DE Version in English?

Someone once asked me: “Where are those DE (dynamic equivalence) versions that don’t dumb down the text? I have not seen any published in my lifetime. I think such talk is justified if you look at what has actually been published under the name of DE or FE. It is at least understandable, that people would associate DE with dummies.”

I prefer the term FE (functional equivalence) to DE, for reasons specified in earlier blogs on the subject. I think that Nida was moving in this direction (From One Language To Another: Functional Equivalence in Bible Translating, 1986), though he may not have come quite as far as some may have liked. As I have already suggested, this is not an easy translation theory to put into practice; it is certainly much more difficult to produce and defend such a version than a FC (formal correspondence), or “literal” version.

Can it be done–in English? (I know of an example in Chichewa, a Bantu language.) Perhaps that yet remains to be seen (and, more importantly, agreed upon!). The best example that I know of is Dr. Brenda Boerger’s Poetic Oracle English Translation–Psalms (self-published, 2009). Check it out and see if you agree!

The version formerly known as Today’s English Version (TEV), now known as the Good News Translation (GNT) did attempt to put FE translation principles into practice. However, this version was intended mainly for second-language speakers of English, so in some cases it is true that we do find a relatively “dummed-down” rendition of the original text.

A related comment on this subject: “I don’t think there’s a single translation available in English that even comes close to being truly DE, if for no other reason than that the original books have different voices (in the literary sense) and different styles even within single books but the translations are uniformly flat, from KJV to the Message.”

My brief response: I am certainly not the person to judge such matters (not in English, at any rate), but in my observation above I referred to the recent English translation of the Psalms by Brenda Boerger. She comes the closest I think to a “functional equivalent” translation–actually, translations, for she attempts different English styles for different psalms. Her aim “is to convey Hebrew poetry by using verse forms suited to English, together with devices such as rhyme, meter, sonics, and imagery” (from her Introduction). Two other English versions that do a pretty fair job of presenting a functional equivalent translation are the New Living Translation (NLT) and God’s Word Translation (GWT). Perhaps a “combined” version–one that puts together the best of both translations, along with inclusions from the GNT or the Common English Version (CEV), and perhaps even The Voice–might be a possible solution, though perhaps impossible (for copyright reasons) to produce.


About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa ( My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (
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