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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 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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15 comments

  1. 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.”

    • Absolutely my spirit not going well with it n yes. I believe that God’s people searchin n praying to Holy Spirit to guide us in understanding. We run to God to understand who he is n to lead us n trust in his word
      Not the way man tryed n break it down not like this
      Blessings my brothers n sisters stay in prayer n God Bless you all

  2. 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!

    • 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.

    • Heather, there’s more to it than that. Good people are going to perish. If you desire the truth then and only then will it be reveiled. Okay to get to the point, desire for the truth even if it means finding out everything you ever thought to be true was not, and you will, then asking Yahweh (God) to unblind you and guide you to the truth as you search for it and for protection from satanic deception so you won’t be deceived. You’re not going to fond the truth any other way. Only you can discover it. Don’t take any minister, pastor or friend’s word for truth. Some do know the truth but you will only know that by discovering it yourself. Remember almost the entire word is deceived. Don’t let your guard down or forget that at any moment you can be deceived. Keep that in mind constantly and before searching for the truth, every single time don’t forget “You reject me therefore I will reject you”, not only does satan deceive but also it’s God that blind’s unbelievers, but will unblind if he chooses, so desire, ask Yahweh ( God) to remove your veil and guide you on your search for the truth and for the protection from satanic deception so you’ll not be deceived. Speaking of deception, the Sabbath day is the 7th day. Not the first. Where is Sunday on the calender? It’s the first day. The Sabbath day is Saturday. Seventh day Adventist’s is wrong. Almost all of Christianity is deceived and doesn’t know the truth.

  3. I just read your comments on the message bible and I agree that it is dangerous for Christians who are not seasoned in the word. It seems the phrases “You are in charge, you can do anything you want, you are ablaze in beauty” is meant to replace “for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory” and the “yes yes yes” is meant to be a translation for amen. It certainly water’s down the living word and I can’t see anything in that text that would convict anyone. That’s why the bible says we’re should study to show ourselves approved.

  4. tyler ann harrison

    Thank you for your comments on The Message, although not very well versed in the bible something in my gut told me that it was wrong. Especially when our own pastor prayed the Lords prayer in Peterson speak. I was appalled and immediately went home and read A LOT . It was then I got on the internet and read A LOT more and studied LOTS. I reached the conclusion that it was very bad and going to deceive a lot more people. Thank you so much. I am not alone.

    • It’s because you have the spiritual gift of discernment!

    • The Message Bible has become a field manual for false teachers. While some good pastors may use it by mistake, many wolves love it’s language and use it to manipulate the flocks.

      A confused sheep relies more readily on the institution for support.

      Keep reading and studying.

  5. I had never heard of this Message until a couple of weeks ago when the leader at the church I attend put up verses on the front screen with the abbreviation after the scripture. I always have my NKJV Bible with me and when I saw what was on the screen it did appear correct from what I read in the NKJV. I was very surprised to find significant meanings.

    What is more alarming is that the church congregation relies on the over head screen to read the scriptures presented. Rare a member that actually brings a Bible and there are none available in the pews. The leader does not state the source of the paraphrased writings so I believe that many are deceived not knowing the Word of God, especially new believers.

    We are in a dark time. The shepherds and leaders are deceived.

    This Message book should not be used at all.

  6. I read your article, with interest. Often when I’m studying the scriptures, I will read 3 or 4 versions (and I use the word “version: to include Versions, Translations and Paraphrases or Commentaries). However, I found that often The Message is a wonderful commentary as it helps gel the other versions in a better light for me. Would I use it as my only version? No. But I do prefer to use it to add clarity. God bless.

  7. Excellent observations on The Message. You are right-on! Thank you!

  8. This is something I’ve had some trouble with at my church because speakers were prone to read out passages from The Message as part of the church service.

    When I first began to object – due to the occult phrases and New Age terminology of The Message, in addition to its distortions of scripture – my concerns were discussed with the church minister behind closed doors. Readings from the book continued the same as before with the problems swept under the rug.

    I got the phrase “As above, so below” which appears in The Message and googled it alongside the word “Satanism” in the presence of the minister. I showed him the many websites that spring up connecting this phrase to Satanism and other forms of the occult. I also showed church leaders other occult words in The Message such as “Light-bearers” and “Divine Guardians”. They concluded that Eugene Peterson had indeed made a decision to insert occultic words into the book but they still chose to read from it! They would just avoid the passages that had those words in them.

    I continued my protest. At one point, I emailed as many people in the church whose email addresses I could find, showing the problems with the book. I began to show up where The Message had taken from, added to, and twisted scriptures in the particular passage that had been recited during the church service — also explaining why those changes fitted a New Age and politically correct agenda.

    Although I was never rude in my emails, seven people complained about me to the church office in one day. About ten people in total complained about me that week. There were phone calls and emails to the minister, as well as people appearing at the church office to complain about me to him in person. None of those individuals ever identified themselves to me and to this day I don’t know who they were. People at my church had seemingly fallen in love with The Message and I was chucking a big rock in their pool.

    I think my actions sent out a shockwave in the spiritual realm. One lady, a former church leader, reportedly lay awake all night wrestling with the issue. Apparently, she told the minister that she couldn’t see why it mattered that Eugene Peterson changed God’s words.

    I remember feeling like a pariah with no support or friends in that church for some weeks. I would sit alone on a sofa with no one ready to converse with me. I had to sit through two church services tailored to support the church’s use of The Message. One person stormed up to me and demanded that I send her no more emails. I replied that as part of the body of Christ, she was responsible along with everyone else for ensuring that an authentic Bible gets used and not a book that misrepresents God’s word.

    Later, when I started dating a woman (now my wife) at the church, she was warned that I was at the centre of controversy.

    I reminded the church that Jesus said if we love him, we will obey his commands (John 14:23). In his book the Bible he expressly commands us not to change his words (Proverbs 30:6, Revelation 22:19). I reminded them that we are told to have no fellowship with darkness (Ephesians 5:11) which should mean we don’t use that book as a resource.

    I ended up hearing The Message defined as all kinds of things to try to dismiss the problem that it tampered with scripture – a practice which the Bible itself condemns. The Message, I was told, is a “paraphrase”, a “commentary”, a “rendition”, a “transliteration”, etc, etc. But whatever it is, it STILL shouldn’t be twisting scripture.

    In some places, The Message actually alters the gospel. Galatians 1:8 condemns in the most severe terms the one who changes the gospel message of salvation. I remember complaining that if the church hall was hired for a function, as it often was, a member of the local community could come in, pick up the copy of The Message from the bookshelf and read a false gospel in it.

    I found it helpful to cobble together a resource from various websites showing examples of how The Message has tampered with Bible verses, misrepresented the gospel, and added occult and New Age words. The pdf file can be accessed at https://tinyurl.com/exz3t6bm and printed out. I gave the leaders and some church members paper copies of this resource.

    Eventually – and with prayer – other people in the church started to get disquieted by The Message. Copies of it appeared on the bookshelf as people chucked it in. A couple of church leaders also began to express concerns about the content. I got some belated support and encouragement. I told the minister that if they kept on reading passages from this book over me, I would stand up in the service and expose it. Speakers were lacking in integrity to feed people from this book without first explaining the many problems with it.

    The minister told the other speakers not to use The Message anymore. They still didn’t admit that it was a dubious practice to incorporate this book into a church service, but instead gave the reason that “it was causing offence in the church”.

    Today we have a different minister and new faces among the leadership. The Message is generally avoided but there is no hard and fast rule. On the two occasions when I have since heard it used, the speakers haven’t disclosed the name of the book they are reading from. They read a passage of The Message that they’ve written down or read it from an app on their cell phone. People don’t see the name of the book.

    In my opinion, The Message is a bit like the ring in Lord of the Rings: there’s always someone who thinks it will be all right to use it and who doesn’t want to let go of it. Some people explode when they cannot have it. However, with a number of passages warning of the erosion of faith in the last days, there’s a rather strong motive to contend for the faith by insisting on an accurate Bible (Jude 3).

    Every blessing,

    Joe

  9. This is the latest development: a 16-page booklet available on Ebay.com that anyone around the world can order and give out:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/115037693742
    Hoping it will appear in Google listings in time.

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