This Week's Focus Passage

Proverbs 13:14ff. ‘The law of the wise is a fountain of life.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 13:14ff.

‘The law of the wise is a fountain of life.’ 

I well recall reading a small volume about the translation of Scripture. The author was actually critiquing the most recent translation among the four most used renderings of the Word of God; namely the New International Version, or N.I.V. He very helpfully examines the two primary principles of interpretation, that is, that which is known as the formal equivalency philosophy, and the other known as the dynamic equivalency philosophy. The simple line of demarcation between these two rather opposite philosophies is that actually of motive, or desire. In other words, the one camp asserts that their primary wish is to honor, as best as humanly possible, the intent of the original authors of the Word of God. The original authors are, of course, the prophets and apostles as well as any others that the Lord may have been pleased to make use of in His design to reveal Himself to His people. This camp is concerned with communicating word for word, as much as their gifts and abilities grant. Now the other camp—and we are not at all questioning their motives or sincerity—has just as strong a desire to use words of translation that are going to be, in their minds at any rate, the choice of words that the readers might be the most familiar with. An exaggerated example of this would be some who have actually deemed it best to render the original words, in the Hebrew and Greek, which intend the four-legged beast that most of us know as a sheep, or a lamb. These particular enthusiasts of the dynamic equivalency persuasion have rendered the word, rather than lamb, seal pup, in Alaska, because those poor folk have never seen a lamb. They maintain a certain equality of gentleness and helplessness between a lamb and a seal pup and thereby believe that the proper message is being communicated to the people in the North Pole, Alaska and such like regions. This is admittedly an exaggerated example, but it does demonstrate the point that the thought of these ‘translators’ is to make the attempt to offer the idea, rather that the reality, and rather than teaching such people what a lamb actually is. It is not easy to imagine a shepherd of seal pups.

One writer has asserted that ‘there are fundamentally two different types of equivalence’ two basic orientations, ‘two poles of translating’—formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. Another extended this understanding when he said, “Now while the existing English translations evidence differing levels of consistency in the application of either formal equivalence or dynamic equivalence, nevertheless each one (either consciously or unconsciously) is oriented to one philosophy or the other.

ASV has four occasions; Psalm 36:9 plus Proverbs 10:11, 13:14, and 14:27. It appears or seems, perhaps, inexplicable as to why the ASV, in consistency, did not render 16:22 as fountain, even as the KJV did not render maqowr in 10:11 as fountain, but rather chose to use the word well, or well-spring. It has been suggested that the translators of the 1611 King James Version may have been affected by a common human failing. The failing in this case being a succumbing to a desire for variety. Some scholars suggest that these translators had a penchant for making use of the various options set before them even as we might, in our own writing, attempt to avoid using the same word while there exist satisfactory, alternate synonyms. In considering the apparent inconsistency of the ASV respecting their use of well-spring in Proverbs 16:22, their preface does indeed, in referencing their philosophy with regard to revising the KJV, express their determination not to make change simply for the sake of change. This is commendable in itself. Whether or not they perfectly succeeded in this determination is another matter.

That there surely are at least a few options, or choices, that may legitimately be made which fairly render the word maqowr is attested by writers. According to ‘Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies,’ the particular word used in these three passages is maqowr, pronounced maw-kore, defined as ‘a fountain or perpetual spring of water.’ This form of the word is employed elsewhere in the Old Testament, but is the only word for fountain that is used in the expression, fountain of life. It may equally be rendered fountain or well-spring. It is rather clear that Wilson intends his ‘perpetual spring of water’ as equivalent to a ‘well-spring of water.’

But is not the most important matter that as to Who or what constitutes this fountain, or well-spring. Jehovah’s complaint through Jeremiah (17:13) is because they have forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters. This is indicative of two realities; the Fountain is Jehovah God, and He is the source of all life. His people had hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water; i.e. that cannot provide life. For this reason, God also spoke through Zechariah (13:1) saying, In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness. The sweet Psalmist of Israel gave his imprimatur to this understanding when writing psalm 36:7-9;

How precious is thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; And thou wilt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: In thy light we shall see light.

When He came to earth as Jesus, to save His people from their sins, and when He met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:7-26), He spoke of Himself as that Fountain, saying in the most unforgettable language:

Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.

Yea, He is the Fountain of Life; a Well-springing up unto eternal life.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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