Apologetics · CEC · History · Philosophy · Religion

Lost in Translation

Recently, I made a post concerning a description of a Bible paraphrase translation, stating how I disagreed with the assumptions it made within the description of whom the Bible was written for. I admitted that I had never really looked at this version, however, I had heard of it, and once I had posted my article, I decided to look it up online, and found the version online. Now, so I do not make this article long, I only want to compare two passages. Also note, I did find the Message Bible online (BibleGateway.com – Version information: The Message), But these two passages are taken straight of of the article on the Message Bible on Wikipedia.org.

(Matthew 5:1-8)

King James Version

1. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2. And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

The Message Bible

1-2. When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3. “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7. “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8. “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

(Psalm 23:1-4)

King James Version

1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The Message Bible

1. God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
2. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
3. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
4. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

Now, these two passages are commonly known, recited, and studied. My question is, does the Message Bible truly impart the meaning behind the original words? For example, in the passage from Matthew, the KJV says the meek shall inherit the earth, but in the Message version, it says you are blessed when you are content… which means nothing close to what meek means – i.e.patient, submissive, gentle and kind, as opposed to content, meaning satisfied, not wanting anything more. To change the wording from meek, to content, completely changes the context and meaning. To be content is not to be submissive, its to be satisfied. It does not mean that you are not prone to anger, it does not mean you are gentle. It could be argued that many men full of pride were content… not meek and submissive. How does this make any sense? To me, this passage in the Message Bible is in error. Not the typical printing error, etc, but grave error.

Next, Psalm 23, which, besides John 3:!6, is one of the most popular and well known Scripture passages in the world. In the KJV, as well as the NIV, the NRSV, and so on, it says something to the effect that “God MAKES me lie down…” while in the Message Bible it says “you have bedded me down.” Again, two different meanings. To make someone do something is different then to “bed” someone down, and even more so, the term bedded can easily be misconstrued in this instance to a more sexual connotation. Many pastors, my father included, have taught that God “makes” you, its not the most pleasant experience, but it is a necessary one, for again God makes you, and you submit. For God to “bed” you down, it implies its an euphoric experience, again, not as gross a difference as the passage from Matthew, but still a misrepresentation within the translation.

Again, as said before, I still have not read the entire thing, nor have I studied it intently, but these are two immediate passages that jumped out at me. I question modern translations period, and when I say modern, I mean those attempting to use “modern” language to enable more people to “understand” what the Bible is saying. This may be the intention, but to me, from what I have seen so far, it only distorts the true meaning of the original text, and on top of that, some of it is in complete error.

JZ Holloway

4 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

  1. Well I guess I could admire Mr. Peterson on what he tried to do. I am also sure that his writings will affect some to seek the greater “Meat” of the word. However, a lot was lost in the translation. For instance in the above Psalm. What happened to the ROD in the Message translation. Have we forgotten the discipline that comes from the Father? I’m afraid we have just another nice, politically correct version of the Bible.


  2. I agree, Mr. Peterson should be admired for his attempt. However, like you said, the translation is off, even more so then I mentioned in the post. Also, of course, these are not the only passages that are off. I wonder, can we even truly call this a “Bible?”

  3. Isn’t that more properly termed a pharaphrase and not a translation? In the 80’s a man named Andy Edington wrote a pharaphrase in Texas venacular, called The ‘Word Made Flesh’ but he never meant it to take the place of a real translation for study. It was to show youth what the stories in the Bible would be like in modern day Texas. I found it quite entertaining, but it’s not what you would read out loud in church. You can find it used still.
    A paraphrase is more like someone’s interpretation of what the Bible means. A hundred years ago when I was young we had ‘The Living Bible’, but even then we knew that it was a paraphrase and not a translation, and what the difference between the two actually were.

  4. Paraphrase, translation or commentary I really don’t know what I would call it. Now, don’t get me wrong I have nothing against them and use them but I truly believe they should be in accordance with the Early Church Fathers, early Church traditions and not a washed down version of the Holy Scripture. It is my “opinion” and we all have one that sacred scripture taught correctly will reach the hearts of the individual. Just looking at all the new translations I think we are re-writing scripture to be a more politically correct writing that will not offend the reader. I would think that a young reader not taught correctly would see this as a true version of the scripture and really miss out of the broader picture. We don’t need to forget that all scripture is given for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness which is really missing in the church these days. “True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.” This is far from the truth of the scripture. It sounds like the Psalmist was just tired after a long day of work. “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Restoration comes from repentance. (He restores my soul. Mind, will and emotions.) After repentace the Father will lead us back into the direction of the garden and how he truly created us to be. Oh well, I just did not see the true nature/meaning of the scripture when scanning over the message. As Ms. Judy said above about the venacular, it should not be read from the pulpit, but I’m afraid these days it would in places.

    Peace to all,


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