Feb 18, 2010

BIBLES and a book

This week we have been looking into the process of Bible translation and how important it is for a translation to be as close as possible to the original writing. We need to keep in mind that the original writing was the inspired Word of God. All translations after that are not a re-inspiration from God, but mans efforts to translate the original text into other languages. Hopefully they are the prayerful efforts of many people carefully attempting to preserve God's Word in the process of the translation. Sadly that isn't always the case which is why it is important for us to test new translations for ourselves and compare them to sound Scripture that we know to be in keeping with the original text and it's meaning.

Over the last several months I have been doing a lot of research and comparison of Scripture and my mind is overwhelmed with information. Far too much for me to possibly include all of it in this post. With my study of the Names of God and this study of Bible translation coming together at the same time I have discovered a greater love for and interest in preserving The Word of God.

In the process of Bible translation we have learned that it is a process that involves many people and many checks and balance systems even to the point of translating the new revision back into the original language by and independent translator to ensure accuracy. No Holy Bible is authored by a person. But there is a book on the market, authored by one man, that is being marketed as a Bible. It has sold billions since it was introduced and Christians are rapidly and abundantly replacing the Holy Scriptures with quotes from this book. Stay with me here as I provide verifiable facts and not opinion about this book. If you want to hear my opinion then I will be glad to write a separate post for that. :)

The book The Message written by Eugene Peterson is not the Holy Bible, it is a very loosely paraphrased version of the Bible with many additions and subtractions from the original Word of God. Before we go any further lets look at some definitions.

A translation is a rendering of the same ideas in a different language from the original.
A paraphrase is a free rendering of the sense of a passage in other words, usually in the same language.
A version is a translation, esp. of the Bible, or else an account of something illustrating a particular point of view.

Here is what Eugene Peterson has said about his own book The Message. These quotes are taken from Wikipedia.

"I just kind of let go and became playful. And that was when the Sermon on the Mount started. I remember I was down in my basement study, and I did the Beatitudes in about 10 minutes. And all of a sudden I realized this could work."

"When I'm in a congregation where somebody uses it [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, 'Hear the Word of God from The Message.' But it surprises me how many do."

"When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly, When the prophet Isaiah preached a sermon, I can't imagine that people went to the library to figure it out. That was the basic premise under which I worked. I began with the New Testament in the Greek --- a rough and jagged language, not so grammatically clean. I just typed out a page the way I thought it would have sounded to the Galatians."

In an interview with U2, Peterson says "Paul is an extravagant, inventive poet. His syntax is sometimes wild. It's an adventure to enter into his imagination and get the same sounds and meanings in American."

Peterson doesn't consider his book to be The Word of God, but has made millions off the sale of it being marketed as a Bible, The Word of God, and is doing nothing to change the marketing perception but is in fact helping to promote it as such. He does not state that he "interpreted" from the original Holy Scriptures. What he does say is that Greek is a jagged language that is not so grammatically clean so he typed it out the way he thought it would have sounded. He makes the assumption that people can't understand the Bible as it is written, but that we must all go to the library to find out what it is really saying as though it is written is secret code or that we are not intelligent enough to understand English and use a dictionary when necessary. He also assumes that God cannot speak to the hearts of those who read inerrant Word of God.

Aside from the fact that this book is a one-man show and points to a man as the author, Peterson states that this writing began because his congregation was bored with the Bible and he wanted to bring it to life for them. He states that it wasn't until after he began this work of re-writing the Bible in his own words that the Bible began to come alive to his congregation and for the first time they understood the it.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) (emphasis mine)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) (emphasis mine)

"God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey." Hebrews 4:12 (MSG)

The Holy, God-breathed Bible is the Living Word of God does not need man to make it come alive. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we teach others using the Scriptures but we dig into God's Word going back to the original text to learn what it is saying. We don't re-write the Bible to make it come alive or because people are bored with how it reads.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

Compare the scripture of Hebrews 4:12 above from four Bible translations considered trustworthy in their translation, to the quoted paraphrase from Peterson's book The Message. The four trustworthy translations agree in meaning, are all very specific, AND easy to read and understand, while The Message is both vague and different in its interpretation. The words soul and spirit have been changed to everything, the words joint and marrow have been defined doubt or defense. Clearly God breathed the words "soul and spirit" intentionally and for a purpose. Since when do those words mean "everything"? Notice the idea that the Word of God judges the heart is lost in The Message. This touches on the very core of the problem with this book.

I have to ask the question what makes us believe Peterson alone can interpret the true and accurate meaning of the Holy Bible better than the numerous scholars that translated these other four trustworthy Bibles.

This information alone should be sufficient to give us cause for concern. In his own words it took him only 10 minutes to paraphrase the Beatitudes, he is uneasy when his book is used in place of the Word of God (I would be too), and he claims to have entered into Paul's imagination to draw out the meaning.

We will look into what Peterson's word says versus what God's Word says in more depth in another post. Please know that everything I have said here is verifiable and I have provided links to help you look into it yourself and not just accept my word alone. For in depth information on Bible translation see Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. Deuteronomy 4:2 (NIV)

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My ADHD Me said...

This was very interesting. I know that I have been caught in the trap of reading other people's versions of God's word. This was a great reminder!
I especially liked the Deuteronomy verse that you used to wrap things up. Great choice.

The WVB here is so relevant!
I think I will save that one for my next list.

prophy-false quotes from The Prophet!

Debra said...

Hi Edie-I read your post thinking "I wonder how many well-intentioned Christians don't know this?" Thank you for the information-and for always putting God first.
Love, Debra

Sue J. said...

I just read I Corinthians 2:14 a few minutes ago in my Beth Moore homework! Paul's text about judgment is worth a good dig into the original language.

This is a very tough issue. There are many who like what The Message has to say or how the book expresses the thoughts of Scripture. But, even when I use it in writing, I try always to say "The Message paraphrase" because we do need to be clear. And it really isn't all in there. We need to come to our own understanding and not accept Mr. Petersen's understanding/interpretation as our own.

God's revelation to me through Jen Hatmaker and now, again, through this Beth Moore study is that God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him (from II Peter 1:3). I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit directs the believer to Truth, and that we will be shown the Truth in what we read by Him.

I now love reading across translations, going back to Hebrew and Greek words, seeing where our English language comes from, etc. But, the Spirit directs my looking and the Word helps me discern the Truth.

Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing this, great food for thought! I'm looking forward to more insights from you, Edie.

Tammy said...

Now I know why I always felt a little uncomfortable when using the Message. Thank you for all this information.

This was a great post!

Heart2Heart said...


Thanks for all the research that you have done so well at completing. It is interesting to see just how many people have recently gravitated towards the Message as a new form of translation for the Bible.

Thanks for clearing it all up!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

RCUBEs said...

I'm glad you shared about it sister Edie [The Message] as I used to include it also in my posts thinking that it would be easier to understand His Word for others who do not know the Lord. But later on, I don't feel using this anymore [Holy Spirit telling me not to?]...It reminds me of Ron Hubbard. He created a religion and people followed it. Just like that.

I'm so grateful that the Lord gives us discernment when we ask Him to. I'd rather share his Word translated from the original script. Great post sister Edie. God bless and may He continue to guide you and protect you.

From the Heart said...

There was something in my spirit when I heard or read excerpts from The Message. I seem to remember a scripture (but cannot find it) that says: the Word of God came not by will of man but Holy Men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. I have always been taught that God's Word came directly from Him to Holy men. Rev. 22:18-19 tells us what God will do if anyone adds to this book or takes away from the words of this book. I would not want to fall into the hands of an angry God.

I look forward to hearing more that you write. I do believe that the Holy Spirit is speaking through you.
Thanks for all your wisdom and work, AliceE.

Sharon Sloan said...

You are right....The Message is a book. Not the Word of God! :)
Thank you for your boldness and conviction of the truth!

Isaiah 66:2
"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

"The Holy, God-breathed Bible is the Living Word of God does not need man to make it come alive. That is the work of the Holy Spirit." AMEN!

I never have liked using the Message because it is SO loosely written.

What's wrong with reading it for what it says, and then studying the meanings behind the original texts so as to understand ALL that is encompassed in the language?

Those who are "bored" with the Bible just haven't taken the time to seriously dig and learn. When you do dig a little, you quickly realize how HUGE His word really is.

I heard someone once say that the Bible is both shallow enough for a child to play, and deep enough to drown an elephant. You just gotta go in a little further to see it.

Great post! Thanks for all the documentation!

Charity said...

What a good post! I agree with you completely - I am a huge KJV girl and that is the only Bible I would recommend to somebody - it is so beautiful! And - thanks for using Scripture to back up what you were saying - didn't you just write a post on Titus 2 in Action about that?

My ADHD Me said...

Just stopping by to say Hi!