Category Archives: Bible reading

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.

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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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God Deserves More Than A Minute A Day

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

“GOD’S MINUTE” is the name of a daily devotional book that was first published many years ago. And based on recent research on the internet, it is still available. I have perused the book, but have never read it. Each day’s reading is able to be read in one minute. What strikes me about the book is that, even if each day’s reading is good, it is very unfortunate if the average Christian has only one minute a day for God. “God’s Minute.” That’s all? Really? If Christians would re-set their priorities, the result would be remarkable. One major result would be that they would spend more time reading the Bible each day than doing less-important things. Maybe re-reading Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 would motive us to take more time to frequently read the Word of God.

Fourth Of July Christians

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

You might have known some Fourth of July Christians, or perhaps know some now. Here are some of their characteristics: 1) They go off with a big bang, and aren’t heard from again. 2) They sparkle for awhile, and then disappear. 3) They produce a lot of smoke, but that’s it. 4) Someone lights their fuse, but they turn out to be duds. What we need are more Christians like the man named “Mnason,” referred to in Acts 21:16. The New King James Version and The Modern English Version say he was “an early disciple.” This means he had been a Christian for a long time, in contrast to Fourth of July Christians.  This takes commitment to the Lord, and his grace to stay committed.

ADRIFT ON THE OCEAN

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

We lived on St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands for 2 1/2 years in the 1970s. We enjoyed going to the ocean, sometimes just to walk the beach looking for shells, sometimes to sit and watch the seagulls and listen to the waves, sometimes to swim, and sometimes to do all of these activities. One day, I inflated an air mattress, laid back on it, shut my eyes and relaxed. After some minutes, I looked up and was surprised at how far I had drifted from shore. It seemed like a few blocks back to shore. It was so long ago that I do not recall if this happened because the tide was going out, or for some other reason. As I think about that experience, it reminds me of the fact that we Christians can drift a long way from the Lord without realizing it is happening. It is not always intentional. It happens because we get busy and quit reading the Bible regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit praying regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit attending a Bible-preaching church regularly. It happens because we get busy and neglect Christian friendships. It happens because we get lax in our resistance to bad influences, such as immoral TV programs. It happens when we allow non-Christian friends to pull us away from our commitment to Jesus Christ. Whether we drift intentionally or unintentionally, it is up to us admit it and to get back to shore, so to speak. If you have drifted away from the Lord, it will do you good to read Psalms 32 and 51, and act on their truths.

WHY IS BIBLE READING IMPORTANT?

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

Bible reading is important for many reasons, all of which are found in the Bible itself. Below is the entire third chapter of the apostle Paul’s second letter to his preacher-friend, Timothy. It is quoted from The Modern English Version, which is based on the same original language texts as the King James Version. The MEV is also a literal translation of the original languages, in contrast to some modern English translations. As you read the following chapter, look for the reasons Bible reading is so important.

2 Timothy 3 Modern English Version (MEV)
The Last Days
3 Know this: In the last days perilous times will come. 2 Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 without natural affection, trucebreakers, slanderers, unrestrained, fierce, despisers of those who are good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Turn away from such people.
6 Those of this nature creep into houses and captivate silly women who are burdened with sins and led away with various desires, 7 always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds and worthless concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further, for their folly will be revealed to everyone, as theirs also was.
Last Charge to Timothy
10 But you have observed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, tolerance, love, patience, 11 persecutions, and afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—what persecutions I endured! But the Lord delivered me out of them all. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But continue in the things that you have learned and have been assured of, knowing those from whom you have learned them, 15 and that since childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Modern English Version (MEV) The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

Here are some reasons Bible reading is so important: 1) The Bible tells us what to expect in the last days, and we are seeing these things now. 2) It tells us to continue in its truths. 3) It tells us the importance of learning the Bible when we are young, for by it we learn how to be saved. (But it’s better to learn it late than never.) 4) It tells us it is inspired, which, simply defined, means it is from God, it is the Word of God.. 5) It tells us it is a profitable book in several practical ways. Therefore, be an avid Bible reader.

The MEV quote was taken from this website: http://www.biblegateway.com.

A Crisis Point In A New Christian’s Life

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

Even though I was raised by Christian parents and went to Sunday school and church in my youth, I did not become a true Christian until I was sixteen years old. Previous to my becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, my Christianity was in my head and not in my heart. And it showed itself in my lifestyle. In other words, I did not act or think like a Christian. But that changed in the spring of 1970, when I admitted to myself and to God that I needed forgiveness and salvation. At that point, I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and began a new life as a Christian.

But one of the things I faced as a new Christian was the potential to go back to the way I had lived for some years before becoming a Christian. Starting when I was 13 years old, I had been drawn into a life of drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking marijuana and hash, using LSD and other drugs. All my close friends did the same things. And here is when my crisis point as a new Christian was reached: I went to hang out with my longtime friends at someone’s house. There were several of us, and we sat in a large circle on the living room floor. Someone in the group did as usual: they light a join of marijuana, inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person, who inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person. (We called inhaling it “taking a toke,” and “taking a hit.”) I was maybe six persons away from the joint being passed to me. I had to make a quick decision to either fall back into an old habit, or continue to go forward with my new life as a Christian. With the Lord’s help, I got up and excused myself from the situation, and left the house. With the Lord’s help, I never returned to that lifestyle. But it required that I do two things: 1) make new friends who would support my new life as a Christian, and, 2) be very careful about my relationship with my old friends. We now were on different paths, and the Lord requires that Christians stay on his straight and narrow path. The Lord did not want me to completely cut myself off from my old friends. But if I wanted to live for him, and if I wanted to be a good example to them, I could not put myself in situations that could easily result in going back to my old life. Therefore, one of the most helpful things to me as a new Christian was frequent attendance at and involvement in a local church that preached and taught the Bible as the Word of God, and that challenged Christians to separate themselves from influences that would interfere with living a dedicated Christian life. Of course, Christians have a lifelong need for this kind of positive influence from a local church which has these characteristics.

What follows are some quotes from God’s infallible Word, the Bible that apply to the subject  being considered. (The quotes are from the Modern English Version, and were taken from this website: http://www.biblegateway.com. Here is a link to the Modern English Version online: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Modern-English-Version-MEV-Bible/#vinfo.) Now to the quotes from the Bible:  First, consider what the Lord Jesus Christ himself said about Christian discipleship: “ Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it,  because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14.)  Second, consider what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians concerning the importance of being careful about the kind of persons with whom we are friends: “ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ ”  ( 1 Corinthians 15:33.)  Third, consider what the apostle Paul said in his second letter to those same Christians about being careful about our associations.  2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 18 says:

“14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? 15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

‘I will live in them
    and walk in them.
I will be their God,
    and they shall be My people.’

17 Therefore,

‘Come out from among them
    and be separate,
        says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
    and I will receive you.’

18 ‘I will be a Father to you,
    and you shall be My sons and daughters,
        says the Lord Almighty.’

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.