English Bible Translations Part 12 - DE Oversimplifies and Trivializes the Bible

Part 12 - Deficiencies of Dynamic Equivalence -  DE Oversimplifies and Trivializes the Bible

According to a promotion piece for The Message, "Eugene Peterson’s fresh paraphrase is written in the informal rhythms and easy idiom of contemporary English—the way you’d talk to your friends, write an e-mail, or discuss the big football game." DE translations make the Bible a casual book. These versions mesh nicely with a pervasive laziness that expects all pursuits in life to be easy. While essentially literal translations (e.g. KJV, ESV) require a high school reading level, DE translations patronize their readers by writing at a third or fourth grade level. They write as if their readers are incapable of serious thinking and impatient with any sentence that is not immediately understandable.

God’s Word demands our utmost, not our least. It is not a magazine. It contains things "hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). In fact, the writers themselves did not always understand what they were writing (1 Peter 1:10-11). The Ethiopian eunuch could not grasp the meaning of Isaiah 53 without the help of Philip and the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26-35).

A good translation elevates the people to the Bible, rather than lowering the Bible to the people. The Bible tells of events and reveals truths that are worth building a life on and staking eternity on; its words should convey gravitas—weight, authority, and power. Look at Genesis 22:1-2: "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, ‘Abraham’: and he said, ‘Behold, here Iam.’ And he said, ‘Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah ... ’" Compare the featherweight tone of the CEV: "Some years later God decided to test Abraham, so he spoke to him…The Lord said, ‘Go get Isaac…’"

1 Samuel 15:22 illustrates the same principle. First the KJV: "And Samuel said, ‘Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?’" Now the CEV: "‘Tell me,’ Samuel said, ‘Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey Him.’"

With the DE renditions, the awe is lost. The KJV is dignified not because it is archaic, but because it employs timeless wording and stately rhythms. Moreover, an archaic ring is not necessarily a flaw—it better fits the telling of events that occurred thousands of years ago, and helps to check what C. S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery"—our constant tendency to overvalue the events and beliefs of our own era, and to dismiss the significance of all that has preceded us.