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:
3 “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.
4 “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.
5 “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.
6 “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.
7 “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.
8 “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.
9 “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.
July 4th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Perhaps it is not your favourite bible for daily study but it certainly fills a much needed niche in a society with a high percentage of low educated, low reading level readers with a diminished attention span and rising levels of ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Downs, Alzheimer’s, etc etc etc. We should be churches that aim to make the gospel message understandable to all people with disabilities and those with PHDs who can pick up a KJV any day and read it for themselves. I applaud pastors that integrate a more moderate reading level into the service as it does include their disabled and lower educated parishioners to access the text. The Message Bible is one tool in a good minister’s kit not the only tool.
Just my opinion.
July 6th, 2012 at 3:06 am
Hmm. interesting thoughts. I would say that if that is the case, they could benefit either from something like the nirv, which is objectively easier to read than the message bible [based on on flesch-kincaid scores] for people with this issue. Still though, that is not the point. what you still are ultimately suggesting is that it doesn’t matter that the Message does not accurately reflect what God said, and that its not important that people with reading or learning disorders read an accurate version of the text. and if they do have reading and learning disorders, that will make it all the more difficult to discern what is real and what is made up by eugene peterson.
there are translations that are super easy to read that are not the message, and which do a far better job than the message. furthermore, I would suggest that a pastors job is to break down the text and make it easy to understand for anyone, and he can speak that out and make the difficult things simple to grasp. what he should not do however pick a text that is objectively innacurate
July 6th, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Amen. The Message is not a translation, nor a commentary, not even a good devotional. It is one man’s “transition” from God’s Word to his own word.
July 6th, 2012 at 9:42 pm