Why We Trust Our Bible - Lesson 2

Principle 1: Words or Meaning

In Part 2, Dr. Bill Mounce addresses do you translate words or meaning? At one level, all translations translate for meaning. However, every translation has to decide if they want to err on the side of words or the side of meaning. (Bill references "12" principles, but shortened the presentation to "10.")

Taught by a Team
Why We Trust Our Bible
Lesson 2
Watching Now
Principle 1: Words or Meaning

A. Formal equivalence

B. Dynamic Equivalence

C. Running Commentaries

D. Problems with each approach

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • In Part 1, Dr. Darrell Bock addresses the historical Jesus debate, some scholars actually question whether Jesus even lived. How can we show that he did live using sources other than the Bible and the writing of the early Church Fathers?

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit. We will re-record the seminar when we are able.

  • In Part 2, Dr. Darrell Bock adresses how some liberal scholars argue that because the stories of Jesus were first told by word of mouth, and since memory is faulty, that we cannot trust the gospel witness to Jesus. Dr. Bock discusses three views of orality and why the "informal controlled" model of the Bedouins best parallels the gospels and argues for the authenticity of their accounts. He also shows why the supposed "time gap" between Jesus living and the writing of ;the accounts is only a few years due to the witness of Paul, and not decades as some propose.

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit. We will re-record the seminar when we are able.

  • In Part 3, Dr. Darrell Bock addresses when the authenticity of the gospels is questioned due to faulty human memory. Some people claim that since we do not know for sure who wrote the gospels, we cannot trust their message. Others argue that there is nothing special about presenting Jesus as a common miracle worker. In this session, Dr. Bock answers each of these charges.

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit.

  • How scholarship has created a series of rules they use to judge the authenticity of a gospel passage. Dr. Bock critiques those rules and shows how they still can argue for the authenticity of the core events of the gospel message.

  • Two key events in the gospels, Jesus' trial and the resurrection. Using the rules of scholarship, he shows that even by those standards these events are authentic.

  • Dr. Craig Blomberg begins by introducing the issue of the historical reliability of the New Testament documents, focusing on Dan Brown and some of the other recent "discoveries." He will cover 12 truths agreed upon except by the most liberal theologians. In this lesson he talks about the authorship and dating of the gospels.

  • Would the gospel writers have wanted to preserve accurate history? Why are there four Gospels, with all the similarities and differences?

  • Blomberg addresses seven questions during a Q&A session.

  • In his series of reasons, in this lesson Blomberg answers 7 – 9.

  • Blomberg addresses the issues of the non-Christian testimony to Jesus, archaeology, and the testimony of other early Christian Writers. He concludes with a powerful discussion of three ways to believe, and what the relationship is between faith and reason.

  • In this final talk, Blomberg addresses the final nine questions from the audience.

  • Are books in the canon because they are authoritative, or they are authoritative because they are in the canon? The Davinci Code and the common assertions about Constantine are historical fabrications. “Canon” can mean three different things. Has God given us a structure to know which books should be in the canon? Can you prove, or is the point to have sound reasons for what you believe?

  • A canonical worldview is a set of beliefs as to what the canon is and how someone “knows” if a book is canonical or not.  There are three models. According to the community model, a book becomes canonical upon its reception by the community.

  • In the historical model of canonicity, a book becomes canonical when it is examined historically, looking at issues such as authorship and reception. This model suffers  by the absence of an absolute criteria by which you can make this decision.

  • The self-authenticating model of the canon claims that the Bible is itself its own ultimate authority. All beliefs of ultimate authority are circular, otherwise the criteria for deciding would be greater than the ultimate authority itself. The real question is whether or not God has provided a means by which Christians can know what books are truly canonical. The self-authenticating model encompasses the other two, incorporating the best of each model.

  • A “defeater” is an idea that undermines your confidence in knowing something. Are there defeaters for our understanding of the canon? The New Testament books have unity with prior revelation and with each other, and in fact the New Testament completes the Old Testament in surprising ways.

  • Kruger shows that Covenants in the Old Testament needed written documents, and a new covenant required new documents. Writing was not an afterthought. The apostles saw themselves as agents of the New Covenant and saw their writings as having authority. They would have been surprised to be told that it wasn't until Irenaeus that people throught their writing was authoritative. They had to write to accomplish their apostolic ministry within their lifetime.

  • Even if a few of the books took a while to be accepted, there was a core canon of 22 books very quickly. Even the Muratorian Fragment, while including two non-canonical books, recognizes that they are different and may be listing them as such. Just because the early church read non-canonical books does not mean there was not a canon.

  • The early church was a culture of textuality; they liked and publicly read books. The frequency of ancient manuscripts shows us which books were the most popular and were therefore understood to be canonical. The church preferred the new codex format because they could group books together, especially the gospels. We can also tell that the manuscripts were written in order to be publicly read, which means the church knew which books were authoritative.

  • Eusebius described four types of books: accepted, disputed, rejected, and heretical. The early church was careful in what they accepted as authoritative, and there really was not that much of a question.

  • Answers to common questions about the canon, now that these question are targeted to the lay level. 

  • In Part 1, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses the challenges to the believability of the Bible brought by the issues related to the Greek manuscripts, and especially the influence of Dan Brown and Bart Ehrman.

  • In Part 2, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses discussion of the historical process that led to manuscripts and variants, with some examples of variants.

  • In Part 3, Dr. Daniel Wallace responds to three basic challenges by Bart Ehrman: the "black hole"; the quality of the copies; the effect of Constantine on the manuscripts.​

  • In Part 4, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses how now that we understand why there are variants in the manuscripts, how does the art and science of textual criticism help us determine which variants are most likely to be original?

  • In Part 5, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses a brief overview of why the King James Bible is different from all modern translations, and issues of the Greek texts behind it.

  • In Part 6, Dr. Daniel Wallace focuses in on variants, how many there are, how many significant variants are there, and how good of a job has textual criticism done.

The uniqueness and authority of the Bible are always under attack. Professors and writers are claiming that Jesus never existed, Jesus never claimed to be God, the early church changed the basic preaching of Jesus, books were left out of the Bible, the copies of the Bible that have come down through the centuries are hopelessly corrupt, and how can you trust your translation where there are so many? This class walks you through the process of how we received our Bible and why we can trust it.

Dr. Blomberg discusses the reliability of the Bible. Dr. Kruger discusses the process of formation of the New Testament Canon. Dr. Wallaces discusses issues relating to manuscripts and textual criticism. Dr. Mounce discusses the philosophies and process of translation. Dr. Piper discusses the content, cohesiveness, scope and power of the Bible.

<p>Course: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/why-we-trust-our-bible/team-taught?pag…; target="_blank">Why We Trust Our Bible</a></p>

<p>Lecture: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/translate-words-or-meaning/translation…; target="_blank">Principle 1: Words or Meaning</a></p>


<h1>I. Translation, Formal Equivalence, and Its Problems</h1>

<p>What happened when the grammar of vocabulary is too complicated or if you go word for word you will miss-communicate. What happens in that situation and what do you do? Well, the translation philosophy establishes that. And what will happen in translations, when translators come to these difficult passages where you can’t do word for word, they are going to go to one side or another of the knife blade. They will either go to the side of words or they are going to go to the side of meaning. The ESV falls over to the side of words whereas the NIV falls over to the side of meaning. Stating it another way, when we come to a passage that is a little difficult, the ESV has a tendency to just translate the words and so the function of the translator and the Bible student or the pastor will have to help people understand what those words mean. It is a perfectly legitimate way to translate the Bible.</p>

<p>The NIV is going to fall on the other side and say that the Bible needs to be understandable by people. It needs to be understood by English readers the same way that the Greek was understood by Greek readers. That means we have to work a little differently to get the same meaning across. But the point is, when translations can’t stay on the edge of that knife, are they going to fall over to the side of words which is also the NASB and the ESV or they are going to fall over on the side of meaning which is the NIV and the NLT for example.</p>

<p>Another example has to do with the word, hilasterion. This describes what Christ accomplished on the Cross. What was he doing there? We see in Romans 3:25, the old RSV translated using the word, expiation which means that the force which Christ did on the cross was directed toward human guilt and our ability to accept forgiveness. ESV comes along and says, no, it is not expiation but propitiation; what Christ did on the Cross is directed toward God’s wrath and appeasing God’s wrath caused by our sin. Both of those translations fell over on the side of words to convey the meaning of hilasterion. I still<br>
remember with the ESV that we actually opened up Webster’s and read the meaning of propitiation and we wondered whether or not it was accurate. But then the NIV changes this to ‘atoning sacrifice’ which is a great translation. It was a sacrifice that atoned for our sins. But, even that, didn’t convey all the meaning, because hilasterion also refers to the place of atonement. And in the temple, the place of the atonement was on top of the Ark of the Covenant where the blood was sprinkles, where forgiveness was granted. For the Christian, the hilasterion is the Cross. So it’s not just human guilt and God’s wrath against sin, it is also the Cross. An atoning sacrifice covers some of that but not all. It was interesting in the initial release of the New Living Translation translated hilasterion with a very long-phrase. They said it was to take the punishment of our sins to satisfy God’s anger against sin. This is fairly expansive but they were trying to get the meaning of hilasterion across. In the second release of this translation, they changed it to sacrifice for sin. The point of this illustration, we came to a word and the RSV and ESV tried to find a single word to use. And then the NIV and NLT tried to convey the meaning of the Greek word. I could give you thousands of these kinds of illustrations, both with words and phrases and grammar. So translation philosophy has to with which side it is going to err on.</p>

<p>I am going to break the idea of translation down into four different categories; it is general to break them down into two but I think we need to have four. The first group is listed as formal equivalence. The New American Standard and the ESV are good examples of this. This has to do with a grammatical<br>
equivalence. If there are seven words in Greek, we are going to try for seven words in English and if it is a participle in Greek, we will try to a participle in English. Part of formal equivalence is something called accordance where we try to use the same English word for the Greek word in order to be more<br>
transparent. So that when you see ‘city’ in the NASB, you will know that it is translating ‘Paulus’. It is a formal grammatical equivalence that will adhere to the Greek and Hebrew as much as possible. And formal equivalent translations agree that it is not always possible. There are idiomatic language and other ways in which Greek will express itself where you can’t do this word for word thing. But for the most past we are going to really try.</p>

<p>There are some really good things about formal equivalence, one of which being very transparent to the Greek and to the Hebrew. If you know Greek and you are reading the NASB and the ESV, you can usually see how the translation is done behind the English. That is a good thing but I would point out that it is indeed transparent but this doesn’t matter if you don’t know Greek or Hebrew. In addition, within the NASB, they have this policy of italics in the way they insert a word when there is no corresponding English word to it, they put it in italics to show that they have added that word. Formal equivalence is also less interpretative. For example, if you just want to say expiation or propitiation and leave it at that, you will still have had to do some interpretation; you would had to choose between the two words. So, there is less interpretation in these translations compared to some of the others. If anyone ever says to you that they use a Bible that is not interpretative; it just gives me what the Greek and Hebrew says; this isn’t exactly so. It is actually impossible! You need to understand that all translations involve interpretation; there is just no way to get around this point. All translations are interpretative, but formal equivalent translations do tend to be a little less interpretative. So these are the good points: they are transparent and less interpretative.</p>

<p>There are also some fairly serious problems with these translations. The first involves using terrible English. Every once in a while, I will read a sentence and wonder if it is really English or not. So, there is a real problem of having good English structure just for the sake of staying as close to the Greek or<br>
Hebrew. But a second problem with this kind of translation, especially when it comes to the concordance, it can obscure meaning. They are letting you do the interpreting. The best example of this is with the NASB’s translation of the word ‘Paulus’ which occurs 163 times in the New Testament and every single time the NASB translates it as city. They call Nazareth a city, for example. But archaeologists suggest that there were only about 600 people living there in Jesus’ day. This, of course, is not a city; at the most, it is a small town or rather a village. It is not a city. Yet, it is simply not possible to translate correctly, you have to interpret it; there is just no choice. I remember in the ESV, if we had an ambiguous Greek phrase, we would look for a similar ambiguous Greek phrase. Sometimes we would find one but usually you can’t and thus you have to interpret it. In 1st Timothy 3:11, Paul is going through the requirement for church leaders. So he starts with elders and goes through the requirements and then he gets to the deacons. Again, he gives the qualifications and then you come to verse 11 where the Greek word is gunaikas from gyne (goo-nay) and the problem is, it can be translated either wife or woman. There is no English word for both of those so you have to choose and that choice is significant. In the RSV, it is translated, ‘the women, likewise must be serious, no slanderers but temperate in all things.’ If gyne is translated as women, then who are the women? So it has to be the deaconesses.</p>

<p>We know that there were female deacons very early in the church, even in the first 300 years. Interestingly, the feminine form of deacon in Greek apparently wasn’t created until about the 3rd to 4th century. So women were called deacons in the early church. When I was in the pastorate, they wanted to talk about deaconesses; I said no, we are not going to genderise this: women and men together are deacons. That is how the Bible treats it. That is reading gyne as women, i.e. deaconesses. The ESV comes along (I believe there may be a footnote on this) and it says that their wives, likewise, must be<br>
dignified. Well, we are still talking about deacons and now we are talking about the deacon’s wives and Paul goes on to talk about the deacon’s children. The point here, you have to choose between the two meanings. There is no English word that could mean woman or wife; you have to choose. Another really good example is from John 2:4. This is the story of Jesus at the wedding in Canaan where they ran out of wine. The NASV translates, ‘and Jesus said to her (to his mother), woman what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.’ It is the same Greek word, gyne, by the way. In modern English, there is only one way to hear that phrase and that is pejorative (expresses contempt or disapproval). Mary says, hey Jesus, they ran out of wine; do something about it. Jesus says, woman. The only way to hear that in English is in a pejorative, negative and demeaning way; in a way that Jesus would never have said to his mother. Jesus would not have been that cruel. Just saying ‘woman’ miscommunicates here. In the NIV, they said, ‘dear woman.’ There is no Greek word for ‘dear’ but they are trying to soften the pejorative woman and how we hear it in English. They simply say, ‘how does that concern you and me?’ in the NLT; so they don’t even try to translate it because there is no way to say it in English. So when formal equivalence fail at times as often times it does, then they will have to be interpretive.</p>

<p>There is an Old Italian proverb that translates into English as ‘all translators are traitors’. I am told that when you translate from Italian to English, you lose something. This confirms the truth of the maxim. This means that we are all traitors to the meanings of the original text. We might over translate a little in order to do a little more work to convey the meaning or we might under translate a little and not convey all the meaning of the English. But it is virtually impossible to get it perfect when it comes to translation work.</p>

<h1>II. Dynamic Equivalence and Its Problems</h1>

<p>The next main category is called functional (Dynamic) Equivalent Translation. The NIV and perhaps the NLT fit into this category. In this, they are not concerned about the grammar. They don’t care if this is a participle or if it is seven words in Greek. The question is, what is the Greek saying and what does it mean and what words do I use to convey the same meaning in English? That is the basic distinction. There are some really good things about functional equivalent translations. They convey meaning; they are understandable and they make sense. I remember getting my son a NLT Bible and he was surprised at how well he could understand it. The translators are being a little more interpretive in doing a better job in conveying the meaning of the passage. They also tend to be better English and don’t make the disciples or the writers sound ignorant. They write in good English. The problem with functional equivalent translations, as you might expect, they may become too interpretive. In an attempt to get the meaning across, we add words in order to convey meaning. There is a little more of the translator in the translation with this category. An example of this has to do with a divorced person not being an elder in the church. This comes from 1st Timothy 3:2. The word divorce does not occur in the passage nor does the word married. If you go word for word, the requirement for an elder is that he must be of one woman man or of one wife husband. There is an added problem with English as word order is used to convey meaning; so if you have a verb, you want to know who is doing the action of the verb, the subject being in front the verb. The person or thing receiving the action of the verb is the word following the very, the direct object. But in Greek, there is a different linkage at work, the subject can come after the verb and the direct object can come before the verb or they can all come at the end of a sentence. There is a standard order for Greek sentences but you don’t really have to follow it at all.</p>

<p>One of the things that determine order in Greek is emphasis. When you want to emphasize something, you move it to the front of the sentence and because of this linkage system which is called case endings, you can push the word or phrase you want to emphasize forward in the sentence. We can do this in English by putting a prepositional phrase at the beginning of the sentence. For this example in 1st Timothy 3:2, the emphasis is on one woman man, on one of wife husband. You have to be really interpretive to translate this idea. The odd thing here is that we can’t find this phrase anywhere else in Greek literature. So a question I have for Paul is to why he used such an odd phrase. In understanding this about whether or not a divorced person can be an elder, we just need to understand the Greek and like many things that we think we understand, we need to have a little more humility in regards to this particular passage; we just don’t know what it means. The ESV translates this to read ‘therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife.’ But in translating it this way, we have lost the emphasis on the idea of one. There is more of an emphasis on marriage than the word one. The New RSV says married only once; they are keying off here the emphatic position of one and they are taking it as wife and husband. The NIV 1984 version says the husband of but one wife. The use of but again is the use of an emphatic position of the word one. The New Living Bible reads, ‘he must be faithful to his wife,’ which I think is more correct. We have an old expression, ‘a one-woman kind of guy.’ I am not saying that this is the equivalent here, but this gets at what Paul is trying to say, that the elder must be faithful. The false teachers in Ephesus were sexually active, especially among the young widows and Paul says that this is not what an elder is. This is also the translation of the 2011 NIV of being faithful to his wife. The point to all of this in functional equivalence and as in all translations they have to interpretative and sometimes if they are really committed to conveying the meaning, they have to be a lot more interpretative.</p>

<p>There is a third category that I call the paraphrase. Perhaps the New Living Translation belongs to this category. Well, it is actually in between these two categories, and there are places where it is incredible periphrastic. The Jamie Phillip’s translation is a fantastic translation, one that I really love. My mother<br>
became a Christian reading this Bible. It is very periphrastic and interpretative reading very much in modern and in his case, British English. These translations are good if you understand what is going on. The good part is that it will often say things in different ways which helps you look at the verse in a different way. An example would be from Romans 12:2, the NIV says, ‘do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Phillips comes along and says, ‘don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your mind from within.’ So we have words like squeeze, transform, remold and renewing; this is not strictly a translation but instead more of a paraphrase. This helps you to understand, and in this case very accurately as to what Paul is saying. By the way, let me say something about the Phillips translation. All of the translations, other than the Phillips and the Living, were done by committees. I would never try to do a translation by myself, especially not one that was going to be disseminated widely. You really need committees because we all hear things differently and so we want to bounce words off each other. So translations are generally done by committees and this is what makes J.B. Phillips so unusual, in that he was able to produce a reliable paraphrase by himself. It is certainly helpful in conveying meaning.</p>

<p>What’s bad about these translations is that they are usually very interpretative and when you read them, you just don’t know whether you are reading the Bible or reading additional words that are interpretative in terms of the meaning. That is why I would never study from an NLT or the Phillips. I love to read them and there is a time to read them. There is so much of the translator (the ideas of the translator) in these paraphrases, so much so that you have to be very careful; you certainly can’t do word studies based on a paraphrase. You just don’t know whether or not a word has been added in or translated. An example would be Acts 27:17 where Paul is on his trip to Rome and they are in the middle of a storm fearing that the ship would hit the rocks. The ESV translates verse 17, ‘fearing that they would run aground on the Seritus; they lowered the gear (a sea anchor) and thus they were driven along.’ This is not clear English. They were driver along toward the Seritus with the sea anchor slowing them down. The NIV says that this Seritus is actually the sand bars of Seritus. So the Seritus is a place where there are sand bars. The NLT translates it as being afraid of being driven across the sand bars of Seritus off the African coast. This is not in the Bible and personally, I think the NLT crossed over the line between translator and expositor. It is hard enough to read it as the sand bars of Seritus. It helps to understand where the ship was headed. This is an extreme example for the NLT, but this illustrates what is good and bad about paraphrasing. They are very interpretative in trying to help you understand the meaning.</p>

<h1>III. Running Commentaries</h1>

<p>There is a fourth category that belongs to the original Living Bible and the Message Bible. I just call them running commentaries. There is so much of Kenneth Taylor in the Living Bible, but God used that Bible as a tool to save thousands of people bringing them to a relationship in Christ. There are so many good things in it, but you really couldn’t study from this Bible. There is also so much of Eugene Peters in the Message Bible which you can’t study from it either. I tell people to read them to see what the translator means and see more modern ways of expressing Biblical truth. But I would never call them a Bible as such.</p>

<p>Paul tells us the Roman church should greet one another and in the NIV, it says to greet one another with a holy kiss. But what is a holy kiss? It doesn’t really convey meaning as such. The Good News Bible later called the TEV, says to greet one another with a brotherly kiss. They interpreted the word holy as brotherly in a way that Christian brothers and sisters would greet one another. Brother gets closer to what the meaning really means, but later the Good News changed it to greet one another with the kiss of peace which seems like a very odd translation. They wanted to get away from the word brother. The original living says to shake hands warmly with each other and this is also a really good translation of this holy kiss. Phillips says to give each other a hearty handshake all around. The second edition of the NLT says to greet each other in Christian love. Just like they did with woman in John 2, they simply through the idea of a kiss out; there is no way to convey what a holy kiss is. So just greet one another in Christian love. How would you translate holy kiss? I think what Paul means when brothers and sisters are together; they are to greet each other in the standard way in which people greet each other, but with affection and purity perhaps. I guess today it is a hug; for me, I don’t like hugging other women. This was especially so when I was a pastor, I liked to shake people’s hands, so shaking hands warmly with each other is okay by me. But shaking hands instead of hugging a person is almost taken in a negative sense, now. Paul is telling the Roman church to greet each other and really mean it.</p>