A couple more examples of where The Message translation of the Bible just doesn’t get it right.
Now, understand: I like The Message. It’s a part of my daily Bible reading. But there are times when I just shake my head at the translator. I don’t know if these are accidents, things that wandered in while he was trying to reach a broader audience, or if he meant to do this as a way of undermining the strength of the Gospel. And these are not subtle differences, not a question over a choice of which word is better. These are flat out wrong.
In Mark 2:19-20, The Message says
Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!“
The NASB has it this way:
And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.“
Peterson, the translator of the message, tosses in a bride to this wedding analogy. Jesus was talking about Himself being taken away. He is the groom, and we the church are the bride. I understand how The Message is trying to connect to more people, but there’s a deeper meaning conveyed in the NASB that is completely missed by The Message.
Back in the Old Testament, Micah 4:3 has a verse that has been picked up by people throughout the ages who are seeking peace. NASB:
And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.
A prophecy about Jesus’ return. Nice, poetic, definitely showing the transition from war to peaceful agriculture. Now let’s see how The Message handles the same verse.
He’ll establish justice in the rabble of nations
and settle disputes in faraway places.
They’ll trade in their swords for shovels,
their spears for rakes and hoes.
Nations will quit fighting each other,
quit learning how to kill one another.
It has the same sense, sort of – until you think about it. If you’re trading in swords and spears, you could just as easily trade to get them back again. Might cost a little but, sure, but that’s a minor thing. The NASB shows the transformation involved. A warrior might be wandering around the mall and pop into Swords-n-Plowshares to see what looks good. A warrior is not going to destroy his sword if he thinks he’ll ever need it again. Swords => plowshares is pretty much a one-way journey unless you have a armourer at hand, and a lot of lead time for when you’re going to be attacked.
So I blow the whistle on both examples. Mr. Peterson’s heart is in the right place, and he blows fresh air into lots of places. In these two, though, it just stinks.
(interesting note: I found out that I had written about the swords and plowshares before, almost a year ago, but I didn’t remember doing it. At least I agree with myself!)