Theological bias has a negative connotation as something to be avoided, and in general, I think it is. But I do not think it would be realistic to argue that Bible translation can be done without theological bias. It is not simply a matter of whether the translator has a theological agenda or not; there are passages in which all the choices of wording necessarily reflect theological positions. Furthermore, if we are going to be completely objective, even orthodoxy is a bias. That is, it is by definition an opinion that inclines or prejudices the translator toward a particular choice of wording when his choices all have theological implications.
“Functional” equivalence as a philosophy assumes that it is possible to create a translation with the exact same meaning as the OL text, without matching the grammatical forms found in the original or using words that match the meanings of the OL words, as established or recommended by lexical research. Of course, it also assumes that a translation done as a formal equivalent differs from a functional equivalent to such an extent as to be contrasted with it. In other words, two such translations will belong to these two separate categories, and there is a dichotomy between them.
I have been the senior translator for the NASB (and Scholar in Residence) at the Lockman Foundation for about two decades, and Edward Andrews and I are good friends who share a passion for literal Bible translation.
It may not take much to convince you of the premise of this chapter. The Bible is, after all, the Bible. But literal translation has no claim to priority unless the individual words of the Bible are very important.
For some time now terms ending in the word “equivalent” or one of its variations have been preferred in describing translation philosophies. I have a problem with this word, and all translators really should have the same problem with it: it begs the very question we are debating.
While I cannot address this subject at length, it needs to be addressed, to lay the foundation for you, the reader. My approach here is to assume that you have no knowledge of Bible translation issues, or the process of translating from the Original Languages (OL) of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, into what we call the Receptor Language (RL), such as English. However, this does not mean that we will pass over all the elements of this subject because some of them are essential to the issues of literal translation.