Dynamic Equivalence: A Method of Translation Or a System of Hermeneutics? -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 01:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: Dynamic Equivalence: A Method of Translation Or a System of Hermeneutics?
Author: Robert L. Thomas


Dynamic Equivalence:
A Method of Translation Or a System of Hermeneutics?1

Robert L. Thomas

Professor of New Testament
The Master’s Seminary

The recent popularity of Dynamic Equivalence in translating the Bible justifies a closer scrutiny of it, particularly in light of the growing interest in biblical hermeneutics which it parallels. A comparison of the disciplines of D-E translation and hermeneutics reveals a large amount of similarity between the two. The similarity exists whether one compares D-E to traditional hermeneutics or to theories being advanced in contemporary hermeneutics. In view of the close parallel between D-E and hermeneutics, three questions need to be faced: a linguistic one, an ethical one, and a practical one.

* * * * *

Dynamic Equivalence entered the scene as a formalized method of translation and as a scientific discipline with a theoretical basis about two decades ago, but its presence as a practical pursuit in translating the Bible into English dates back to around the turn of the century.2

Since the 1960’s, it has grown rapidly in popularity and has been greatly acclaimed.3 This investigation purposes to examine the extent to which dynamic equivalence draws upon hermeneutical principles as a part of its translation method and to weigh whether it should be termed a method of translation or a system of hermeneutics. Eugene A. Nida, who probably has earned the title of “the father of dynamic equivalence,” though he more recently has chosen to call the process “functional equivalence,”4 sees hermeneutics as entirely separate from dynamic-equivalence translation procedures,5 but does so on the basis of a novel understanding of hermeneutics. He defines the field of hermeneutics as that which points out parallels between the biblical message and present-day events and determines the extent of relevance and the appropriate response for the believer.6

This concept of hermeneutics is quite different from that traditionally assigned to the word. Normally it is defined as “the science of

interpretation.”7 Websters New Collegiate Dictionary defines hermeneutics as “the study of the methodological principles of interpretation.”

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