What is the best Bible translation? Which Bible translation is right for me? These are both questions that are commonly asked by people desiring to know and study God’s word. They are also both questions that involve a lot of personal opinion on the part of the individual endeavoring to answer them. That is why this blog is not about those questions. Instead, this post is evaluating a more foundational issue. Namely, what does it mean to be a Bible translation and is this new Passion “Translation” trustworthy?
The original manuscripts of the Bible were written in Hebrew (Old Testament), Greek (New Testament), and a few chapters of Aramaic. So, all Bibles go through the process of translation. There are two approaches to translating Scripture. The first approach is called Formal Equivalence and seeks to translate the ancient languages, word-for-word into our modern English. The second method, Dynamic Equivalence, requires a bit more interpretation on the part of the translators who are moving the ancient language, via thought-for-thought, into English. For example, the English Standard Version (ESV), New King James (NKJV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB) represent the formal, word-for-word approach while the New International Version (NIV) and especially the New Living Translation (NLT) represent the dynamic, thought-for-thought method. Both translation processes have pros and cons, but both strive to accurately provide in our modern tongue what the original manuscripts contain in their ancient ones.
So, where does the Passion “Translation” (TPT) fit into this process? First, it is not a reliable version of the Bible. I have written about its failures as a translation in a previous blog, but in short, this version of Scripture is born out of the New Apostolic Reformation movement. This movement has its own ideologies and agendas which become clear as you read the TPT. If you are familiar with the ideology of the New Apostolic Reformation the twisted Scripture will probably jump off the page. If you’re not that familiar with NAR teachings then look for extra, inserted language regarding spiritual realms, commissionings, ongoing individual revelations, dominion, impartations and spiritual sonship/authority. However, the more fundamental problem with this version of the Bible, and why I struggle to even use the word translation, is that the author Brian Simmons, adds many words and phrases that aren’t found in the original manuscripts. You’ll notice below that almost every verse seems longer in the TPT version, and this is why, Simmons has added his thoughts directly into Scripture itself. For whatever reason he believes he has the authority to make these changes, the reality is that his words are not inspired or infallible. A translation implies that regardless of what modern language you’re reading the Bible in, you are reading the same words that all Christians have read through the ages. Whether hubris or foolishness, this work is not only poor scholarship, but it is a very slippery slope.
Finally, why is it important to be aware of these issues? Well, aside from the fact that our faith centers on the Word of God, which makes these issues important, this new “translation” of Scripture is growing in popularity. Some of the main reasons for this increase in notoriety are the endorsements, attention and use by popular NAR Apostles it receives. This is especially true of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Bill Johnson often quotes from the TPT from the pulpit and BethelMusic uses the TPT to quote Scripture on their Facebook page. It’s even sold in the online Bethel store. So, it is my hope that this post will not only make people aware of this questionable, and potentially dangerous, version of Scripture, but that it will also provide the tools needed for discussing this “translation” with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Listed below are examples of the The Passion Translation side-by-side with the New International Version. I chose the NIV because (1) it is not the version I prefer to use which hopefully reinforces the truth that I’m not pushing a particular version, (2) it is commonly used, and (3) it is generally respectable and easy to read. As you read through the verse comparisons I encourage you to consider the significance of altering the Word of God. If these additions are innocent mistakes then where is the willingness to make corrections? If this is the case then where is the humility to even rename this project a paraphrase; why insist that it is not only a true translation, but one that restores the accurate and passionate heart of God to the voice of Scripture, as its website claims? Furthermore, if these changes and additions to God’s words are not unintentional, if they are willful decisions meant to amend Scriptural teaching, then what should the response of Bible-believing and defending Christians be? What will your response be?
Verses at a Glance
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
It was when I tried to obey the law that I was condemned with a curse, because I’m not able to fulfill every single detail of it. But because the Messiah lives in me, I’ve now died to the law’s dominion over me so that I can live for God in heaven’s freedom!
First, dominion is a huge aspect of NAR theology. In fact, it is even referred to a dominionist theology by some. This makes the addition of that word choice, especially when it’s not in the original language, suspect. Furthermore, the additional phrases like, “condemned with a curse” and especially “heaven’s freedom,” only make the verse more convoluted. What exactly does living by heaven’s freedom mean. Since we can’t reference original manuscripts to compare, we’re left with only Simmons to instruct us.
Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
And those who are taught the Word will receive an impartation from their teacher; a sharing of wealth takes place between them.
This is perhaps one of the easiest verses to see NAR agenda inserted into Scripture. Impartations, usually bestowed on others by an official, office-holding prophet or apostle in the NAR ranks, are an integral part of this movement’s theology. And now, parishioners, knowingly or unknowingly a part of these sorts of congregations, can find that terminology in the Scripture used by the very apostles leading them. How convenient?
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
My name is Paul and I’m joined by my spiritual son, Timothy, both of us passionate servants of Jesus, the Anointed One. We write this letter to all his devoted followers in your city, including your pastors, and to all the servant-leaders of the church. May the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace that flow from God our wonderful Father, and our anointed Messiah, the Lord Jesus, be upon your lives.
Again, more murky language. Additionally, we see the NAR emphasis on spiritual authority in their usage of the Apostle (aka father) and son (disciple/congregant being mentored) terminology. It may seem like innocent word choice, after all wasn’t Timothy like a spiritual son to Paul. Sure, but adding that specific language here allows NAR leaders more opportunity to emphasize spiritual authority. In a movement where there is already so much spiritual manipulation and abuse, this is a very deliberate choice of words being made.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Because of that obedience, God exalted him and multiplied his greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names! The authority of the name of Jesus causes every knee to bow in reverence! Everything and everyone will one day submit to this name—in the heavenly realm, in the earthly realm, and in the demonic realm. And every tongue will proclaim in every language: “Jesus Christ is Lord Yahweh,” bringing glory and honor to God, his Father!
Okay, here we clearly see the addition of realm terminology. Additionally, the end of this verse in the TPT is both weird and awkward, not to mention the phrasing of God’s name can’t, or at least shouldn’t, be adapted in just any way the author thinks is interesting. The biggest problem with this verse, however, is with the phrase “multiplied his greatness.” You can read the previous posts (here and here) about the NAR theology on the divinity of Jesus in the incarnation, but to sum it up, most NAR teachers go as far as to teach that on earth, Jesus was only man, empty of his divine nature. This is a definite theological concern. Furthermore, it’s reflected in the phrase Brian Simmons chooses to use in his translation. If NAR apostles believed that Jesus was both God and man in the incarnation, as true Scripture teaches, then this phrase, “multiplied his greatness” would make no sense to add and would never have been inserted. Multiplied greatness implies that something can be improved or made greater, but Jesus in his divine nature was already perfect – unless you don’t believe he contained his divinity at this point. This is very different than the idea of being exalted, honored and worshiped. The phrase comes extremely close to implying that Jesus is not co-equal with God the Father, which is pretty much essential Christian doctrine. This is why individuals shouldn’t add their own ideas into Scripture – it leads to error (not mention that God doesn’t take the interference lightly. (See Revelation 22:18-19)
For Extended Reading
I leave the rest of these verses for you to read through on your own. As you do, take note of all the additional language and how that language differes from the standard translations. Also, look for terms like “commissioned,” “releasing revelation” and the other terminology mentioned above which signals NAR theology.
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
10And by his faith, I will fully experience oneness with Jesus and the explosive power of his resurrection working in me. I will be one with him in his sufferings and I will be one with him in his death. 11Only then will I be able to experience complete oneness with him in his resurrection from the realm of death. 12I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the destiny that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover.
John 1: 1-16
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
5And this “Living Expression” Is the Light that bursts through gloom— The Light that darkness could not diminish! 6Then suddenly a man appeared Who was sent out from God’s presence, A messenger named John. 7For he came to be a witness, To point the way to the Light of Life, And to help everyone believe. 8John was not that Light But he came to show who is. For he was merely a messenger To speak the truth about the Light. 9For the Light of Truth Was about to come into the world And shine upon everyone. 10The Creator entered into The very world he created, Yet the world was unaware.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
29The very next day John saw Jesus coming to him to be baptized, and John cried out, “Look! There he is—God’s Lamb! He will take away the sins of the world! 30I told you that a Mighty One would come who is far greater than I am, because he existed long before I was born! 31My baptism was for the preparation of his appearing to Israel, even though I’ve yet to experience him.” 32Then, as John baptized Jesus he spoke these words: “I saw the Spirit of God appear like a dove descending from the heavenly realm and landing upon him—and it rested upon him from that moment forward! 33And even though I’ve yet to experience him, when I was commissioned to baptize with water God spoke these words to me, ‘One day you will see the Spirit descend and remain upon a man. He will be the One I have sent to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And now I have seen this revelation fulfilled with my own eyes! I can tell you for sure that this man is the Son of God.”
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
16You didn’t choose me, but I’ve chosen and commissioned you to go into the world to bear fruit. And your fruit will last, because whatever you ask of my Father, for my sake, he will give it to you!
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it. 6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
3Can’t you hear the voice of wisdom? From the top of the mountains of influence she speaks into the gateways of the glorious city. At the place where pathways merge, at the entrance of every portal, there she stands, ready to impart understanding, shouting aloud to all who enter, preaching her sermon to those who will listen. 4“I’m calling to you, sons of Adam, yes, and to you daughters as well. 5Listen to me and you will be prudent and wise. For even the foolish and feeble can receive an understanding heart that will change their inner being. 6The meaning of my words will release within you revelation for you to reign in life. My lyrics will empower you to live by what is right.
Bethel Music (https://www.facebook.com/bethelmusic/posts/1141419125888543?fref=nf&pnref=story), last accessed 2/19/2016.
Bible Gateway (Biblegateway.com), last accessed 2/19/2016 for NIV Translation.
Bill Johnson – Passion Translation reference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHpDWhNSmPc), last accessed 2/19/2016.
Got Questions (http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-versions.html), last accessed 2/19/2016.
Simons, Brian. John: Eternal Love (The Passion Translation), BroadStreet Publishing, 2014, kindle version.
Simmons, Brian. Letters From Heaven By the Apostle Paul (The Passion Translation), BroadStreet Publishing, 2014, kindle version.
Simmons, Brian. Proverbs: Wisdom From Above (The Passion Translation), BroadStreet Publishing, 2014, kindle version.
Simmons, Brian. Romans: Grace and Glory (The Passion Translation), BroadStreet Publishing, 2015, kindle version.
Spirit of Error (http://www.spiritoferror.org/2013/04/a-new-nar-bible-the-passion-translation/3014), last accessed on 2/19/2016.Think
The Passion Translation (thepassiontranslation.com), last accessed on 2/19/2016.
Theology (http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/whats_wrong_with_the_passion_translation), last accessed 2/19/2016.