Well, not really so amazing. I’ve seen many like it, and it comes from the Worldview Weekend folks who have been spending their time being extraordinarily critical of other conservative Christian organizations.
The article is titled BRIEF (AND BY NO MEANS EXHAUSTIVE) SUMMARY OF PASSAGES CONTAINED WITHIN “THE MESSAGE” BY EUGENE PETERSON WHICH DIRECTLY COMPROMISE FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY. Well, at least we know the headline wasn’t brief.
I’m not going to run the article point by point. Rather, I’m interested in the general approach.
One common way of comparing Bible versions is to take a set of one’s favorite proof texts and determine whether one can still support one’s favorite doctrines using the translation in question. I want to distinguish this from the quite legitimate comparison of renderings for their quality. Orthodox doctrine is not created on the basis of a few lines of scripture and doesn’t fall based on one or two mistranslations. If it did, it would already have fallen.
I can’t find any translations on my shelves, including my favorites, that don’t have one rendering or another that I’d prefer were different. In many cases, I can get quite passionate about how a particular rendering is bad, and my preferred rendering is good. I consider such discussions entirely appropriate.
But in evaluating a translation, one needs to look at a number of things, including:
- The goals of the translation
- The method of translation employed
- A wide variety of texts, not just a few proof texts
In this analysis all of these items are ignored. Yes, the author says he could find many more issues, and doubtless he could. I found quite a number in my own reading of The Message, and personally I don’t like it all that much. At the same time, I’ve also found some exceptional renderings that are well worth reading.
More importantly, if a reader is using sound methods of biblical interpretation, one will still find orthodox doctrine in The Message. One may find certain texts don’t sound like what one expected in doctrinal terms, but in some cases, Peterson’s rendering is well justified.
The approach taken by Justin Peters in the referenced article is simply a failure. While I would not recommend using The Message as your sole Bible for study (I really wouldn’t recommend making any English translation exclusive), it can be a valuable tool in improving understanding. It is especially useful for reading large portions of scripture for an overview and for its cultural translation of the text.
Authors get their one idea of what a translation should be, and what information should be conveyed, and if they don’t find that, they think the translation is very bad. The fact is that all translations fail to convey part of the original, and do convey other parts. Which part is most important? Let the reader decide! This reader decides on variety.