One of my criticisms of The Message is that it tends to blunt the force of many scriptures, making them more palatable than they are. Now don’t get the idea that I’m a critic of The Message in general. In fact, I think it makes a great contribution to the literature available for rapid reading and overview. Many of its expressions are quite beautiful.
As one might expect, some of those are beautiful–and inaccurate.
Psalm 50:3 is one such case. Here it is from The Message:
Our God makes his entrance, he’s not shy in his coming. Starbursts of fireworks precede him.
That’s nice, cool, and contemporary. But is it accurate? In this case, I think, far from it. I could debate whether “not being shy” adequatey expresses what the Psalmist means when he says God will not be silent. But that would be a longer post.
Let’s just compare to the NRSV:
Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
My question is whether “starbursts of fireworks” adequately conveys the “devouring fire” thing. I don’t think it does. The idea of fireworks today conveys celebration, joy, excitement, and beauty. In this case, I think the fire says something both about God’s power and about what he is going to do with it.
I think this one could be translated in contemporary language but more accurately. Perhaps it would be less beautiful, but more accurate.
Take the CEV for example:
Our God approaches, but not silently; a flaming fire comes first, and a storm surrounds him.
It lacks some of the zing, but it’s clear and natural contemporary English. And it’s fairly accurate.