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3 Problems With The Message Bible

The Message Bible translation by Eugene H. Peterson is a paraphrase of the scriptures using modern English, the author claims he is trying to make the Bible understandable to the average person. There are many issues I have with the Message translation, but for the sake of space I am only listing three of them.

1)It is often presented as being a Bible translation in modern language. This is wrong; it is not a translation it is a paraphrase, which makes it a commentary at best. Modern language Bibles are the ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV… The Message is one man’s ideas on what he thinks the scriptures say and not the actual word of God. I know the author of it got parts of the Bible so right it blows your mind, but there are entire sections where he is dead wrong and injects false doctrine into it. Like I said, it is a commentary, not a translation and it should be treated as such.

2) When pastors preach from it, it encourages people to use it, this is dangerous because the Message is full of errors, false doctrine, and occult philosophy.

For instance, the English Standard Version, a word for word literal translation puts the Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6 as:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

 

Whereas the Message puts it as:

Our Father in heaven,

Reveal who you are.

Set the world right;

Do what’s best—

as above, so below.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

You’re in charge!

You can do anything you want!

You’re ablaze in beauty!

Yes. Yes. Yes.

The Message completely changes the meaning of the scriptures, for instance there is no mention of the holiness of the name of God. Then there is the line “as above, so below”, which is from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus an occult text from the school of Hermeticism, that has influenced every aspect of the new age movement, from Asatru to Satanism to Wicca. Further the Message adds to the text (something forbidden by scripture) there is nothing in there speaking about any of God’s attributes at the end to the prayer, and I have no idea where he got that “Yes. Yes. Yes.” from.

The Message is a spiritually dangerous book, especially for new Christians who don’t know anything about the faith or are just starting to investigate it and as it is there is already a huge amount of false teaching out there, like the Word Faith movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hebrew Israelite’s, and so on. Pastors should not be encouraging people to us such a book, since it fills peoples’ heads with error.

3) The Message encourages laziness in Biblical interpretation, since it reads like a novel it does not force the reader to slow down and think things through and is a completely inappropriate book to use in the study of the scriptures. Even the most liberal seminary would fail a student who turned in an essay full of Message quotes (at least I hope they would).

Since it is more of a commentary than a real Bible, it does not have the same effect of cutting into the depths of the heart. One need only look at how the cultural mindset of those who use the Message tends towards a theologically liberal or completely postmodern way of looking at things. Those who promote use of the Message tend to deny the sinful nature of man and the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It is a popular book to use in liberal churches that are more focused on creating social change than on Jesus Christ, His saving act on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

It would be smart to not confuse the Message with the actual word of God, it is a commentary and should be treated as such, meaning it is not divinely inspired and is full of errors. I admit it can be useful in bringing clarity to certain passages, but one must learn to work through the actual scriptures, which takes effort, dedication and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

How hard are you working at understanding the scriptures? Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding?

About Jonathan Kotyk

Jonathan Kotyk
Jonathan Kotyk is a student, self taught philosopher, recovering addict and born again Christian. He has spent time on both the far Left and Far Right side of the political spectrum and lives in Canada.

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3 comments

  1. Avatar

    Your article caught my eye because The Message has never sat well with me, precisely because, as you point out, it is a paraphrase and not a formal translation. This should be emphasized whenever a preacher or teacher quotes from it, I believe. I saw new believers using The Message as their actual Bible during a study, and felt like The Message was robbing them of some choice meat when they read passages from it that were flowery but so watered-down.

    What The Message did to The Lord’s Prayer as you outlined here is startling — all the revolutionary meaning has been sliced and diced away. One academic I read said it this way, “Peterson has confused the mission of a Bible translator with the mission of the Holy Spirit.”

  2. Avatar

    Dear Jonathan,
    I just recently found your article that was written in 2017 as I was searching for errors in the Message. I read through your points and paused when I came to your 2nd point bottom of the 2nd paragraph you say that Eugene Peterson did not speak about God’s attributes when saying “there is nothing in there speaking about any of God’s attributes at the end to the prayer.” If you look up NIV Matt. 6 the end of the Lord’s Prayer is about forgiving not God’s attributes you may be confusing scripture with the Doxology/song. I would challenge you not to believe what I say but to look it up for yourself. Ultimately, God is the judge and we are not. I am thankful that God’s grace is sufficient enough for you, me and Eugene Peterson because God is the only one that knows the heart. Keep pressing into the Lord! I wish you all the best!

    • Avatar

      Hello Heather,

      Just want to point out that Matthew 6 commonly includes a footnote now where it used to continue the prayer. Some manuscripts add, “for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.” This is clearly what Eugene Peterson is looking at, since otherwise the prayer should end after ‘deliver us from evil,” or as the ‘paraphrase’ puts it (I hesitate to call it a paraphrase, since a true paraphrase keeps the original thought intact), ‘keep us safe from ourselves and the devil.’ I would point out that there’s a huge difference between deliverance and keeping safe. One implies that the one being delivered is actually out there engaging the enemy (the devil), while the other gives more of a picture of holing up away from other people and not bothering to engage.

      Jonathan, I definitely agree with your take here. There are sections where the message really brings an idea into easy-to-understand language, but for me there is far too much dumbing down and softening of scripture. We should remember that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” It’s an important doctrinal point that the modern church seems to have largely forgotten.

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