The article below by Lea Sylvester points out some of the real issues with newer Bible translations. Especially those that are more paraphrased than translated. The Message Bible is in the cross-hairs of Lea’s article and I can not disagree with his points. There are a lot of misleading changes.
I am not in the King James only camp and tend to read multiple translations when I study scripture. Translations I use are the King James Version, the New King James Version, English Standard Version Bible, New American Standard Bible, and New International Version Bible(1984). Most of my reading has been done lately with the ESV and NASB as I find them to be the most literal translation but I do enjoy the NKJV (also in the literal camp) for reading and have not really settled on a single favorite format yet.
If you have questions about the different translations and what the differences are check out the book:
How to Choose a Translation for All its Worth: A guide to understanding and using bible versions by Gordon D Fee (ISBN-13 978-0310278764).
It is not really prescriptive of telling you which one to use but more telling you what the strengths of each are and where their weaknesses are.
The Message is definitely not on my list for a lot of the same reasons Lea Sylvester states below. The Bible should be the Literal Truth, the word of God. If you want commentary or paraphrasing, that is what study bibles (with notes) or various commentaries are for.
Keeping them separate is important so you can clearly understand what God says (God’s words) and what man says about God’s word.
Also it is important to understand the culture and context in which the books of the Bible were written. A lot of the idioms and sayings get lost or glossed over if we convert everything to our current days language.
By Lea Sylvester
Having studied God’s Word for 30 years now, I have learned that the only “tool” one really needs in order to understand the Bible is the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discernment (from the Holy Spirit) and studying passages in context. A concordance is a handy research tool, too. Each study brings new things to light. We should seek God with all of our heart and one way to know Him better is by studying His Word. The Bible “interprets itself” and if one seeks to understand it, God reveals incredible messages contained within His Word. Even so, many professing Christians say that they can’t understand The Bible.
Because of this and other “reasons” various translations of the Bible have come and gone over the last 30 years. Several “translations” have not only made it “easier” for a person to understand passages, but have changed the entire meaning of passages. Therefore, they do not understand the “meaning of passages” better; they aren’t even getting the meaning of them at all because they have been removed or changed.
The creation of false Bible translations is the most obvious way in which the Word of God has come under attack recently. For instance, “The Message Bible” (published by NavPress of Colorado Springs, CO; publishing arm of The Navigators) is sold as a translation, it is a paraphrase that is meant to be reader-friendly, but it distorts the meaning of Scripture. Some noted Bible scholars have noted the losses to the Word of God in “The Message Bible” and have referred to them as “paraphrased lies.”
“The Antichrist is only an anarchist; the simple words “falling away” are removed; the whole idea of a “Restrainer” is missing; the judgment of Antichrist is a ‘puff’; there is no picture of Christ’s glorious return; the wicked are “banished” rather than damned. These are basic doctrinal tenants of the Christian faith.
And yet, rather than protest vehemently over such an assault on the Bible, many of today’s “church leaders” or “prominent Christians” lend their names to the endorsement of the book. Those who have endorsed Eugene Peterson’s The Message, either as accurate, or as a Bible, and in the NavPress promotion of The Message (on actual book jacket) included: J.I. Packer, Warren W. Wiersbe, Jack W. Hayford, Christianity Today, Gordon D. Fee, Richard J. Foster, Walter Wangerin, Jr., Michael Card, Frederick Buechner, Madeleine L’Engle, Leith Andersn, Rebecca Manley Pippert, Jerry B. Jenkins, Luci Shaw, Leighton Ford, Jay Kesler, Marilyn Pollit and Joni Earkson Tada.
NavPress also included a lengthy list of “Message Readers” in their promotion stating: “We hope you can add your name to this long list of Message Readers.”
Amy Grant, Benny Hinn, Bill Hybels, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Billy Graham, Brock and Bodie Thoene, Carol Kent, Chuck Swindoll, Cynthia Heald, Dan Quayle, Dave Dravecky, Toby-DC Talk, Don Moen, Duffy Robbins, Frederick Buechner, Gary Chapmen, Gary Smalley, Gordon Fee, Gordon MacDonald, Harold Fickett, J.I. Packer, Jack Hayford, Jay Kesler, Jerry Jenkins, Jerry Savelle, Jim Burns, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, John Maxwell, Joni Eareckson Tada, Joyce Meyer, Kathy Peel, Keith Miller, Kenneth Copeland, Leighton Ford, Leith Anderson, Luci Shaw, Madeleine L’Engle, Max Lucado, Michael Card, Michael W. Smith, Mike Yaconelli, Newsboys, Patsy Clairmount, Pat Williams, Phil Driscoll, Rebecca St. James, Richard Foster, Rick Warren, Rod Parsley Ron Kenoly, Stuart and Jill Briscoe, Tim Kimmel, Tony Campolo, Tremper Longman, Bono of U2, Vernon Grounds, Walter Kaiser Jr., Walter Wangerin, Warren Wiersbe, Wayne Rice, Wellington Boone.” (1)
Notice that several “Anti-Israel/Pro-Palestine” proponents are among these.
It is important to note that Billy Graham’s endorsement: “The Message is one of the most dynamic recent versions of the New Testament I have seen….children can easily understand it, and veteran Bible readers will see Christ’s words in a fresh light…” Graham even authorized a special edition of The Message to be distributed by his evangelistic association. The BGEA website no longer contains an “endorsement” of The Message and calls made by this writer to clarify this were unreturned.
Much has been written about the apostasy of the church today. This can be attributed to several things; one is the fact that people don’t know God’s Word; they don’t understand it and churches do not teach it. It is just one way the enemy is taking over our churches today. There are spirits in our material world working diligently today in all facets of what is called “Christianity.” The spirit of antichrist is the prime mover in this prophesied formation of the end-times “church” whose ultimate destiny is to become a one-world religious system under the control of the devil incarnate.
One way we can recognize where the devil is as work is in the attack on the Word of God, the Bible. This seems to be coming at us from all directions – in both conservative and liberal factions of the visible church. There’s nothing new under the sun; Satan has always cast doubt upon God’s Word in an effort to deceive God’s people.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
It is disturbing that one can no longer walk into a church service and observe most of the congregation there with Bibles in hand, ready to read along with the sermon. A problem is there mostly aren’t sermons any longer. They are abbreviated messages directed at various topics; canned sermons. Sure, some are timely. But, the church needs to be fed by the Word of God. Replacing Bibles are large screens, with text appearing on them supposedly supporting whatever it is the message is addressing. Along with that, “sermon notes” are given out in “bulletins” (not like your Mother and Dad’s bulletins, or what we may remember from twenty years ago, that were actually about happenings affecting the congregation/membership that week: who was sick, who had babies, various announcements, etc.). Instead, we see slick, four-color printed little booklets that are more “corporate” than anything. It is what can be called “corporate promotion.” And, that is exactly what it is and nothing more.
Disturbing also is the use of The Message as an “authoritative source.” I have questioned this practice with several people and am told “it’s just used IN ADDITION TO the Bible.” Ah! But isn’t it true that if one uses text to support writing or a sermon or a speech or whatever, then one is giving credibility to that text as authoritative? “The Message” has no authority relative to God’s Word, and never should be given any. What is going on here?
Many large ministries as well as local churches use this book. Many people use it and it is foreign to one who is familiar with God’s Word. Passages from The Message are nothing like God’s Word and therefore should never be used in replacement or “reinforcement” of an idea or scripture to reinforce a point.
Research into this book has been astonishing. Unfortunately, the errors in this paraphrase (it’s not a translation) are numerous and serious. The Message cannot be relied upon to tell the truth and, in fact, it is dangerously misleading.
Here are only a few examples of how this paraphrased book has distorted God’s Word. John 1:1 actually says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Message renders it, “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.” That garbling is an improvement?! It is confusing at best, and misleading at worst, changing the meaning. “In the beginning was the Word” is changed to “The Word was first.” First before God? And what does “in readiness for God” mean? In verse 5, “the darkness comprehended it not” is rendered, “the darkness couldn’t put it out,” changing the meaning entirely.
In John 14, “full of grace” becomes “Generous inside and out,” while “truth” becomes “true from start to finish.” “Generous” and “grace” do not mean the same, nor does “true from start to finish” convey the rich meaning of Christ being “full of truth.” In John 29, “which taketh away the sin of the world” becomes “He forgives the sins of the world.” There is a world of difference between taking away the sin of the world by paying the debt mankind owed, and forgiving sins!
In John 3:5, the verse: “Except a man be born of the water and the spirit” becomes “unless a person submits to this original creation-‘the wind hovering over the water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life” again obscuring, complicating, changing the true meaning.
In John 3:17, “but that the world through him might be saved” becomes “He came to help, to put the world right again,” a destructive change in the meaning. “Saved” means to be redeemed, rescued from the judgment we deserve for our sins; whereas “to help, to put the world right again” sounds like social or political reformation. In John 3:36, “the wrath of God abideth on him” becomes, “All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.” How can anyone experience darkness from God, when I John 1:5 says of God, “in him is no darkness at all”? Serious error is added to serious error!
I Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” is perverted to read, “God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself but to preach the Message.” It important that Paul, a former rabbi, is a follower of Christ — The Message says “of God.” The main point Paul makes is that baptism is not part of the gospel — The Message misses that completely. “Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” is changed to “…lest the powerful action at the center — Christ on the Cross — be trivialized into mere words.” There is a vast difference between the eternal effect of “the cross of Christ” as the Bible states it and “Christ on the Cross” as The Message puts it and Catholicism depicts it. Christ is not on the cross; the work is finished! In verse 30, “sanctification, and redemption” is changed to read “a clean slate and a fresh start” — both trivializing and misleading.
Hebrews 11:1 “the substance of things hoped for” becomes “the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living,” a totally different meaning, with hope for eternity expunged.
In verse 4, regarding the lamb, which speaks of Christ, the “more excellent sacrifice” offered by Abel, the comment is interjected, “It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference.” On the contrary, the sacrifice he brought was important to his belief, and without the proper sacrifice there could be no forgiveness no matter what was believed.
In verse 7, “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” is changed to “became intimate with God,” again an entirely different meaning which leaves out the vital phrase “righteousness which is by faith.” In verse 16, “God is not ashamed to be called their God” is twisted into “God is so proud of them.” Never!
Attributing the human evil of pride to God is blasphemy and leaves the dangerous impression that if God is proud then it isn’t so bad for man to be proud as well.
In verse 35, “that they might obtain a better resurrection” becomes “preferring something better: resurrection.” Again the meaning is changed completely. It makes it sound as though resurrection is dependent upon good works. It was not a question of whether they would be resurrected, but of the reward they would receive in the Resurrection.
Worthy to note are the following facts about “The Message”: Other verses that are completely removed from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” are: Matt 17:21, 23:14, Mark 7:16, 9:44, 11:26, 15:28, Luke 17:36, 23:17, John 5:4, Acts 8:37, 15:34, 28:29, Romans 16:24, I John 5:7. (This list is not inclusive).
Most of the verses don’t even have the verse numbers printed – the numbers are skipped, within the sequence of the surrounding verse numbers. Sometimes, “The Message” PRETENDS to include the verse by grouping several verses together and numbering the verses in the group with a dash between them (vs 1-6), while completely omitting the content of these specific verses listed. This deceptively hides the fact from the reader that some of the text has been omitted.
Referring to Jesus, the Bible says, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)
Consistent with this declaration, God’s Word, the King James Bible, refers to the “Lord Jesus” one hundred and fifteen times (115). But Eugene’s Peterson’s book, “The Message” refers to the “Lord Jesus” ZERO times (“0”)
As with ALL of the new versions, “The Message” demotes the Lord Jesus Christ in references to him, and it concurrently elevates man from his state of sinfulness, bringing both to a more equal level and eroding the stark biblical contrast of the truth of our need for him as our Savior in consequence of our sinfulness.
These are only a few among many serious errors. It is appalling that any mere man would change or ignore the meaning of God’s Word under the vain delusion that he could improve upon what God has said and the way He has said it! It is even more appalling that a leading evangelical publisher would publish this blasphemy, Christian bookstores would sell it, and Christian leaders would praise instead of denounce this perversion!
Look up, your redemption draweth nigh! Stay fast and strong in the WORD OF GOD and do not be deceived. If you have comments or questions please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Complete & extensive list of endorsees http://www.seekgod.ca/themsgendorsements.htm
Click on the article title for a link to full original referenced article.
If you’re not certain you’re saved, here is what you should do, right now:
Acknowledge that you have sinned against a holy God and ask for forgiveness (even if you don’t feel you deserve it) (Rom. 3:23). Genuinely feel the pain of your sin and be willing to turn from it (repent) (Acts 3:19).
Believe in your heart and mind that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for you (John 3:1-18) in your place, and was raised back to life. There is no one else you can turn to (John 14:6): “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Confess that you are trusting Jesus as your personal Savior. Since Jesus is alive, you can talk to him. This is called prayer. So talk to him right now, in your own words, accept his invitation to know him.
It’s simple faith through grace, the kind of faith a little child would have.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)