ArticlesThe Christian Life

A Thought-for-Thought Bible Translation

The Word of God comes to us through the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The very words penned by the inspired writers are the exact words that God wanted to reveal to mankind. Think about that.

Thought to Thought Translation? | Jack McNiel, Evangelist, Oak Grove Church of Christ

What is the Inspiration of the Word of God

The exact words in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts are specific words that impart to us a very particular message that God expects us to understand and to comply with. Those Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic words are the words that make up the most important series of documents that have ever been, or ever will be written – the Holy Scriptures. Which is the verbal, plenary, inerrantly inspired Word of God.

Every word of those scriptures is inspired.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” — 2 Timothy 3:16

The word “inspiration” means “God-breathed.” God “breathed” the very words of the Scriptures to the inspired writer.

“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost…”— 2 Peter 1:21

The words, moved by, means to be bourn or carried along by force. For example, on Paul’s journey to Rome, his ship was caught up in a terrible tempest and was driven before the wind, “…and when the ship was caught, and could not face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven…,” Acts 27:15 ASV.

The word, driven, in Acts 27:15 is the same Greek word translated as, moved by, in 2 Peter 1:21. Like the wind drove Paul’s ship without any control by the sailors, so the Holy Spirit “moved” the prophets to write the exact words He wanted them to.

Also, Scripture is not something that came from any man’s private interpretation. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation…” (2 Peter 1:20) Gid did not give His thoughts to the inspired penman to interpret – He gave them the actual, specific words to write.

Those exact words, so chosen by God and given by the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit have been preserved for us for over two thousand years. Much could be said on the subject dealing with how God’s Holy Word has been preserved for us today.

Thousands of ancient copies of the scriptures have been discovered throughout the centuries and countless thousands more await discovery, yet in all those thousands of ancient manuscripts the number of inconsistencies among those manuscripts is less than one percent – that is – those ancient manuscripts of the scriptures are in agreement with each other to the tune of ninety-nine percent!

That’s really incredible when you think about it. God’s providential preservation of His Word is truly amazing! Despite some of man’s best attempts to destroy it, the Word of God remains pure.

The words written in the original languages were miraculously inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Are Bible Translations Inspired?

But, what about the translations? Were these also inspired?

For instance, did the men who made the King James Version receive inspiration to do so? In a word, No. Translations are the work of men.

God’s providence allowed for the preservation of the ancient  manuscripts, as well as the preservation of the knowledge of those ancient languages. Through those two things man has been able to translate the Words of God into hundreds of different versions and every written language of man.

Philosophies of Bible Translation

Formal Equivalency Philosophy 

When it comes to translations there are several divergent philosophies. The most reliable translational philosophy would be formal equivalency. That means the translators attempted to translate each word to its most literal modern equivalent.

This “word-for-word” translation philosophy shows an inherent respect for the verbal, plenary inspiration of the original and would be most beneficial in coming to a proper understanding of God’s Word.

English Translations Reflecting the Formal Equivalency Philosophy 

  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • American Standard Version
  • English Standard Version

Dynamic Equivalency Philosophy

Another much less appealing translational philosophy is the dynamic equivalency. This means that the translators attempted to translate the “thoughts” behind the original words into their modern equivalency.

This “thought-for-thought” translational philosophy leaves too much opportunity for the translators to insert their own thoughts, ideas or biases into their translation work. This method renders such translation as too subjective for serious Bible study.

English Translations Reflecting the Formal Equivalency Philosophy 

  • New Living Translation
  • New International Version
  • The Message

These translators assume they can ascertain the thoughts behind the words that God selected. Yet, even these translators know the Bible speaks to the contrary.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” — Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Dare we attempt to to do what God says we cannot? So, let us be very careful which Bible translations that we choose to rely upon. 

— By Jack W. McNiel