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Jesus Creed

I’ve offered a mild case for inclusive translation in a previous post, and here I will use Kevin Vanhoozer’s section on what “contextual theology is not” and apply his four criteria to “what dynamic equivalency is not.”
Some are suggesting that bringing James 1:20 into our world is letting our world determine its meaning. If we stick to the literal meaning, they say, we will preserve the Word of God. I disagree: literal translation that requires constant explanation is a form of miscommunication. God chose the ordinary languages of his day (and Mark’s Gospel proves this for it is very ordinary Greek) and he does the same in our day: God’s will is to be heard. What we need to see is that God’s Word has been particularized into a 1st Century Jewish context in the NT, but it transcends that context as a word for all time and for all persons.
First, dynamic equivalency is not cultural relativism: there is a distance between James 1:20 and today, but it is not unbridgeable. Dynamic Equivalency (DE) does not suggest that we cannot get back; it suggests that we can and that we can bring that text into our world.
Second, DE is not a form of cultural determinism: everything we say is influenced by our context but it is not determined by our context. James 1:20 is translatable into our modern world. Neither James’ world nor our world determines what James means: the text and its message can do that.
Third, DE is not cultural absolutism: we do not think there is something unique or culturally superior to Greek or to 1st Century Jewishness. Humans are humans, in all ages, and the image of God permits us to cross the centuries in clear communication. (Though I have more problem with Green Bay Packers fans than ancients!)
Fourth, DE is not cultural colonialism: we do not believe there is something inherently superior about English or Western or American or Protestant. Translations recognize our cultural context and seek to bring the Word of God into our world and even as a prophetic word against our world if need be.
DE recognizes these four elements when it translates: we seek to understand James 1:20 and make it sing and sting in our world. Hoping that it will get as close as possible so it can evoke the same response in us that James intended.

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