themessageThe following article compares verses in The Message Bible by Eugene H. Peterson to the New American Standard Bible, the King James Version, and the English Standard Version.  The purpose of this comparison is to highlight just how different The Message is from these translations with the hope of demonstrating that it not a trustworthy version. I understand that The Message was not translated with the same goals in mind.  Therefore, I am not surprised by the differences; but I am concerned about them.  For more information about my concerns please see my post A Creative But Inaccurate Message  and my article Analysis Of The Message Bible: Justification and Sanctification.

I have made observations about the differences under each comparison. My comments do not necessarily reflect everything I could have pointed out. I encourage you to examine the verses for any further issues.

Verse Comparisons

NASB The Message
Psalms 24:1-3
(1) A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.
(2)  For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers.
(3)  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?
Psalms 24:1-3
(1) A David psalm. GOD claims Earth and everything in it, God claims World and all who live on it.
(2)  He built it on Ocean foundations, laid it out on River girders.
(3)  Who can climb Mount GOD? Who can scale the holy north-face?

There is a significant difference between saying the earth is the Lord’s and saying God claims Earth. The first expression suggests ownership. The second sounds like God  happened to claim it at some time, like something anyone could have done. What exactly is Mount GOD?

blueline

KJV The Message
Proverbs 16:29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. Proverbs 16:29 Calloused climbers betray their very own friends; they’d stab their own grandmothers in the back.

Verse 29 is creative, but far from a standard translation. The idea of someone luring someone into a bad situation is gone and instead we have a strange reference to calloused climbers and stabbed grandmothers.

blueline

KJV

The Message

Matthew 7:21-22
(21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
(22)  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Matthew 7:21-22
(21) Knowing the correct password–saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance–isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience–doing what my Father wills. (22)  I can see it now–at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’

Addressing just some of the differences, the kingdom of heaven has been replaced with something completely different. Verse 22 contains one of the 467 places “Message” appears. Since it appears with a capital M, it comes across as a proper noun. It suggests that the book – The Message – is what is being referred to. That gives The Message an awful lot of weight in many verses. Here it replaces a word that means to prophesy. In other places, it replaces “gospel”. It actually does that in all instances except for one. Here is one such example:

NASB

The Message

2 Thessalonians 1:8
dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 1:8
Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they’ve done.

The Greek word for gospel is euaggelion. Here is the definition from Strongs Concordance.

From the same as G2097; a good message, that is, the gospel: – gospel.

Yes, it can mean a good message, but which one? The name of our Lord Jesus has been removed from this verse in The Message. His name  identifies the message correctly. It is Jesus’ gospel that we must obey, not a Book.

blueline

ESV

The Message

John 14:22-23
(22) Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
(23)  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:22-23
(22) Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”
(23)  “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him–we’ll move right into the neighborhood!

Instead of simply changing the meaning, extra words are added. I can see no parallel expression for “”Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world.” It is a serious matter to add words to the scriptures. Worse yet, it is said that Jesus said those words. It should be a fearful thing to put words into Jesus’ mouth. Paraphrases by their very nature tend to change the words of Jesus which is damaging enough, but adding words in that were not originally recorded adulterates the word of God. At the end of verse 23 we see that the Father and Jesus will be moving into the neighborhood. That seems less personal than having them come to us and live with us.

blueline

ESV

The Message

Romans 3:28-29
(28) For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
(29)  Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
Romans 3:28-29
(28) 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.
(29)  And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews.

The very important truth of being “justified by faith” disappears from verse 28. For a deeper look at how The Message obscures the doctrine of justification, please see Analysis of The Message Bible.

blueline

KJV

The Message

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

A very important part of this verse is gone. This promise is given to a specific group of people, those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. It is a great loss to remove that reference. 

blueline

ESV

The Message

Romans 9:15-16
(15) For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
(16)  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Romans 9:15-16
(15) God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.”
(16)  Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy.

These verses appear in the middle of a very important chapter in regards to the sovereignty of God in salvation. The way they are rendered in The Message seriously diminishes this great doctrine.

blueline

KJV

The Message

 Romans 10:13
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:13 
Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

This much loved and meaningful verse has been stripped of its eternally vital significance. The important phrase “the name of the Lord” is gone. Where is the promise of salvation? The calling upon the Lord that we utter or pray for the safety of our souls is not akin to calling for help.

blueline

NASB

The Message

1 Corinthians  11:7-15 
(7)  For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
(8)  For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
(9)  for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. (10)  Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.(11)  However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
(12)  For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
(13)  Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?(14)  Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,
(15)  but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
1 Corinthians 11:7-15
(6b) By these symbolic acts,
(7)  men and women, who far too often butt heads with each other, submit their “heads” to the Head: God.
(8)  (SEE 11:7)
(9)  (SEE 11:7)
(10)  Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women.
(11)  Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God–that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband.
(12)  The first woman came from man, true–but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.
(13)  Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism–a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission?
(14)  (SEE 11:13)
(15)  (SEE 11:13)

From the beginning to the end of this section of verses, serious damage is done to the meaning of the text. There are important truths about men and women that have been replaced with something completely different. On top of that we read that we don’t need to read too much into what has been written “here”. Where? In these same verses in the Greek and accurate translations that speak of the creation of woman for the sake of man and the symbol of authority on her head? If so, that would be tragic since that comes to us though God’s inspired word.

These are not the only verses regarding women that have been changed. Verses regarding submission have been altered as well.  Submission is gone from Ephesians 5:22, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1. Reference to Sarah’s obedience to Abraham is gone from 1 Peter 3:6. I know that submission is frowned upon by many in today’s culture, but that should not take precedence over the will of God when producing a Bible – or ever. I understand that many women have a difficult time with the idea. I care deeply for them because I’ve felt the same way. But I trust that the Lord can work in their hearts to show them why he has called them to it and help them live it. Intentionally keeping a wife outside of the will of God does not help her.  Why not instead teach the beauty of submission and explain how much more unity with Christ and how much more harmony with her husband she can have when she takes her role?

blueline

NASB

The Message

Galatians 3:24-26  
(24) Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
(25)  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
(26)  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:24-26
(24) The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.
(25)  But now you have arrived at your destination:
(26)  By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God.

As in verse Romans 3:28 above, “justified by faith” is gone from verse 24.

blueline

NASB

The Message

Ephesians 1:11 
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
Ephesians 1:11
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living,

 Verse 11 normally gives a clear reference to the sovereignty of God over our salvation and all things.  Readers of The Message will miss this all important truth when they read verse 11.

blueline

NASB

The Message

Ephesians 2:8-9
(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
(9)  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9
(8) Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s  God’s gift from start to finish!
(9) We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

Being saved through faith by the grace of God is a core belief of Christianity. It does not appear anymore in these verses in The Message. Saying that all we have to do is trust God and “let” him save us seems to imply that we give him permission to do it.  That does not bear out in the scriptures. As verse 8 says, salvation is not of us. In the Message, a mixed message is given about our part and God’s part in salvation, whereas the important point of these verses is to drive home the idea that it was not of us.

blueline

NASB

The Message

Colossians 2:9
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
Colossians 2:9
Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him.

Verse 9 is a short yet profound sentence that so much of Christianity rests on. It makes reference to the incarnation of Jesus. He is God in the flesh. This verse in The Message does damage to the incarnation and adds fanciful words that have no parallel in the Greek.

blueline

These examples are just a small sampling of verses in The Message that have lead me to conclude that it is not a good choice. While it may be ok in a certain percentage of passages, the number of places that it is not is too great.  Too many of the originally inspired words are not represented. This leads to a distorted gospel that veils the word of God from the readers of The Message. That is serious. It could hinder them from worshipping in truth and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is tragic. Peter gives a warning to be on guard as there are some who distort the scriptures. They may have done it by oral teaching. How much worse is it to present a written distortion as a Bible?

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,  as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,  but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:14-18 (NASB)

Please choose an accurate, God honoring version and let the word of Christ dwell richly within you so that the light of God’s word may fully shine in your life.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16 (NASB)

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalms 119:105 (KJV)

Further Reading
A Creative But Inaccurate Message; Chapter 3 Ministries
Analysis Of The Message Bible: Justification and Sanctification; Chapter 3 Ministries
The Message; Bible Researcher
What about the Message Version?; Study Your Bible Online