One of the things that has caught my attention lately is all the attention that seams to be happening about The Passion Translation (TPT). One of the main bible web pages that I use has recently withdrawn the version from its content. When things like this happen a whole range of dialogue seems to flow from Christianity...
So let's put all my cards on the table...
I use the the TPT fairly regularly. It's not the main version I use, that would be The New Living Translation (NLT). Prior to that, I used The New King James Version (NKJV) interspersed with The Message. Before that, a massive purple Good News Bible (GNB) was what I was given as a child. That bible was so big that I was embarrassed to carry it to church as it looked like I was carrying War and Peace with me with a beautiful 70's purple vibe. Before that was a giant picture bible... but I'm pretty sure that this doesn't rate in the scholarly biblical world as a thing 😂 so we'll leave that here.
My biblical background in theological training had me complete a Bachelor of Theology just over 10 years ago. Languages and biblical studies were my main focus. In the biblical languages I found a whole new world open up to me. I immersed myself, and I loved it!. I quickly discovered that as helpful as the English language is, the ancients seemed to do it so much better with words that were more pregnant with life and meaning. For years, my time with Jesus was spent copying out Ancient Greek from the New Testament and translating it into English. I'd work one verse at a time and it allowed me to marinate in everything I was reading. I can't tell you how valuable this has been for me, even to this very day.
In that time I also had a major encounter with grace. It's a long story, so I won't go into it all, but suffice to say that at the age of 38 I met the brick of insecurity and shame... You see, up until that time pretty much everything I knew about grace I'd learned in a classroom or in a church. That all changed for me as I realised that my life had become a pretence of the life that Jesus was offering me.... So I found grace in Trish when she forgave me. I found grace in my counsellor when she invited me to see my dysfunction. I found grace in my lawyers office when he offered to listen to my story and help me. It changed my life and it changed my theology... encountering grace just does these things.
So why do I say all of this when I'm writing a blog about the TPT??
Well here's a thing... grace changes you from the inside out. It changes the way you see and do life. It changed my marriage, my family and my relationships. It changed and is still changing the way that I see myself and how I encounter God. The flow on effect of this was that it changed the way I read the Bible. It changed the way I heard Jesus' voice in the pages and it changed the way that I saw the character of God. I call this transformation, but quite simply, grace changes you. When grace is found in your story, it will always be found in your voice. So I started reading and translating the bible from a point of view that God is grace and God is love. The voice of every story shifted to flow from love. The tone of every story shifted to feel the love of God.
For me, TPT is one of those very powerful voices of grace. I don't know Brian Simmons' story, but I'm guessing God's grace and intimacy are major influences on him.
So people criticise the TPT as not being a translation. I even read one absurd critique that compared it to the Greek by doing a word count!! That is, for one particular verse there were 11 words in Greek, but the TPT used 27!! Their conclusion was that this proves that it can't be a translation as Brian Simmons uses way more words than the original. Anyone who knows anything about languages would know this is a ridiculous way to compare anything... one Greek word can hold a sentence.
So is it a translation or not? Well there are much smarter people than me out there with way more credentials than I have that can classify it as such or not, but here's what I know: Everyone understands the bible through their own lens. Everyone translates what they hear into a vocabulary they understand. Even when you read the Bible in English, there will be times when you take the words you read and then use other words that help you understand it. Every translator has done this throughout history and every translation seems to have been met with many qualified religious voices saying that it's no good. They claim it's not literal. Well here's a thing... no English translation is... It's a repetitive argument that is a waste of time. It does more to divide the church than unify it.
The TPT, for me, has such a beautiful lens of grace and intimacy which fits so beautifully with the character and story of God. Brian Simmons doesn't use all the words that I would use and that's ok. I'm an adult, and I can make my own decisions on what I choose to believe or not. So I read it listening for the heart of the Father whom I have come to know so well. I'm not reading it to find the heart of Brian Simmons and to look for ways to critique his work. It's the same way that I read my NLT, my NKJV, The Message and my massive purple 70's GNB.
Whether you agree with me or not, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to do Holy Spirit things and lead us and guide us into all truth. From my point of view, I have seen so much blessing and life flow from this translation. I hope that Brian Simmons keeps doing Brian Simmons kind of things and blowing our minds with his lens of grace and intimacy.
Grace and peace,