignorance of the Bible. Well, though I am not a Trump supporter, I want to point out that the objection to his reference to “2 Corinthians” actually revealed the ignorance of those who found fault with it. Here is why: I have been an avid Bible-reader for over 40 years, and I have noticed the very thing for which Trump was faulted. So, I looked at 9 of my English Bible translations, and each one refers to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians as “2 Corinthians.” Here is a list of the 9 translations I looked at: the King James Version, New King James Version, Modern English Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible (updated edition), New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and the 1602 edition of the Geneva Bible New Testament. I don’t know what Bible translation Trump referred to at Liberty University, but it must have been one that said “2 Corinthians” at the top of the page he read from that day.

Now, here is another important fact related to this subject: there are several books in the Old Testament and epistles (letters) in the New Testament in which numbers are used by translators to identify them. In the Old Testament we find the books called 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. And in the New Testament we find the epistles (letters) called 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John. But we commonly refer to them as first and second, or as first, second and third. Here’s another interesting fact: in the Old Testament, at first there was one book of Samuel, one of Kings, and one of Chronicles. But each one was divided in half, so to speak, for the sake of convenience. They then were renamed 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 an 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. But the letters of the New Testament were written separately.

Six Reasons To Not Follow “King James Version-onlyism”


By Pastor K. Bruce Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

   

First, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it seems to imply that the Bible was not in English prior to the KJV.
   KJV–only literature emphasizes the idea that only the KJV is God’s Word in English. If that is true, what were English Bible translations before the KJV was published? Are we to assume that they were not really Bibles? Or, are we to assume that they ceased to be Bibles when the KJV was printed in 1611?
   What are the pre-KJV English Bibles? The Wycliffe Bible (1382); Tyndale’s Bible (1525-1534); Coverdale’s Bible (1535); Thomas Matthew’s Bible (1537); the Great Bible (1539); the Geneva Bible (1557-1560); the Bishop’s Bible (1568).
   If these translations were the Word of God when they were first published, they still are the Word of God. And if that is true, we cannot say that the King James Version alone is the Word of God in English.
Second, don’t follow KJV-onlyism for the simple reason that the KJV generally used today is different in substance from the 1611 KJV.
   Followers of KJV-onlyism make much of using the “1611 KJV.” But most of them seem unaware of the fact that most of them do not use it. The commonly-used KJV is different from the 1611 edition in substance, not just in spelling, and type-style, and punctuation.
   On page 217 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills wrote: “Two editions of the King James Version were published in 1611. The first is distinguished from the second by a unique misprint, namely, Judas instead of Jesus in Matthew 26:36. The second edition corrected this mistake, and also in other respects was  more carefully done. Other editions followed in 1612, 1613, 1616, 1617 and frequently thereafter. In 1629 and 1638 the text was subjected to two minor revisions. In the 18th century the spelling and punctuation of the King James version were modernized, and many obsolete words were changed to their modern equivalents. The two scholars responsible for these alterations were Dr. Thomas Paris (1762) of Cambridge, and Dr. Benjamin Blayney (1769) of Oxford, and it is to their efforts that the generally current form of the King James Version is due.”
   Note that the text was subjected to revisions!
  Evangelist Gary Hudson wrote a valuable article called, The Myth of No Revision  in which he listed over seventy examples of how the text of the 1611 KJV differs from what is used by most KJV readers today. Four examples of textual changes are given here:
2 Kings 11:10, 1611 KJV: in the temple
2 Kings 11:10, current KJV: in the temple of the Lord
1 Chronicles 7:5, 1611 KJV: were men of might
1 Chronicles 7:5, current KJV: were valiant men of might
Matthew 12:23, 1611 KJV: Is this the son of David?
Matthew 12:23, current KJV: Is not this the son of David?
I John 5:12, 1611 KJV: he that hath not the Son, hath not life
I John 5:12, current KJV: “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life
  Have you ever seen stickers on envelopes that say, “Use the Bible God Uses: 1611 KJV”? Or, have you seen advertisements for churches which say something like “Standing for the 1611 KJV” ? Well, it is very likely that they think they are using the original KJV, but are not doing so. A simple comparison of their King James Bibles with the 1611 edition might reveal something they will be surprised by.
  While there is nothing wrong with having a preference for the King James Version, we should not make claims that probably are not accurate. Facts are stubborn things, and one can easily verify the accuracy of those who claim to be using the original King James Version.
   Since it is easily proven that the KJV usually used today is substantially different from the 1611 edition, KJV-only advocates are faced with a dilemma: they must decide which edition is God’s Word in English.
Third, don’t follow KJV-onlyism because it attributes infallibility to the KJV, something not done by its Translators.
   The original edition of the KJV has some very interesting and informative introductory material which enables us to see what the Translators thought of their own work. I am referring to The Epistle Dedicatory, and to a lengthy piece called The Translators to the Readers.
   In The Epsitle Dedicatory, the Translators dedicated their translation to King James. In their dedication we discover that they did not consider their work to be infallible, as the following quotation proves: “There are infinite arguments of this right Christian and religious affection in your Majesty: but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of the accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto your Majesty. For when your Highness had once out of deep judgement apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the original sacred tongues, together with comparing of the labors, both in our own and other foreign languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue; Your Majesty did never desist, to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.”
   Since the translators who made the King James Version considered their work to be “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue,” should we make more of it than they did?
   In The Translators To The Reader, we find that they did not look upon their translation the way many do now. For instance, page seven says: “Now to the latter (the Puritans) we answer that we do not deny, nay we affirm, and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, not withstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. For whatever was perfect under the Sun, where Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s Spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?”
   Therefore, we should not consider the King James Version to be infallible when the translators themselves denied it.
A fourth reason we should not follow KJV-onlyism is that the marginal notes in the 1611 edition reveal that the translators themselves were often uncertain of how words and verses should be translated into English.
   Most KJV Bibles have few or none of these marginal notes. One should purchase a 1611 edition from Thomas Nelson Publishers so that the notes can be read. They are very interesting, informative, and perhaps unnerving to advocates of KJV-­onlyism.
  On page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED, E. F. Hills said some important things about those notes. Consider his statements carefully: “The marginal notes which the translators attached to the King James Version indicated how God guided their labors providentially. According to Scrivener (1884), there are 8,422 marginal notes in the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including the Apocrypha. In the Old Testament, Scrivener goes on to say, 4,111 of the marginal notes give the more literal meaning of the Hebrew or Aramaic, 2,156 give alternative translations, and 67 give variant readings. In the New Testament 112 of the marginal notes give literal rendering of the Greek, 582 give alternative translations, and 37 give variant readings. These marginal notes show us that the translators were guided providentially through their thought processes, through weighing every possibility and choosing that which seemed to them best.”
    Two paragraphs later, Hills wrote, “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian reader.”
   The conclusion to be drawn from their many notes is obvious: If they were often unsure of themselves, should we attribute infallibility to their translation? No, we should make neither more nor less of their work than they did.
A fifth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is that it condemns modern translators for doing what the KJV translators themselves did by putting marginal notes in the Bible.
   In reading KJV-only literature, one soon learns that it is unacceptable to put any notes in Bible margins that can make the reader “uncertain” of how a verse should be translated, or that can make one question whether or not a verse should be in the Bible at all. For instance, one pamphlet concerning the NIV says: “Even though NIV includes a weaker translation of this (Matt. 21:44) in the text, the footnote says, ‘Some manuscripts omit vs. 44.’ This is a rather strong suggestion that it may not belong in the Bible at all. Matt. 12:47; 16:3; and Luke 22:43, 44 are treated by the NIV in the same shoddy and shameful way. To the uninformed reader, such footnotes will tend to destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.”
  While I understand this concern, the facts prove that the original KJV was “guilty” of the same thing. For example, the KJV marginal note for Luke 10:22 says, ‘Many ancient copies add these words, “and turning to his disciples he said.’” And the notation of Luke 17:36 says, “This 36 verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.” We should remember the fact that the 1611 KJV Old Testament has 2,156 alternate translations in its margins, and the New Testament has 582 in its margins. Aren’t such extensive marginal notes in the original KJV just as likely to “destroy confidence in the Bible as the Word of God” as those in other translations are said to do?
A sixth reason not to follow KJV-onlyism is because the KJV is the product of the Church of England.
   As a Baptist, I believe in the Biblical distinctives of Baptists, two of which are (1) the separation of church and state, and (2) the immersion of believers. I would not have speakers in our church if they deny these doctrines. Therefore, I could not have any of the translators of the King James Version preach in my pulpit. They believed in, and were members of the Church of England, a state church. Furthermore, they believed in baptismal regeneration, whereas Baptists believe in regeneration by the Word of God and by the work of Holy Spirit.
    In their epistle of dedication of the King James Version, its translators expressed their “great hope that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby.” The fact that the KJV was produced by the Church of England does not mean that it should not be used. But it does mean that if Baptists are going to be consistent with their theology, they must admit that the translators of the KJV would not qualify to join their churches.
   Consequently, it does not make sense that so many Baptists are crusading for the exclusive use of the King James Version. How can Baptists crusade for the exclusive use of a translation produced by a denomination that promotes beliefs that oppose Baptist beliefs?
In Conclusion:
   We would do well to adopt the view of the KJV’s translators about their work. In their epistle of dedication to King James they stated that their work was “one more exact translation of the holy Scriptures into the English tongue.”
   Furthermore, we would do well to remember that in The Translators To The Reader, they said: “Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavor, that hath been our mark.
  We also should remember what E.F. Hills wrote on page 216 of his book, THE KING JAMES VERSION DEFENDED: “As the marginal notes indicate, the King James translators did not regard their work as perfect or inspired, but they did consider it to be a trustworthy reproduction of God’s holy Word, and as such they commended it to their Christian readers…”
   It is with such an opinion of the King James Version that we, too, can commend it to readers, both Christian and non-Christian. But we have good reasons to not follow KJV-onlyism.
(This article is a re-write of my original article, called, “Why I cannot follow KJV-onlyism.”)

What Makes A Bible Translation Good?

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
The Bible is the Word of God, and we should be grateful that is has been translated from its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) into many languages of the world, including English. There are many translations of the Bible into English. Some of them are better than others, and that is the subject of this article.
There are several features that make a Bible translation good. These include the translators'(plural) view of the Bible. If they consider it to be what it is, the Word of God, that will make it a better translation than if they consider the Bible to be merely a good book, but not God’s Good Book. Furthermore, if translators accept the teachings of the Bible as God-given, that, too, will help them make a better translation of it than if they consider its teachings as man-given. Another feature that make some translations better than others are the original-language texts upon which translations are based. There is some variation in the reliability of these texts. The more reliable they are, the better they will be from which to make translations. Yet another one of the features that makes some English translations better than others is the philosophy or principle of translation followed by its translators. The best guide to follow in the translation process is known as “the essentially literal” or “the word-for-word” philosophy or principle. Simply put, when this guide is followed, it means the translators do their best to put the original languages into another language, such as English, so that the translation accurately represents what is found in the original languages. To follow this guide means the translators keep explanation and commentary to a minimum in the translation itself. If explanation and commentary are used, they will be put in footnotes or marginal notes, not in the translation.
Bible scholar Leland Ryken addresses this important subject in his excellent book, “The Word Of God In English (Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation).” This book is a “must read” for those who want to look into this subject in-depth. In the chapter, “Fidelity to the Words of the Original,” Ryken made many important points that relate to the subject we are considering. Take, for example, his statement, “Translating the words of the original minimizes blurring the line between translation and interpretation, whereas dynamic equivalent translations continually mingle translation and interpretation, often depriving readers of the freedom to reach their own conclusions about the correct interpretation of a passage.” (Ryken’s book is published by Crossway. Copyright, 2002 by Leland Ryken.)
What are some of the Bible translations that follow the very important “essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation? Ryken rightly puts the following examples into that category: The King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and the Modern English Version. (Ryken has two different opinions about the New Revised Standard Version. In his book mentioned above he says it is a dynamic equivalent translation, but in a chart at the end of his booklet called “Choosing A Bible,” he says it is an essentially literal translation. Perhaps he means it is more an essentially literal translation than a dynamic equivalent translation.)
In contrast to “essentially literal”/”word-for-word” translations are paraphrases of the Bible. These are known for their being more interpretive restatements of the Bible’s original languages, or of previous translations. What are some of the paraphrases of the Bible? Ryken rightly puts the following examples into that category: The Living Bible(TLB), by Ken Taylor; The Message(TM), by Eugene Peterson; The New Testament In Modern English(NTME), by J. B. Phillips. Paraphrases should always be sparingly used because they are not translations.
Different from “essentially literal”/”word for word” translations and Bible paraphrases are what are called “dynamic equivalent” translations. These translations are known for their attempt to put into English the meaning or thought of the original languages. What are some of the translations that do not as closely follow “the essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation as the ones named above, but can be considered to be dynamic equivalent translations? Ryken rightly puts the following into that category: The New Living Translation(NLT), Contemporary English Version(CEV), Good News Bible(GNB), New International Version(NIV), Today’s New International Version(TNIV), and Today’s English Version(TEV).
Let us now consider the very popular, previously-mentioned New International Version as an example of what is known as a “dynamic equivalent translation.” This distinguishes it from the translations that more closely follow “the essentially literal”/”word-for-word” principle or philosophy of translation as do the King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, and the Modern English Version.
That the NIV is, at least to some degree, a dynamic equivalent translation is proven by certain statements in the Preface to the 1984 edition, as found in “The NIV Worship Bible”, which is published by Zondervan and copyrighted 1988. On page x of the Preface we read the following statements: “The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers. They have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. At the same time they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meaning of words.” And on page xi of the Preface we find further evidence of the influence of dynamic equivalence on the NIV. It says, “Because for most readers today the phrases ‘the LORD of hosts’ and ‘God of hosts’ have little meaning, this version renders them ‘the LORD Almighty’ and ‘God Almighty.’ These renderings convey the sense of the Hebrew, namely, ‘he who is sovereign over all the “hosts” (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the “hosts” (armies) of Israel.” The concern for “fidelity to the thought of the Biblical writers,” instead of their words is a guiding principle of dynamic equivalent translations. The same thing is true of the reference to conveying “the sense of the Hebrew.”
That the NIV is, at least to some degree, a dynamic equivalent translation is also proved by the fact that one of its advocates, Lawrence O. Richards, says so. The following quote is taken from the Preface to his book, “The Zondervan Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words,” which was published by Zondervan in 1985, and which has a copyright of 1985, 1991 by The Zondervan Corporation. The book is very valuable, even for those who are not used to more technical aspects of Bible study. In the quote, Richards refers to the NIV(New International Version), NASB(New American Standard Bible), ASV(American Standard Version), and the RSV(Revised Standard Version). Here is part of what Lawrence O. Richards wrote: “Because there are so many different versions of the Bible in English, it is necessary to narrow our focus; we will consider the two versions that are used most frequently in Bible study. These are the NIV and the NASB.
“The NIV is especially acceptable to evangelicals. This translation was undertaken by over a hundred scholars from many countries and various denominations. All of them were conservative in their commitment to the full authority and trustworthiness of Scripture as God’s Word. The result of their years of work is an attractive, readable, and clear expression in contemporary English of the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings.
“Translators face a number of problems. Many of these occur because single words in any language have more than single meanings. It is the task of Bible translators, therefore, to study the way a Hebrew or Greek term is used in particular sentences and to determine the shade of meaning intended in each context. Thus different English words or phrases are used to translate a single original term. Conversely, the same English word may be use to translate several different Hebrew or Greek terms.
“None of the English versions provide a word-for-word translation, with the same English word always being used to translate the same Hebrew or Greek word. Instead, in varying degrees translators adopted a principle called dynamic equivalence. That is, they have attempted to ascertain the meaning (or connotation) of the word or phrase in the source language and to express that meaning in the receptor language. The more the translators of a given version relied on the use of dynamic equivalence, the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.
“How have the translators of different versions approached their task? The translators of the ASV attempted to translate word for word as much as possible. Ken Taylor’s Living Bible, on the other hand, is a very loose paraphrase, shaped often by the translator’s own interpretations. The NASB tends toward the approach of the ASV. The RSV and NIV fall between these extremes, though the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.”
Consider some key statements that Richards made about the NIV that should make us have some reservations about it:
1.) “The result of their years of work is an attractive, readable, and clear expression in contemporary English of the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings.”
2.) “The more the translators of a given version relied on the use of dynamic equivalence, the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.”
3.)”How have the translators of different versions approached their task? The translators of the ASV attempted to translate word for word as much as possible. Ken Taylor’s Living Bible, on the other hand, is a very loose paraphrase, shaped often by the translator’s own interpretations. The NASB tends toward the approach of the ASV. The RSV and NIV fall between these extremes, though the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.”
Here are my replies to these statements:
1.) We don’t want a translation to give us “the thought of the original Hebrew and Greek writings”, but the translated words of those writings. A translator’s thoughts can easily become commentary and explanation, when what we need is translation. Let the Bible’s readers figure out for themselves what the Bible means. This often requires the use of reference works, such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries. But we should not expect translations to also function as commentaries and dictionaries.
2.) Dynamic equivalent translations are a problem because, as Richards said, “the more difficulty we can expect in tracing concepts from English back to specific Hebrew or Greek words.” To make Bible study more difficult is not a good thing.
3.) Lawrence O. Richards pointed out, “the translators of the NIV were more ready to seek dynamic equivalents than were the RSV translators.” This proves the fact that the NIV was influenced by the principle of dynamic equivalence. This is not a good thing, for a dynamic equivalent translation is always less reliable than an “essentially literal/word-for-word” translation.
Here is something interesting that is related to our subject: for many years I have profitably used the 12-volume commentary set called “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.” It is based on the NIV. But its frequent corrections of the NIV have weakened my confidence in that translation.
So, what should be done with this information? First, the logical thing to do is to use “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations as our primary translations for daily reading and Bible study. Of course, preachers, pastors, and Bible teachers should use this kind of translations in their ministries. Dynamic equivalent translations should only be read and studied as secondary translations, that is, as helps in Bible reading and study. I recommend these “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations: the New King James Version, the Modern English Version, the King James Version, the New American Standard Version(updated edition), and the English Standard Version. (The King James Version, the New King James Version, and the Modern English Version are all related to one another, the last two being revisions of the King James Version.) The Holman Christian Standard Bible, according to the Introduction, uses a translation principle it calls “optimal equivalence,” which seems to be a moderate blend of the “essentially literal/word-for-word” and “dynamic equivalence” translation principles. Thus, it is more reliable than those translations that depend more heavily on dynamic equivalence, as does the NIV.
Second, do not make the use of “essentially literal/word-for-word” translations a test of Christian orthodoxy and fellowship. True and dedicated Christians often use translations influenced by dynamic equivalence, such as the NIV. That should not cause a division between them and those of us who do not approve of a translation that is heavily influenced by the principle of dynamic equivalence, unless, of course, the presence of dynamic equivalence is found to be so strong that the translation is generally unworthy of use. If that is the case, it is most likely not a dynamic equivalent translation but a paraphrase of the Bible. And, as said above, paraphrases should always be sparingly used because they are not translations of the Bible.
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