Inspired by a recent Rick Warren sermon where he used no less than 6 different Bible versions in his ongoing goal to twist God’s word at every chance he gets, I thought a bit of some compare and contrast would be in order as as we ask ourselves- what is a Bible and what does it mean for something to be considered Scriptures? Stated more precisely, WHY are people even using it?
What does it mean for something to be the word of God to these Pastors? Better yet, what is the advantage of reading what one person paraphrases the scriptures as “kind-of/sort of meaning”, versus having our brightest minds and scholarly experts painstakingly recreate for us the exactness of what God actually says? I already told you all tongue-in-cheek that I was writing my own Bible version, and yet sadly no pastors who use the Message Bible took me up on my offer, even though I demonstrated its much better than Eugene Peterson’s version.
But here is some further think-a-long; I have a theory that people oftentimes don’t choose a Bible to know with precision what God actually said, but rather they choose it and use it for how it makes them feel when they read it. You see this all the time in pulpits. Pastors will throw up some notes on powerpoint and they’ll have 5 different translations/paraphrases ranging from the excellent [NASB] to the good [NIV] to the bad [NLT] to the utterly and completely appalling [Message Bible]. Why use the Message Bible? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of.
Its also because of the modernized language that avoids theological terms that have rich depth to them, like justification and sanctification. “Justification” has become “asking Jesus into your heart” and “Sanctification” has become “Making better choice through life principles”. The congregants go along with using these paraphrases because of familiarity, and consequently it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said historically and in context, but rather the importance is that whatever verses are being preached sound like what they would do and what they think of. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.
It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than rigorous faith fullness to the text. This is shameful, sad, and embarrassing on all levels possible.
To that end, here is a segment from Matthew 5:1-10. ESV first, the Message second
1-2. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
1-2. When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
6“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Examine those few verses. Are they saying the same thing? Do they even sound the same? Are things being added in? Verses 3 -5 are especially grotesque in their ability to take liberties with the text and add flourishes that not only do not exist, but actually changes the meaning of what was actually said by Jesus. It’s like he’s not even traying. Why is it necessary to do that? Do you see why this is such a serious matter?
The Message bible catechizes using foreign concepts that are not biblical and which Jesus never intended to say. So let’s call it for what it is- A sad testament to our modern-day churchy evangelical culture that values manipulation of the text for personal gratification, over fidelity to the text for corporate sanctification.
Contributed by [Dustin Germain]
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