Recap

In part 1, I covered Eugene Peterson’s translation philosophy and gave four reasons that disqualify The Message as a Bible translation or paraphrase.

In part 2, I gave the first 2 of 9 examples from The Message that demonstrate why it is not a credible translation.

  1. Peterson inserts his own dogma that is nowhere in the Greek or taught anywhere in Scripture.
  2. Peterson neglects the person of the Holy Spirit.

Following are the next 6 examples.

3. Peterson neglects the historical role of Israel as a context for the New Covenant.

Matthew 10:6 (ESV)

6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew 10:6 (NIV11)

6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

Matthew 10:6 (The Message)

6 Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood.

 and

Romans 9:27–28 (ESV)

27 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, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”

Romans 9:27–28 (NIV11)

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

Romans 9:27–28 (The Message)

27 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. 28 God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.

 

This includes his consistent practice of editing out references to the Torah (Law).

Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1–2 (NIV11)

1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalm 1:1–2 (The Message)

1 How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College. 2 Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night.

and

John 1:17 (ESV)

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17 (NIV11)

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17 (The Message)

17 We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

And he removes important verbiage regarding the relationship between Jew and Gentile.

Romans 10:12–13 (ESV)

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:12–13 (NIV11)

12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:11–13 (The Message)

11 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” 12 It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. 13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

4. Peterson mistranslates the Greek by removing various references to sexual sin (including homosexuality).

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (ESV)

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (NIV11)

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (The Message)

9 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? 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, 10 use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.

 and

1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (ESV)

17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (NIV11)

17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

1 Corinthians 6:17–18 (The Message)

17 Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” 18 There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another.

5. Peterson diminishes the historical cultus of idolatry.

Psalm 22:11–13 (ESV)

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

Psalm 22:11–13 (NIV11)

11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.

Psalm 22:11–13 (The Message)

11 Then you moved far away and trouble moved in next door. I need a neighbor. 12 Herds of bulls come at me, the raging bulls stampede, 13 Horns lowered, nostrils flaring, like a herd of buffalo on the move.

NOTE: In Peterson’s so-called “translation”, he leaves out the city name of Bashan.  However, Bashan is an important city name because it lets us know that the bulls in this chapter are not real animals, but represent the god’s of this city who were depicted as bulls. By using the city name of Bashan, the Psalmist is letting us know that he is surrounded by demonic beings which prefigures Christ on the cross surrounded by demonic forces seeing his death as their victory. All of this important meaning is lost because of Peterson’s overemphasis on making the passage “relevant”.

and

Romans 1:23; 26–27 (ESV)

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:23; 26–27 (NIV11)

23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:23; 26–27 (The Message)

23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. 27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

and

1 John 5:21 (ESV)

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:21 (NIV11)

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:21 (The Message)

21 Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.

6. Peterson often distorts the reality of the spirit world with a spiritualized worldview.

1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV11)

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

1 Timothy 4:1 (The Message)

1 The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars.

and

James 3:15 (ESV)

15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James 3:15 (NIV11)

15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

James 3:15 (The Message)

15 It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving.

7. Peterson emphasizes a sin “lifestyle” where the Scripture emphasizes a sin “nature.”

Mark 14:38 (ESV)

38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:38 (NIV11)

38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:38 (The Message)

38 Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

and

Romans 8:6 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 8:6 (The Message)

6 Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.

and

Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV)

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1–3 (NIV11)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Ephesians 2:1–3 (The Message)

1 It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. 2 You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. 3 We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.

and

Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV11)

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19–21 (The Message)

19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; 20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; 21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

and

Colossians 2:11 (ESV)

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

Colossians 2:11 (NIV11)

11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,

Colossians 2:11 (The Message)

11 Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.

8. Peterson follows the trend of other gender inclusive “translations” by virtually eliminating the word “Lord,” and replacing it with a softer gender neutral “God” or “Master”.

In eliminating the word Lord in the New Testament, Peterson diminishes the connection between the Hebrew YHWH of the Old Testament, which is most often translated into English as Lord, with the Greek KURIOS of the New. The Greek Kurios is used 717 times in the New Testament and Peterson only translates it 27 times as Lord.  In most every case, he uses “Lord” when it refers to God from the Old Testament, but then he translates Kurios as “Master” in relation to Jesus.  This practice begs the question, “what is Peterson’s theological agenda?”

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (ESV)

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (NIV11)

3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:3–5 (The Message)

3 For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit. 4 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. 5 God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit.

This passage has some particularly confusing aspects in that Peterson chooses to translate Kurios as “Master” in verse 3, but then he does not translate it at all in verse 5.   And as it relates to the previous point number 2, Peterson again demonstrates his consistent bias against the Spirit by refusing to translate the word Spirit as a unique person of the Trinity, and instead he inserts the word “God” to make the passage read “God’s Spirit.” (see Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society Volume 9: vnp.9.2.73 and Chafer Theological Seminary Journal Volume 9: vnp.9.1.144).

So far we have looked at 8 specific issues, citing multiple cases, that demonstrate the case that Peterson’s Message is not a translation, but a commentary which reflects his personal theology and opinion.  The next post in this series will outline the 9th and final point.

What makes a good translation?

Read my suggestions for what it takes to make a good quality Bible.

What translation should I buy?

Why you need to read more than one translation of the Bible

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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