The Message Bible is not a fan of St. Paul


I heard a sermon recently where the Pastor quoted extensively from The Massage Message bible. Specifically he read a long portion of Romans 9, and then made attempts to exegete it. I don’t even know why he bothered.

I have a theory on why pastors use the Message bible. I wrote in another post that:

Why use the Mb? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one.  Its not for piercing clarity, but for vague etherialities. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faithfullness to the text.

What I wanted to focus on in this post is the issue of accuracy and what it means to faithfully represent what was written by the apostles. We believe that the Scriptures are given by inspiration of God and are theopneustos. That is, God-breathed. Some Bibles seek to get as close as they can to the original texts, with our best scholars who painstakingly pore over every nuance so that they can give us a product that represents the best and most accurate and most faithful rendering of the originals we have. The Message bible is not one of those bibles..

When doing a critical scholarship of all the manuscripts that we have, our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough of the original, but that we have too much of what came after. We don’t have 95% of the originals, but rather we have 120% of them. Its like we have a puzzle with 20 extra pieces, and by doing textual and source criticsm, we can weed out the extra pieces, the variants, the transcription errors, the scribal interplorations, etc. The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.

The Message bible is wholly unconcerned with trying to figure out what was actually said or trying to minimize the excess. I think this is seen well in Romans 9. In the ESV translation, there are 734 words.  The NIV has 738. In Romans chapter 9, the Message bible has 836. In many ways the Mb is similar to Codex Bezae- a codex infamous for its many strange and bizarre renderings, as well as gratuitous flourishes and additions. The horrific gluttonous additions to the Mb is bad, but it actually gets worse than that. Not only are there many places in the Message bible where it’s incredibly bloated with whole sentences added in, there are other places where there are whole sentences missing! There are concepts missing.  There are There are important details missing. There are important statements about God’s character missing. There are important details about God’s purposes missing. In short- it’s just not there.

The twoexamples I wanted to examine are found in Romans 9.

Romans 9: 17 and 18

17. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. ESV

17. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power. Mb

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. ESV

18. All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Mb

Here we’ve left out half of a verse. Evidently its not important to know that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaohs heart was so that his name would be proclaimed in all the earth, and so that the demonstration of power would yield him glory. I don’t know why that wasn’t included. Its not like it would be difficult to add that segment in. So that is a little strange, and in continuing the trend we see verse 18.  In verse 18, its nothing but vague obfuscation.  There is no mention of God’s mercy, nor is there any mentioning of the hardening that God enacts on whoever he desires. There’s no way to read the Mb and find that information in the scriptures  It doesn’t bring clarity to the texts, and it does not accurately reflect what is trying to be said.

Romans 9:21-23

21-Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ESV

21-Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? Mb

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, ESV

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—ESV

23 and 24 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Mb

In verse 21, there is no mention of honorable use or dishonorable use in the MB. Instead we see merely a utilitarian difference . In verse 22 and 23, I actually can’t even figure out which verse is what. But look how much is being left out!

1. There is no mention that God has a desire to show his wrath

2.There is no mentioned that God is enduring the vessels of wrath

3.There is no mention that God is showing patience while doing so

4. There is no mention that these lumps of dishonorable use, these “pots for cooking beans” ‘are vessels of wrath

5. There is no mention that these vessels were intended  for destruction

6. “Glorious goodness” is not the same as “the riches of his glory”

7. There is no mention that the wrath of God towards his vessels of destruction was to show his glory to the vessels of mercy

8. There is no mention this this was prepared by God beforehand

9. There is no mention that this was prepared by God for the the purpose of glory

10. There is no mention that the eternal state of the Vessels of mercy is glory. 

It amazes me at how much is missing, and how much we are being robbed from knowing by following this so-called paraphrase. And again, evidently its not important that we know these things. I would also recommend checking out verses 30-32 in both translations. In the case of the Mb, it is shocking bad and inadequate.

The  point is this; the Message bible isn’t a neutral, clever paraphrase. It doesn’t merely “re-word” things, but it adds whole sentences and it removes whole sentences. It actively seeks to distort what God said through his Son and through the writers of the scriptures.  In the case of Paul and Romans 9, it doesn’t care what Paul said. The important thing in not that we have an accurate record of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, and that we relate that to people, but rather its more important to tell people how one person remixes and reinterprets the words of Paul.  And so when someone reads from the Message bible from the pulpit, purporting it to be some kind of bible, it is very hard for me not to lose respect for them. Ultimately what they are telling me that its not important to know what God inspired the Apostles to wrote. That its not important to know what Jesus actually said. That its not important to share the actual revelation of God.

The Message “bible” is STILL not a Bible


Just wanted to do some compare and contrast as we ask ourselves- what is a Bible and what does it mean for something to be considered Scriptures? What does it mean for something to be the word of God? Better yet, what is the advantage of reading what one person paraphrases the scriptures as “kind-of/sort of meaning”,  versus having our brightest minds and scholarly experts painstakingly recreate for us the exactness of what God actually says? I already told you to stop using the message Bible to preach, and I also told you all tongue-in-cheek that I was writing my own Bible version, and yet sadly no pastors who use the Message Bible took me up on my offer, even though I demonstrated its much better than Eugene Peterson’s version.

But here is some further think-a-long; I have a theory that people oftentimes don’t choose a Bible to know with precision what God actually said, but rather they choose it and use it for how it makes them feel when they read it. You see this all the time in pulpits. Pastors will throw up some notes on powerpoint and they’ll have 5 different translations/paraphrases ranging from the excellent  [NASB] to the good [NIV] to the bad [NLT] to the utterly and completely appalling [Message Bible]. Why use the MB? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faith fullness to the text. To that end, here is a segment from Matthew 5:1-10. ESV first, the Message second

1-2.  Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

1-2. When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

6“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 

10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 

Examine those few verses. Are they saying the same thing? Do they even sound the same? Are things being added in? Verses 3 and 4 are especially grotesque in their ability to take liberties with the text and add flourishes that not only do not exist, but actually changes the meaning of what was actually said by Jesus. Why is it necessary to do that? It adds foreign concepts that are not biblical and which Jesus never intended to say. So let’s call The Message bible for what it is- A sad testament to our modern-day churchy evangelical culture that values manipulation of the text for personal gratification, over fidelity to the text for corporate sanctification.

Playful Puppies Bible vs Velociraptor Kitten Bible.

So there is a new Bible soon to be released from Zondervan, who quite frankly need to give their heads [or their paws, badum tish] a shake. According to their press release, which is 100% legit

Playful Puppies Bible

If you love puppies, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable puppy photos with inspirational thoughts that will encourage you day after day. The Playful Puppies Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable puppy photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in the New International Version (NIV)

Here’s the deal- If this is not an example of crass consumerism then I don’t know what is, only that this is yet another example of the church conforming to the culture because they don’t feel the Word is sufficient enough. Doesn’t this also mean that its open season on any Bible I want? For anyone who likes this idea, could I not, by the very same arguments that created this bible, make my own bible called “The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible”? And inside would be 12 pictures of Kittens posing like Velociraptors, much like this one here;

Here would be my press release;

Cute Kitten Raptor Bible

If you love kittens and dinosaurs, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable kittens posing like velociraptors photos with empathetic thoughts that will encourage you day after day and show you that even if your friends and peers reject you, Jesus never will. The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable raptor kitten photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in The Message Edition.

 

What do you guys think? Which Bible would you rather buy?

Sermon Review. MGA Church. Freedom in Christ Ministries. Pastor Clay Bergen. March 06, 2011

This sermon seems to be the first in a series which will be preached by Pastor Clay Bergen, the national director of Freedom in Chris Ministries, Canada. I know a bit about the ministry, being fairly familiar with the teaching and practices of Neil T Anderson and some of the books he has released [such as Bondage Breakers] and due to my thoughts on that book I have been eager to review these sermons.

As it were, he begins the sermon using a dental analogy, saying that over the course of the weekend, some people will see that need to have a check-up, and others will need to have a root canal. That is, some people will find the sessions useful to deal with a few small issues, while others will come to understand that they have much that they must deal with and work through. The thrust of the sermon is that after we become saved, we carry with us baggage that must be dealt with in order for us to thrive as believers.

Pastor Bergen tells the story of Nahum in 2 Kings 5, about how like Nahum we must be desperate to get cleaned and cleansed of our proverbial leprosy, and that it is a simple thing to do. He plays a video by The Skit Guys called God’s Chisel, Which is about 10 minutes of witty banter between God and Man, which states that we are God’s masterpiece, and seeks to show that God is serious about going after our hearts and healing us.

He then winds it down with an exhortation that we are important to God, and that God wants to say that he still loves us, its not our fault [sometimes] and there is still hope. God wants to give us promises, but Satan wants to keep them from us. We need to allow God to do a work in us through 7 simple steps, and that’s what the weekend will be about.

Reflection

It is unfortunate that the MGA has not made the rest of the sermons/sessions available yet, as this one seems like a primer and introduction to the rest of them. If not sure if they were even recorded, but I think that they might have been really edifying for the community to have access to them in a more public way.

As for the sermon, there were a few things that stood out to me though, and which bear commenting on.

1. He spends a fair amount of time talking  about the importance of sanctification [though I'm not sure he used or would use that word] He spends a small chunk of time saying that since we have salvation, we ought to grow and let the word of God be deeply rooted within us. That God needs to go after our heart and remove and cull our sinful thoughts and replace them with his righteousness. I liked that a lot, and I thought that salient point came across loud and clear in the message.

2. At one point he quotes Colossians 2:6 and says  “Paul writes ‘You received Christ Jesus, You have salvation, you have him at work in your life. Praise God! But. Continue to live in him. Rooted in him. Built up in him. Strengthened in the faith you were taught, with overflowing with thanksgiveness. Thankfulness’.” That’s not really accurate. It seems to be a personalized paraphrase, when in reality it says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” The point is that he attributes words to Paul that he does not say. Its not really a big deal, and not really wrong, as he conveyed the gist of it, but it was enough that it caught my attention and pulled me out of the sermon a bit because I was thinking that it did not sound like Paul. I think it was the word “Thanksgiveness”.

3. I think though that the chief thing he did that struck me as actually egregious is that he messed around with Colossians 2:8-10 in ways that he shouldn’t have.  I don’t think he properly handled the biblical text in this case. What he did was he quoted the reference for the verse,  then gave us the message paraphrase, and then he went on to exegete and speculate regarding the paraphrase that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual translations, thus lending his ideas a false credence  and authority and granting them a biblical veneer. Its subtle or sneaky, and it’s endemic in modern evangelical preaching.

For example, he gives us the  Message Bible paraphrase of Colossians 2:8-10 which says “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”

This is in contradistinction to the actual words of God which say “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;  and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power”

So he quotes from a paraphrase that has almost exactly double the words from the original scriptures [110 words vs 56] and says verbatim “You don’t need telescopes, microscopes, horoscopes. Many times in our lives we want to know what’s out there, what’s there for our future, and so we want to see the big picture, and we have that telescope picture of where we’re going or what we need to do, and we want all the answers before we make a decision, and so we’re waiting upon God and he’s not answering, and we’re struggling in our journey.  Or sometimes as a microscope we want to see every little detail in place, have every thing in order so, have every  decision made so as we take the next step we know what we’re doing. Or in some cases we want that supernatural power, and we’re looking to every source, and finding that through horoscopes and others that might speak into our lives, and trying to figure out what we need to do and where we need to go and how we need to deal with issues in our life. But folks the word of God says you do not need telescopes, microscopes or horoscopes to know the fullness of God. To know his fullness, what we need to do is to take the time to seek after him, to allow him to speak to us. That’s what tonight is all about.”

See, that is not a proper handling of the scriptures. That is not, as 2 Timothy 5 says, “rightly diving the word of truth” I hate to say it, but that’s just playing games. That’s some bizarre eisegesis that has no place being preached from the pulpit if the goal of the preaching is to unpack and make clear those verses that you gave us.  The fact is that the Message paraphrase shouldn’t be preached from the pulpit as authoritative in any way,  and its mangling abilities are on display as we try to discern some semblance of similarity between what Paul wrote, and what Eugene Peterson wrote. I can hardly find any, and I especially can’t see the connection between what Paul wrote and what Clay is preaching at this point. Very disappointing

4. I kinda liked the video clip. It was entertaining and witty, and it made several good points, such as control vs chiselling, about how we want to control which areas of our heart that Christ goes after, or about when we look in the mirror, we shouldn’t see us but instead see Christ. About the lie that says everything was going to be easy when you followed me. All those things and more are quite good. I think it was very successful and powerful in conveying the ferociousness that Christ will pursue our hearts.

And yet two things bothered me.  The clip is about Ephesians 2:10, where in that section, the scriptures say that we are God’s workmanship. The Greek word is poiema, literally- that which has been made. And yet the whole time the video replaces workmanship with masterpiece. And so what I thought was conveyed was that we are God’s original masterpiece and not his workmanship.  Again, that’s not what is being said. I could be overly paranoid, but when we replace workmanship and emphasize the masterpiece-ness of it, that elevates man instead of God. It does not point attention to the mastery of God’s power or his goodness or his benevolence in creating something, but rather it seems to give glory to that which has been made, honouring the creature instead of the creator.  In my head I was like “nooooo, God is the Master, I’m just the piece.” You guys can judge if I’m being overly sensitive or not.

What did drive me to distraction, is the point in the clip where God is chipping away at the man, and the man says that “it hurts” and God replies “it hurts me more than it hurts you.” Aaaaaaah no. God is NOT hurt when he sanctifies us. That is patently false at best and blasphemous at worst. I think it was done to make God relateable, like a how a father will tell that to his son that he’s about to chastise, or something like that. But that really is a bad call and I can’t let that go without pointing it out.  It absolutely in no way shape or form hurts God more than it hurts us. I did send off an email to Pastor Glen and asked him about that, and I will update this post when/if I hear back from him. I don’t know- call me crazy, but I am of the opinion that you can’t just say things like that and let them go uncorrected. In fact, I would urge the pastors and leadership team to offer a public correction on that point. Is it a huge, gigantic deal? Not really. But I think it would go far in showing the congregation that the church leadership is serious about the purity and the centrality of the Word of God, as well as guarding them from any errors, small and unassuming as they might be.

In any case, other than that Message Bible confusion and the jab about it hurting God, I thought it was pretty good, and would have liked to hear the rest of the messages.

Stop using The Message Bible to preach!

Stop Using the Message Bible to preach!

When reading the introduction to “The Message Bible”, we’re told that it’s essentially updating the bible into modern language. The author, Eugene Peterson, writes: “I decided to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts—to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.” And that “Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language.” He goes on to say that that he went straight into the Greek without looking at the English language, and rewrote it in a new fresh way, in the language “in which we do our shopping, talk with our friends, worry about world affairs, and teach our children their table manners.”

Though I have not been a fan of The Message Bible for several years, I usually don’t think about it much. This is mainly because I tend to see it for what it is- one man’s re-interpretation and re-imagining of the biblical texts. I think it’s fairly poetic, and interesting to read, and there are instances when it rightly re-configures certain biblical text with rich contemporary language, which add a new power and interest to an already great verse. These instances provide unique or different insights into the culture or language of the time, and for this reason I think there is something to be gained from it. And so I’m not one to say that someone shouldn’t read it, or that it’s some horrible subversive literature that by virtue of it’s exposition will drag souls to hell. Not at all. If you want to read it, then go right ahead. In fact, I would suggest that it may have some legitimate worth as devotional literature, and may be used that way.

That having been said, I have no tolerance whatsoever for the Message Bible being read from and being preached from and exegeted from the pulpit in church. I really, really, don’t like it, and decided long ago that I could not establish myself in a place where the Message Bible, or any other biblical paraphrase is lauded as scripture. It’s just a deal-breaker for me, and it has been for a while. Not because I have anything against a paraphrase, but because I came to church to have the Word of God taught to me and preached to me and unpacked for me, and The Message Bible is not it. Though by virtue of it’s marketing we’re led to believe that this is a legitimate bible, lending credence to the idea that Eugene Peterson has simply updated some of the expressions, thrown in some slang, re-shuffled some of the verbiage, and has for all intents and purposes been faithful to the scriptures.

But that’s often not the case at all. Sometimes he does that, and it’s really good. I’m not denying that he goes through passages and shines some light on them that can add some clarity, but more often than not he simply goes buck-wild with the texts and either waters them down, obscures them, deletes whole sentences, removes controversial subjects, clouds the plain meaning, adds whole sentences of extended personal commentary, or just re-writes them in a way he sees fit. And it’s for those demonstrable reasons that I can’t stand to have it taught, not only to someone like me who knows better, but to other people who may not. It’s not a bible, and it’s quite possibly the freest paraphrase on the market, easily surpassing the CBV, JPB and GNB [and much more so than an NLT, which at least manages to be a meaning driven bible]. But The Message is something altogether different, and I’d like to show a few examples.

1. Acts 19:2 [NASB], “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” is expanded to “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” [TMB]. Where on earth does the text end and the commentary begin?

2. In John 14:2 [NASB] “…The Father is greater than I.” becomes “The Father is the goal and purpose of my life.” [TMB]

3. Matthew 6:9 [NASB] “Pray, then, in this way:’ Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” becomes “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right”

4. Colossians 2:10 [NASB] “…and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” becomes “You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him…” [TMB]

5. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: [NASB] “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders [sodomites] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” becomes; “Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start….” [TMB]

6. 1 Peter 3:1 [NASB] “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…” becomes “The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs… [TMB]

7. Psalm 51:10 [NASB]“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” becomes “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”[TMB]

8. Romans 9:27-28. [NASB] “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” becomes “Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “Chosen of God,” they’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.” [TMB]

9. John 3:5. [NASB] “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” 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—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.” [TMB]

Those are just a few examples of a radical re-working and rewording of the text, where things are added, things are deleted, and scriptural references are left all but unrecognizable. And so when a pastor or elder or even a layperson goes up there and starts to preach from a “Message Bible”, I know I’m not getting the word. I’m not hearing the power and sacredness and glory of the scriptures, and instead am getting one man’s interpretation of the scripture, which may be changing the meaning altogether. And I know that if I were to get up there and preach a message and tell the congregation, “Turn in your bible to Titus 2:6. Today, I’ll be reading from the New Germain Version [NGV]” and then proceed to read them my own interpretation, I would be crucified and should be rightly run off the stage.” And yet when reading the IEPB [International Eugene Peterson Bible], no one bats an eye.

You know, I’m not saying that the Message Bible cannot darken the doorsteps of a church or that it should not be read. I’ve already said- it’s all good. But when a pastor uses it to preach, it sends a message loud and clear- that they have a low view of scripture. That’s what it says. It shows that they’re not taking it seriously, because they’re teaching and training their flock from a disingenuous source. Any bible ought to strive to be as close to the original manuscripts as possible and be as literal as possible, not taking liberties to be esoteric and highly subjective. These pastors who have gone off the rail, they’re not “rightly dividing the word of truth” nor are they following the commandments of Paul to Timothy, “I charge you, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, to preach the Word!” And I can’t help but believe that pastors should know better. You can’t wean your flock off of milk and on to meat with cotton candy. It’s just not good policy. And if you fear that your congregation may not understand certain verses or concepts or language, then it’s your job to parse it and teach it to them. It’s your job to unpack it and work through difficult and tricky verses, opening up the scriptures to them laying out the mysteries of God as they were meant to be understood. I want to hear what Jesus actually said, or as absolutely as close and as precisely as we can understand. We can argue about form-driven verses meaning driven all we want, but a paraphrase?! I don’t want his words left out. I don’t want his meanings altered. I don’t want extra personal commentary, and I certainly don’t want someone pretending that he isn’t doing that when he preaches from the Message Bible.