EUGENE NIDA (1914- ) is the father of the blasphemous dynamic equivalency theory of Bible
translation. Originally with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Nida has been associated with the American Bible Society and the United Bible Societies since 1943. “In addition to administrative responsibilities, his work involved field surveys, research, training programs, checking manuscripts of new translations, and the writing of numerous books and articles on linguistics, anthropology and the science of meaning. This work has taken him to more than 85 countries, where he has conferred with scores of translators on linguistic problems involving more than 200 different languages.
Dr. Nida was also Translation Research Coordinator for the United Bible Societies from 1970 to 1980” (Record, American Bible Society, March 1986, p. 17). Though retired, Nida retains his relationship with the ABS and UBS as a Special Consultant for Translations, and is active in research, writing, and lecturing. As to his view of biblical inspiration, Nida says,
“...God’s revelation involved limitations. ... Biblical revelation is not absolute and all divine revelation is
essentially incarnational. ... Even if a truth is given only in words, it has no real validity until it has been translated into life. ... The words are in a sense nothing in and of themselves. ... the word is void unless related to experience” (Nida, Message and Mission, pp.222-228).
The Psalmist did not hold to Nida’s theories about the words of Scripture. He said, “The words of the Lord are pure words...” (Psalm 12:6). Throughout Scripture, it is the very words of the Bible that are said to be important, not just the basic meaning. The words of the Bible ARE something in and of themselves, regardless of whether they are related to anything else.
Nida is wrong. The words of the Bible are intrinsically the eternal words of God. Nida’s chief problem is his rejection of the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration.
“Nida states emphatically that the biblical revelation is not ‘absolute’ and applies Paul’s statement that ‘now we see through a glass, darkly’ (1 Cor. 13:12) to the biblical revelation itself, which as the really incarnate Word can offer no absolute truth. Because it is a medium of communication within a limited cultural context, human language is unsuited as a vehicle for supernatural, eternal
truths that would, in fact, need a language that is unhuman or divine” (Nida, Message and Mission, pp. 224-228, cited by Van Bruggen, p. 76).
“In a time when the Bible was thought to be written in a kind of Holy Ghost language, the only criterion to exegetical accuracy was the pious hope that one’s interpretations were in accord with accepted doctrine. At a later period, when grammar was viewed almost exclusively from an historical perspective, one could only hope to arrive at valid conclusions by ‘historical reconstructs , ’ but these often proved highly impressionistic. At present, linguistics has provided much more exact tools of analysis based on the dynamic functioning of language, and it is to these that one ought to
look for significant developments in the future” (Eugene Nida, Language Structure and Translation, Stanford, Calif.:Stanford University Press, 1975, p. 259).
Nida is dead wrong in his views that the Bible is not absolute, is not eternal truth, and that it is written in imperfect language. Though written by imperfect men, the Bible is written in words chosen by God and settled forever in heaven. The Bible IS written in a language that is divine; it IS Holy Ghost language. The Bible’s words are God’s words and they have eternal validity whether or not they are “translated into life,” whether or not they are understood by man!
Nida says the accounts of angels and miracles are not necessarily to be interpreted literally.
“.. wrestling with an angel all have different meanings than in our own culture” (Nida, Message and Mission, p. 41). The Bible’s accounts of angels do not have different meanings for different cultures. They are infallibly recorded accounts of historical events. Jesus Christ believed in literal angels and interpreted the Old Testament miracles literally, and He is certainly a more faithful guide than Dr. Nida.
As to the atonement of Jesus Christ, Nida says, “Most scholars, both Protestant and Roman Catholic,
interpret the references to the redemption of the believer by Jesus Christ, not as evidence of any
commercial transaction by any quid pro quo between Christ and God or between the ‘two natures of
God’ (his love and his justice), but as a figure of the ‘cost,’ in terms of suffering” (Eugene Nida and Charles Taber, Theory and Practice, 1969, p. 53). In A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Nida (with co-author Barclay Newman) says, “...’blood’ is used in this passage [Romans 3:25] in the same way that it is used in a number of other places in the New Testament, that is, to indicate a violent death. ...Although this noun [propitiation] (and its related forms) is sometimes used by pagan writers in the sense of propitiation (that is, an act to appease or placate a god), it is never used this way in the Old Testament.”
Nida is wrong. The sacrifice of Christ was not just a figure; it WAS a placation of God, of His holiness and of the righteous demands in His law. Christ’s sacrifice WAS a commercial transaction between Christ and God, and was NOT merely a figure of the cost in terms of suffering. The sacrifice of Calvary was a true sacrifice, and that sacrifice required the offering of blood—not just a violent death as Nida says. Blood is blood and death is death, and we believe that God is wise enough
to know which of these words should be used. Romans 5:8-10 teaches us that salvation required BOTH the blood and death of Christ. Had Christ died, for example, by strangulation, though it would have been a violent death, it would not have atoned for sin because blood is required. Those, like Nida, who tamper with or reinterpret the blood atonement often claim to believe in the cross of Christ and in justification by grace, but they are rendering the Cross ineffective by reinterpreting its meaning. There is no grace without a true propitiation. This word means “satisfaction” and refers to the fact that the sin debt was satisfied by the blood atonement of Christ. The great difference between the heathen concept of propitiating God and that of the Bible is this—the God of the Bible paid the propitiation Himself through His own Sacrifice, whereas the heathen thinks that he can
propitiate God through his own human labors and offerings. The fact remains, though, that God did have to be propitiated through the bloody death of His own sinless Son.
Nida is a clever man. He does not openly assault the blood atonement and the doctrine of inspiration as his translator friend Robert Bratcher does. (Bratcher, translator of the Today’s English Version, has coauthored books with Nida.) Nida uses the same words as the Bible believer, but he reinterprets key words and passages such as those above. This is called Neoorthodoxy. Beware.
Nida says Bible language was not given of God but was determined by the writers of the Bible. “Nida and Taber state that Paul, if he had been writing for us rather than for his original audience, would not only have written in a different language-form, but also would have said the same things differently” (Jakob Van Bruggen, citing Nida and Charles Taber, Theory and Practice of Translation, p. 23, n. 3).
Nida does not believe the Bible’s own confession about its nature. In 2 Peter 1:21 we read that “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Since the Bible writers did not choose their words, it is heretical to say they would write in a different language form if they were writing today. Paul’s words did not arise from his own will and context but were Revelations from Heaven and were written in words chosen by God. “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). See
also 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, where Paul states that the very words of New Testament Revelation are of God.
Nida says there are no absolutes in Christianity except God. “The only absolute in Christianity is the triune God. Anything which involves man, who is finite and limited, must of necessity be limited, and hence relative. Biblical culture relativism is an obligatory feature of our incarnational religion, for without it we would either absolutize human institutions or relativize God” (Eugene Nida, Customs and Cultures, New York: Harper & Row, 1954, p. 282, footnote 22).
Nida puts everything which man has touched in the category of imperfection, even the Bible and the
institutions of described in Scripture, such as the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the church. Nida is
wrong. The Bible, though written by fallible man, is infallible Revelation.
Nida says Bible translation is to be tested by the response of non-christians and by youth. “Nida and Taber describe the difference between an earlier concept of translating and their own concept as a shift of the focus from the ‘form of the message’ to the ‘response of the receptor’; therefore the translator must now determine in particular the response of the receptor to the translated message (p. 1). Here it is not a matter of an abstraction, such as ‘The English-speaking person,’ but it is a matter of real individuals that appears when Nida and Taber desire that translations be attuned to non-Christians and to youth (pp. 31-32), and be tested by the potential users (p. 163)” (Van Bruggen, citing Nida and Taber, Theory and Practice of Translation).
Nida has things backwards. How could unsaved people and young people determine if a Bible is an accurate translation of the preserved Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture? They don’t have the ability, spiritually or educationally, to make such a determination. The Bible plainly says the unsaved cannot understand God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:12-14). It is the translator’s job to make an accurate Bible translation. It is then the job of evangelists and teachers to help people understand the Bible.
Nida’s erroneous view of the Bible is his foundational heresy, and this heresy alone is justification for God’s people to mark and avoid him (Romans 16:17). It is very strange to see people who profess to accept the Bible as the inerrant Word of God following the teachings of men who deny this precious doctrine.
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Unholy Hands on God’s Holy Book
David W. Cloud
Copyright © 1985, 1999 by David W. Cloud
Third Edition 2001
Fourth Edition January 2005
Fifth Edition April 2006