I wonder if you have ever given much thought to which Bible version you use? Does it matter which Bible version you use? Perhaps like me, the Bible you use has changed over the years? When I was young I used the Good News Bible, but as a young adult I moved onto the New International Version. And now my daily Bible reading is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, but for Bible study I use both the New International Version and the New King James Bible.
There is certainly plenty of choice of Bible nowadays; depending on how one distinguishes a different Bible version from a revision of an existing Bible version, there are as many as 50 different English versions of the Bible. To give you just a flavour of what I mean, here is a list of just some of the Bible versions available to us today:
- King James Bible
- New King James Bible
- 21 Century King James Bible
- New International Version
- New International Readers Bible
- American Standard Version
- New American Standard Version
- English Standard Version
- New English Translation
- New Living Translation
- Holman Christian Standard Bible
- Revised Standard Version
- New Revised Standard Version
- New Century Version
- World English Bible
- Revised English Bible
- New English Bible
- Good News Bible
- Green’s Literal Translation
- Modern Language Bible
- Amplified Bible
- Contemporary English Version
- God’s Word Translation
- King James Bible
- Easy-To-Read Version
- Complete Jewish Bible
- Bible in Basic English
- Jerusalem Bible
- New American Bible
- The Living Bible
- Young’s Literal Translation
- The Message
I’m sure the Bible (or Bibles) you regularly use is listed in the above. But with so many versions available, are all of them the same, or are there significant differences between any of them? To the Bible believing Christian this should be an important question we ask ourselves, but is it one most Christians have seriously asked? After all, John 17:17 says that we are sanctified through God’s truth; His Word is truth. Therefore, a life that is pleasing to God must be founded upon His truth and lived in obedience to His truth. As the Psalmist says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). So does it matter which Bible version we get our truth from; which Bible is the lamp for our feet?
To start to answer this important question it’s vital first of all to establish which translation methodology has been used in the Bible version in question. There are two approaches to translating the Bible and it’s important to understand the difference between the two, and which version of the Bible has used which translation method. The two methods of translation are:
Formal Equivalence– This is where the text is translated as literally as possible (word for word where available) from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, into English. This method minimises the possibility of the translator inserting or projecting their own interpretations into passages.
Dynamic Equivalence – This is less of a direct translation in favour of a more thought-for-thought method. It attempts to convey the thought expressed in the text rather than what the text actually says. Some would argue that this method produces a more readable or understandable version, but others would argue that this method sometimes results in a “this is what I think it means” approach by the author(s) rather than translating what the text actually says.
Some Bible versions use solely the method of Formal Equivalence, whilst some use solely the method of Dynamic Equivalence. Then there are some that use a mixture of the two methods. It may therefore be helpful at this stage if I list which method of translation is used by which version.
- King James Bible
- New King James Bible
- Young’s Literal Translation
- Green’s Literal Translation
- American Standard Version
- English Standard Version
- Revised Standard Version
- New Revised Standard Version
Mixture of Formal Equivalence and Dynamic Equivalence
- New International Version
- Today’s New International Version
- Holman Christian Standard Bible (regarded as “optimal” equivalence)
- New American Bible
- New English Translation
- Modern Language Bible
- New Jerusalem Bible
- New English Bible
- Revised English Bible
- Good News Bible
- Complete Jewish Bible
- New Living Translation
- God’s Word Translation
- The Message
Are all versions preaching the same Message?
Whilst there is nothing fundamentally wrong with using a translation that wholly relies on Dynamic Equivalence, I would strongly suggest that such a translation should not be used as ones only, or even main Bible. Further to that, when moving away from Bibles using Formal Equivalence in favour of Bibles wholly using Dynamic Equivalence, I would urge Christians to specifically avoid at all costs Eugene Peterson’s The Message, which I believe to be the most dreadful and dangerous mainstream version of the Bible.
I appreciate that this may be difficult for some people to read if they have used, or do still use The Message. To those people I mean absolutely no disrespect and would stress that the comments I will make give me no pleasure whatsoever. I would just respectfully ask that my article be read with an open and prayerful mind in the attitude of Isaiah 1:18, which says, “Come now, let us reason together.” My intention is not to discourage anyone, but merely to warn of the dangers that lurk within The Message. Jude 3 tells us to “...earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” It has been once delivered; it does not need anything to be added or taken away, which is exactly what The Message does. If after reading my comments anyone still feels unconvinced, then that is of course their prerogative.
There are some I know that will think my criticism of The Message be unfounded and unjustified on the basis that they believe Satan hates all versions of the Bible, so how could I suggest (as I most certainly do) that Satan could use a Bible version for his own devilish purposes? My response to that suggestion would be to say Satan does not hate all versions of the Bible and it would be naïve to suggest that he does. For example, Satan absolutely loves the Mormon Bible, the New World Translation used by Jehovah Witnesses and the New Age Bible called the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan loves any distortion of God’s precious Word, no matter how big or small that distortion may be and I believe that The Message is a staggeringly dangerous distortion of Scripture.
I fully appreciate that this is a strong claim to make about a Bible and is therefore a claim that requires adequate substantiation on my part. With that in mind, whilst I would not claim my article is in any way a definitive critique of The Message, the length of my article does reflect my efforts to adequately substantiate the strong claims I make about The Message; brevity would not have been appropriate for covering such an important issue. I would therefore ask the reader to bear with me until the end before making their judgement.
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language was created by pastor, scholar, author and poet Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002 by NavPress, starting with the New Testament in 1993, which immediately became a best seller. In the first four months after its release 100,000 copies of ‘New Testament in Contemporary English’ were printed by NavPress and 70,000 books were sold. Due to the commercial success of his New Testament in Contemporary English, Peterson was persuaded to translate the Old Testament in the same manner, which he did over the following nine years. A volume containing The Old Testament Wisdom Books was published in 1998, followed by The Old Testament Prophets in 2000, the Pentateuch in 2001, the Books of History in 2002, and an edition of the complete Bible later in the same year. The Message Bible in its complete form has now sold 10 million copies worldwide.
Why was The Message written? Eugene Peterson is quoted as saying the following in answer to that question, “While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realise that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language.
I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’”
Distant and irrelevant? ‘Old hat’? As Hebrews 4:12 describes the Word of God as being living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, perhaps Eugene Peterson should have taken an honest look at the way he was teaching the Bible, rather than concluding that the Bible itself needed revising!
Talk about a bad workman blaming his tools!
Peterson describes the beginning of the creative process that produced The Message: “I just kind of let go and became playful. And that was when the Sermon on the Mount started. I remember I was down in my basement study, and I did the Beatitudes in about 10 minutes. And all of a sudden I realised this could work.” Aside from the man’s staggering arrogance in thinking that he could do justice to the Sermon on the Mount in 10 minutes, one wonders whether playfulness is the appropriate attitude and mindset for attempting to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). One would have thought a more appropriate attitude would have been awe; certainly reverence, but not playfulness.
Perhaps Peterson’s distinct lack of awe and reverence explains his apparent lack of esteem for serious Bible study. In “A Conversation with Eugene Peterson,” in “Mars Hill Review (Autumn 1995, Issue 3: pages 73-90) Peterson is quoted as saying: “Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of its own and we think we’re being more pious and spiritual when we’re doing it.... Christians should be studying less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God.... I’m just not at all pleased with all the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing Christians do, and the more they do the better.”
This statement is as telling as it is disturbing; it is nothing more than familiarity breeding contempt for the Word of God. The answer to why people spend so much time studying the Bible is simple: it is the Word of God! According to Psalm 138:2 God magnifies His Word above His name. I would question whether Peterson feels the same way. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, extols the Word of God. Surely Peterson should do the same. Instead, he says Christians should study the Bible less, not more!
2 Timothy 3:16 says that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The writer of Hebrews says, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Studying the Word of God changes lives. It makes the follower of Christ complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Word of God is powerful enough to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Part of the great commission given by Jesus Himself is to teach (Matthew 28:20). Teach what? The Word of God.
In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Jesus judges our love for Him by how loyal we are to His commandments. How are we to know what His commandments are if we don’t study them? Where are His commandments? In His Word!
Don’t add or take away!
Throughout the Old and New Testaments God forbids us to distort His Word. Additions and deletions are strictly forbidden in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Galatians 1:8-9 and Revelation 22:19.
Acts 17:11 exhorts us to learn from the Bereans who “Searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Peterson’s own rendering of 2 Corinthians 4:2 would condemn him for what he has done to Holy Scripture. It reads: “We don’t manoeuvre and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.” I intend to demonstrate over the coming pages that Eugene Peterson has “twisted God’s Word” to suit himself and has gone far beyond the accepted basis of Dynamic Equivalence, which is to convey the thought expressed in the text. Eugene Peterson has reinterpreted Scripture in The Message to say what he thinks it should say in order to accommodate his own views and agenda. This is both dangerous and heretical and Christians need to be made aware of this, rather than just accepting The Message as another authentic version of God’s Word.
When looking at how Eugene Peterson translates Bible passages in The Message I will directly compare them to the corresponding passages in the King James Bible (otherwise known as the Authorised Version), as this is widely regarded as the most accurate translation using Formal Equivalence. Therefore, before going any further I think it would perhaps be helpful if I give a little background to the Bible translation I have chosen to compare The Message with.
King James Bible
In 1604, King James I of England authorised a new English translation of the Bible be created. It was finished in 1611; just 85 years after William Tyndale’s first translation of the New Testament into English appeared in 1526. In the preface to the 1611 edition, translators of the King James Bible stated that it was not their purpose “to make a new translation... but to make a good one better.” The King James Bible quickly became the standard for English speaking Protestants.
Translation of the King James Bible was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with the original German Luther Bible and the translation of the New Testament into English by William Tyndale, the King James Bible New Testament was translated directly from the Textus Receptus (Greek for Received Text) series of the Greek texts.
The Old Testament of the King James Bible was translated directly from the Masoretic text, which is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible regarded almost universally as the official version of the Tanakh, the sacred book of Judaism, consisting of the Torah (law of Moses), the Prophets (the Neviim) and the Writings (the Chetuvim). In modern times the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown the Masoretic text to be nearly identical to some texts of the Tanakh dating from 200 BC, proving them to be staggeringly reliable to the original.
For nearly 400 years, and through several revisions of the original, the King James Bible has been widely respected for its precision translation from the original languages. This has unfortunately also lead many people to claim that the 1611 King James Bible is the only true translation, which is a claim I personally do not subscribe to. Most likely without even realising it, these people are rarely actually in possession of the 1611 Authorised Version of the King James Bible. Instead they will have the more readable 1769 version, which (quite rightly) excludes the Apocrypha.
The New King James Bible was commissioned in 1975 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, using 130 respected Bible scholars, church leaders and lay Christians over a period of seven years to create a more modern translation, whilst retaining accuracy, purity and stylistic content of the original Authorised Version. The New King James Bible therefore maintains its faithfulness to the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts. However, the Bible references I will make throughout this article are from the King James, rather than the New King James Bible.
So now let’s start to delve into The Message itself. Frankly, there are so many additions, deletions and alterations in The Message that it would be incredibly difficult to address them all. I therefore intend to specifically focus my article on what I believe to be a deliberate and dangerous insertion of New Age language and themes within The Message; language and themes that are most certainly not in the original text and do not belong in the Word of God.
Jesus – “Master” or Lord?
Eugene Peterson’s treatment of the word “Lord” is most significant. The “Lord” appears no less than 7970 times in the King James Bible. The word “Lord” is in fact used more than any other noun. Of the 8000 plus different words used in the King James Bible, the “Lord” ranks 14 th among the most occurrences (number 13 is the single letter “a”). Only helper words such as “the”, “of”, “in”, “to” et al occur more often than the noun “Lord”.
In contrast The Message contains the word “Lord” only 71 times. The “Lord” ranks 1087th among words used in The Message. It appears the same number of times as words like “question” or “reputation”. In Eugene Peterson’s rendering of the New Testament, the “Lord” appears only 23 times and The Message never directly honours Jesus Christ as Lord. Please allow that to sink in before reading further...The Message never directly honours Jesus Christ as Lord.
The “Lord” Jesus occurs 118 times in the King James Bible and the “Lord Jesus Christ” occurs 84 times. The phrase “Lord Jesus Christ” does not appear in The Message. This outright denial of the “Lord” Jesus Christ has never occurred in any other translation. Let us be clear, this is no accident.
It is not an issue of translation of Greek manuscripts. It is not a matter of updating archaic words or making it easier to understand. This is a deliberate doctrinal change to remove the “Lord Jesus” and one that every Christian should be made aware of.
It is interesting to note that Judas Iscariot never referred to Jesus as “Lord”.
“Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I?” (Matthew 25:26) – N.B. New King James Version renders the word “Master” as “Rabbi”, meaning Master/teacher.
Judas always addressed Jesus as “Master”, never “Lord”; Judas never made Jesus Lord of his life. Following in the footsteps of Judas “the betrayer”, The Message always calls Jesus “Master” and never “Lord”. This is significant because Jesus is referred to as “Master Jesus” by the New Age Movement. The root of the New Age Movement teaches that during various “ages” (more on this later), teachers or guides arise called “Masters”. These are either spirit beings, or fortunate men more “highly evolved” than normal man.
In his best selling book, A Crash Course on the New Age Movement, author Elliot Miller describes the New Age Jesus as: “The New Age Jesus became “the Christ” only after purifying himself of “bad karma” through many incarnations, and even now (as many New Agers believe) he is only one of several masters” (page 30). Elliot Miller was previously part of the New Age Movement, until giving his life to Jesus and becoming a member of the Christian Research Institute, an evangelical Christian apologetics ministry.
Alice Bailey (1880-1949), influential writer and teacher on the occult and member of the New Age hierarchy, formed Lucifer Trust Publishing in 1922, which was later renamed to the more subtle Lucis Trust Publishing. Bailey wrote extensively on the “Master Jesus”. The following quote is but one of the hundreds of references to the New Age “Master Jesus”: There is a growing and developing belief that Christ is in us, as he was in the “Master Jesus” (The Externalization of the Hierarchy, page 592).
The New Age Movement has a Jesus, but he is not the Jesus of the Bible; he is not “Lord”, but “Master”. Is this just a coincidence with the Jesus of Eugene Peterson’s The Message? Certainly not. The Message calls Jesus “Master” over 400 times and the unique New Age phrase “Master Jesus” appears 76 times.
The only other Bible to use the term “Master Jesus” is the New Age Bible titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ – The Christ of the Piscean Age. The following examples are just a few among the many I could have picked out of The Message that echoes the New Age doctrine of “Master Jesus”.
Acts 7:59: “As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.”
Acts 11:20: “Then some of them from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks, giving them the message of the Master Jesus.”
2 Corinthians 4:14: “And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive.”
Revelation 22:20-21: “He who testifies to all these things says it again: “I’m on my way! I’ll be there soon!” Yes! Come, Master Jesus! The grace of the Master Jesus be with you all of you. Oh Yes!”
Perhaps you don’t think Eugene Peterson is doing anything deliberate by changing “Lord” to “Master”. 1 Corinthians 12:3 is explicit in warning against spiritual counterfeits such as The Messages denial of Jesus as “Lord”. But Peterson tries to cover his tracks by perverting this very verse. 1 Corinthians 12:3 reads in the King James Bible as: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
In The Message 1 Corinthians 12:3 reads as: “For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.”
“Master God” or Lord God?
Not only does Eugene Peterson promote the New Age Movement “Master Jesus”, he also gives “Lord God” the same treatment. The “Lord God” occurs 546 times in the King James Bible. The “Lord God” appears only nine times in The Message, as it replaces “Lord God” with “Master God”. As far as I am aware, “Master God” is not found in any Bible version other than The Message. Again, one could be forgiven for thinking little of this if it weren’t for the New Age connotation of the term “Master”.
A few examples from The Message are as follows:
Genesis 15:8: “Abram said, “Master GOD, how am I to know this, that it will all be mine?”
2 Samuel 7:18: “King David went in, took his place before GOD, and prayed: “Who am I, my Master GOD, and what is my family, that you have brought me to this place in life?”
Ezekiel 37:3: “He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Master GOD, only you know that.”
The Message makes nonsense of certain passages by deleting the “Lord”. Rather than correctly translating the “Lord God”, The Message creates the phrase “God, God” and deceitfully slips in a comma in an attempt to justify the new phrase Peterson has created. For example, Exodus 34:6 reads: “GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient – so much love, so deeply true.”
Deuteronomy 6:4 reads: “Attention Israel! GOD, our God! God the one and only!”
The New Age Movement identifies their “Masters” as “divine guardians” and “custodians of the divine plan”. The New Age Tara Centre (Tara being the ancient Buddhist god the Mother) describes the “Masters” as “custodians” of the divine plane: “The masters, together forming the Spiritual Hierarchy, are the custodians of the divine plane for this planet” (Basics of Ageless Wisdom, Tara Centre, page 3).
In Deuteronomy 32:8, The Message also refers to these “divine guardians” who “care for the Earth.” This is not Biblical Christianity, and neither is it in the Hebrew text.
The King James Bible’s reading of Deuteronomy 32:8 is as follows: “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the Sons of Adam, he set bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.”
The same verse in The Message reads: “When the High God gave the nations their stake, gave them their place on Earth, He put each peoples within boundaries under the care of divine guardians.”
Peterson replaces “children of Israel” with the New Age term “divine guardians”.
The “One” and “Oneness”
The New Age theme carries on in The Message with continuous references to the “One”. The New Age “One” theology stems from pantheism, which derives from the Greek words for pan meaning “all” and theos meaning “god”. Pantheism teaches that God is All and All is God or “one”. Pantheism utterly rejects the personal, loving God of the Bible and replaces Him with a “presence” or “One”.
Pantheism tends to identify God in nature; the god Pan appears as a cloven-footed, half-man, half goat creature playing the hypnotic “pan pipes”. The Satanic Bible lists Pan as one of Satan’s names (page 144). Hence, a pan- theist follows Satan (whether they realise it or not).
The New Testament of the King James Biblenever refers to God or the Lord Jesus as the impersonal One. Jesus is referred to as Holy One and the Just One, but never an impersonal, mystic one. However, in The Message, Peterson quite deliberately changes the personal pronouns that refer to Jesus and God such as “He” and “Him”, and personal nouns such as “Father”, with the impersonal pantheistic “One”. These occasions are not few and far between. Peterson does this in The Message no less than 102 times in the New Testament. Examples are as follows:
John 6:46: “No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father – and you can see me.”
The King James Bible reads: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.”
Acts 13:25: “As John was finishing up his work, he said, “Did you think I was the One? No, I’m not the One. But the One you’ve been waiting for all these years is just around the corner, about to appear. And I’m about to disappear.”
The King James Bible reads: “And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his I am not worthy to loose.”
Hebrews 2:11: “Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family.”
The King James Bible reads: “For both that he sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Revelation 4:9: “Every time the animals gave glory and honor and thanks to the One Seated on the Throne – the age-after-age Living One.”
The King James Bible reads: “And when those beast give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.”
Building further upon the “One” concept, another distinct and unique word used within the New Age fraternity is “oneness”. Only New Agers recognise and acknowledge the “oneness” teaching and it is a teaching that Peterson cleverly introduces to the Bible through his translation of The Message.
For example, Ephesians 4:6 in The Message says, “Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”
Contrast this to how the King James Bible words Ephesians 4:6: “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
The word “permeate” used by Peterson in his rendering of Ephesians 4:6 means “spread throughout” or “to penetrate”. According to Eugene Peterson, everything you are and think and do is spread throughout with Oneness. This is straight forward and brazen New Age doctrine and nothing to do with what the Bible really says or teaches.
Just in case you may still be doubting the significance of “oneness” to New Age teaching, the New Age guidebook Metaphysical Primer: A Guide to Understanding Metaphysics, gives almost the exact same description of the New Age Movement as Peterson describes in Ephesians 4:6. It says, “Everything is one with everything else. All that is on Earth is an expression of the One Deity and is permeated with its energies” (more on “energy” later).
Peterson continues his New Age “oneness” in the following passages:
John 17:23: “I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness.”
1 Corinthians 10:17: “Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness.”
These interpretations by Peterson in The Message give a totally distorted New Age emphasis that is absolutely not there in the King James Bible, which (as we have already established) is a true Formal Equivalence translation of the original text. The King James Bible translates these passages as follows:
John 17:23: “I in them, and them in me, that they may be made perfect on one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou has loved me.”
1 Corinthians 10:17: “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
But Peterson’s promotion of New Age language in The Message goes further. The New Age Movement teaching of “Presence” finds itself into Eugene Peterson’s version of God’s Holy Word.
Alice Bailey, in The Externalization of the Hierarchy, the importance of the “Presence” to New Age teaching and how it strikes a blow at the Biblical “transcendent” God, or a God that exists apart from nature and man. She is quoted as saying, “This inevitably brings in the concept of the Presence, or of God immanent and is the result of needed revolt against the one-sidedness of the belief in God Transcendent” (page 355).
Peterson refers to God in The Message at least 34 times as the New Age “Presence”. For example, he interprets John 3:13 as: “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the one who came down from that presence, the Son of Man.”
The King James Bible reads: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.”
The Message renders Revelation 20:11 as: “I saw a Great White Throne and the One enthroned. Nothing could stand before or against the Presence, nothing in heaven, nothing on earth.”
In contrast, the King James Bible renders Revelation 20:11 as: “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.”
The Message totally removes references to God being a personal God by replacing words like “him” and “whose face”, with references to the “One” and “Presence”. This is again nothing more than blasphemous New Age doctrine cleverly and deliberately inserted into a Bible.
Peterson even refers to the sacred “shewbread” as the mystic “Bread of the Presence” eight times. For example, The Message renders Exodus 25:30 as: “Always keep fresh bread of the Presence on the table before me.” Whereas the King James Bible simply says, “And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me always.”
As if Peterson hasn’t already been blatant enough with his insertion of New Age doctrine, he also inserts the insidious New Age doctrine of “energy” into The Message. “Energy” appears 40 times in The Message and leaves no doubt concerning Peterson’s faith in the New Age “energy” force.
In Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28, The Message changes “pray” to “the energies of prayer”. According to Eugene Peterson, God no longer answers our prayers; instead, the prayer itself generates “the energy”. In stark contrast, the Biblical definition of prayer means “to ask” (Matthew 21:22).
The Message’s teaching on “energy” in Luke 6:28 says, “When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.”
Contrast this to the King James Bible, which says: “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”
A further example is Peterson’s rendering of Mark 5:30, which no longer reads “virtue” leaving the Lord Jesus, but "energy discharging” from Him: “At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
Here are a few more examples from The Message:
Ephesians 1:20: “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven.”
The King James Bible merely says: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” There is no mention of “energy” being issued!
Philippians 2:13: “That energy is God’s energy, and energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
The King James Bible merely says: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Again, there is no mention of “energy” in any context. The Message’s interpretation of both passages places a totally New Age context into Scripture that is simply not there.
Just in case you perhaps doubt the New Age significance of “energy”, allow me to quote again Alice Bailey from Externalization of the Hierarchy: “The inflow of this energy has brought many hundreds of people into a new and deeper spiritual realisation;...Thus is the New Age dawning...This is the occult law” (page 7).
Make no mistake that the concept of “energy” is occult and is referenced in countless New Age and occult publications, and is found nowhere in God’s Holy Word. Yet Eugene Peterson deliberately inserts this occult theme throughout The Message.
Alice Bailey references “energy” over 1000 times in her book the Rays and the Initiations.
Singer song writer, New Ager and Satanist, Tori Amos, defines the New Age “energy” as Lucifer: “To visit Father Lucifer, to have a moment to dance... to go down in the dark, to visit with the dude! Not these little “Princes of Darkness” wannabees... some of them are cute, but to visit the real energy force that has held the darkness: you go there with honor” (A Bottle of red, Tori Amos).
“Light” and “Light-god”
It doesn’t take much delving into the New Age Movement to expose the concept of their occult “light-god”. A best selling New Age book in the 1990’s was Embraced by the Light by Betty Edie. The concept of light is a cornerstone to New Age thinking.
The popular New Age prayer called The Great Invocation by Alice Bailey (originally published by Lucifer Publishing), begins with the words, “From the point of Light within the mind of God let Light stream forth into the minds of men. Let Light descend on Earth.” The prayer then ends with the words, “Let Light and love and Power restore the Plan on Earth.”
Marilyn Ferguson (1938-2008), author, editor and public speaker, published in 1980 her best-selling New Age guide-book The Aquarian Conspiracy, in which she is quoted as saying about the New Age concept of “light”: “Always, the vision of evolution toward the light. Light is the oldest and most pervasive metaphor in spiritual experience. We speak of enlightenment, the city of light, the light of the word, children of light, the ‘white-light experience’” (page 385).
The popular New Age publication New Dawn time and time again makes reference to the “light”. The following quote is just typical of the material published in New Dawn: “The great spiritual teachers tell us that the chaos of the modern age is merely part of the natural order, that out of this chaos, a new age of harmony and grace will emerge. Many of us are moving beyond this phase in the cycle, realigning ourselves with spirit and feeling the great call to the light. We are planting the seeds for the world to come” (Sharron Rose, “2012: A Time Odyssey”, No. 106, Jan-Feb 2008).
Incidentally, I have also highlighted the reference to “planting the seeds” because the term “light-seed” is also a significant concept unique to the New Age Movement. But guess what, Eugene Peterson manages to insert it into The Message. For example, Psalm 97:11 says: “Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people...”
Compare this to the King James Bible which simply says: “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Peterson has changed the context and meaning from God sowing His light into the hearts of the righteous, to a uniquely New Age term of “light- seeds” being planted. Christians are unlikely to spot the significance of such passages being changed, but New Age readers will recognise them immediately and welcome them, as these New Age terms make the Bible far more accommodating to their New Age beliefs. I have also highlighted the term “age” in the above quote, the reason for which will become clear later.
The guiding light of the New Age Movement is Lucifer. Lucifer is a Latin word derived from lucem ferre, meaning “light-bearer”. Hence why New Agers proudly call themselves “light-bearers”. Alice Bailey wrote extensively of the New Age “light” god. In The Reappearance of the Christ, Alice is quoted as saying, “This light will irradiate (in a fashion unknown before) not only the Father’s house, which is the source of all our planetary light. This light will now flood the world of men, bringing illumination to men’s minds and light into the dark places of human living. It is light and – above all else...” (page 58).
In another of Alice Bailey’s many disturbingly Christian sounding books, From Bethlehem to Calvary, she says, “To this light the mystics testify, and it is this light into which they enter, and which enters into them, revealing the light which is latent and drawing it forth to potency. “In thy light shall we see light.” This is the outstanding fact of scientific mysticism. God is light” (page 153).
If the concept of “light” is so clearly fundamental to New Age and occult teaching, ask yourself why would Eugene Peterson add references to “light” to so much of The Message when it is not in the original text of Scripture. Not only that, when “light” is mentioned in the original text Peterson often changes it to a New Age “god-light” or “life-light”.
Just a few examples of where Peterson erroneously inserts “light” into a passage that does not contain the word in the original text, therefore changing the original and true context, are Deuteronomy 33:2; Matthew 17:15; Luke 9:34; Job 24:13; Acts 26:23; Revelation 2:5; Revelation 22:5.
As we have already established that Lucifer literally mans “light-bearer” and New Agers proudly call themselves “light-bearers”, you would think that Eugene Peterson would avoid at all costs using the term “light-bearer”. Sadly you would be wrong. In Matthew 5:15 The Message reads: “If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?”
In contrast, the original King James Bible says: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” No mention of New Age “light-bearers” there!
Anyone familiar with the New Age Movement and Eastern mysticism will be aware of the importance of the lotus. H. P. Blavatsky (1831-1891), founder of the Theosophical Society, which studied and practiced religious philosophy and mysticism, wrote extensively on occult subjects. Her book The Secret Doctrine contains a chapter titled “The Lotus as a Universal Symbol”.
The Secret Doctrine directly mentions the mystic lotus over 80 times. In Alice Bailey’s book A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, she makes reference to the lotus no less than 249 times. No symbol is more sacred in New Age mysticism than the lotus.
The New Age Bible, New Aquarian Gospel of Jesus – The Christ of the Piscean Age, crowns Jesus with the “Lotus wreath”: “This man, approved by all the master minds of heaven and earth, this man from Galilee, this Jesus, chief of all the sages of the world, we gladly recognise. In recognition of this wisdom that he brings to men, we crown him with the Lotus wreath.”
The Dictionary of Symbolism describes the sacred “lotus blossom” as follows: “Lotus: In ancient Egypt the lotus blossom is mentioned in the myth of the creation of the world: it originated from primordial ooze, and the divine creator of the world arose from its calyx” (page 212-213).
The below photo is of the New Age Baha’i Lotus Temple in New Delhi:
Bearing in mind the sacred nature of the “lotus blossom” to New Age mysticism, surely Eugene Peterson wouldn’t have stooped so low as to insert such a New Age reference in The Message?
Of course he has! In what is probably the most blasphemous and openly New Age reference ever made in a mainstream Bible, The Message transforms the Lord Jesus from the “lily of the valley” to the mystic “lotus blossom from the valley pools.” In Song of Solomon 2:1-2, Solomon is speaking of himself, but also speaking prophetically about the Lord Jesus, as Solomon in Biblical typology represents Christ. The Message interprets this passage as: “I’m just a wild flower picked from the plains of Sharon, a lotus blossom from the valley pools. A lotus blossoming in a swamp of weeds – that’s my dear friend among the girls in the village.”
Compare this directly to the King James Bible: “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters.”
Notice also how The Message degrades the beautiful “rose of Sharon” to a crude “wildflower picked from the plains of Sharon”.
Eugene Peterson has renamed Christ in The Message to represent the most sacred New Age symbol! Who could honestly say that this is anything less than blasphemy?
Peterson further uses the “lotus” reference in his rendering of Micah 7:14 and transforms “midst of Carmel” into a blatant New Age phrase “centred in lotus land”: “Shepherd, O GOD, your people with your staff, your dear and precious flock. Uniquely yours in a grove of trees, centred in lotus land...” Even the most ardent supporter of Eugene Peterson surely has to honestly ask themselves why would he deliberately insert into The Message direct references to such an important New Age symbol.
The “Green” god
Restoring or preserving this planet as a rallying call in the church has far exceeded the biblical principle of stewardship today and has become an earthbound mindset with a distinct over-focus on building God’s kingdom on earth, rather than looking for God to return to establish His kingdom through a new heaven and a new earth. A perfect example of this is Rick Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan, which has been so widely embraced by Christendom. The influence of this fix-the-earth program is staggering. Warren’s best-selling Purpose Drive Life has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and has introduced his “50-year” global P.E.A.C.E. Plan to more than 500 000 evangelical churches.
Rick Warren’s attempt to solve the world’s social problems without the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unfortunately unbiblical and prophecy denying. But it is not the only misguided earthbound enterprise gaining followers today. Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, reflects the fix-the-earth eschatology so prevalent in Christian churches today. He says, “Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker... But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems... God’s desire is to restore all of it... The goal isn’t escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work.”
Scripture is clear that any abuse of what God has provided for mankind is sin. However, Eugene Peterson uses The Message to erroneously support an unbiblical, politically correct, New Age “green” agenda that fully accommodates the kind of unbiblical theology about our planet that is put forward by Rick Warren and Rob Bell. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that The Message is Rick Warren’s Bible of choice.
For example, The Message translates John 3:17 to say that Jesus, “came to help, to put the world right again”, when the King James Bible simply says, “that the world through Him might be saved.” The Message completely changes the true meaning of John 3:17, which is the salvation of souls, to a totally different meaning that promotes a “green” agenda of merely making the world a better place – “put right”.
Eugene Peterson’s translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also promotes a bizarre reference to environmentalism: “Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.”
Now compare that to what it says in the King James Bible: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Not only does Peterson’s rendition of 1 Corinthians 6:9- 10 delete words that identify specific sins (done several times in The Message), he adds a sentence about abusing the earth and everything in it; a politically correct reference to environmentalism.
But that is not the most bizarre biblical change made by Eugene Peterson. He overtly promotes the ecological Green Movement by adding the adjective “green” to Romans 15:13. The King James Bible states: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace...”, whereas The Message says, “May the God of green hope fill you up with joy...” Who is the God of “green hope”? Does the God of “green hope” even exist? One thing is for sure, it does not exist in the Bible. However, the God of “green hope” does exist elsewhere. The “green hope” actually originated with the hellish, human sacrificing Druids. In the Publication Talks on Freemasonry, Kenneth Tuckwood, member and leader of the Sussex Freemasonry Lodge, states, “Green was, with the Druids, a symbol of hope and the virtue of hope with a Freemason illustrates the hope of immortality.”
The “green hope” mantra is a popular rallying cry in the New Age Mother-Earth environmental movement. Within the New Age Movement “green” signifies Oneness (that word again!) with the Earth, hence the title of poet and author William Anderson’s book, Green Man: The Archetype of Our Oneness with the Earth, in which he expounds the Gaia hypothesis – planet Earth is a single living organism (Mother Earth), with the next step in the ecological revolution beginning with the reawakening of the male counterpart to the Goddess Gaia, the “green man”.
http://www.Mythinglinks.org describes the “green man” as: “that spirit energy, presence, inherent in every cell of the vegetative realm, and transmitted to the animal/human realms through the food we eat, ...He is pan...” And we already know who Pan is!
Those Christians, like Eugene Peterson, Rick Warren and Rob Bell that embrace the “green” movement’s message about saving this planet need to openly acknowledge why it is so widely embraced by the New Age Movement. Ken Wilber, one of the most respected and highly regarded theoreticians in the New Age Movement, is quoted in his book The Atman Project, as saying, “If men and women have “ultimately” come up from amoebas, then they are ultimately on their way to toward God.” Ken Wilber is referring to the New Age belief that people can “evolve” towards “god-hood”. The whole “green” movements concept of saving the planet is based on the theory of evolution; a theory based more on questionable science than Biblical truth. New Agers embrace it because they believe the human race can “evolve” into gods. If you ultimately “evolve” into a god, there is no need to seek God, and certainly no need to seek His forgiveness.
Chanting occupies a central role in paganism and mysticism, and is practiced as part of set prayers in both Islam and Roman Catholicism. In the popular book, Chant and be Happy, former Beatle and Krishna disciple George Harrison, is quoted as saying, “By serving GOD through each thought, word, and DEED, and by chanting HIS Holy Names, the devotees quickly develops God- consciousness.”
Harper’s Encyclopaedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience, defines “chanting” as: “The continuous recitation of a mantra...which helps one achieve an altered state of conscious, ecstasy, communion with the divine...” (page 92).
Matthew 6:7 clearly warns Christians against such practices: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
It is therefore no surprise that the King James Bible uses the word “chant” only once (Amos 6:5), and in that one context is referring to idolatry.
In contrast The Message includes “chant” nine times – Judges 5:11; Psalm 35:15; Psalm 71:24; Jeremiah 9:10; Jeremiah 51:14; Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 32:16 (3 times); Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:10.
Out of the Bible references listed above, let’s as an example look at what The Message says in Revelation 4:8: “The Four animals were winged, each with six wings. They were all eyes, seeing around and within. And they chanted night and day, never taking a break: Holy, holy, holy is God our Master, Sovereign-Strong, THE WAS, THE IS, THE COMING.”
Contrast this with the King James Bible: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD God almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”
Bearing in mind the specific significance of “chanting” to paganism and mysticism, please explain to me how a so-called Bible scholar like Eugene Peterson could insert the concept of “chanting” into this Bible passage. In his translation of Scripture, Peterson is either being dishonest or incompetent, and I know which one he is.
As an aside, notice also how in Revelation 4:8 Peterson changes “LORD God almighty” to “God our Master”.
“Age after age after age”
The New Age religion teaches a series of “ages”. For example, in astrological terms “ages” occur approximately every 2000 years and we are currently in the Age of Aquarius, which is regarded as a time of unity and scientific discoveries. This New Age concept of “ages” has nothing to do with the Bible, yet Eugene Peterson erroneously introduces the New Age phrase “age after age” several times. For example, The Message renders Psalm 72:5 as: “Outlast the sun, outlive the moon – age after age after age.”
The King James Bible reads: “They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.”
Notice also how Peterson has removed from this passage the reference to fearing God. This is something else Peterson does throughout The Message, but I will not elaborate further on that point.
In The Message, Revelation 5:13 reads: “To the One on the throne! To the Lamb! The blessing, the honor, the glory, the strength, for age after age after age.”
The King James Bible reads: “...Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb for ever and ever.”
In addition to the erroneous insertion of the New Age phrase to “age after age after age”, note also that Peterson again removes the personal pronoun “him” and replaces it with the New Age reference to “the One”.
In The Message, Revelation 22:5 reads: “Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age.”
The King James Bible reads: “And there shall be no light there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
In addition to the erroneous insertion of the New Age phrase to “age after age after age”, note that Peterson again replaces the “Lord God” with the New Age reference to “God, the Master”.
In all examples Eugene Peterson replaces the phrase “for ever and ever” (meaning “for eternity”) with the New Age phrase” age after age after age”. “Ages” don’t last forever and Eugene Peterson knows this.
“As Above, So Below”
The phrase “as above, so below” would appear on the surface to be so benign and harmless, with little or no significance. However, a look below the surface shows something altogether different. The phrase “as above, so below” does in fact have massive significance to both the New Age Movement and practitioners of magic. The phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet, which is one of the most revered magical documents in the Western world. It embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic, which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic writing by Hermes Trismegistus, who in antiquity is regarded as a combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Toth. The two gods were worshipped as one. Hermes Trismegistus is the alleged teacher of the magical system known as Hermetism, of which high magic and alchemy are said to be two branches.
The significance of the phrase “as above, so below” is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula: “’That which is above is the same as that which is below’... Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as... and so on ad infinitum.”
New Age Journal published a book titled As Above, So Below, which explains the significance of the phrase to New Agers. The books introduction says, “’As above, so below’ means that the two worlds are instantaneously seen to be one when we realise our essential unity with God... The One and the many, time and eternity are all One” (page 11).
Bearing in mind the staggering significance of this little phrase to both New Agers and practitioners of the occult, you have to ask yourself why Eugene Peterson would think of inserting it into the Lord’s Prayer; he has put the words “as above, so below” on the lips of the Son of God himself!
The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 in The Message reads as: “Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below.”
The same passage in the King James Bible of course begins with the familiar: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Not only has Eugene Peterson put the phrase “as above, so below” on the lips of Christ, you will also note that he changes “thy kingdom come” to “set the world right”; a significant change when you consider my earlier comments regarding Peterson’s insertion of the “green movements” message of environmentalism. They are no longer looking for God’s kingdom to come; they are looking for God to help them put this planet right.
Insertion by Eugene Peterson into The Message of the odd New Age phrase or reference could be forgiven as coincidence or unwitting neglect. But reference to so many specific New Age and occult phrases by the addition, deletion and alteration of so much of Scripture can’t honestly be put down to coincidence or oversight. Eugene Peterson has deliberately and systematically changed so much of the Word of God to communicate a New Age theme, there can be no mistaking it. He is preaching a New Age gospel of a New Age “Lotus Blossom” Master Jesus, who spouts well-established New Age language. God the Father is a New Age impersonal “presence” or “light” that is more concerned about redeeming the Earth than redeeming souls. This is another gospel not found in the Bible.
Please bear in mind when I make that statement the publisher of The Message has specifically advertised it as a “translation from the original languages” that “accurately communicates the original Hebrew and Greek.” In reality, what we have is a free and reckless paraphrase from Eugene Peterson’s own imagination, rather than any authentic attempt at translating the original text.
Peterson has been quoted as saying, “Imagination is our training in dealing with the invisible” (A Conversation with Eugene Peterson, Mars Hill Review, Autumn 1995, Issue 3). What an astounding contradiction of Scripture, which says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Matthew 12:37 says, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” What Eugene Peterson has done to the Word of God is serious and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.
I write these things most certainly not to criticise or condemn anyone who has, or is still using The Message; I suspect the vast majority of readers of The Message will be generally unaware of the extent of Eugene Peterson’s additions, deletions and alterations. 1 John 1:7 tells us to walk in the light, as Christ is in the light, so we may have fellowship together. My intention is to shine the light of Christ on the real message in The Message. The question therefore for anyone using The Message, is now that light has been shone on The Message, will they continue to use The Message?
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” - Galatians 1:8-9
JAMES (JAMIE) SMITH