Is Inerrancy Enough? (A Defense of the KJV)

After serving some 32 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”, meaning 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 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.

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 equivalence (“this is how we write what they wrote”), dynamic equivalence (“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 issue).

The Three Basic Techniques in Biblical Translation Work Are:

1. Formal Equivalence
2. Dynamic Equivalence
3. Paraphrasing

Let me start from the bottom up.

Paraphrasing is simply taking what the text says and rewriting it to what you think it says.

Dynamic Equivalence 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 with 6,653 and the NEW KING JAMES VERSION with over 2,000. (page 105, DEFENDING THE KING JAMES VERSION).

The third method is Formal Equivalence or sometimes called Verbal Equivalence. 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.

Dr. D.A.Waite in his book, DEFENDING THE KING JAMES BIBLE, page 98 says “if you take a DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE approach to translation as a technique instead of verbal equivalence or formal equivalence–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 NRB 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 has championed DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE but now gives a clear warning concerning where it leads.

My conclusion is that if you use the DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE 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 EQUIVALENCE translation. Are you using the WORD OF GOD or someone’s opinion of what God said?