Watering down the Word … and God


I was comparing some verses in the New King James version and The Message, and noticed some very stark differences in some verses. Yes, one could argue the benefits of literal, dynamic, even paraphrased bibles and there’s more than enough websites out there that argue for and against them and I’m not even going to start to comment on them.

Loss of authority

One thing that I will say is, the more contemporary the translations get, the word of God seems to be losing its voice of authority on its readers. As newer translations contemporize the message so much, the language used is so flippant, so casual.

I can’t imagine anyone being ‘cut to the heart’ by the new translations, the ‘double edged sword’ is made blunt by careless and irresponsible paraphrasing.

If you’re looking to increase your congregation’s numbers, use the new translations. The word of God is so palatable, so ‘user friendly’, you’ll be pressed to find anyone who is offended by it.

New vocabulary

The newer translations also introduce modern day Christian vocabulary into the texts, which was never the idea in the original. For instance, people talk about being ‘intimate’ with God, and the writers of The Message very conveniently put this in.

1 John 2 :6 (NKJV) : He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked
1 John 2:6 (The Message) : Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.

How does abiding equate intimacy, i don’t know. But the end result is : christians now start using new vocabulary in their life, never mind that the inspired originals may have meant something else.


I’ve put here a comparison of some verses that explain my point. Its not exhaustive, and its not just The Message that I’m hitting on, i just find The Message to epitomize the extent of deviance a translation can go (for now).

Verse New King James Version The Message
John 3:16-18 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God
16-18″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. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him
Rom 3:9-20 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:” There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”[a]
13 ” Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;[b]” The poison of asps is under their lips”;[c]
14 ” Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”[d]
15 ” Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”[e]
18 ” There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[f]

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin

9-20So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
Rom 3:21-24 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[a] who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus 21-24But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
Rom 6:20-24 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 20-21As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.22-23But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.
John 1 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it. 1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.3-5Everything was created through him;
nothing-not one thing!-
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
Heb 4:12-13 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 12-13God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it-no matter what

Verses taken from biblegateway

A bold suggestion

So why would God allow such irresponsible verses exist? Why does He allow His Word to be perverted such? I suggest this:

2Thess 2:1-4

1Now we beg you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him,
2that ye be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as [if it were] by us, as that the day of the Lord is present.
3Let not any one deceive you in any manner, because [it will not be] unless the apostasy have first come, and the man of sin have been revealed, the son of perdition;
4who opposes and exalts himself on high against all called God, or object of veneration; so that he himself sits down in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

2 Tim 4
I testify before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom,
2proclaim the word; be urgent in season [and] out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3For the time shall be when they will not bear sound teaching; but according to their own lusts will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear;
4and they will turn away their ear from the truth, and will have turned aside to fables.

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity will NOT take over the world. Before the true church is raptured (which we have no idea when), there will be a great apostasy, a letting go of what was once held as truth, a turning back from the Word of God. Yes, the professing church will grow, many will claim to be Christians, but may not be truly born again. What tools do you think the devil will use to effect this apostasy? The Quran? the Bhagavad-Gita? No, it’ll be a perverted version (definition mine) of the word of God, just like how he deceived the woman before the fall.

Have you noticed that the upsurge of paraphrased and dynamic translations of the bible have only occurred in the recent decades? Even through the reformation, right down to the early 19th century, there were but a few versions of the english bible available, most of them literal translations, and it was through these translations massive (and real) revivals occured in the hearts of men. Uber preachers like spurgeon, george whitfield, moody, etc… quoted scriptures from literal translations of the bible with great Holy Spirit wrought results.

I suggest that God is allowing these translations to surface because the apostasy is increasing. The falling away has begun.

What should we do

1. Read smart. While reading dynamic translations (I usually don’t go further than the archaic NIV) help us understand the idea behind the message, its always good to counter check the idea with a bible with literal translation (AV,Darby,LITV,YLV). Usually if the idea is correct, the literal translation will suddenly make sense (at least for me).

2. read a literal version. If you can only afford one bible, get a literal version. The King James Version only costs a few ringgit, is free from copyright laws and royalty committments, and if you have extra cash because you’ve bought a cheap bible, buy a cheap dictionary. Read the bible, and lookup words you can’t understand. After a while, you’ll understand the words, and reading becomes easier, and hey, you’ve got a better vocabulary! 😉

3. warn our children. Our young ones are in danger here. Help them understand the bible, have home bible studies for them. Raise them up in the solid word of God. Start them young. They may even do better at English in school.


12 thoughts on “Watering down the Word … and God

  1. Interestingly, Rick Warren uses the translation quite extensively in his Purpose Driven books. Think about it, these are books that are supposed to revolutionize the church and individual’s lives, and brother rick chooses to use this version.

  2. antiochagent

    Instead of Rick Warren using scripture to form his ideas in The Purpose Driven Life, he reverses the order and searches and quotes faulty bible versions that fit his ideologies and prove it. Also, some of the conclusions Rick puts forward in his book have little scriptural basis. For example, try finding proof in scripture that God loves to watch you sleep (it’s in the book).

  3. Melissa

    This is so frightening it’s happening the world over and people cannot see it. I have just moved from one Church that believed strongly in the Message and watering down the word of God. Now I can see how wrong I was. It is so sad because the people at that Church are people I love and treasure, but they are walking away even though they believe they are still in God’s word.

  4. Aylwin

    Contrary to popular belief, Christianity will NOT take over the world. Before the true church is raptured (which we have no idea when), there will be a great apostasy, a letting go of what was once held as truth, a turning back from the Word of God. Yes, the professing church will grow, many will claim to be Christians, but may not be truly born again. What tools do you think the devil will use to effect this apostasy? The Quran? the Bhagavad-Gita? No, it’ll be a perverted version (definition mine) of the word of God, just like how he deceived the woman before the fall.

    Goon, in the case of twisting the word of God, wouldn’t this make it heresy and not apostasy? Apostasy means total abandonement of the faith, and heresy means pervesion of truth or established beliefs. In reference to the paragraph above, it seems to say the number of professing Christians will grow, but may not be holding on to the truth.

  5. Aylwin

    Oh oh! And I totally agree with point no.1 in “What should we do?”

    I think problems will arise if we are fixated with only 1 version (is there such thing as version-worship? haha) as brought up by Melissa, because one translation does not necessarily capture the essence of the other.

    And I wikified Eugune Peterson; he’s a professor by the way, and what his motive was in producing The Message. Here’s what he said: “When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly, When the prophet Isaiah preached a sermon, I can’t imagine that people went to the library to figure it out. That was the basic premise under which I worked. I began with the New Testament in the Greek — a rough and jagged language, not so grammatically clean. I just typed out a page the way I thought it would have sounded to the Galatians”. For full version of this article, pls go to http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page/0,1703,A%3D150098%26M%3D50022,00.html.

    I just think it’s better to know the whole story behind The Message and giving Eugune Peterson the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure the man doesn’t have any intention of replacing the more established versions of the Bible.

  6. From the same article

    “When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly,” Peterson explains

    Really? Then why would peter have to mention in 2 Pet 3 “15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
    16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

    I just typed out a page the way I thought it would have sounded to the Galatians

    2Pet1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”, and brother Eugene says he write what ‘he thinks’ it would have sounded.

    Nonetheless, he was reluctant to begin the project. “Who was I to produce another version of the Bible? I didn’t think I could do it. My first few chapters of Matthew just plodded along . . . But when I hit the Sermon on the Mount in chapter five, it kicked in, and I just let loose. I got excited. I could do this!”

    It says a lot about his attitude in handling the Word of God that is going to be used by thousands of young people as their ‘sword’. The jewish scribes were terribly careful to the point of paranoia when copying texts (just copying! let alone translating.).

    On apostasy:
    Yes, twisting the word of God results in teachings which are heretical, but the result of heresy is people knowing and believing falsehood, thus ‘missing the mark’ of truth… and loving it.
    We see this today with some christian groups who have taken it upon themselves to doubt and question the Word of God, even to fundamental doctrines like heaven and hell, and suggest that the bible is not the authority in our life.

  7. one more thing on Eugene Peterson

    I began with the New Testament in the Greek — a rough and jagged language, not so grammatically clean

    Yes, I don’t have a degree in semitics, but i disagree that Greek is a rough and jagged language. The Hebrew and Greek languages used in the inspiration and writing of Scripture are known to be the most eloquent, grammatically perfect, and comprehensive languages ever spoken. The English language is insufficient to ‘clean up’ such a language. It does not even have a word to distinguish between the three types of ‘love’ found in Greek (agape,phileo and eros) and this is just a simple example.

    However, I’m glad bro Eugene wants the Word of God to be spread. I just wish he didn’t have to write a new bible to do that.

  8. Aylwin

    i read somewhere that people in the olden days, when copying the bible, would wash themselves everytime they come across the word “GOD” before resuming copying. what reverence (or a good way to wake themself up lest they fall asleep)! haha

    hmm… it would be great if bro Eugene could participate in this discussion as well. let the author explain himself 🙂

    i was mulling on the translation issue, and i wonder, how should we then take children’s bible, those that are paraphrased for their level of understanding? what’s your take on this?

    anyway, looking from outside the box, this discussion looks like a discussion on languages and translations.

  9. NO KIDDING!!!!
    How long did they take to finish copying the ten commandments, the Word YHWH (Yahweh – Jehovah – LORD) occurs every few verses!

    I have no problem with childrens’ bibles, as long as the message and meaning are not changed. But it should not be the primary scripture source at home.

    I read to Titus from the KJV or the NKJV, sometimes the NIV (whichever is nearer to the bed 🙂 Our family devotions are done with the same versions.

    I find the NKJV very readable, almost as readable as the NIV. I don’t think children ‘need’ a paraphrased bible. They need the parents to read with them and explain to them.

    The Jews drilled the Law into their children. They had no paraphrased Torah, they had to spend lots of time explaining, which worked both ways I guess, as the parents remember it better.

    My principle is simple – no paraphrased bibles. The scripture translations have to be either literal (KJV, DARBY) or dynamic (NIV, GOOD NEWS) or somewhere in between (NKJV).
    I’ll do the paraphrasing when I explain 🙂

  10. Aylwin

    man, i’m still searching for that article to find out how long did it take for them to finish copying! will let you know when i find it.

    eh, hari ini holiday ka? banyak cepat you reply. (some more with new post)

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