Review of Bill Mounce’s Article Literal Translations and Paraphrases

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William D. Mounce is a scholar of New Testament Greek. William Mounce is the son of noted scholar Robert H. Mounce. He lives as a writer in Washougal, Washington. He is the President of BiblicalTraining, a non-profit organization offering educational resources for discipleship in the local church. Bill is the founder and President of BiblicalTraining.org, serves on the Committee for Bible Translation (which is responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible), he was the chief translator for the English Standard Version (ESV) and has written the best-selling biblical Greek textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and many other Greek resources. He blogs regularly on Greek and issues of spiritual growth. Mounce is a proponent for dynamic equivalent (interpretive) Bible translations.

REASONABLE FAITH

Education: Ph.D. 1981, in New Testament. Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, Scotland. M.A. 1977, in Biblical Studies. Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. B.A. 1975, in Biblical Studies, minor in Greek. Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota; Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, 1971-74.

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Mounce’s Article Below

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Below we are going to interact with one of Mounce’s internet articles on this subject matter, literal vs dynamic equivalent (interpretive) translation, specifically, his article Literal Translations and Paraphrases. Let us just say at the outset that Mounce likely believes what he is saying is true, but this simply does not make it so. I would also mention that I am the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV) for Christian Publishing House.  Our primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place. Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator. First, Mounce begins his article with Romans 3:22. We will add one of our The Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI).

I will do a back and forth with Bill Mounce and Edward Andrews being headers that give you what they are saying beneath. Also, at times, within square brackets [ … ] I will interject some brief thoughts into what Mounce is saying.

Romans-3.22

Romans 3:22 The Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI)
22 δικαιοσύνηrighteousness δὲbut θεοῦof God διὰthrough πίστεωςfaith (trust) Ἰησοῦof Jesus Χριστοῦ,Christ, εἰςinto πάνταςall τοὺςthe πιστεύοντας,(ones) believing (trusting), οὐnot γάρfor ἐστινthere is διαστολή.distinction. 

Romans 3:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Bill Mounce

Without being simplistic, I have learned that translation is not translating words; it is translating meaning. To put it another way, translation is the process by which we reproduce the meaning of the text; translation does not replicate the form of the text.

Edward Andrews Response

What Mounce is really saying here is that he believes that the translator should interpret the meaning of the text and this is what is to be given to the Bible reader as a translation. Words carry the meaning of a text, so words are to be translated. When you interpret a verse, you want to express what the author meant by the words that he used. Mounce will want you to believe that it is an either-or. However, it is not as you will see.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Bill Mounce

To explain this, I need to talk about what I have learned about translation theory in general, and it will take four more posts to complete the topic. Most people say there are two basic approaches to translation.

  1. Formal equivalence says that the purpose of translation is to adhere as closely as possible to the grammatical structures of the original language, altering the translation only when necessary to convey meaning. “Word-for-word” describes this approach.
  2. The functional (dynamic) view of translation uses the words (along with other things like grammar and context) to discover the original meaning — the “authorial intent” — and then conveys the same meaning in the target language. [“Interpretive” describes this approach]

Translations do not fit neatly into one of these approaches or the other; they fit along a continuum with significant overlap. For example, the same translation can be formal in one verse and functional in the next. However, most people think in terms of these two basic approaches.

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

Edward Andrews

This is true to a degree. In dynamic equivalent (interpretive) translations, though, there is a tendency to go to the extreme. They want to interpret far more than is required. One basic thought to share at this point is, what if the interpretation of the translator is wrong, as some dynamic equivalent disagrees on interpretations because their translations interpret differently? Interpretation is the responsibility of the reader.

Mounce was the chief translator for the English Standard Version (ESV), by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Crossway has published several books to focus on the importance of literal translation over the dynamic equivalents. The 2006 (Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation), the 2002 The Word of God in English by Leland Ryken, and the 2009 Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach by Leland Ryken. All three of these books are very beneficial, a must-read. However, notice that the ESV is not a literal translation, it is called an essentially literal translation. The question is, so is it essentially the Word of God? And if an almost literal translation is essentially the word of God, what does that make the dynamic equivalent translations? (NIV, TEV, GNT, CEV, etc.)

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Bill Mounce

I have come to see that this is not accurate; there are at least five categories of translation theory. I will talk about the first two of them in this post.

Literal

Although I have already expressed my dislike of this term, I will use it here to make a point. If someone wants a “literal” translation, using the term “literal” in its improper sense, there is only one example of a “literal translation”: the interlinear.

English Bible Versions King James Bible KING JAMES BIBLE II

Edward Andrews

No, this is not true. Mounce is trying to redefine translations by calling a Bible study tool (interlinear) a translation like J. Scott Duvall and J. Danial Hays in their 2012 Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible

There has become a pattern for those who favor a dynamic equivalent translation, to use an interlinear Bible, which is not a translation, and refers to it as a word for word translation because they know that this phrase is tied to translations like the KJV, ASV, RSV, ESV, and NASB. Below is an example from Duvall and Hays in the third edition of Grasping God’s Word (GGW).

Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and Daniel J. Hays is a great book, so please take what is said with a grain of salt. However, what is quoted below is very misleading, and shows the length one will go to, to biasedly express their preference in translation philosophy. Within the table below are the egregious words from GGW.

THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Approaches to Translating God’s Word

 The process of translating is more complicated than it appears. Some people think that all you have to do when making a translation is to define each word and string together all the individual word meanings. This assumes that the source language (in this case, Greek or Hebrew) and the receptor language (such as English) are exactly alike. If life could only be so easy! In fact, no two languages are exactly alike. For example, look at a verse chosen at random–from the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy (Matt. 17:18). The word-for-word English rendition is written below a transliteration of the Greek:

Matthew 17:18 The Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI)
18 καὶAnd ἐπετίμησενhe gave rebuke αὐτῷto it theἸησοῦς,Jesus, καὶand ἐξῆλθενcame out ἀπ’from αὐτοῦhim τὸthe δαιμόνιον·demon; καὶand ἐθεραπεύθηwas cured the παῖςboy ἀπὸfrom τῆςthe ὥραςhour ἐκείνης.that. 

Matthew 17:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him and the boy was healed from that hour.

Should we conclude that the English line is the most accurate translation of Matthew 17:18 because it attempts a literal rendering of the verse, keeping also the word order? Is a translation better if it tries to match each word in the source language with a corresponding word in a receptor language? Could you even read an entire Bible “translated” in this way? – Duvall, J. Scott; Hays, J. Daniel (2012-05-01). Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Kindle Locations 494-507). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

Because these authors, like Bill Mounce, favor the dynamic equivalent translation philosophy, they misrepresent the literal translation philosophy here, to the extent of being disingenuous. They give you, the reader, an interlinear (study tool) rendering of Matthew 17:18, and then refer or infer that it is a literal translation, which by association would include the ASV, RSV, NASB, ESV, and the UASV. Again, an interlinear is not a Bible translation; it is a Bible study tool for persons who do not read Hebrew or Greek. What is placed under the Greek is the lexical rendering, while not considering grammar and syntax, i.e., they are the words in isolation. Now, to demonstrate that J. Scott Duvall and Daniel J. Hays are being sly at best, let us look at the literal translations, to see if they read anything like the interlinear that Duvall and Hays used; or rather, do the literal translations consider grammar and syntax when they bring the Greek over into their English translation.

ASV NASB UASV
18 And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon went out of him: and the boy was cured from that hour. 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him and the boy was healed from that hour.
RSV ESV CSB
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed.

As can be clearly seen from the above four literal translations (ASV, NASB, UASV, and the RSV) and the essentially literal ESV and the optimally literal CSB, they are nothing like the interlinear that Duvall and Hays tried to palm off on us as a word-for-word translation, i.e., a literal translation. This is an attempt to deceive their readers.

Bill Mounce

An interlinear will list the Greek words in Greek word order, and under each Greek word there will be a gloss for its meaning. See Romans 3:22 in the graphic above.

INVESTIGATING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES REVIEWING 2013 New World Translation

Edward Andrews

Here it is again for your convenience

Romans 3:22 The Greek-English New Testament Interlinear (GENTI)
22 δικαιοσύνηrighteousness δὲbut θεοῦof God διὰthrough πίστεωςfaith (trust) Ἰησοῦof Jesus Χριστοῦ,Christ, εἰςinto πάνταςall τοὺςthe πιστεύοντας,(ones) believing (trusting), οὐnot γάρfor ἐστινthere is διαστολή.distinction. 

Romans 3:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

Bill Mounce

Is it understandable? Barely. Is it translation? No. As much as I would like the word “literal” to go away, I doubt it will. Will people start to use the word accurately? I hope so. But please, do not believe the marketing hype: there is no such thing as a “literal” translation. The very idea is linguistic nonsense.

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

Edward Andrews

Again, an interlinear is not a Bible translation; it is a Bible study tool for persons who do not read Hebrew or Greek. What is placed under the Greek is the lexical rendering, while not considering grammar and syntax, i.e., they are the words in isolation. Now, to demonstrate that Mounce is moving the translation goal post like J. Scott Duvall and Daniel J. Hays let us look at the literal translations, to see if they read anything like the interlinear that Mounce used; or rather, do the literal translations consider grammar and syntax when they bring the Greek over into their English translation.

ASV NASB UASV
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
RSV ESV CSB
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 22 The righteousness of God is through faithin Jesus Christ to all who believe,since there is no distinction.

As can be clearly seen from the above four literal translations (ASV, NASB, UASV, and the RSV) and the essentially literal ESV and the optimally literal CSB, they are nothing like the interlinear that Mounce is trying to palm off on us as a word-for-word literal translation, i.e., a literal translation. Again, this is deceit.

is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png

Bible Study Tool

Interlinear Bible Study Tool: WH, UBS, NA, GENTI, etc.

Literal Translations

  • Literal Bible Translations: KJV, YLT, ASV, RSV, NASB, UASV
  • Semi-Literal Translations: ESV, CSB

Interpretive Dynamic Equivalent Translations

  • Hyper Interpretive Dynamic Equivalent Translations: CEV, GNB, TEV, ERV, SEB, NIRV
  • Interpretive Dynamic Equivalent Translations: NLT, ICB, ISV, GW
  • Moderate Interpretive Dynamic Equivalent Translations: NIV, NRSV, NET, NABRE

It would seem that the Bible scholars who favor the interpretive dynamic equivalent translations are making a joint effort to redefine the spectrum of Bible translations. They do this to aid their cause of trying to move publishers away from producing literal Bible translations. We have gone from the conservative historical-grammatical interpretation (objective) to the liberal-moderate historical-critical method of interpretation (subjective), from the traditional goal in textual studies of getting back to the original words to the liberal-moderate getting back to the earliest text possible, and from conservative literal translation to the liberal-moderate interpretive translations.

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