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Problematic Bibles

HomeFalse TeachingsProblematic Bibles

I’m regularly asked about whether a specific Bible is good or bad. Most of the Bibles in the world are just fine. They adequately communicate God’s message to humanity without significantly substituting human ideas or traditions for divine revelation.

That’s not the whole story, of course. There are a number of Bibles that should be avoided entirely. This list is incomplete, and I have not written about each individually to this point, but I will as time permits.

Bible VersionProblems
Cepher BibleA non-scholarly work that claims to restore what’s missing from modern English Bibles, from single words to entire books. The implication is that modern Bibles are either wrong or incomplete, or both. Their process is not primarily translation, but transliteration.
Joseph Smith Translation
An altered version of the King James Bible designed to fit the theology of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), a pseudo-Christian cult.
New World Translation
Produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a pseudo-Christian cult, to fit their own theology.
The Passion Bible
Not translated by a qualified team, but paraphrased by one person, Brian Simmons. Designed to promote unbiblical New Apostolic Reformation principles, not to reflect what eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry originally wrote.
The Pure Word BibleThe New Testament, translated by one person, Brent Miller. In addition to dubious claims about his work and the Greek language, Miller is known for sensationalist claims about the end of the earth, citing Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and Mayan and Incan prophets.

What about The Message Bible?

I’ve received a fair number of emails and comments about The Message, by Eugene Peterson. Some condemn it outright, others recommend it. It seems wise to mention it here.

The Message is not a Bible in the traditional sense. It is – at best – a paraphrase. It’s what Eugene Peterson would say to help people better understand what the Bible says. It is better categorized, in my opinion, as a personal commentary on the Bible, and not a Bible itself.

On a positive note, Peterson seems to enjoy a good reputation among conservative Bible scholars, including some who have spent decades on translation committees. Not being a Bible translator myself, I rely on a number of these folks to give me some guidance… and I’ve yet to hear anyone in that group condemn The Message outright.

On a negative note, the real problem is not what Peterson has written. The problem is the perception about what Peterson has written. The Message has been marketed as a Bible in the traditional sense of Bibles, putting it in the same category as other Bibles. Those other translations were produced by large numbers of scholars, carefully considering every word with an eye toward the original manuscripts, linguistics, church traditions, modern language, and bias. The Message was produced by one person, and should not be put in the same category. Bible commentaries can be very helpful, and The Message can be useful when used as a commentary. Peterson was a scholar, including studies in ancient languages… so I wouldn’t rule out his point of view as unbiblical. I would, however, caution every reader in this way:

Do not use The Message as your primary Bible. Not for reading, not for devotions, not for study. Use it to learn what Eugene Peterson thought, remembering that he was just one man. Where his thoughts match closely what God has revealed, we should be thankful. Where we have questions, we should be like the Bereans: we should receive the message with great eagerness, then go to the Scriptures to see if what Peterson has said is true.

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9 responses to “Problematic Bibles”

  1. Shari says:

    Hello Sir, didn’t see your name at the end of your article, here, named “Problematic Bibles” I agree with you on these.
    Thank You!

    • Tony says:


      Thanks for your kind words! You can always learn more about me here, or by checking out my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts… the links are at the top of each page. Have a great day!

  2. M. ZWAAGSTRA says:

    I bought a copy of the Pure Word. It’s hard to read at best. I was not aware of the translation as being of one man. I don’t read it much and I am content with the NKJV, the NASV and the NIV. I found this interesting to say the least. My son-in-law is trapped in this movement. You described his beliefs perfectly. It is heart breaking to say the least.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Hello. I’m 18 and I want to leave Pastor Chris’s Christ Embassy but my uncle initiated me in it in 2020. The rest of my family members are pretty hooked by what he preaches whereas I find some of the things he preaches and encourages disturbing. I don’t know what to say to my uncle to make him understand that I don’t want to ba a part of the church anymore. And also may you kindly research about Theo Walmmarans? Thank you:)

    • Tony says:


      First, I didn’t know about Theo Wolmarans. He’s apparently very important in the New Apostolic Reformation, and I’ve added him to my list of False Teachers. He is most certainly NOT an apostle, and I would not consider him a reliable teacher of Scripture.

      Thank you for writing to me. I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. I don’t know how things work in Uganda, so I’m not sure how I can be most helpful to you. You mention that your age is 18. In America, that means you’re considered a legal adult, with adult privileges and responsibilities. I don’t know if it’s the same in Uganda… but that may not matter at all. It may be that your family relationships are more important than your age.

      It’s sometimes hard to separate yourself from your loved ones in this way. We see this in the gospels, where Jesus called people to leave family and follow Him. Those He called were Jews, and they left Jewish families to follow a man who taught contrary to the religious authorities. You’re in a similar situation: your family follows Chris Oyakhilome, but you don’t want to.

      This is probably the most important question: do you only want to leave Chris Oyakhilome’s church, or do you want to leave there to follow Jesus? I think it would be best to leave either way, but there’s a big difference between leaving to leave and leaving to follow. Are you born again? Have you surrendered your life to God and committed to following Jesus? You see, leaving to leave is likely to tell your family that you’re not interested in living for God. Leaving to follow Jesus is more likely to tell them that you are MORE interested in living for God, and that you see that staying would be bad for you.

      Do you see the difference? They will want to know whether you are abandoning your faith or not. If they think you are abandoning your faith, they will probably argue harder for you to stay. If you are able to show them that you believe that Chris Oyakhilome is a false teacher, that you want to know the true gospel, and that you are concerned for them as well, they may be less likely to fight you.

      Do you understand? They will want to know whether you’re running FROM God, or TO God. If you haven’t been born again, then you haven’t decided to follow Jesus yet. That’s the most important thing. Ask God to guide you, Vanessa. Trust that He knows what you should do, and ask Him for help. If I can be helpful, please just ask. That’s why I’m here.

  4. Sally O'Connor says:

    Hi Tony,

    What do you think of Celebrate Recovery Bible? Is it used by Recovery ministries? Recovery from demons of alcoholism or depression for example.

    • Tony says:


      I’m somewhat familiar with CR, but I’m not familiar with the Celebrate Recovery Bible. What can you tell me about it?

  5. Donald Fischer says:

    Not trying to but in, but I am a little familiar with it, so maybe I can help. The Celebrate Recovery Bible’s that I have seen use the NLT version of the Bible. I think I have also seen some using the NIV as well. Both the NLT and the NIV are reliable versions. There are many different study bibles with various themes to them in regard to the notes/commentary, and any articles within. But as far as the text of is concerned it may be the same version that other study Bibles with different themes to them use. In some cases certain study Bibles may be published in several different translations, such as the Life Application Bible which is published in two of three different translations The translation is the main thing to look at. NIV, NLT, NASB, ESV, CSB (formerly known as HCSB), NKJV, KJV, are all good and reliable translations. The Celebrate Recovery Bible has notes and articles in it based upon the popular Celebrate Recovery course that was first developed by Saddleback Church in California a while back. It is now used as a ministry in many churches across the USA, of various different denominations. As far as the text of the Bible itself, it uses the same text that you’d find in any other NLT Bible.

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