This man worked on the ESV. I post this because it is very interesting to see how he speaks of the Bible, and especially the KJB. Many of the arguments he presents are completely the reverse of those often given by modern version proponents as reasons for replacing the King James Bible. Will K REVIEW OF LELAND RYKEN'S THE WORD OF GOD IN ENGLISH January 28, 2004 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, [email protected]; The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation was published in 2002 (Wheaton: Crossway books). The author, Dr. Leland Ryken, a professor of English at Wheaton College, writes in defense of literal or formal Bible translation as opposed to dynamic equivalency. Though Ryken does not defend the King James Bible on the basis of its underlying Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received texts, he defends the KJV's literal and exalted style of translation. He continually applauds the KJV, praising its beauty, dignity, and power. He repeatedly uses it as an example of what good Bible translation is all about. He calls for modern translation work to be done after "the King James tradition" (p. 282, 284). The book contains many quotations exalting the KJV. It is a "peerless among literary masterpiece" (p. 270), "unquestionably the most beautiful book in the world" (p. 267), "the noblest monument of English prose" (p. 258), "incomparably the best English translation in its rhythm" (p. 259), "when it comes to stylistic range and flexibility, the King James Bible is peerless" (p. 227), "the touchstone of affective power" (p. 206), "matchless in its literary qualities among all English translations" (p. 188), "the supremely literary English translation" (p. 163), "immeasurably superior"(p.163),"thetouchstone of literary excellence" (p. 62), "stylistically the greatest English Bible translation ever produced" (p. 51). Ryken served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version, so he is not opposed to modern versions per se but only to dynamic equivalency versions. He also defends the theories of modern textual criticism that have produced the Westcott-Hort type Greek text underlying the modern versions. I do not know how much he actually knows about the textual issue, but he does take the standard position that we must put aside the KJV because it is "not based on the best manuscripts" (p. 284). We would challenge the professor to read Dr. Edward F. Hills' The King James Bible Defended, the first edition of which was first written in the 1950s, after Dr. Hills obtained his doctorate in textual criticism from Harvard. We would also recommend that he read The Revision Revised by that great textual scholar John Burgon, to get another side of the story about the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament. Dr. Ryken is an evangelical, in that he believes the Bible is the infallible Word of God, but he is also a New Evangelical (as one would assume by his association with Wheaton). This is illustrated by his uncritical quotation of liberals such as Bruce Metzger and Krister Stendahl and also by his praise of those who hold doctrines and methods that he labels as unscriptural. Following are some excerpts from this 336-page book: "The author's own words matter. Publishers and editors are not ordinarily allowed to change the words of literary texts. Readers expect to receive the actual words of an author. As changes in language make texts from bygone ages difficult, archaic, and even obsolete, readers are educated into the meanings of the words... Should we not treat the words and text of the Bible with the same respect that we show toward Shakespeare and Milton? Do not the very words of biblical authors deserve the same protection from alteration that authors ordinarily receive? Should we not expect readers to muster the same level of rigor for the Bible that they are expected to summon in high school and college literature courses? Translation should not be the occasion for license. The ordinary rules of textual accuracy, integrity, and reliability still prevail. In fact, I would have thought that the Bible would be the last book with which people would take liberties." (Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 30, 31) "Modern translations have participated in the spirit of the times--a spirit restless for change, iconoclastic in its disrespectful attitude toward what was venerated in the past, granting automatic preference to what is new and original." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 62) "We have lost a common Bible for English-speaking Christians The Christian community no longer speaks a universal biblical 'language.' And with the loss of a common Bible we have lost ease in memorization of the Bible. After all, when a common Bible exists, people hear it over and over and 'memorize' it virtually without consciously doing so, but this ease is lost when translations multiply. Furthermore, with the proliferation of translations, churches and organizations find it difficult to know which translation to choose for purposes of memorization; and even after they choose, there is such variety that a person faces the prospect of having to memorize from different translations in different settings" (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 62) "The sheer fact of the matter is that the Bible is an ancient book, not a modern book. To translate it into English in such a way as to make it appear a modern book is to distort it." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 74) "The very translators who make so much of the need to translate the Bible into immediately understandable terms, with all interpretive problems removed from readers, have themselves become the counterparts to medieval Roman Catholic priests. By means of preemptive interpretive strikes, these translators take to themselves the power of making readers' minds up for them, deciding for 'ignorant readers' what they think the text means and then doling out only those interpretations that they think correct. The reader is just as surely removed from the words of the text as the medieval Christian was." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 78) "When we change the words, we change the meaning. ... The whole dynamic equivalent project is based on an impossibility and a misconception about the relationship between words and meaning. Someone has accurately said that 'the word may be regarded as the body of the thought,' adding that 'if the words are taken from us, the exact meaning is of itself lost.' When the words differ, the meaning differs. To claim that we can translate ideas instead of words is an impossibility." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 80, 81) "And if it is possible to translate more accurately by abandoning the words of the original for its ideas, why do the dynamic equivalent translations end up in such disagreement with each other? Instead of enhancing accuracy, dynamic equivalence subverts our confidence in the accuracy of the translations." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 82) "To put it bluntly, what good is readability if a translation does not accurately render what the Bible actually says? If a translation gains readability by departing from the original, readability is harmful. It is, after all, the truth of the Bible that we want... Readability in an English Bible translation should not be defined in terms of being the simplest English prose that we can produce. As I said in an earlier chapter, the Bible is not, on balance, a simple and easy book. It is frequently difficult, complex, and sophisticated. If it were not, it would not have occasioned so many learned commentaries and books. Simplifying this complexity for the sake of readability does not increase understanding; instead of clarifying the original text, it obscures it." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 91, 92, 93) The fact that the New Testament was written in koine Greek should not lead translators to translate the Bible in a uniformly colloquial style. Finally, a good translation does not attempt to make the Bible simpler than it was for the original audience." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 100, 101) "Instead of lowering the Bible to a lowest common denominator, why should we not educate people to rise to the level required to experience the Bible in its full richness and exaltation? Instead of expecting the least from Bible readers, we should expect the most from them. The greatness of the Bible requires the best, not the least. ... The most difficult of modern English translations -- the King James -- is used most by segments of our society that are relatively uneducated as defined by formal education. ... research has shown repeatedly that people are capable of rising to surprising and even amazing abilities to read and master a subject that is important to them." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 107) "Previous generations did not find the King James Bible, with its theological heaviness, beyond their comprehension. Nor do readers and congregations who continue to use the King James translation find it incomprehensible. Neither of my parents finished grade school, and they learned to understand the King James Bible from their reading of it and the preaching they heard based on it. We do not need to assume a theologically inept readership for the Bible. Furthermore, if modern readers are less adept at theology than they can and should be, it is the task of the church to educate them, not to give them Bible translations that will permanently deprive them of the theological content that is really present in the Bible." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 109) "Finally, after a quarter century of easy-read Bible translations designed to make the Bible accessible to the masses, biblical illiteracy continues to spiral. Instead of solving the problem, modern translations, with their assumption of a theologically inept readership, may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 110) "When translators fix the level of translation within the parameters noted above [grade-school level, limited vocabulary, etc.], they apparently believe that Bible readers will forever be stuck at their current low level of ability. Alternately, even if readers advance beyond a low level of ability, their new mastery will do them no good when they come to read the Bible because the translation has been fixed at a lowest-common-denominator level." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 113) "The very proliferation of English translations feeds the syndrome of readers as the ones who determine the shape of translation. The result of the multitude of translations has been a smorgasbord approach to choosing a Bible translation. The assumption is that there are no longer objective or reliable standards for assessing a Bible translation; so readers can simply take their pick. Carried to its extreme, this mentality produces The Amplified Bible, which multiplies English synonyms for words in the biblical text, leaving readers to simply pick the word that pleases them, with no attempt to pin a preference to what the original text actually says." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 117) "Did the writers of the Bible express God's truth in the exact forms that God wants us to have them? And if the biblical doctrine of the inspiration of the Scripture by the Holy Spirit prompts the answer 'yes,' the logical conclusion is that the very images and metaphors and technical terms that we find in the Bible are inspired. We are not free to correct or adapt the text to the perceived abilities or tastes of a contemporary readership." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 130) "If, as some claim, literary form and style do not matter in the Bible, why did God give us a literary Bible? And if the Bible is a predominantly literary book, why are some translations and translation theories so careless about preserving the literary aspects of the Bible? ... A notorious non-Christian of the twentieth century called the King James Bible 'unquestionably the most beautiful book in the world.' It is with regret that I have many times concluded that the beauty of the Bible meant more to this cultured pagan than it does to most modern Bible translators." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 159, 161) "Literary authors and literary scholars overwhelmingly regard the KJV as being the supremely literary English translation, and others in its tradition as being superior to dynamic equivalent Bibles. Allen Tate called modern translations 'dull and vulgar.' W.H. Auden considered the KJV 'immeasurably superior,' Thornton Wilder said that he was 'never ... able to read long in any other version' than the KJV, and T.S. Eliot considered modern translations to be 'an active agent of decadence.' ... The verdict of literary experts does not cover all that is important in a Bible translation; for example, it does not speak directly to accuracy and fidelity to the original. On the other hand, authors and literary critics are people whose literary intuitions can be trusted, and if they almost uniformly dislike modern colloquial translations, this is surely an index to the literary deficiency of these translations." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 163) "A good transition of the NT will preserve a sense of historical and cultural distance. It will take the reader back into the alien milieu of first century Judaism where the Christian movement began." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 175) "I believe that it is correct for an English translation to preserve an appropriate archaic flavor as a way of preserving the distance between us and the biblical world. Joseph Wood Krutch used an evocative formula in connection with the King James Bible when he spoke of 'an appropriate flavor of a past time.'" (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p. 182) "The effect [of the proliferation of Bible translations] has been to destabilize the biblical text--to render it ever-changing instead of permanent. With this succession of new translations (and their constant revision), people have lost confidence in the reliability of English translations. If every year beings a new translation, apparently the existing ones must not be good enough. And if the previous ones were inadequate, what reason is there to believe that the current ones will be better? We can contrast this to the situation that prevailed for over three centuries when the King James Version was the dominant English Bible ... During those centuries, English-speaking people could accurately speak of 'the Bible.' The King James Version was the Bible--the common property of Bible readers in England and America. ... There is obviously no way to turn back the clock, but we should frankly acknowledge what a toll has been exacted by the decline of the King James Bible and the loss of a common English Bible." (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 187, 188) "As we all know, interpreters of the biblical text do not agree among themselves. To introduce the resulting range of variability into the translation itself has produced an increasingly unstable biblical text. People have rightly become skeptical of the reliability of the English Bible. The dynamic equivalent experiment aimed for clarity and has produced confusion." (p. 195) "One of the most obvious developments in Bible translation during the past fifty years is the reduced expectations that translators have of their assumed readers. The King James Version that dominated the scene for more than three and a half centuries emphatically refused to patronize its readers. Although the KJV preface claims that the translation 'may be understood even of the very vulgar [common person],' it is obvious from the book that the translators produced that their estimate of the abilities of 'the vulgar' was very high indeed. The King James Bible is, in the words of a literary scholar, a work of 'high art, which will always demand more from the reader, for it makes its appeal on so many planes.'" (p. 200) "It is, of course, ironic that the common reader through the centuries was regarded as capable of rising to the demands of the King James Version, while modern readers, with more formal education than their forebears, are assumed to have ever-decreasing ability to read." (p. 200) "Once Bible translation was set in the direction of abandoning the very words of the Bible for its thoughts, a spirit of license was set into motion that has gotten progressively accentuated." (p. 205) "Good rhythm for a Bible is like a qualifying exam: If a translation cannot measure up on this matter, it is not in the running to be a superior Bible for public use and oral reading in more private situations. ... The best test of rhythm is simply to read passages aloud. ... If in oral reading a passage ebbs and flows smoothly, avoids abrupt stops between words and phrases where possible, and provides a sense of continuity, it is rhythmically excellent. If a translation clutters the flow of language and is consistently staccato in effect, it is rhythmically inferior. ... All of these considerations make rhythm an essential translation issue, not a peripheral one. For a book that is read aloud as often as the Bible is, and for a book whose utterances are so frequently charged with strong feeling and sublime ideas excellent rhythm should be regarded as a given" (Ryken, pp. 257, 259). "'To make the Bible readable in the modern sense means to flatten out, tone down and convert into tepid expository prose what in K.J.V. is wild, full of awe, poetic, and passionate. It means stepping down the voltage of K.J.V. so it won't blow any fuses'" (Ryken, p. 270, quoting Dwight Macdonald, "The Bible in Modern Undress," in Literary Style of the Old Bible and the New, ed. D.G. Kehl, 1970, p. 40). "'We are in real danger of losing, in an age of flat prose, an essential and invaluable capacity of the language, fully realized once in the English Bible ... the capacity to express by tone and overtone, by rhythm, and by beauty and force of vocabulary, the religious, the spiritual, the ethical cravings of man'" (Ryken, p. 270, quoting Henry Canby, "A Sermon on Style," in Literary Style of the Old Bible and the New, ed. D.G. Kehl, 1970, p. 427). From time to time I encounter the sentiment from dynamic equivalency advocates that the Bible 'should not sound like the Bible.' Billy Graham endorsed The Living Letters by saying that 'it is thrilling to read the Word ... [in] a style that reads much like today's newspaper.' I disagree with these verdicts. A sacred book should sound like a sacred book, not like the daily newspaper. It should command attention and respect, and to do so it cannot be expressed in the idiom of the truck stop. The failure of modern colloquial translations is frequently a failure of tone" (Ryken, The Word of God in English, pp. 278, 279, 280). "What a literary scholar said of one modern translation is generally true of all dynamic equivalent and colloquial translations: it 'does slip more smoothly into the modern ear, but it also slides out more easily; the very strangeness and antique ceremony of the old forms make them linger in the mind.' It is not only the proliferation of translations that has made Bible memorization difficult, if not actually a lost cause. ... These translations are inherently deficient in the qualities that make for memorability" (Ryken, The Word of God in English, p.284). For more about dynamic equivalency see http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/dyn-equiv-influence-error.html [Distributed by Way of Life Literature's Fundamental Baptist Information Service, a listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians.