11 May 2010

The Message Distorts the Most Beloved Bible Verse

Almost anyone who has spent any time in a typical Sunday School class is able to recite John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)" What a promise! Well, over at Suspicious Berean, we get a little glimpse of Eugene Peterson's (the man who wrote this distorted paraphrase of God's Holy Word) idea of what this verse means:
The Message distorts John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17, KJV

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3:16-17, The Message

Some Bereans, such as Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon at The Berean Call, have commented about how Eugene Peterson in The Message alters the meaning of John 3:17. "That the world through him might be saved" is changed to "put the world right again," which makes Jesus Christ sound more a social reformer than a saviour.

However, it’s also worth taking a look at what Mr. Peterson does to John 3:16. This is perhaps the most beloved verse in the Bible, and one that directly led me to put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my saviour. The word rendered as "everlasting" in the King James Version and "eternal" in most modern versions is the Greek word aionios. According to An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine (1940), "...it is used of persons and things which are in their nature endless..." Which is to say, "everlasting" or "eternal" are correct renderings of the word. However, The Message changes "everlasting life" to "a whole and lasting life." "Whole and lasting" sounds a lot less impressive to me than "everlasting" or "eternal." It sounds as though Mr. Peterson is more interested in promoting a better life on Earth than in preparing people for eternity.

The reader will also note the absence of the word "begotten" from verse 16. I haven’t time to reprint it here, but Mr. Vine’s dictionary has a lengthy explanation of the phrase "only begotten," which is the Greek word monogenes. The phrase is unique to the writings of John, and is found five times (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; and I John 4:9), always in reference to Christ as the Son of God. I’ve already posted on The Message’s refusal to use the phrases "Lord Jesus" and "Lord Jesus Christ," and I don’t understand how such a perverse paraphrase can be seriously regarded as a "Bible."
If you click here, you can see how The Message "conveniently" omits all references to the Lord Jesus and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is absolutely mind-boggling to me how Christians who are strong in their faith can view The Message as a valid, viable Bible translation. A few quick tests of the fruit of The Message shows that it is lacking in nourishment. Just look at the churches who frequently quote from it: Willow Creek, Saddleback Church, and just about every Purpose-Driven, seeker-sensitive church that opens up its auditorium doors and puts on a show, not a church service, every weekend. Another quick study of New Age undertones of The Message  should send every Christian running in the other direction. When a supposed Bible "translation" twists the Lord's Prayer to include one of the most common phrases in New Age terminology, then we have a serious problem. The Message may be teaching a message all right, but it isn't God's message. There are several true Bible translations in print that, through scholarship and true translation of the original texts have managed to create an understandable, easy-to-read English version of God's Word. Though it is not my personal favorite, I would point anyone to the NIV translation if they are having difficulty comprehending some of the text. My recommendation would be to utilize either the ESV or NASB translation. But whatever you do, do not put The Message into the hands of one of God's precious little lambs lest you aid in leading that little lamb to the slaughter.

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  1. One possible exception to what you wrote.... You said, It is absolutely mind-boggling to me how Christians who are strong in their faith can view The Message as a valid, viable Bible translation.

    I don't think those who avocate this false translation are "strong in their faith." I believe the reason the emergent, the New Apostolic Reformation, the former Purpose Driven, The Shack, etc. is taking hold in so many churches is bercause people no longer "study" the Bible, so whatever sounds good must be the truth.

  2. Yes, I see your point and quite honestly, would tend to agree with you. However, of late, I have seen individuals who have walked on the straight path with God for years vehemently defend this translation--they may not be using it themselves, but they are defending it as a valid translation for others because "maybe it works for them." I guess that is what is mind-boggling to me, how people can seemingly be walking so closely with Lord and yet be lacking in discernment. But then, is it considered a lack of discernment when you're just sticking your head in the sand refusing to even examine the evidence? Perhaps that is just the old adage that "ignorance is bliss." It truly does go back to the emergent, purpose-driven, and seeker-sensitive approach that we should not offend anybody and whatever works for you is good as long as it works. That mindset has so infiltrated churches and other ministries that Sola Scriptura is rapidly becoming the exception, not the rule! Watching this happen to once-sound churches and organizations is, I suppose, beginning to make me weary!

  3. Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad to be of service. You've been on my blog roll for some time now


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