Do you have any preaching pet peeves?

Maybe it’s something that preachers say that for whatever reason is like nails on a chalkboard for you. Or maybe it is something that preachers do that just drives you crazy.

Today I just need to get one off my chest. Do you mind if I vent a little here?


Photo Credit: Olivier cc

I hear it all the time. And I heard it again recently.

If you use the Message version of the Bible in a sermon, please STOP CALLING THE MESSAGE A “TRANSLATION!”

Thanks. It felt good to get that out.

Seriously, though, stop it. Stop calling the Message a translation.

The Message is not a translation, it is a paraphrase. Big difference.

Each time something is translated, or paraphrased, it loses a little something. The original meaning of the text fades.

As we all know, the original Greek or Hebrew is the primary source. If you can read the original source, that is best.

But since most of us (and probably all the people in our churches) are not fluent in Greek and Hebrew, we use English translations of the original language. These are secondary sources. Not as good as the primary source, but still pretty good.

The Message, however, is not a direct translation from the original languages. It is one man’s paraphrase of an English translation. It is a tertiary source. The worst kind of source. (Unless, God forbid, someone paraphrased the Message. And then I have no idea what we would even call that. A forthiary source?).

Now, I am not going to be so legalistic to say that you cannot ever preach from the Message. Although I will say that it is not my favorite.

What I am saying is do not call the Message what it is not. It is not a translation. It is not on the same level as the ESV, NLT, NIV, NKJV or any other translation out there.

The Message is a paraphrase. Eugene Peterson rewrote the Bible in his own words hoping to make it more understandable.

It carries about the same weight as if I were sitting with you in a coffee shop and from the top of my head summarized Genesis 1.

It might be helpful. I would get most of the details right. I might even be able to directly quote a lot of it. But it is not the best.

If you really want to know what Genesis 1 has to say, would you rather me tell it, or open a Bible and read it for yourself?

So if you use the message in a sermon, please stop the madness. Just call it “The Message paraphrase” or “The Message.” Please don’t call it “The Message translation.”

Thank you.

Am I alone or does this bother anyone else? What are some of your preaching pet peeves?


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