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Necessary Difficulty

While practitioners of dynamic equivalence translation attempt to remove difficulty from Bible reading, Ryken points out that difficulty is, and always has been, a natural quality of Bible study.


Over against the claims of a naïve modern audience that is in a special position in finding the Bible difficult, I incline to the view that there is much in the Bible that is inherently difficult and technical. Surely Anthony Nichols is correct when he writes, “One cannot escape the fact that the Bible contains many concepts and expressions which are difficult for the modern reader. There is no evidence that they were much less so for the original readers. They, too, had to cope with technical terminology, with thousands of OT allusions and Hebrew loan words, idioms and translation must have been very strange to them.”

In a similar vein, Wayne Grudem pictures the situation thus: “Lest we think that understanding the Bible was somehow easier for first-century Christians than for us, it is important to realize that in many instances the New Testament epistles were written to churches that had large proportions of Gentile Christians. They were relatively new Christians who had no previous background in any kind of Christian society, and who had little or no understanding of the history and culture of Israel. The events of Abraham’s life . . . were as far in the past for them as the events of the New Testament are for us!”

—Leland Ryken, Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation (Crossway, 2005), 74–75.

Is it so unreasonable to expect difficulty in the study of an infinitely difficult subject? And if the difficulty is removed, has not the subject, by and large, also been removed?

Posted 2008·08·21 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Leland Ryken · Translating Truth · Translations · Wayne Grudem
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#1 || 08·08·21··08:13 || Victoria Lynch

You make some very good points in these articles. I have read "The Word of God in English" by Leland Ryken and found that to be very helpful.

There was a time that I used NIV because most of the ladies in my Bible study used it. I really had to give it up for the very reasons you are discussing. The NIV also changes important theological language like the word "propitiation".

It is not a difficult thing to learn the meaning of Biblical language. There are so many inexpensive helps for today's lay person, that ignorance seems to me inexcusable. I hate to say this but I believe that people are basically lazy when it comes to the study of God's Word. People want to be spoon fed everything.

I really love the KJV-but not many use it anymore.
I never liked the way the NASB read so I just could not stay with it even though I tried it repeatedly.

I use the ESV most of the time now-but since I do not understand Greek, I usually compare it with the best essentially literal versions out there.

Funny thing though-I can't seem to memorize anything unless it is out of the KJV!

Thanks for these posts about translating the Word accurately. I hope many are reading these and thinking about how important it really is.

#2 || 08·08·21··10:07 || David

Victoria, the ESV — my ambivalence towards it notwithstanding — is one of the best translations. Only the NASB is better. And it’s been confirmed that the MacArthur Study Bible will be published in the ESV.

The KJV is certainly the best for memorization and, I think, for reading pleasure. I think it will always be my favorite.

#3 || 08·08·21··10:43 || Victoria Lynch

The MacArthur Study Bible is my favorite study Bible so it is good news to me about the ESV being published in that.

I heard John MacArthur say(on a CD I was listening to) that if the ESV had been available when his study bible was first published he would have used it.

That statement from him, and Leland Ryken's book were enough to convince me that the ESV is was a trustworthy translation.

Thanks for your time.

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