Wednesday, April 09th, 2008 | Author:

Over the past few years, I have heard many negative comments about “The Message” translation of the Bible. I have also heard people say that they liked it, because it was easy to understand. Until today, though, I had never read any of it myself, so I reserved judgement. Then I saw a quote from it that piqued my interest, so I went to and did a search.

My opinion, which you’re all free to ignore or even argue with, is this: If you’re reading the Bible to gain an understanding of God and God’s ways, don’t read The Message. The basic concepts have been changed so drastically that they’re unrecognizable. If you’re reading it like it’s a novel, it might not be so bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it. We tend to absorb ideas, no matter where they come from.

If you want to disagree, please read the following first. They are direct verse-by-verse comparisons between The Message (MESS) and the New American Standard Version (NAS), which I’m told is a quite literal, accurate translation. If you don’t trust the NAS, look up the passage in your own Bible. I’ve followed it with some brief comments. has a decent commentary on this passage, also.

Matthew 16:21-26

(NAS) From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

(MESS) Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!” But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Notice the difference in Jesus’ words. In the NAS, Jesus directly calls Peter Satan, and rebukes him for being a stumbling block to Jesus. He says Peter is thinking selfishly, and not for God’s interests. In the MESS, Jesus does not call Peter Satan, but addresses them both separately, which removes the idea that Satan was using Peter. The MESS also implies that Peter just didn’t understand, instead of being actively selfish or sinful. When did you EVER hear Jesus give someone an excuse to sin, or tell someone they were just ignorant instead sinful??? A knife to the heart becomes a pat on the head. That’s a pretty substanstial difference in translation.

The MESS also eliminates “take up his cross”, and changes the next part to imply people just need to suffer, they don’t need to die. And where, oh where, did they get the concept of “finding yourself, your true self”? Aren’t we supposed to be trying to find God? This ex-hippie thinks the idea came from the sixties, not from the Bible. The Bible tells us repeatedly to take up our crosses, to die to self, to crucify our flesh. This idea is all through the New Testament. It says nothing about finding our true selves. Instead of crucifying the flesh, the MESS promotes the flesh.

More generally, if the Bible truly is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim 3:16) then all translations should be as accurate as possible. The Bible is not a matter of interpretation or poetry. It’s God’s Word. The question shouldn’t be, “What does this mean to me?” The question should be, “What did God mean?”

Category: Christianity
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