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Brief (and by no means exhaustive) Summary of Passages Contained Within "The Message" by Eugene Peterson Which Directly Compromise Fundamental Tenets of Orthodox Christianity

A Brief (and by no means exhaustive) Summary of Passages Contained Within "The Message" by Eugene Peterson Which Directly Compromise Fundamental Tenets of Orthodox Christianity



What follows is a comparison/contrast and analysis of several well –known passages as found in major translations such as the KJV, NASB, and NIV as well as these same passages as found in The Message authored by Eugene Peterson. Any intellectually honest assessment of the following notes leads to the inescapable conclusion that The Message compromises some of the fundamental doctrines of orthodox Christianity.


I began this study when I was made aware that the high school seniors of a nearby church were given copies of The Message as graduation gifts. I did not at the time own a copy of The Message nor had I read it. My exposure to it at that point was seeing it cited in other works. I purchased a copy and began to read and study this paraphrase more in depth. What I discovered stunned me. The Message is not only a poor paraphrase, but it is, in fact, heretical.



Matthew 6:9















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


9 "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.


9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.


9 "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,


9 With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.



This is a passage from what is commonly referred to as "the Lord's Prayer." There are two problems with Peterson's rendering of this familiar passage. The first is that Peterson includes an imperative from Jesus to the Father that is not in the text. The second, and much more serious, problem is the nature of His imperative – Reveal who you are. Why would Jesus Christ who is the revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-3) ask God to reveal Himself? The Revelation of God is the One Who is praying the prayer! This imperative by Jesus certainly strongly implies that God has yet to reveal Himself. I beg to differ. Also, notice the room which is implicitly provided for a later revelation of the antichrist who will, of course, claim to be the revelation of God.




John 10:30















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


30 "I and the Father are one."


30 I and my Father are one.


30 I and the Father are one."


30 I and the Father are one heart and mind."



This is another familiar passage. The NASB, NIV, and KJV are all practically identical, save for the insertion of a personal pronoun found in the latter. Not so The Message's rendering. The Message denigrates the uniqueness and deity of Jesus. Let us remember that David was a "man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22) but he was not God.



1 Timothy 4:1-5















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,


1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;


1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.


1 The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars.


Of the passages which I have cited in this letter, this is the least worrisome but is worrisome nonetheless. Paul is clearly referring to demonic powers but note the unmistakable human spin which Peterson employs. He diminishes the demonic powers by referring to them as mere "illusions" which are forwarded not by demons but by "professional liars." Such a reference could encapsulate a carnival barker.



Matthew 5:5















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth


5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth


5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth


5 You are truly blessed when you are content with just who you are – no more, no less.


Not only does this not have anything to do with the passage at hand, it is stunningly un-biblical. What if a homosexual is reading this? Should he be content with "just who he is?" What about an agnostic? A Hindu? What about one who believes himself to be a "Christian" but is living in sin? This is not even true for a Bible-believing, committed Christian! There should never be a time when we are "content with just who we are!" This is a profoundly unbiblical statement.





1 Corinthians 6:9-11

























New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,


9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,


9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders


9 Don't you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex,


(Guess what's missing!)


10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.


10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.


10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.


10 use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom.


11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.


11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.


11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


11 A number of you know from experience what I'm talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you've been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.


This one is serious. One of the sins to which the Apostle Paul is clearly referring is that of homosexuality. Notice that The Message completely omits the word. In its stead, Peterson inserts the phrase "those who use and abuse the earth." The earth? From where in the world (or the text as the case may be) did he get the earth? There seems to be an environmental agenda at work here. One could not read this passage in a real Bible and come away believing that homosexuality was permissible under any circumstances. One would never know from reading The Message, however, that it was a problem in any sense.



Romans 1:26-27




















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,


26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:


26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.


26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either-women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men.


27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the


due penalty of their error.


27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error


which was meet.


27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.


27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men-all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it-emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.


 


 



This passage dealing with homosexuality is quite a bit more problematic for Peterson. In 1 Cor. 6:9-11, he had only to omit one word. Here, he has two entire verses with which to wrestle. What to do here? Well, Peterson provides a loophole: all lust, no love. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that 'Well, if these people had just done this out of love, then it would have been ok.' There is clearly in The Message room for a 'committed, loving' homosexual relationship. In Peterson's rendering of the Bible, it is not the nature of homosexuality in and of itself that is the grievous sin, it is simply the absence of love.



1 Timothy 1:10















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers…


10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars…


10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers…


10 but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever!


The Message again simply leaves out the reference to homosexuality and replaces it instead with the generic "sex." Inexplicably, the NIV appears to do the same. There are 3 passages in the N.T. that deal with homosexuality and The Message utterly fails on all three.


Note: The Message does, in fairness, appear to be relatively on track in regards to Leviticus 18:22. This, though, does not excuse its abject failure in the N.T. Let's be honest, how many people (teenagers especially) are realistically going to do devotional reading from Leviticus? They are far more likely to spend their time in the New Testament.


Romans 8:35















New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update


The King James Version


The New International Version


The Message


35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?


35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?


35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?


35 Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:


 



This one really is troublesome. Notice that all of the elements which Paul rightly asserts will never separate us from Christ are very earthly and temporal (tribulation, persecution, famine, etc.). Paul is basically talking about hard times. Eugene Peterson brazenly inserts into the passage: not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. Wow. This should trouble any clear thinking believer. Sin IS what separates us from God! That is why we need a Savior! For the one who is lost, sin separates from God positionally. For the believer, sin separates from God relationally. Sin is not even remotely in view in this passage. This is heresy.





 


Conclusion:


 



Pick up a copy of The Message and you will see on its front cover "The Bible in Contemporary Language." The Message is NOT the Bible. It is one man's commentary on the Bible, and an extraordinarily poor one at that.



Some object to criticism of Peterson's work by saying The Message is not a literal translation but rather a paraphrase. True. But even paraphrases should be an accurate thought for thought rendering of the original biblical text. We are not talking here about a paraphrase of "Green Eggs and Ham." We are talking about the Word of God. God holds His name and His word above all things (Psalm 138:2). His Word must be rendered and handled accurately. What we believe about God is derived from what we read in His Word. If one reads an erroneous Bible, then it logically follows that what one believes about God will also be in error.



The Message is, in large part, marketed toward teenagers, young adults, and young believers – the most impressionable among us. Youth ministers are reading this to their students and teaching from it. Many preachers are, sadly, quoting it in their sermons. Hopefully, much of this is being done in ignorance.



The question must be asked, 'Would Jesus Christ approve of this rendering of His word?' Certainly any honest intellectual assessment would have to lead one to the answer of "no." If Christ would not approve then certainly we must not either.



In a concluding thought, it is not Mr. Peterson's intentions or sincerity which is important. In fact, they are irrelevant entirely. Peterson may well be sincere. Sincerity, though, is not the issue – Truth is the issue. Misplaced sincerity is a profoundly dangerous commodity.


 


 



In Him and for His Truth



Most respectively submitted,




Justin Peters