Event Title

Eugene A. Nida, Dynamic Equivalence, and the Decline of the KJB: The Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics Connection

Location

Room A

Start Date

1-10-2011 9:15 AM

End Date

1-10-2011 10:30 AM

Abstract

Eugene A. Nida (b. 1914) has on occasion been referred to as the father of modern Bible translation. Nida’s chief contribution to Bible translation remains his theory of "dynamic equivalence" (later "functional equivalence"), and it is this theory that has earned him the most accolades, since few modern translations—whether indigenous translations or modern English version—have escaped the influence of dynamic equivalence. For North American evangelicals, this has been felt mainly though the immense popularity of the New International Version (NIV). The astounding success of the NIV contributed significantly to ending the reign of the King James Version (KJV) among evangelicals. None of this is a mystery. What remains shrouded from view, however, is the critical role that an innovative faith mission played in advancing Nida’s theoretical contributions to Bible translation.

Nida’s formative years were spent working under the auspices of the Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (WBT-SIL). William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982) was the founder of this dual-organizational combination. When he established "Camp Wycliffe," a summer school to train missionary candidates in the rudiments of the nascent science of linguistics in 1934, he fundamentally altered the practice of missionary Bible translation. Nida joined WBT-SIL in 1936, excelled at Townsend’s summer camp, and then failed spectacularly at his first venture in pioneer missionary service in Mexico. With his career in Bible translation hanging by a thread, Cameron Townsend presciently salvaged Nida for the Bible translation movement by, amongst others, encouraging this weak-bodied, but able-minded, young man to pursue doctoral studies in linguistics and by securing for him a part-time position with the American Bible Society. It was from this laboratory of real-life experience that Nida first developed his theory as initially set forth in his 1947 volume entitled Bible Translating: An Analysis of Principles and Procedures, with Special Reference to Aboriginal Languages. Thus, a major theoretical contribution that helped to put an end to the dominance of the KJV among

Evangelicals originated from an unexpected quarter—a conservative evangelical faith mission.

The argument mounted in this paper is that Cameron Townsend and his mission were instrumental in providing the opportunity and intellectual environment for Nida to develop his theory of dynamic equivalence. This particular contribution to ending the KJV’s primacy among evangelicals has largely gone unnoticed. This proposed paper seeks, in some small way, to rectify this situation, by shedding light on the fascinating connections between WBT-SIL, Eugene A. Nida, and the decline of the King James Version among North American evangelicals.

Comments

Frederick (Boone) Aldridge teaches at SIL International in Dallas, Texas, and is working on his doctorate at the University of Stirling. He has studied linguistics in Cameroon and France, and worked with SIL International in Benin and Kenya.

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Oct 1st, 9:15 AM Oct 1st, 10:30 AM

Eugene A. Nida, Dynamic Equivalence, and the Decline of the KJB: The Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics Connection

Room A

Eugene A. Nida (b. 1914) has on occasion been referred to as the father of modern Bible translation. Nida’s chief contribution to Bible translation remains his theory of "dynamic equivalence" (later "functional equivalence"), and it is this theory that has earned him the most accolades, since few modern translations—whether indigenous translations or modern English version—have escaped the influence of dynamic equivalence. For North American evangelicals, this has been felt mainly though the immense popularity of the New International Version (NIV). The astounding success of the NIV contributed significantly to ending the reign of the King James Version (KJV) among evangelicals. None of this is a mystery. What remains shrouded from view, however, is the critical role that an innovative faith mission played in advancing Nida’s theoretical contributions to Bible translation.

Nida’s formative years were spent working under the auspices of the Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (WBT-SIL). William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982) was the founder of this dual-organizational combination. When he established "Camp Wycliffe," a summer school to train missionary candidates in the rudiments of the nascent science of linguistics in 1934, he fundamentally altered the practice of missionary Bible translation. Nida joined WBT-SIL in 1936, excelled at Townsend’s summer camp, and then failed spectacularly at his first venture in pioneer missionary service in Mexico. With his career in Bible translation hanging by a thread, Cameron Townsend presciently salvaged Nida for the Bible translation movement by, amongst others, encouraging this weak-bodied, but able-minded, young man to pursue doctoral studies in linguistics and by securing for him a part-time position with the American Bible Society. It was from this laboratory of real-life experience that Nida first developed his theory as initially set forth in his 1947 volume entitled Bible Translating: An Analysis of Principles and Procedures, with Special Reference to Aboriginal Languages. Thus, a major theoretical contribution that helped to put an end to the dominance of the KJV among

Evangelicals originated from an unexpected quarter—a conservative evangelical faith mission.

The argument mounted in this paper is that Cameron Townsend and his mission were instrumental in providing the opportunity and intellectual environment for Nida to develop his theory of dynamic equivalence. This particular contribution to ending the KJV’s primacy among evangelicals has largely gone unnoticed. This proposed paper seeks, in some small way, to rectify this situation, by shedding light on the fascinating connections between WBT-SIL, Eugene A. Nida, and the decline of the King James Version among North American evangelicals.