Skippy, Jif, Peter Pan or Dynamic Equivalent?

When I grew up I had to spend some time with a babysitter.  She had lunch prepared for me when I got home from school – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The only decision I had to make was whether I wanted Peter Pan, Skippy or Jif.  I always chose Jif because “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” I really didn’t think about the decision, the clever advertisers “made” the decision for me.

But is this how most of us choose a Bible translation?

I think it might be worth our while to spend a little more time thinking about what translation we will use for our personal Bible reading and study and what we choose to use in our churches.

choosing a Bible

Leland Ryken has written a 30 page booklet entitled, “Choosing a Bible,” that will help one to make an informed decision.  He explains clearly and briefly the difference between the two different approaches to Bible translation – Dynamic Equivalent and Word-for-Word.  Ryken says that one negative effect of Dynamic Equivalency is we get what the Bible “means,” vs. what the Bible says.

It is a quick read and Ryken explains these complex concepts with simplicity.  I highly recommend this booklet, especially if you don’t want the clever advertisers to make the decision for you.   

Brian L. Spivey

A Common Sense, Non-Technical Defense of the Perspicuity of Scripture

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Perspicuity is one of those words rarely used outside of theology, and even then primarily with regard to Scripture.  It has to do with clarity, plainness, intelligibility.  The Scriptures are able to be understood by every generation in every age (with qualification, see below).  Christianity is a revelatory religion.  If, as some contend, the Bible cannot be properly understood since we are thousands of years removed from the events it records, or that it is so colored by the cultural constraints of the inspired writers that we cannot truly know the meaning of the text, then the Bible becomes a puzzle book.  Is this what God intended?

The Westminster Confession of Faith makes some helpful qualifications with regard to the perspicuity of Scripture in chapter 1, sec. 7, “All things in scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

By defending the clarity of Scripture I am not asserting there is no spade work involved, it does take effort.  Some portions require more labor than others, some are not as plain as others.  However, the Scriptures are intelligible in the main.  If it were not so, why would the apostle Paul command that they be read publicly to the people of God (1 Tim. 4:13)?  And why would Philip ask the Ethiopian eunuch, while he was reading Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30) if they cannot be properly understood?

In this post I wish to focus on the public reading of Scripture in particular.  The command to do this when God’s people are gathered indicates at least three things:

1) The meaning of the text is not locked up to academics and theologians.  Literally, anyone can grasp that which is revealed.  Otherwise, this would be an act of religious futility.

2) Since the command is for the church in every age until the Lord come, it cannot be that a meaning which was available to the original recipients of the text has been cut off from the modern believer.

3) The God revealed in the Bible is the God who speaks, who communicates.  That communication cannot be confounded by circumstance.  If God’s Word is a lamp unto the feet of His people, and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105) then it must provide divine guidance for our lives.

Why would Christians want to assert otherwise?  What do you think?

C.M. Granger