Victor Paul Wierwille, the late founder of The Way International, frequently retranslated Bible verses in his books and tapes. He commonly read a verse from the King James Version, then offered his own "literal translation according to usage."

In each case, Wierwille claimed to offer a more literal and accurate rendering

than the KJV (or any other) translation. Besides the phrase "literal translation

according to usage" he also prefaced his translations with phrases like "more

accurately reads," "properly reads" and "accurate and more emphatic when

translated." Wierwille considered his translations to be "translated literally" and to

present the text as it "literally reads." By using these phrases, Wierwille asserted

that his translations are more accurate and more literal than printed translations

available today.

One of Wierwille's closest co-workers, Walter Cummins, echoed Wierwille's

assertion that his translations are literal, not free renderings of the text. He

defines a "literal translation" this way:

"A literal translation is a word-for-word translation which often makes no sense

when read. A literal translation according to usage reproduces the thoughts and

meanings of the original, based on the words in the original in relation to the

verse, context, remoter context, and to whom it is addressed. It is not a free

translation or paraphrase which merely gives the gist of the original" (The Living

Word Speaks. pg. 16).

The Way specifically identifies these renderings as literal, word-forword and accurate. He

explicitly states that it is not a paraphrase or free translation.

Are They Free Translations Rather than Literal?

Receiving the Holy Spirit Today is one book in which Wierwille offered his readers many "literal

translations according to usage." His followers accept these as being literal, not free translations.

However, older editions of Receiving the Holy Spirit Today offered the same renderings, but

identified each one as a ''free translation'' (according to usage), not a "literal translation." Every

time he offered his own rendering in the fourth edition (1962) and earlier he called it a "free


(Many examples could be listed. Here is one: I Corinthians 14:12 ~ "literal," 7 ed., pg. 186,

"free," 4 ed. pg. 201.) Wierwille's renderings were either identical or virtually identical in the

different editions. Yet, the fifth edition (1967) is the first to use the label "literal'' in place of ''free."

Although Wierwille and other Way leaders now call Wierwille's renderings ''literal," Wierwille

himself called them "free'' for at least 13 years.

Amplified Translations

Wierwille used his ''literal (free) translations according to usage" in two basic ways. One purpose

is to provide amplified translations so readers can better understand the text.

These clarifications are helpful because Wierwille normally used and recommended his followers

use the King James Version. Since the KJV uses many outdated words and is difficult to

understand in many places, Wierwille amplified its translation to help readers.

These translations read somewhat like the Amplified Bible, with additional words inserted

periodically in the King James text. If Wierwille had used one of the contemporary translations

(such as the New American Standard), then he would not have needed to offer his renderings to

amplify a sometimes obscure text.

Free and Reinterpreted Renderings

At times, Wierwille's free translations use many more words than recognized translations do and

insert words and phrases which are foreign to the apostles' statements and intention. Wierwille did

this most often when he faced scripture passages that contradicted his evolving ideas on doctrine.

He simply "retranslated" the difficult verses, molding them to fit his desires.

For example, Wierwille took great pains to rewrite John 1:1-18 to fit his rejection of the orthodox

teaching on the deity of Jesus Christ, which he adopted in the early 1960s. His free ''translations"

of John 1 introduce many words and ideas not found in the biblical text.

For instance, while the Greek text of John 1:1-3 has only 36 words and the KJV uses 42,

Wierwille's "literal translation according to usage" contains 91 words (Jesus Christ is not God, pp.

91,93). This free rendering imposes three different meanings on the single Greek word logos

(word), changes the word order from "the Word was God " to ''God was the Word;" ignores. the

context by replacing the word ''he'' with ''God," and falsely interprets the word ''with" as "in God's

foreknowledge." This free rendering is not literal, nor a translation (it is even looser than a

paraphrase), nor according to usage (the words logos and dia are not used this way in the New


Wierwille's free rendering of John 1:12 follows suit (Jesus Christ is not God, pg. 99). His

"translation" imposes a new meaning on logos, imagines a new use for "name" (he renders it

"namesake," though the Greek word onoma is never used this way in any of the 235-plus New

Testamens occurrences), and arbitrarily identifies the same pronoun (he/his) first as God, then as

Jesus. This ''literal" translation is actually more a paraphrase and does not define the words

according to their usage.

Differences Between Wierwille's Free Translations

Because Wierwille freely retranslated Bible passages, it is not surprising to note that he "trans-

lated" some verses in different or contradictory ways, depending on his personal whims at the

times he proposed them. One example is Wierwille's contradictory renderings of parts of

Philippians 3:7-14.

In The New Dynamic Church, Wierwille quoted Philippians 3:7-14, altering and correcting parts

of the King James Version. However, he let verse nine stand as printed, implying that it is


"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is

through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (pg. 179)

However, years later Wierwille offered a radically different "translation" in the article "The

Knowledge of God'' (The Way Magazine, March-April 1983, pp. 5-6). There Wierwille asserted

that verse nine "properly reads:"

"That I may be found in Christ, having the believing action that Christ Jesus made available, which

is God's righteousness in and to every born-again believer."

This free translation deleted the whole phrase "not having mine own righteousness, which is of

the law'' and adds the~phrase "in and to every born-again believer," which Paul never included in

the verse. Wierwille also expanded "faith of Christ'' to "believing action that Christ Jesus made

available'' and replaces some other words.

Wierwille then quoted verse 10, inserting his explanatory words into the King James text within

parenthesis (The New Dynamic Church, pg. 180):

"That I may know him (experientially as my Savior) and the (inherent) power (the dunamis) of his

resurrection, and the fellowship (of His death, burial, resurrection) of His sufferings, being,

(therefore, we are) made comformable (like He was) unto His death."

Wierwille again interpreted the text as he ''translated" it, for instance, limiting his sufferings to

"His death, burial, resurrection," though this may not have been the apostle's intent.

In "The Knowledge of God,'' Wierwille produced a free rendering of verse 10 radically different

from either the Greek text or his previous attempt:

"The last part of verse 10: ...the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable unto his

death.' It would be tremendous to translate it literally according to usage as Being made as he

was so we might renew our minds, being conformed to being as he is.'" (pg. 6)

This "literal translation" deleted the entire phrase "fellowship of his sufferings." Furthermore,

Wierwille inaccurately converted the phrase "his death" to ''being as he is.'' This "translation" is

not literal, nor is it according to the usage of the Greek (or even Aramaic) words.

Rather, Wierwille forged a new text solely on the basis of his desire for it to read differently.

When he wrote, "it would be tremendous to translate it..." he inferred how excited he was at the

possibility of rewriting the verse in a way that didn't contradict his notions anymore, even though

his rewrite is inaccurate.

He also rewrote other verses that contradicted his opinions on suffering and death, such as John

21:19 and Matthew 27:46.

Wierwille's Approach to Translation

Although Wierwille dubbed his renderings as "translations," there is little evidence that

he used much Greek (or Aramaic), especially in later years, long after taking Greek in

seminary. He taught publicly with only an English Bible and in one teaching he referred all

questions on Greek to Walter Cummins and questions on Aramaic to James Chamberlain,

implying that he was ill-equipped to deal with these languages (Cassette Tape No. 265.

"Four Crucified and No Private Interpretation " )

One glimpse of Wierwille's offhanded approach to translation appears in a teaching he

gave on Jesus Christ. In answering a question on Ephesians 3:9-- a sticky verse for

anti-Trinitarians in the KJV-- Wierwille said:

"...that preposition "by" only thing you need to do is translate it "for" it's same

preposition would be for Jesus Christ,' who God who created all things ''for'' Jesus Christ

and you still have no difficulty or problem (Cassette Tape No. 297, "One God")."

Wierwille thought the word dia (with the genitive case) could be translated as ''for" or ''by."

Besides being inaccurate (see "Which Way Does It Read?,'' PFO Newsletter, January-

March 1986, pp. 5,7 on the same construction in Hebrews 1:2), he violated his own rule

that words have "minute meanings." Wierwille probably never looked at the Greek as he

taught, and his lecture was likely transcribed and published as the book Jesus Christ is not

God without significant review.

Response to Wierwille's Free Renderings

We could review many more examples of Wierwille's mistranslations (See The Integrity

and Accuracy of The Way's Word, by John Juedes and Douglas Morton), including the

many times he removed words from the original Greek text to make some scripture

passages better conform to his theology. These examples highlight the inaccurate and

unreliable nature of his "literal translations according to usage."

As we have seen, his "translations'' are often not literal but are in fact freer and more interpretive

than Bible paraphrases in print today. While his hearers may have been moved by them in live

speeches, close reading reveals that he in effect removed biblical phrases, added his own phrases

as though they were part of the text, and defined words in ways that did not match and sometimes

even contradicted biblical usage. Furthermore, his "translations" sometimes differed from, and

even contradicted, other ''translations'' of the same verse he did at other times.

Wierwille has accused evangelical teachers of creating "false translations and forgeries" to teach

that Jesus is both the Son of God and God the Son ("Forgers of the Word,'' in Bibliography: Jesus

Christ is not God, pg. 19). However, Wierwille's''literal translations'' were frequently not just "free

translations" but also were "false translations" that imported foreign ideas to conform selected

passages to his desired theology. Therefore, people who come in contact with writings and tapes

by Wierwille should be careful to judge his renderings critically and reject the inaccurate

renderings along with the meanings and theology Wierwille tried to propose by them.

Dr. John P. Juedes, Personal Freedom Outreach Journal, April-June 1988

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