Today’s Theology Thursday post is a seemingly simple one so I’d like 100% participation please and thank you. As you may have noticed from my blog title today’s post has to do with Bible translations. Whether or not to use an ESV though is not really the question, I just thought it rhymed well with the old Shakespeare quote.
I lead a small group at our church where in we study the Bible based off the previous week’s sermon. A lot of times when I’m preparing the questions and what-not for discussion I use exclusively a ESV Bible, it is the Elect Sanctified Version after all, sometimes I’ll use a NKJV though. I’d really like to get my hands on a NASB…maybe for Christmas…anyway…different people in our small group use different versions of course. Some people, more than two, in my small group use The Message Bible. Now, if you’re not familiar with The Message Bible it is in contemporary English and it’s a pretty laid back version, I think I saw the recipe for Rice Krispy treats in there once and of course in The Message Jesus turned the water into wine coolers (*rimshot* thank you Tim Hawkins) also if you want some real fun try using a Message Bible for Bible drills, hilarity will ensue.
But seriously, I do not like The Message Bible at all, for several reasons: first, it is a paraphrase of the Bible, a lot of the richness of the language is lost. In the case with my small group I had a point to make based on 1 Peter 2:1-3, where it says:
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
The above is how it reads in my ESV bible…my entire point here was based on the word “IF” in verse three. “If you have tasted that the Lord is good” this is an unassuming statement. My point was that just because the scripture says something is true does not automatically make it true of you, hence the word “if.” The problem was I asked someone to read who was using a Message Bible wherein that verse reads:
So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.
The Message changes it to more of an assuming statement. I had to read the verse out of my Bible to make the point, and then we got on a bunny trail about Bible versions. Beyond annoyances at little things like these, in a few weeks we are going to be in 1 Peter 3 and there are several differences in the text there, mostly because the word “submit” is completely lost. Other problems include its
leaning toward Gnosticism, it’s less defining of God as a man, it lack of authority in the Word of God, in some places, while it claims to be a contemporary version, it’s too concise and in others too verbose. There is a laundry list of reasons I don’t like this “paraphrase.”
My questions for discussion are these:
Do I discourage use of The Message Bible as a whole, even to those who would say they have a hard time understanding a different translation?
Do I warn of its many shortcomings (because I kinda already have)?
What would be a better translation to point someone to in this kind of situation? (The latest NIV has just as many gender problems.)