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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 ....it 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.
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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