The Message – Bible translations, literal slang and YOU!

RE: Versions/Translations of the Bible

Starting in 1993, Eugene H. Peterson started publishing The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. He did this in an attempt to bring the Bible to “updated concepts in modern English”.

The Message

I have been quoted scripture from The Message lately, and I have to say that I’m at a loss.. and not much of a fan… so I figured I’d see what my pals at ParanormalQ&A thought about The Message:

My questions:

1) Have you read scripture from The Message?

2) Do you believe it conveys a similar message as the other translations/versions?

3) Do you have any general comments regarding “idiom translations” when it comes to sacred texts?

To give you an idea on the differences, please see the below comparison of The Lord’s Prayer:

The Message

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.

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.

Asked by Siddle

10 Comments
  1. Hello Siddle,

    Ok, so I am the buggy little theologian who likes authenticity and accurate translations ..

    Let’s do a little translation from the Hebrew (Interlinear Bible 1986)

    “Jehovah my (is) shepherd, not I shall in lack.
    Pastures of green grass He makes me lie down;
    To waters of rest He leads me: My soul He restores:
    He guides me in paths of righteousness, for sake His name.
    When I am walking in the valley of the shadow of death
    not I will fear evil, for You (are) with me;
    Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
    You prepare before me a table before my enemies.
    You made fat with oil my head; my cup runs over.
    Surely good and mercy shall follow me all the days of life;
    and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for the length of days.”
    (Psalm 23)

    That’s copied literally from the translation, rather than restructured into more acceptable English.

    I think something is lost in a reinterpretation of the ancient languages. I realise people like to modernise things, but we are not told he drank from the waters. “My cup rns over” can also mean a cup of abundance of food and other blessings. It seems limiting to me to change it to mean water.

    And righteousness is ‘right behaviour’, not the correct path to go, although it could be seen that way, I suppose.

    I was taught we should take every passage in the bible back to the original languages to understand what the author might have meant by it. I think the author of this book hasn’t bothered with that, but has simply put his own slant on what he thinks it means, or perhaps he thinks it looks better that way, and people will be more accepting? To me the context is changed too much. I think of future generations taking this and giving it their own twist, and the meaning will be lost forever.

    Hmm.. can you find me the Lord’s prayer .. that one is generally good for a giggle, or wince or two? :)

    Love & Peace
    Ama

  2. Well, man originally wrote the Bible and one can assume it was written in the language spoken at the time. Because of this, I see no problem with re-writing it in modern language. I will admit that one of the main reasons I’ve never read the Bible is because all of the antique language really bores me and I lose interest so this could be a good thing.

  3. And then there’s ‘sayings’ or words used to describe something. In the uk ‘pants’ mean underwear but in the US ‘pants’ mean trousers. Give or take a few thousand years, as well as regional dialect and a few translations later, then words, sentances and sayings in the hebrew texts end up meaning something completely different today from the original context in which they were relayed.

    AJ
    x

  4. EXACTLY! We must look back at the culture and the times to understand what was being said. Even in every day language the meaning and usage of words can change dramatically from one generation to the next.

  5. Of course, I would like to add that that doesn’t make the Bible any lesser a book today (in any form) than the various books that compiled it was when first written down. It’s just, I don’t think it a wise thing to take it too literally in places, thats all.

    AJ
    x

  6. Hey Guys!!
    I think that I would tend to agree with Ama on this one. You have to take it back to the original text to really get the author’s original message and meaning.I agree, too, that the translation seems to be more to the author’s opinion of what the Bible states rather than staying true to the original author’s intent. As Ama has stated, if the Bible is continually translated and interpreted, the original meaning will soon be lost. I also think, that we, as individuals, need to be interpreting the Bible for ourselves, taking the lessons being taught through our own understanding, making it more personal to us and not having someone else interpret it for us and try to put it into a “language we will understand.” There are many interpretations of the Bible; in this book, there is only this author’s. If we were to use the original text, we would read, research, interpret and then finally understand the Bible for ourselves without having someone explain their interpretation of it. To me, this book seems a lot like “Bible Cliff Notes.” just my honest opinion. If this book gives more solace to certain people, than I am all for it for that person, but for me, I like to figure out and interpret things for myself.

  7. I agree with you AJ. I call the Book a collection of myths and legends, history, facts and mystery. I enjoy reading it, but I don’t think its made better by changing it into modern language. It is what it is, and should be appreciated for what it represents – thousands of years of human creation. :-)

    Love & Peace
    Ama

  8. All,
    Thanks for your responses to this question. And thanks again to CT for posting!
    I tend to agree with the sentiment here. To A.J.’s point, I’m currently wearing pants and pants. :)

    In my very humble opinion, language is probably not the best form of communication we are capable of, yet words still “mean everything”. In localized palaver, people can use language and social tells/mannerisms in order to convey thoughts, bias or not—emotionally or apathetically, with more efficiency then just language alone. Likewise, I tend to think that when trying to understand the scriptures of the Bible…..the more surrounding information you have about the text, the more you can put the written language into context and derive meaning.

    So when trying to conceptualize the religious teachings that were scripted long ago, I tend to disregard them unless I can sink my teeth into the anthropology…the very landscape in which the words first took root.
    For that, I agree completely with A.J., Ama and CT’s responses. You have to experience as much of the original culture as possible.

    As to LunaTerra’s comment regarding the author’s opinion vs. the originators intent, all I can say is your version was much nicer then the one in my head. :)
    Please very much pardon this next part….I like oversimplifying things into analogies…and sometimes I’m too tired to make them anything other then crude:
    KJV = Lutheran Church.
    Message = Crossroads church (equipped with 3 coffee shops, 28 plasma screens, a food court and more pamphlets about how Jesus can help even the most trivial aspects of your life then 4 Kinko’s print centers could possibly kick out in a day).

    I’m just saying—and I speak from experience, as I grew up in modern western Protestantism—it feels like this version was fueled less by a desire for increased scriptural literacy and more by corporate evangelical /non-denominational influence.

    There. I said it. Finally.
    Thanks everyone!
    -Siddle

  9. Agree. ;-)

  10. Yeah, Siddle, I had to give you a different translation to the one that was going on in my head, too!! What you got was the “mild” version!! LOL!! I’m just not fond of people “spoon feeding” me their idea of things. The Bible is just something one needs to dis cipher for themselves.

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