Literal Translations?

Jim Hamilton writes against dynamic equivalence in this essay. He says:

No translation is perfect. No theory is perfect. But let me give you an example of the logical outcomes of dynamic equivalence.

It’s worth noting that this argument depends on a slippery slope kind of argument – it’s not how it is practiced but where the author perceives the logical outcomes of the theory that is the problem. I admit I can’t accept the argument with full force; perhaps it can be a bit of a caution, but I find it insufficiently persuasive. I recognize the importance of formal equivalence translations and recommend them; meaning is conveyed in part by structure, so on some of the specifics I can agree with his concerns. But it’s not that simple and I fear this type of mentality may be unhelpful. One of the comments to the post captures my sentiments more closely:

There’s a place for both methods here Jim. It’s not an either/or. You can prefer one to the other, but both methods/theories are valid & helpful for God’s people in reading God’s word. I’m thankful to God we have so many different types of translations in English to help the reader understand God’s word better. To speak out against one creates a tribal mentality that divides God’s people over silly things. I’m afraid your words & passion on such an issue could contribute to this division that already plagues American evangelicalism. You take on the spirit of a KJV-only type when you tell people to only read “literal” translations & be suspicious of the other ones. And yes, “literal” is not that helpful because no English translation even comes close to being “literal” if we take a “literal” translation of “literal.” The word is used as a club to bash people over the head about the interpretation of certain verses and is an indirect way of saying “I’m right & you’re wrong.” I vote for it to be dropped from our vernacular in favor of things like “word for word” or “formal equivalence.”


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