IS INERRANCY ENOUGH?
(A defense of the KJV)
Pastor F. William Darrow
Notes From The Adult Classes 2006 Evening Vacation
After serving some 42 years as a pastor I have
learned that things are constantly changing in the realm of the
church. Trends and fads, yes, even in churches, come and go. Some
are good some are bad. Change is a way of life but not always good.
Allow me to give you an example.
I have attended many ordination councils over the
years. Even in those, the evidence of trends and issues become
prevalent. Areas that were questioned heavily 25 years ago do not
even draw a question today. I remember years ago that a candidate
would be grilled heavily over "verbal plenary inspiration". The
candidate had to know and be able to explain that "inspiration" is
God breathing into man the very words He wanted him to write.
"Verbal" meaning that the Holy Spirit guided the writers of the
Bible in the very words that they used. "Plenary" means fully or
completely as to the fact that every word was inspired by God from
beginning to end.
I am not sure when it started, but it seems to me
that in the late sixties or seventies a new word, or at least a more
frequently used word, came on the scene. That word is "inerrancy".
In many doctrinal statements of more recent days the word
"inerrancy" appears but not the phrase "verbal plenary inspiration".
I began to question in my mind why the term "inerrancy" had replaced
"verbal plenary inspiration" even though it is a fine word but it
does not say enough. Since new versions of the Bible keep coming on
the scene and some have become preferred over the old, tried and
proven KJV, I have sought to read for answers. It has been a
learning experience. One of which has helped me to understand why
the term "verbal plenary inspiration" is no longer being used.
I also was at a conference where a speaker made
the statement, as he held up his Bible, "inerrancy, no,
infallibility yes". He did not believe that the present Bibles we
have are inerrant, just infallible. What he meant by that is since
we do not have the original manuscripts, which are inerrant, our
translations are not inerrant but we have enough evidence from
different old texts so at least we can say they are infallible, or
trustworthy. I do not agree with this at all.
There are three basic techniques in Bible
translation work. Quoting the National Religious Broadcasters,
January 1996 issue, an article by Harry Conay: "With regard to
popular Bible translation, we frequently use terms like formal
equivalency (‘this is how we write what they wrote), dynamic
equivalency (‘this is how we would say what they meant’), and
paraphrasing (‘this is how I think their intent can be more clearly
stated’). (Printed in the Foundation magazine, January-February 1996
The three techniques are:
1. Formal Equivalency
2. Dynamic Equivalency
Let me start from the bottom up. Paraphrasing is
simply taking what the text says and rewriting it to what you think
The big problem with paraphrasing is that it
simply becomes the opinion of the translator as to what a
passage means. Once you enter this area of practice it is no
longer the Words of God but some individual’s opinion of what it
says. A paraphrase is not a Bible translation but a commentary.
A paraphrase should not be called a translation or even the
Myron Houghton, a professor at Faith Baptist
Bible College, Ankeny, IA, made an explanation that helps understand
the difference between a paraphrase and literal translations.
"A literal translation is based upon the idea
that the purpose of a translation is to let the reader know what
the Bible says rather than what the Bible means. Yet many
modern readers use meaning-for-meaning versions and paraphrases
because they think the meaning of the Bible has been made clear.
In reality, it is the meaning of the translators that has been
made clear." (Faith Pulpit July/August by Myron J.
Dynamic Equivalency is not following a
word-for-word translation but changing, adding, or subtracting from
the original to make it flow as the translator sees fit. It is a
step up from paraphrasing. Dr. D.A.Waite defines it in his book on
Defending the King James Version page 89, as " 'Dynamic'
implies 'change' or 'movement.' These versions take a sort of
idiomatic rendering from Hebrew or Greek into English. It is
idiomatic in the sense that they didn't take a word-for-word method
(even when it made good sense), trying to make the words in the
Hebrew or Greek equal to the words in the English. Instead they
added to what was there, changed what was there and/or subtracted
from what was there." Robert J. Barnet in his book The Word of
God on Trial, page 24, uses another name for it;
calling it "concept inspiration". He said, "The author of a
paraphrase is not trying to communicate word-level truth. He is
giving us his own interpretation of what he thinks the Bible means.
He is giving us concept-level communication." Dr. D.A.Waite has a
study available of examples where the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION
uses this method some 4,000 times, the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
6,653 times and the NEW KING JAMES VERSION over 2,000 times. (Page
105, Defending The King James Version).
The AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION of 1901 followed
strict formal equivalency. However our issue with the 1901 ASV has
to do with the text from which it was translated. The NEW
INTERNATIONAL VERSION translators followed dynamic equivalency so
were much more loose in their translating. They utilized dynamic
equivalency to the degree that their work is almost a running
paraphrase and not a translation. Dynamic Equivalency, therefore,
allows for a great deal of subjectivity on the part of the
translators to interpret the biblical text. (Touch Not the
Unclean Thing by David Sorenson – page 239)
The third method is Formal Equivalency, or
sometimes called, Verbal Equivalency. This method of translation
takes the Greek and Hebrew words and renders them as closely as
possible into English. This is the method used by the King James
translators and is certainly a superior method.
"In favor of using modern English, it should be
noted that the Bible was written in the language of the day. The New
Testament, for example, was written in koine, or common
Greek. And we do not normally use thee, thou, and ye
in our speech today. On the other hand, thee and thou distinguished
you in the singular from ye which is you in the plural. Sometimes
the correct interpretation of a passage is helped by knowing the
difference between the plural or singular use of you." (Faith
Pulpit – July/August 2006 by Myron J. Houghton)
The King James Bible is the only English
translation today that follows this strict accurate literalness.
It should be understood that in any translation,
there has to be some diversion from the literal to make the
"It is understood that all translating from one
language to another is a mixture of literal rendering as well as
allowance for cultural idioms and forms of syntax." (Touch Not
the Unclean Thing by David Sorenson – page 121)
"Of course, no English translation can always
adhere to this pattern and achieve understandable sentences.
Sometimes words must be added to make a sentence clear in English.
Nevertheless, a literal translation would identify those added
words, usually by placing them in italics." (Faith Pulpit
July/August 2006 by Myron J. Houghton)
However, one still must push for literalicy.
Perhaps here is the place to mention where
Dynamic Equivalency came from. Eugene Nida has been associated with
the American Bible Society and the United Bible Society since 1946.
He was instrumental in the development of the first edition of the
United Bible Society Greek Test. He was the Translation Research
Coordinator of the United Bible Society from 1970 to 1980. It was
Eugene Nida who widely popularized the notion of Dynamic
Equivalency. Following are listed his views on religion and
1. God’s revelation involved limitations.
2. Biblical revelation is not absolute and
all divine revelation is essentially incarnational.
3. Even if a truth is given only in words, it
has no real validity until it has been translated into life.
4. The words are in a sense nothing in and of
5. The word is void unless related to
These quotations reflect a direct repudiation
of the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration of the
Scriptures. (Touch Not the Unclean Thing by David
Sorenson – page 121)
Dr. D.A.Waite in his book, Defending The King
James Version, page 98 says "If you take a DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCY
approach to translation as a technique instead of verbal equivalency
or formal equivalency--that is, the forms and the words being
rendered from Hebrew or Greek into English as closely as
possible--if you take the position that it really doesn't matter
what the words are, what difference does it make which text you use?
What difference does the Greek or Hebrew text make? You can change
it any time you wish."
I refer again to the article in the National
Religious Broadcasters by Harry Conay, printed in the Foundation
magazine, "The more one descends on this scale from literalism to
paraphrase, the more editorial interpretation takes place--and with
it greater potential for human bias and error. It has been common
practice for translators and editors to stress their truthfulness to
the original language based on a study of extant manuscripts; few
have had the hubris to inform readers they have deliberately
altered, added to, and otherwise improved God's Word, until now."
This is the evaluation of a man who at one time championed DYNAMIC
EQUIVALENCY but now gives a clear warning concerning where it leads.
David Cloud in his book Myths About Modern
Bible Versions indicates that there are six different names used
for dynamic equivalency and we list them here.
1. THOUGHT OR IDEA TRANSLATIONS
This is the attempt to convey the general
thoughts of the original text not the literal words spoken
The general thoughts of the Bible are to
be rephrased in modern colloquial language. There is no
significant difference between dynamic equivalency and
3. IMPACT TRANSLATION
Dynamic equivalency attempts to
understand exactly HOW THE ORIGINAL HEARERS of scripture
were impressed and then create the same impression in modern
hearers. An example of this is to translate certain
statements as swear words when there are actually no swear
words in the Bible.
4. IDIOMATIC TRANSLATION
This is an attempt to use the culture
idioms of the language of the modern people instead of the
culture to whom it was originally written.
5. FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCY TRANSLATIONS
This is an idea-by-idea translating;
arranging the Bible text in ways understandable to today’s
readers of English. The order of the words and style are
determined by today’s English usage by the literal Hebrew or
6. COMMON LANGUAGE TRANSLATION
This is an attempt by the translators to
put the Bible into the range of the receptor language that
is common both to the educated and to the uneducated. In
some cases they tried to bring the translation down to a
fourth-grade level. This is a drastic departure from the
David Cloud also summarized the principles of
dynamic equivalency into three principles.
1. It aims to translate thoughts rather than
2. It aims to use simple language and style.
3. It aims to make the Bible entirely
understandable to non-Christians.
He then lists three reasons why this is
1. GOD’S WORD IS NOT TO BE CHANGED BY ANYONE.
Revelation 22:18-19 "For I testify unto
every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this
book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add
unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And
if any man shall take away from the words of the book of
this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book
of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which
are written in this book."
Proverbs 30:5-6 "Every word of God is
pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and
thou be found a liar."
Once man changes what God said it is no
longer the Words of God. It is worthy to note William
"I will call God to record against the
day we should appear before our Lord Jesus, to give a
reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one syllable
of God’s Word against my conscience nor would (I so alter
it) this day, if all that is in the earth, whether it be
pleasure, honor, or riches, might be given me."
2. MEN ARE BORN AGAIN THROUGH INCORRUPTIBLE
SEED; AND PARAPHRASES ARE CORRUPT.
1 Peter 1:23 "Being born again, not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,
which liveth and abideth for ever."
It is the pure Word of God by which men
experience a supernatural birth.
3. PARAPHRASES PRODUCE CONFUSION IN THE MINDS
OF THOSE WHO READ THEM
1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not the
author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the
When someone reads a Common Language
version they can become very confused when it does not say
the same thing as a literal translation.
David Cloud also points out that dynamic
equivalency avoids common ecclesiastical terms. This is the
principle which has resulted in Today’s English Version’s
obliteration of such "churchy" terms as "justification,"
"sanctification," "saint," "redemption," "propitiation," "elder,"
"deacon," and "bishop". Terms such as those have been changed to
ones the unsaved can understand, even when this has meant changing
or weakening the meaning. Consider some examples of The
Contemporary English Version:
KJV: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all"
CEV: "I pray that the Lord Jesus will be kind
to all of you"
KJV: "For by grace are ye saved through
CEV: "You were saved by faith by in God’s
KJV: "being justified freely"
CEV: "he freely accepts us"
Another point made by David Cloud is that dynamic
equivalency adopts the wording of the translation to the culture of
the receptor people. Dynamic equivalency translators believe that
real communication is broken when the difference between Biblical
and modern culture is not considered. Though dynamic equivalency
advocates claim to honor the meaning of the Bible text, in practice
they do not! In practice they change, twist, and pervert Scripture.
A man working in northern India was translating and because the
people did not know what a sacrificial lamb was he translated John
1:29 as "Behold the cock of God, which taketh away the sin of the
world". These people had sacrificed roosters to their gods in the
past. Another example is given where they did not know what snow
was. Therefore they translated Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be white as the inside of a coconut". In the
United Bible Society’s translation in the Ulithian language of the
South Pacific, "dove" was changed to a local bird called a "gigi".
It is not the job of the translators to become
the evangelist and preacher in the process of his work as a
translator. In any country the answer is to do what historically has
always been done. Explanatory notes can be added, dictionaries made,
commentaries written and other teaching tools produced. This is far
wiser than changing the Word of God.
Let me finish with an illustration that contrasts
the New International Version with the King James Bible.
KJV - 1 Corinthians 7:36 "But if any man think
that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the
flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he
sinneth not: let them marry."
NIV – 1 Corinthians 7:36 "If any thinks he is
acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is
getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do
as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married."
Green’s literal translation.
The problem here is that the NIV translators
interpreted the word VIRGIN to mean someone to whom a man is
engaged. Actually, I believe the term virgin is referring to a man’s
virgin daughter. They have taken extreme license to the text in
giving it their interpretation. When someone picks up the NIV and
reads it he is going to assume he is reading the Word of God, when
he is not. He is reading what some translator thought the text
meant. That is an example of dynamic equivalency rather than formal
equivalency. A translator has the responsibility to give the literal
translation and let the readers determine what it means.
My conclusion is that if you use the DYNAMIC
EQUIVALENCY method of translation, you can no longer believe in
VERBAL PLENARY INSPIRATION. That is why there has been a quiet and
subtle dissolving of the term and replacing it with INERRANCY. I
believe the Bible is VERBAL PLENARY INSPIRED and that demands a
VERBAL EQUIVALENCY translation. Are you using the WORD OF GOD or
someone’s opinion of what God said?