My colleague Andrew Shead has written a review of The Passion Translation of the Psalms (“Poetry on Fire”) for The Gospel Coalition’s journal Themelios. Andrew is the head of Old Testament and Hebrew here at Moore Theological College, and is a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. Here’s the abstract of his review article:
Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.
A sectarian work
It’s becoming increasingly clear that The Passion Translation sits in a similar place to other sectarian holy books. That is, The Passion “Translation” is a non-translation which may well mislead many into thinking that it is Scripture, which disastrous results. Andrew Shead writes:
TPT is not just a new translation; it is a new text, and its authority derives solely from its creator. Like Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon, Brian Simmons has created a new scripture with the potential to rule as canon over a new sect. Judging from The Psalms alone, I would say that it would be a Christian sect, and that unlike the Mormon cult its scriptures will point its adherents to saving faith in God the Son, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. But TPT is not a Bible, and any church that treats it as such and receives it as canon will, by that very action, turn itself into an unorthodox sect. If the translation had been packaged as a commentary on Scripture I would not have needed to write this review; but to package it as Scripture is an offence against God. Every believer who is taught to treat it as the enscripturated words of God is in spiritual danger, not least because of the sentimentalised portrait of God that TPT Psalms sets out to paint. Simmons’s caricature of God as ‘the King who likes and enjoys you’ (‘Introduction’, p. 5) eliminates all but one facet of God’s feelings about us, and then gets that one wrong.
The problem is that TPT, unlike the Book of Mormon, is still available–indeed it seems to be being actively promoted–by major Christian booksellers as if it is Scripture. I’d urge these booksellers to seriously reconsider their policies on this series of pseudo-“Translations”. At the very least, I urge these booksellers to stop promoting The Passion Translation as if it is actually a translation of, and therefore a valid replacement for other translations of, Scripture.