Thought You Might Like It, Too

Hey, My Darling Siestas!

I am at the Houston airport about to board my flight toward Stockton. So excited to see you California girls! A day or two ago Melissa sent me an answer to an email question she’d received to see if I’d approve it. Not only did I approve it, I asked her if she’d let me post it because a number of you might have had similar questions about Bible translations. This particular question pertains to the Message translation but we get similar questions about all sorts of translations. This is the kind of thing she and I did with our Lit class. It was so much fun. Man oh man, I love having my two daughters on this blog team so much. One thing you can count on around here is all sorts of different type posts! So let’s move from Amanda, Annabeth, and me at the Tea Room (where we did INDEED have some deep spiritual conversation amid our coconut cake – make no mistake, AJ is the deepest thinker in our family) to Melissa, our resident Bible technician. We all love serving you so much!

Off to California! Pray us a ton of Jesus!

The question in a nutshell:

I am having a very hard time putting my mind around using the Message as text for this first lesson…When I look up the Message in the Bible Gateway, it doesn’t even resemble NIV, let alone some of the other translations. I am not a KJV gal, but this is a stretch. Please help me understand. Sincerely with a searching heart.

OK, here’s Melissa’s response to the question (which has been tweaked some for purposes of posting it on a public forum):

Dear __________________,

You ask a very good question. What I appreciate most about people who are concerned with particular Bible translations is that they display a respect for the integrity of the Word of God. They don’t want people messing with it or putting their dirty little hands on it. And I totally get that.

We believe wholeheartedly in using many translations at Living Proof. To be fair, the Message is a true translation and not a paraphrase which people often assume. Eugene Peterson translates straight from the Greek and the Hebrew while a true paraphrase usually re-words or “paraphrases” an existing English translation and not the original languages. Peterson’s approach, however, is to elevate contemporary meaning and significance over the original meaning and traditional biblical idiom(s). As Fee and Stuart explain, “Peterson’s intent was to recapture the tone, to bring out the subtleties and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages while keeping a sense of the firsthand experience for contemporary readers. Peterson often asked himself, “If Paul were the Pastor of my church, how would he say this? or “If Jesus were here teaching, what would it sound like?” (see Fee and Strauss, “How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth”, 33). Even though Peterson is a solid scholar and a brilliant artist with language, I would not recommend using The Message as a primary text but as a supplementary text. And my guess is that Eugene Peterson himself would never have intended for The Message to replace major English translations like the NASB, ESV, or NIV that have all been birthed by major oversight and translation committees. When used in a supplementary manner The Message really is an absolutely beautiful translation. I personally use the NASB as my primary text along with consulting the Greek and the Hebrew but I don’t consider my reading or study complete without comparing a plethora of English translations (including NASB, ESV, NRSV, NIV, NLT, KJV, and many others). I would keep in mind that every English text of the Bible is a translation except the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. To take it one step further, every translation includes some interpretation. There is just no getting away from that. And even those who have had the opportunity to study Greek and Hebrew are still studying human languages. God spoke and continues to speak through human beings, a fact that is downright humbling and astounding in and of itself.

I totally hear your heart and understand your concern which is that you would like to use the closest “literal” rendering of God’s Word that is available to us and if that is the case I would use an NASB or an ESV. An NIV is still a mediating translation but keep in mind there are great things to be said about mediating translations. Many would argue that there are serious advantages to a good mediating translation which is why so many Pastors and lay-people still use the NIV. There are three major types of translations and each have different goals: Formal Equivalence, Mediating, and Functional Equivalence. All three of these types have pros and cons which are worth contemplating and the best thing to do, in my opinion, is compare all of them and then study up on what the editors and translators were trying to do in the first place. It is always a good idea to read the Editor’s notes in the front of a particular Bible. The introduction will usually explain the method behind the translation theory and also the person or committee that was involved in the translation process. This is, of course, a very brief response and much more could be said on the matter. If you continue to have questions concerning translations I would do some intentional reading into translation theory. A very user-friendly and readable book on this very issue is called “How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth” by Gordon Fee and Mark L. Strauss. I highly recommend it. I hope this helps you! Blessings to you.

Melissa Fitzpatrick


131 Responses to “Thought You Might Like It, Too”

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  1. 101
    Mother Hood says:

    It seems that everyone from church went to see you in Stockton, but me! So sad to miss you, but I hope you'll be back!

  2. 102
    caslee says:

    Just last night I was reading about the history of the different translations. It was just a brief description and made me hungry for more. I am home from church with a sick child and what a delight to get on and read your post, Melissa. I grew up on KJV, in college was introduced to NIV and NASB which continue to be my faves, and have lately been using Biblegateway to compare to others. I have hesitated to buy other translations because, well, just how many bibles does one need? I think now I may have to go get THe Message!


    P.S. I am with the other ladies who would love to be shown how to go through and study a book of the bible.

  3. 103
    Emmy says:

    Wow thanks! I love the Message it has been a blessing in my life! Glad to know the scoop on it! It is so refreshing! Someone gave me a NCV bible a few years ago and I have enjoyed that too… not sure what category that one falls in I'll have to go read the introduction! : )

    My main study bible is the NIV study bible… it is literally falling apart (I am not meaning that to sound pious) but my question is I really need to get a new one but it is so hard because I ADORE all the notes on the edges, dates written in it, underlining etc… it just feels like home when you hold it! My question is I have heard you should get a new bible every 5 years? What do you all think? Know that may be a silly question!

    Thank you for making us think! I love learning all these mini theology blog lessons! Looking forward to more! : )

    God Bless- Emmy

  4. 104
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your insight into the subject. You always bring clarity to whatever you address.
    I am Greek and, although I study out of the original, I also have 3 different modern Greek translations. Even the original has simpler translations.

    To me, it's like on the day of Pentecost when people heard the message in their native languages. Today, there are people who can hear and understand God better through a certain translation. I know people who came to Christ through the Living Bible. I lived in Hawaii for 25 years and have a New Tastament that's translated into pidgin. It speaks to some people way better than KJV. God's Word is alive!
    I use the NAS, also, because it is closest to the original, but appreciate the language of other translations as well.

    It's so sad that there is so much legalism in some churches about the KJV. When my daughter was 7 she lost a SS class memorization contest because she didn't memorize from KJV. It crushed her young spirit.


  5. 105
    Melissa says:

    Nitsa, loved seeing your comment. YOU brought clarity . Much Love to you,

  6. 106
    Georgia Jan says:

    Nitsa – I lived in Hawaii as a teenager and loved it so much. It has been a long time since I heard "pidgin." That was so good…

    Blessings –
    Georgia Jan

  7. 107
    Jo says:

    Reading this post and the comments, I am reminded of a favorite quote, written in 1932, by the wonderful missionary, Amy Carmichael.
    'The Bible is richer than any single version can fully show'
    Amen to that.

  8. 108
    Pegatude says:

    Top 12 Living Proof Live Stockton California Takeaways – June 26-27, 2009

    1.There is something After This and it turns out well.
    2.Number One way to prepare your self is to understand who God is and what He does. How well we do this determines how we live…..and grow.
    3.Our culture is mass producing narcissists as well as narcissist churches.
    4.If you haven’t learned anything new in 10 years you’re not studying.
    5.If you don’t love to study, you’re not a teacher.
    6.Vision looks out the window not in the mirror.
    7.Every No you get points you to your greater Yes.
    8.No matter how old we are, there is something in us that still feels young.
    9.Because our culture in general is being sexually attacked and abused by itself, young people today are behaving like actual victims of sexual abuse did 25 years ago – insecure and powerless with no boundaries.
    10.It’s never too late – Purity is not for God’s sake, it’s for ours. Forget innocence, and go for integrity. Start now.
    11.Isolation creates weirdness.
    12.God is a hopeful Romantic.

    So proud of my city! Thanks for blessing us. It was tons of fun and tons of challenge.

  9. 109
    Kimberly says:

    Beth, It was my complete joy to meet you and pray with you on Saturday before LPL Stockton (as city coordinator). The one thing I wished I had told you is that we are Grammys at the same time….My grandson, Seth was born 2/5/06 and I believe your Jackson was close to that, and our little Audrey was born on 3/8/09, and your little Annabelle is close again. It was with great joy that I heard you pray for my family to the 5-6th generations, because you see, these little people were hard to come by for our oldest daughter and her husband. Our oldest son and his wife are experiencing the heartbreak of infertility. Our youngest son is unsure as to their possibilities as well, and our youngest daughter is not married yet. But I felt God's affirmation of grandchildren to me through your prayer and I am so reassured to continue to pray for open wombs in His timing. Thank you for your sacrifice of blessing to us in Stockton, we had a BLAST!!!

  10. 110
    Sandee says:

    Stockton was awesome!!!! I am chewing back through the 7 points of moving from Bridezilla to the Bride of Christ. I want to sow this word and not just eat the seed!

    The part that keeps touching me the most if the permission I gave myself, (funny word) to be romantic!! Being a single mom in her 50's, I have given up on earthly romance…and have had good practice at squelching any of those romantic feelings, longings. But just as you said, Dear Beth, my soul is young!!!! And I DO have eternity in my heart.

    And I have the GRAND romance with Jesus. The part about Jesus eyes and the intensity, seeing through my soul, touched me.

    I came home and gave myself the persmission to enjoy a good romance story (movie) from time to time…and to see how it reflects Jesus. 🙂 So I watched Last of the Mohiccans last night! 🙂 a fav….and just enjoyed that my Jesus will find me, he will not let me go, and will fight all obstacles and foes and even die in my place!!!

    Thank you Beth, for allowing God to use you again….and to hear all these ladies singing Victory in Jesus…I dialed my 75 year old momma, at home, who could not come, and let her listen to us all singing from my cell phone…for the whole song. She said her and papa sang too….the whole song! Thank you….

    Oh, my momma aske, if I got a chance to talk to Beth, (lol) would I ask her to come to Sacramento some time, so she could come? 🙂

    Sorry this is so long….

  11. 111
    Following Hard says:

    Thanks for this post, Melissa. I join others in appreciating instruction on this topic.

    Last year, when I began doing Beth Moore Bible studies, I committed to daily Bible reading – something I had never done. Since I had never read the Bible straight through, I decided to do that and to use a contemporary translation since some passages were so familiar to me in the KJV I could practically recite them. I began with the NLT and transitioned to the ESV study Bible when I got to the prophets and needed the extra study notes.

    What amazed me was not just the way in which a contemporary translation spoke to me personally, but also the way in which it changed my approach to children's ministry. I began putting together lessons for my second and third grade SS class on parts of the Bible that I had never really thought of teaching to children. We've just finished a twelve lesson unit on Paul's letters and, in retrospect, I don't think I would have attempted anything like that if reading a contemporary translation hadn't made me see how certain teaching could be made relevant to kids.

    I'm sorry to write such a long comment and hope I haven't been tedious, but this experience has taught me not to take any translation for granted.

    P.S. The use of parallel translations for study has been around almost as long as there have been modern translations. We know, for example, that Sir Philip Sidney's sister consulted at least three English translations for her poetic paraphrase of the Psalms and that was late 1500s. Just in case anyone cares. 😉

  12. 112
    Jackie Roth says:

    I agree with Katie's comment about reading a book of the bible and how to break it down and study it.
    I would be interested in that too.
    thanks for your inspiration.

  13. 113
    Anonymous says:

    Is there some place I can leave a prayer request? I'd love to have prayer for my little girl. Thanks.

  14. 114
    Taylor says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I have had many reservations about using The Message ever since it came out. But, I've never really studied up on it. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing knowledge about all this. I will definitly be looking at that book!

  15. 115
    Dee says:

    Thank you for sharing that with us. I know many of us wondered just a bit about the validity of The Message translation.

  16. 116
    maria says:

    also worth a read is Peterson's book entitled "Eat This Book"….it really made me get what this translation is all about…

  17. 117
    Judy says:

    This question has been raised in my SS class and Bible Studies. I will share your statement with everyone. This blog is a wonderful resource in our quest to know more about our God and Savior.
    Thank you so much!!!

  18. 118
    Joni says:

    This post was very helpful to me. I so enjoyed reading Eugene Peterson's, Eat This Book, and began checking The Message Bible for help in understanding some passages of Scripture. I think the book of Romans in The Message is awesome! My main text is NIV, and I like NASB, too, but I'm discovering a love for HCSB as well!

  19. 119
    Melissa says:

    Two of you sent several harsh comments that I would like to have addressed but my Mom still holds veto power around here and she is determined that the blog is not going to become a platform for debate. Keep in mind that I was not seeking to do a detailed “study” or “provide support” or even “promote” the Message but to explain why we feel confident including it occasionally at LPM. As I explained, The Message is not a “paraphrase” in the technical sense. Technically, a paraphrase is a translation that has been re-worded from an existing language, like The Living Bible. The Message is based on the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic) not an existing English translation. I reiterated numerous times that we do not recommend the Message for a primary study translation but would not pass it off as merely “devotional” material.


  20. 120
    Anonymous says:

    Do you have any thoughts on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures? I think it was translated by the Jehovah Witnesses. I only ask because there are two nice ladies who are Jehovah Witnesses who have visited me twice and pointed out today how many versions don't use the word Jehovah for God. They didn't tell me the other versions were "wrong" and I'm not rushing out to turn in the NIV that my mother gave me so many years ago….I'm just wondering if you've ever studied from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures and if you have found it to be accurated, etc. Thanks

  21. 121
    Anastasia says:

    YEOW! I love it. Thanks for the explination. I do love the Message but keep going back to the NKJV for my reading. I love it that you cover all the bases for Siestas.xoxoxoxox

  22. 122
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this information. I often facilitate Bible studies at our church and sometime the class bogs down over this issue. This info is a big help!

    This also enables my Bible-purchasing addiction. Ha!

  23. 123
    Melissa says:


    The New World Translation is suspect, reflecting the doctrinal biases of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is extremely problematic.


  24. 124
    Amanda May says:

    I don't know that it is appropriate to post this here, but I trust that it will not be published if it's not.

    In response to Chrystal's question regarding the "New World Translation", the following quote was found at They have some great information and answers to questions for people thinking about becoming a Jehovah's Witness…

    "The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is known as a religion that denies the Deity of Jesus Christ. To this end, when they produced their own translation of the Bible (The New World Translation), they went to great lengths to make it appear that the Scriptures do not support the idea that Jesus Christ is God (Jehovah). In an attempt to shift the emphasis off of Jesus Christ as God, they inserted the derivation “Jehovah” (an adaptation from the original Hebrew “YHWH” for God’s Name) in place of theos (God) and Kurios (Lord) in multiple verses in the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament). Thus, they created a distinction between Jehovah God and Jesus Christ that is not warranted in the text. In addition to inserting God’s Name where it is not supported by the text, they have also mistranslated many verses that support the Deity of Jesus Christ to justify their own anti-Trinitarian dogma."

    Perhaps the most troubling mistranslation in the NWT is contained in John 1:1:
    The Greek words “kai theos en ho logos” are mistranslated as “the Word was a god,” instead of “the Word was God.” This is a distortion of the text as the word “a” is not in the Greek, but was added by the New World Translators to make the Word (Jesus) “a” second “god” who is separate from God the Father.

    • 124.1
      Tami Fowler says:

      I know this is an old thread, but none-the-less, it’s not an old topic. lol. You’ve helped me a great deal today by your answers on JW’s bible translations. My inlaws are JW’s and they do not believe in the Diety of Jesus:( I never want my girls to be confused by their ‘teachings’.

      Blessings, Tami

  25. 125
    Anonymous says:

    Melissa and Amanda May-
    Thanks for your responses. While I don't have any intention of becoming a Jehovah Witness I did wonder what some of the differences were in that text in comparison to the other more popular translations of the bible. When I looked it up on bible gateway I noticed it wasn't there……… I thought it might be suspect. When I mentioned to them (in my sweetest voice) that Beth Moore's daughter did not think the Message was a paraphrase I did think I saw them miss a breath 🙂 hee hee
    Seriously, thanks for the feedback. I love your knowledge in this area.

  26. 126
    Melissa says:

    To all,

    I feel like I need to reiterate that the Message is not a "paraphrase" in the technical linguistic sense because it was translated from the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The problem is that many people generally assume that a "free sounding" translation is a "paraphrase" so it makes things complicated. I meant that The Message was not a paraphrase in the technical sense like the Living Bible (the author of the Living Bible used the American Standard Version) and reworded and simplified it (see Fee and Stuart, How to Choose a Translation for all its Worth, 32)


  27. 127
    Janean Marino says:

    I realize this thread is years old now, but I’m hoping that you might still get this comment somehow! I love your posts and dream of pursuing further intensive Bible study (academically speaking I mean) when my children are older. For now, I’d love to have your suggestion for a layman’s guide to church history. A serious look, but not a full-blown scholarly analysis (I have to be realistic after all – my kids are the ages of Amanda’s – that should explain that for you!) I’d really appreciate any direction you could offer. Thanks and keep those posts coming!

  28. 128
    dee welch says:

    I just joined Beth’s study in James. In day 4 I was shocked to see she used a Scripture from the Message!!It made me heartsick to see the glowing reports of the “translation” of the Message on this blog.Changing God Word is serious business to me.This book, which doesn’t call Jesus Christ the Lord, calls Him by names such as Master, not Lord. In Romans 15:13 even gives us a glimpse of Mr. Petersen’s New Age, politically correct agenda by calling it a new GREEN hope. In Song of Solomon he repeatedly used lotus instead of Rose of Sharon. I could list so many, but this isn’t the venue. Mr. Petersen says he wrote the book because his church people were bored and he wanted to make the Bible more interesting!! Just like 2 Tim says “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. There isn’t room to go on. I can no longer feel comfortable in Beth Moore studies when she quotes the Message and lends her honored name to Be Still, another New Age vehicle.This makes me very sad as there are SO many women who don’t really read and study for themselves that will be led astray by the Message and trust leader like Beth to tell them truth, not her truth His truth. In Christ’s love I offer this not as a slam against Beth, but in hope she will reconsider the ramifications of choosing a Bible that is flawed at best when there are so many that aren’t.

  29. 129
    Julie Walehwa says:

    I guess my original comment asking why there is both occult and new age terminology in “The Message” didn’t pass the bar. Was it the caps?

    Will you answer the question without the caps, please?

  30. 130
    AFarner says:

    Can I please take this string a step farther??

    I have questions about Jehovah Witnesses beliefs. Let me first start by saying that I love Jesus wholeheartedly and I have NO doubt about my salvation. Nothing to worry about there. We moved into a new subdivision a couple of months back and we are frequently visited by a very passionate group of Jehovah witnesses. I have listened to them and talked with them for hours, first just out of kindness and then the more they talked the stronger my desire “for truth” has become. They have raised several things IN SCRIPTURE that have challenged my beliefs. It appears there are very fine lines between what I believe and interpret from scripture and what they believe. I will be spending the next several weeks reading and studying this topic to dig into specific scripture to try and discern what is truth.

    I will admit I may be speaking from some woundings…as I have been attacked miliciously from those who call themselves “christians” and I am really struggling with “the church” and their lack of desire to get involved as it might be a tad messy. SOOOO much wrong has taken place, for 7 years now, and passion and desire for truth, reconciliation, peace and accountability seem to be non-existant.

    I just completed why Godly people do ungodly things and that helped quite a bit…thank you for your service to the kindgdom Beth!

    If you could offer up any insight in how to weigh the beliefs of the Jehovah Witnesses against your very deep knowledge of scripture, I would be very greatful.

    Thank you so very much!

    In His life changing love,

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