Friday, June 03, 2011

Why The Message is an untrustworthy Bible

nomessageThe truth be told, it cannot be called a Bible at all!

Whenever I hear Christians speak of their use of The Message as their Bible, I cringe. In my opinion, The Message is so bad, that to read it seriously is to be deceived! In my opinion, The Message trivializes the true message of the Bible, the gospel, and makes sin less of an issue than what God sees it as.

A lot has been written about The Message and its inadequacies. Two of those can be read here and here.

Some have said they use The Message when the meaning of a verse is not clear to them. The fact is, as will be shown below, that The Message does not clarify Scripture, but truly muddies the waters. In many instances, of which the table of verses below are but a sample, The Message clearly misses the point, and also adds its own ideas to Scripture, which are foreign to the meaning of Scripture.

If you truly want to know what a verse means, then good commentaries are available. Also, perhaps a good course or book on how to interpret the Bible will be better than using The Message as a “clarifier!”
Below is a table of verses taken from the ESV, HCSB and The Message, to show how The Message twists Scripture. Remember, this is only a sample.

HCSB The Message
Rom 1:24
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. So God said, in effect, "If that's what you want, that's what you get." It wasn't long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.
The Message mentions nothing about sexual impurity! Those that changed the truth of God for a lie were given over to sexual impurity! It is specific! Also, the Bible is clear here that God gave them over to their sexual impurity because of their idolatrous cravings!
Rom 1:26-27
26  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
27  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
26  This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural.
27  The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion.
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  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.
v26 - "didn't know how to be human either"? How is this remotely the same as "exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural?"
v27 - Here The Message even softens the depraved practices of the homosexual lifestyle by saying "all lust, no love." That is not even a close approximation of what verse 27 is all about. It is not as if homosexual relationships are acceptable if its done in love! That is not what this verse says!
Rom 3:14
"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness They open their mouths and pollute the air.
Please explain to me how this verse has anything to do with the environment! "Cursing and bitterness," not air pollution! Sheesh!
Rom 3:18
"There is no fear of God before their eyes." There is no fear of God before their eyes. They never give God the time of day.
It is one thing not to pay attention to someone. It is a totally different thing not to fear someone. The Biblical concept of the "fear of God" has a specific connotation and meaning to it. The Message does not even try to address that!
Rom 3:20-21
20  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it
20  For no flesh will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21  But now, apart from the law, God's righteousness has been revealed--attested by the Law and the Prophets
20  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.
21  But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened.
v20 - Once again The Message has no clue about what the Scriptures are saying. This verse is not addressing mere "involvement with God's revelation!" It is directly addressing the ideas of the Jews that they could be made righteous by following the stipulations of the law!
Further, what complicity do I have in another's sin according to this verse? Through the law comes knowledge of sin, not my complicity in another's! This verse informs us how we are not to be justified, by the use of the law!
v21 - This verse is directly about the gospel, that God's righteousness has been revealed apart from the law. This is nothing new that was added. The gospel is not an addition to the law! That is what the Judaizers tried, and which Paul cursed in Galatians.
Rom 3:25
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public--to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured.
The Message here skips over two important points: God's wrath being turned away from sinners who deserve death, and that God sent Christ as a propitiation to demonstrate His righteousness in doing so. Propitiation is a beautiful Biblical word that explains that the death of Christ turned God's wrath away from sinners who so definitively deserved death.
Rom 3:28
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. We've finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
The Message here makes it seem like the issue in this verse is about us simply wanting to live our lives the way we want to. In fact, this verse clearly speaks to the gospel, which is justification by faith and not law!
Rom 4:15
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, there is no transgression. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise--and God's promise at that--you can't break it.
Once again The Message slips up in what the Scriptures are saying here. It has nothing to do with a hard-nosed lawyer! It has to do, with the fact that the law was given to the Israelites to point out their sin, in fact to magnify it. The context here contrasts law and gospel, which The Message does not get here.
Rom 4:25
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.
This verse speaks of the fact that Jesus was delivered up specifically to deal with our sins, our trespasses. The Message makes it sound like God just simply "made us fit for God." Just like that, without dealing with our sin problem! It further does not deal with the resurrection of Christ at all, which was for our justification.
Rom 6:17-18
17  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
18  and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
17  But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,
18  and having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
17  But thank God you've started listening to a new master,
18  one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
The concept of slavery, either to sin or righteousness, is ignored by The Message. Once again, the Biblical contrast between our enslavement to sin, and our enslavement to righteousness is replaced by a very empty "started listening to a new master." That phrase does not in the remotest sense pick up on the enslavement contrast here.
Rom 8:14
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. All those led by God's Spirit are God's sons. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
Once again The Message trivializes things. This verse falls within a passage of Romans 8 that deals with the fact that those who live by the flesh (unsaved) will die, and those that live by the Spirit (saved) will have life. It does not speak to the issue of being led to different places by God, "places to go!" It is a salvation issue. Those that are led by the Spirit (the ones called by the Spirit to salvation), are the sons of God, not the ones trying to find salvation in the law and fleshly attempts to salvation.
Rom 8:28-30
28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
28  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
29  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
30  And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.
28  That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
29  God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.
30  After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
v28 - The Message ignores God's purpose.
v29 - The Message swaps the order of things around. Those He foreknew He predestined; those He predestined He called; those He called He justified and those He justified He glorified. Here The Message (TM) puts it in complete reverse. According to TM God decided to do stuff for those who love Him, while here God did a whole lot even before He called us or justified us!
Rom 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
"green hope?" Where did TM get this? How was this green environmentalism slipped into this verse?
1 Cor 6:9-10
9  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
10  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
9  Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals,
10  thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom.
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,
10  use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom.
v9 - "use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex" can be completely open for interpretation. Who defines what abuse is? TM drifts away from specifics here to mere generalities, missing the point. TM ignores: adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals.
v10 - Again, what is this environmentalism that is slipped in here with "use and abuse the earth?" The Biblical text is not addressing this at all!
1 Tim 1:8-11
8  Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9  understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
10  the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
11  in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
8  Now we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately.
9  We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers,
10  for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching
11  based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me.
8  It's true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say.
9  It's obvious, isn't it, that the law code isn't primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life,
10  sex, truth, whatever!
11  They are contemptuous of this great Message I've been put in charge of by this great God.
TM really runs roughshod over the Biblical text and its meaning!
v8 - "the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say." This is not what the text says here at all!
v9 - It is amazing how TM muddles categories here and rids the text of specifics.
v10 - I think that TM is soft on sexual sins, especially homosexuality!

2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible. In this MP3, that can be downloaded or listened to below, Dr. Albert Mohler interviews Dr. Leland Ryken on the literary aspects of the KJV, its lasting effects, and what a good translation of the Bible should be aiming at.

The transcript of the interview can be read here.

Concerning translation philosophies, of the KJV Dr. Ryken says:
“They expected their readers to rise to the level required of the Bible.” [not to the lowest common denominator]
“modernizing translations scale everything down.  They begin with the readership assumed to have a sixth grade level of understanding.  That really offends me.  It’s as if to say leave your adult understanding on ways of thinking and talking behind when you come to reading the Bible.  I want to reach back to my childhood.  I remember no horrible burden of unintelligibility in the King James.  Doubtless there were difficult things I just accepted that.  I kind of intuitively sensed that someday I would understand.  And I remember to this day you know the second grade classroom where I memorized, “Behold to obey is better than sacrifice then to hearken in the fat of rams.”  I didn’t fully understand, but I knew something very big was being asserted there, and I just knew that someday I would fully understand it.  So this whole scaling down is just troubling to me.”
That is exactly my qualm with some modern translations, especially The Message. It assumes I am stupid! While I am working everyday, I am treated like an adult, and have to read documents that are, at many occasions, more difficult to understand than the Bible. Yet, these go-hung translators then assume I am a sixth-grader and I have to read something like The Message. For goodness sake, we are dealing with God’s Word. Surely we can be expected to rather rise to something greater than ourselves when we read the Bible. I prefer the ESV as a more literal translation and the HCSB somewhere between the ESV and NIV, yet closer to the ESV. But, not so long ago, schools in America used the KJV in classrooms as a tool to teach children to read!

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