Musings About Translations and Textual Criticism:

A translation is moving meaning in one language to another. Or moving a meaning in a text, found in the source language, to the receptor language in such a way that it is coherent. Translation is not a simple task, by any means. For example, different languages have various vocabulary sizes; different languages place words in different forms, phrases, or clauses than another language may be used to. Or, the very fact that no two words are exactly alike should prove the arduous and sober task of translating.

The two main approaches are formal and functional equivalence. Both attempt to bring meaning to its readers but both do it in different fashions that can affect the “meaning”. Formal equivalence seeks to be as “word for word” as possible if not altogether. Functional equivalence (also known as dynamic equivalence) seeks to bring more practical or modern meaning to the ancient texts by rendering them in the receptor language as “meaning for meaning” as opposed to a literal approach. Personally, I favor the former yet will utilize the other as a supplement (typically the NIV). I have read, as I suggested others do previously, Leland Ryken’s work, The Word of God in English and am convinced that we should do our very best at being truthful to the original meaning of the author’s intent. For example, would Shakespeare really be Shakespeare if we edited much of what he wrote? Where does that slippery slope end up?

Some people disdain any other translation other than the KJV. I believe this notion to be idyllic but not accurate. One of the reasons that some uphold the KJV or another earlier text (Douay-Rheims Bible) is because they do not understand a need for textual criticism. The modern insurgence of a earlier manuscripts, than those of the KJV for sure, in the late 40's till today demands we understand the language that the bible was originally written as well as the type of people who were writing it as well as those who were receiving it also. Textual criticism seeks to find the original meaning in the plethora of mss available today. Using various methods in textual criticism the original meaning of the texts can be narrowed. It is equally important to obtain both a “high view” of scriptural authority as well as a positive view towards textual criticism. Usually, a deficiency in one or the other relates to a misunderstanding. Textual criticism seeks to make the original meaning available so that the translators can make clear to us God’s Word.


Ryan G. said...

Both of the devices mentioned in this blog (Formal Equivalence and Dynamic Equivalence) are known as an eclectic method of textual criticism. This is an outgrowth of Wescott and Hort's conflation theory and the genealogical method of textual criticism.

These theories only work with the assumption that no alteration of a text was introduced. I find it interesting that the critical Greek text developed by W-H relied solely on 2 mss. There were of course thousands of available resources for the task, but all others were deemed less reliable than these two.

What were the two? Codex Vaticanus B and Codex Sinaiticus Aleph. Both were from an original 50 copies made by Eusebius for Constantine. Eusebius was a follower of Arianism and all that that entailed. He was also a great admirer of Origen. He used Origen's edited Greek New Testament as the basis for the 50 bibles he produced for Constantine.

Origen 'corrected' the New Testement to get rid of all the 'errors' he found that did not align themselves to his views.

Origen's beliefs:

1. Soul Sleep
2. Baptismal regeneration
3. Universal salvation (all will eventually be saved)
4. Father was God
5. Jesus was not god but a created being
6. To become sinless you had to go to purgatory
7. Transubstantiation
8. A form of reincarnation and karma
8. temptations of Jesus did not historically happen.

James Anderson said...


Thank you for your post. You are very right concerning Origen, it is true that he held many heretical views; however, that does not address the real issue at hand, i.e. the manuscripts available and on which different translations are based.

It commonly known that the (Textus Receptus) TR, on which KJV is based, comes from Erasmus' Byzantine text. Erasmus worked with the available manuscripts, all quite late even if in a large number. Since that time, many other earlier manuscripts have been found. W-H simply sought to take into consideration these recent discovered manuscripts, e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls. These findings have aided linguists and scholars to more precisely understand the original authorial intent of the original autographs, provided by a plethora of copies of those manuscripts (NT; Grk. 5,000+, Latin, 15,000+, etc.)

The present revival and growth of Pentecostalism globally is evidence that the saving message of Scripture is quite evident through the use of a W-H text. I have ministered in places where a variety of translations were used and faith was birthed in non-believers and the Holy Spirit still had a complete work in their lives, as a result.

One thing however must be kept in mind: the differences among manuscripts are minor and do not affect doctrine. The arguments based on manuscripts of the KJV only people is simply not true.

I would direct you to a very informative and scholarly book for your consideration. The book is by D. A. Carson, "The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism." You can google that with satisfactory results.

If the critical text stimulated by W-H is such an issue then what does a non-English reader? It is a fact that most translations in other languages are not based on the TR but on the W-H. If there is an eternal difference then we all may be counting our chickens before they hatch.

Ryan G. said...

You are correct in that the majority of the text is the same. In fact most resources I have read have stated approximately 85% of the text is the same.

I agree that a person can find the salvation plan in an NIV or a KJV bible.

The controversy is this: Did God keep His promise to preserve His word? If the answer is yes, that means that there is a true to the original autographs still out there. Which one is it? One that has gone missing for 1000 years and newly discovered? Or one that has been available for all times.

Yes I realize that the byzantine text was pieced together in the 1500's, but the sources were still available.

Why trust two or three manuscripts all from Egypt, a known breeding ground for philosophy and Gnosticism? That does not make any sense, especially when we have thousands of manuscript fragments, sermon notes, "church father" writings, etc... from the middle east, Africa, Egypt, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, et. al.

Also, consider this: Older does not make them true. Normally the closer a copy is to the original autograph the better and more reliable a witness it is. I can agree with that. However, this genealogical method of textual criticism only works if the text was uncorrupted. John W. Burgon in his work "The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels" states that Valentinus, a well known Gnostic teacher from Alexandria was the source of some of the corruption found in B and Aleph.

Thank you for the reference. I will look into it.

I would recommend "Which version is the Bible" by Floyd Nolen Jones. It is a very extensive and well documented critique of the "minority" or "Alexandrian" text types.

Jason Dulle said...


Your very first sentence gives away the fact that you do not know enough about the topic to which you speak. Formal and dynamic equivalence have nothing to do with textual criticism. Those are theories of translation.

One who supports the TR cannot condemn the eclectic method of textual criticism, for that was the same approach used by Eusebius to produce the TR. It should be pointed out that the TR differs from the Majority Text reading in 1838 places.

No one in the field of textual criticism assumes no alteration of the text was introduced. If alterations were not introduced, there would be no need for textual criticism! Textual criticism is only necessary because there are differences in the text.

Yes, W-H put a lot of stock in those two manuscripts, but those were not all they used. But modern textual critics know better. The Nestle-Aland text is far more balanced in its use of the ancient manuscripts.

To my knowledge it is only speculation that either Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were copies of a copy produced by Eusebius. As for Eusebius’ admiration of Origen…and? Why should I believe that Eusebius, or any other early Christian who engaged in making copies of Scripture intentionally changed the text to fit their theology? Most of these church fathers had a very high view of Scripture, and would not do such a thing. While some changes were made to manuscripts, they were made when they were thought to be correcting the text, based on comparison to an earlier manuscript(s).

It’s not true that Eusebius was an Arian. He signed the creed at the Council of Nicea that condemned Arius’ teachings. It is true that Eusebius was conciliar in his approach to solving the theological dilemma posed at the Council, but by no means did he accept or endorse Arius’ teachings.

You seem to think that there are huge differences between manuscripts. There aren’t. They are amazingly similar. The differences are slight, and inconsequential for any major doctrine. And it’s not 85%. It’s 99.5%.

If you think there are major doctrinal differences, you would have to argue that the manuscripts were radically changed very early on, and we have no manuscript copies of the way they originally read. But that is one interesting conspiracy theory for which I have no reason to believe, because there is no evidence on which to believe it. Furthermore, I believe that if God had the power to inspire the NT documents, and He had the will to preserve that which He inspired, then it follows that He would see to it that His word was not corrupted by evil men. The fact of the matter is that whether you are looking at an Alexandrian text (which has no hint of Gnostic influence) or a Byzantine text, the differences are slight, and one can find the same Gospel truth in both.

See my articles on this issue here http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/kjvevaluation.htm and here http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/howgetbible.htm


Ryan Gustason said...


Eusebius did not write or produce the Textus Receptus. Desiderius Erasmus, a dutch scholar and Catholic priest wrote it.

Secondly, Eusebius of Caesarea, to whom I was referring was close to Constantine and wrote 50 copies of the bible for Constantine to give out to the Bishops in his empire. His entire theological stance was based on Origen and Arius. Not sure where you received information stating otherwise, but even a cursory glance at the information available on the Internet will show the foundations of his beliefs.

I have enjoyed reading your comments. God bless!

Jason Dulle said...


Thanks for pointing out my mistake. That was a slip of the pen.

As for Eusebius, the fact that he had 50 manuscripts produced at the behest of Constantine does not mean (1) he made the copies, (2) or that Vaticanus or Sinaiticus were two of those 50 copies. What evidence do you have for that?

As for Eusebius' beliefs, you would have to show me some theological claims that Eusebius made that are explicitly Arian in nature before I would be convinced that he was an Arian.


Ryan Gustason said...

Eusebius did not write the 50, of that I'm sure. But he did take a lead in editing them and putting them together from a variety of sources. Most of the New Testament came from Origen's work on the New Testament.

Origins of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus:

Quote from OUR BIBLE
of tfoe ano its translations
Hon. Ph.D. of Halle University; Late Fellmv of Magdalen College, Oxford;
Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts, British Museum.
page 126.
Speaking of Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph).
The date of the manuscript
is in the fourth century, probably about the middle or end
of it. It can hardly be earlier than A.D. 340, since the divisions
of the text known as the Eusebian sections are indicated in the
margin of the Gospels, in a hand evidently contemporaneous with
the text; and these sections, which are a device for forming a
sort of Harmony of the Gospels, by showing which sections in each
Gospel have parallel sections in any of the others, were due to the
scholar Eusebius, who died about A.D. 340.
Other sources abound:

Of its prior history, little is known. It is speculated to have been written in Egypt and is sometimes associated with the 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity.

Eusebius was an Arian supporter. He only signed the Nicene creed to keep his position as Bishop of Caesarea.

From a dogmatic point of view, Eusebius stands entirely upon the shoulders of Origen and Arius. Like Origen, he started from the fundamental thought of the absolute sovereignty (monarchia) of God. God is the cause of all beings. But he is not merely a cause; in him everything good is included, from him all life originates, and he is the source of all virtue. God sent Christ into the world that it may partake of the blessings included in the essence of God. Christ is God and is a ray of the eternal light; but the figure of the ray is so limited by Eusebius that he expressly emphasizes the self-existence of Jesus.

Eusebius was intent upon emphasizing the difference of the persona of the Trinity and maintaining the subordination of the Son (Logos, or Word) to God (he never calls him theos) because in all contrary attempts he suspected polytheism or Sabellianism. The Son (Jesus), as Arianism asserted, is a creature of God whose generation, for Eusebius, took place before time. Jesus acts as the organ or instrument of God, the creator of life, the principle of every revelation of God, who in his absoluteness and transcendent is enthroned above and isolated from all the world. This Logos, as a derivative creature and not truly God as the Father is truly God, could therefore change (Eusebius, with most early theologians, assumed God was immutable), and he assumed a human body without altering the immutable divine Father. The relation of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity Eusebius explained similarly to that of the Son to the Father. No point of this doctrine is original with Eusebius, all is traceable to his teachers Arius and Origen. The lack of originality in his thinking shows itself in the fact that he never presented his thoughts in a system. After nearly being excommunicated for his heresy by Alexander of Alexandria, Eusebius submitted and agreed to the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicaea.
Source= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebius_of_Caesarea

Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, excommunicated Arius about the year 320. The Arians soon found that for all practical purposes Eusebius was on their side. He wrote to Alexander charging him with misrepresenting the teaching of the Arians and so giving them cause "to attack and misrepresent whatever they please".
Source= http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05617b.htm

In the controversy over Arianism, Eusebius favored the semi-Arian views of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and he once gave refuge to Arius. A simple baptismal creed submitted by Eusebius at the First Council of Nicaea (325) formed the basis of what became known as the Nicean Creed; it was amended with the Greek word homoousios [consubstantial, of the same substance] to define the Son’s relationship with the Father. Eusebius considered this addition to the creed as reflecting the ideas of Sabellius, which he opposed. Although he signed the formulary, he later did not support it.
Source Columbia Encyclopedia 6th edition

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)