The following was taken from a pre-1997 issue of The Berean Call.
Question: We are in urgent need of information for our church family concerning the Bible paraphrase by Eugene Peterson: The Message published by NavPress....I do not believe that The Message is a good translation...yet it is promoted by Promise Keepers as well as other "big, trusted" names in the Christian world. We are many here in our town who hope to be able to obtain a brochure or a position paper concerning this paraphrase.
Response: Unfortunately, the errors in this paraphrase (it's not a translation) are numerous and serious. The Message cannot be relied upon to tell the truth and, in fact, is dangerously misleading. If Promise Keepers endorses it, that is one more mark against that organization.
Let me give you only a few examples. John:1:1 actually says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Message renders it, "The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one." That garbling is an improvement?! It is confusing at best and misleading at worst, changing the meaning. "In the beginning was the Word" is changed to "The Word was first." First before God? And what does "in readiness for God" mean? In verse 5, "the darkness comprehended it not" is rendered, "the darkness couldn't put it out," changing the meaning entirely.
In verse 14, "full of grace" becomes "Generous inside and out," while "truth" becomes "true from start to finish." "Generous" and "grace" do not mean the same, nor does "true from start to finish" convey the rich meaning of Christ being "full of truth." In verse 29, "which taketh away the sin of the world" becomes "He forgives the sins of the world." There is a world of difference between taking away the sin of the world by paying the debt mankind owed, and forgiving sins! In John:3:5, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit" becomes, "unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind hovering over the water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life," again obscuring, complicating, and changing the true meaning. In 3:17, "but that the world through him might be saved" becomes "He came to help, to put the world right again," a destructive change in the meaning.
"Saved" means to be redeemed, rescued from the judgment we deserve for our sins; whereas "to help, to put the world right again" sounds like social or political reformation. In verse 36, "the wrath of God abideth on him" becomes, "All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that." How can anyone experience darkness from God, when 1 John:1:5 says of God, "in him is no darkness at all"? Serious error is added to serious error!
In 1 Corinthians:1:17, "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" is perverted to read, "God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself but to preach the Message." It is important that Paul, a former rabbi, is a follower of Christ—The Message says "of God." The main point Paul makes is that baptism is not part of the gospel—The Message misses that completely. "Lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" is changed to "...lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words." There is a vast difference between the eternal effect of "the cross of Christ" as the Bible states it and "Christ on the Cross" as The Message puts it and Catholicism depicts it. Christ is not on the cross; the work is finished! In verse 30, "sanctification, and redemption" is changed to read "a clean slate and a fresh start"—both trivializing and misleading. In Hebrews:11:1, "the substance of things hoped for" becomes "the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living," a totally different meaning, with hope for eternity expunged. In verse 4, regarding the lamb, which speaks of Christ, the "more excellent sacrifice" offered by Abel, the comment is interjected, "It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference." On the contrary, the sacrifice he brought was important to his belief, and without the proper sacrifice there could be no forgiveness no matter what was believed.
In verse 7, "became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" is changed to "became intimate with God," again an entirely different meaning which leaves out the vital phrase "righteousness which is by faith." In verse 16, "God is not ashamed to be called their God" is twisted into "God is so proud of them." Never! Attributing the human evil of pride to God is blasphemy and leaves the dangerous impression that if God is proud then it isn't so bad for man to be proud as well.
In verse 35, "that they might obtain a better resurrection" becomes "preferring something better: resurrection." Again the meaning is changed completely. It makes it sound as though resurrection is dependent upon good works. It was not a question of whether they would be resurrected, but of the reward they would receive in the Resurrection.
These are only a few among many errors, some extremely serious. It is appalling that any mere man would change or ignore the meaning of God's Word under the vain delusion that he could improve upon what God has said and the way He has said it! It is even more appalling that a leading evangelical publisher would publish this blasphemy, Christian bookstores would sell it, and Christian leaders would praise instead of denounce this perversion!