Over the last seven decades, dynamic equivalent (thought-for-thought) translation advocates have flooded the market with easy-to-read Bible translations. These focus on the reader, not the text, which has literally threatened the integrity of God's Word, and Ryken has been at the forefront of defending the arguments the dynamic equivalent advocates have raised.
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.
UNTIL THE MIDDLE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, all major English Bible translations were based on the premise that the goal of Bible translation is to take the reader as close as possible to the words that the biblical authors actually wrote.
The reader needs and deserves to know what the passage actually says, even if it is difficult to understand. A contextual interpretation that ignores or deviates from the Original Language does not provide that, and since this kind of interpretation is a basic element of Dynamic Equivalent / Functional Equivalent translation, there is little or no “equivalency” to the OL in these passages at all. So on this score, the distinction between DE/FE translations and literal translations truly is a false dichotomy. The real distinction is between translations whose philosophies permit this kind of contextual interpretation in place of literal translation and translations that formally correspond to the OL as much as possible.
“Functional” equivalence as a philosophy assumes that it is possible to create a translation with the exact same meaning as the OL text, without matching the grammatical forms found in the original or using words that match the meanings of the OL words, as established or recommended by lexical research. Of course, it also assumes that a translation done as a formal equivalent differs from a functional equivalent to such an extent as to be contrasted with it. In other words, two such translations will belong to these two separate categories, and there is a dichotomy between them.
Theological bias has a negative connotation as something to be avoided, and in general, I think it is. But I do not think it would be realistic to argue that Bible translation can be done without theological bias. It is not simply a matter of whether the translator has a theological agenda or not; there are passages in which all the choices of wording necessarily reflect theological positions. Furthermore, if we are going to be completely objective, even orthodoxy is a bias. That is, it is by definition an opinion that inclines or prejudices the translator toward a particular choice of wording when his choices all have theological implications.
John 8:58 is one of the most hotly debated verses in the Bible, so our investigation is likely to offend someone.
It may not take much to convince you of the premise of this chapter. The Bible is, after all, the Bible. But literal translation has no claim to priority unless the individual words of the Bible are very important.
While I cannot address this subject at length, it needs to be addressed, to lay the foundation for you, the reader. My approach here is to assume that you have no knowledge of Bible translation issues, or the process of translating from the Original Languages (OL) of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, into what we call the Receptor Language (RL), such as English. However, this does not mean that we will pass over all the elements of this subject because some of them are essential to the issues of literal translation.