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Problematic Bibles

HomeUncategorizedProblematic 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
JST
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.
NWT
New World Translation
Produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a pseudo-Christian cult, to fit their own theology.
TPT
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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