Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom, I know you guys prefer the King James Version. Nevertheless, I’d like you to tell me what you think of paraphrase versions. The argument in favor of them is that they can help people understand the Bible better, and it’s particularly helpful for new believers. I’m currently reading a popular Christian book called The Purpose-Driven Life. And a great majority of Bible verses in it are taken from paraphrase versions, especially The Message by Eugene Peterson. The verses are given to support the author’s teaching, but I was shocked to see how different, even contradictory, the paraphrase verses are from the King James Version or the New American Standard Version, which are word-for-word translations. Do you see a big problem here?”
Tom: Well, first of all, Dave, paraphrase versions—can they be helpful? Are they helpful? Or are they really part of the problem?
Dave: Tom, I think it is wicked—do I dare say that?—to purport to be giving someone God’s Word, but you have put it in your own words. And the psalmist said, “Every word of God is pure.” Jesus quoted in the temptation in the wilderness: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
But now we don’t have the words that proceeded from the mouth of God. We’ve got somebody else’s substitution of what he thinks are better words. I mean, how anyone could dare—could dare—to change God’s Word and think they are going to improve upon it! I would tremble.
Tom: But Dave, let me give you a—it’s not really an argument, but just something that maybe people thought about. If when you are teaching God’s Word, you’re reading from the KJV, but then you begin to explain it, and you use other words, other languages—because you know, there are some difficult words, some archaic words in the KJV. So then you’re explaining them. How is that different?
Dave: Well, Tom, big difference!
Tom: I know, but tell me! Go ahead.
Dave: It’s one thing for me to leave God’s Word as it is, and then try to explain it. But the person to whom I’m explaining it can be like the Bereans—check Paul out, check me out, check you out. You can go back to the Word of God, the pure Word of God—that’s one thing. It’s another thing to change the Word of God, and now you’ve given…I mean, Tom, I have read The Message, and it’s some years ago now, so I can’t give you quotes. But it is unbelievable the changes that that man—Peterson—has made and what he has done to God’s Word to turn it around! I mean it would be one thing to try to find, say, an equivalent word because, you know, there are many synonyms. But he’s not even doing that.
Dave: He is introducing his own ideas, which are contrary to the Bible. He is changing the Bible! How a publisher would dare—I mean!—dare to do this!!
Tom: Now, Dave, if you’re upsetting some people out there, our challenge would be to take a book like The Message, and then find a word-for-word translation, whether it be the King James Version, or whether it be the New American Standard—again a literal, word-for-word—and compare the two. That’s all we’re asking. And they will be shocked, there’s no doubt about it! How far removed from God’s Word are these paraphrase versions!
Dave: And it’s sad that the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, Purpose-Driven Church, will justify his ideas—and I’m not saying his ideas are wrong; they may be very good—but why does he have to justify them, support them, with these paraphrases that are really not biblical and are not accurate. That’s tragic. Because then, who knows what version—that could be why you don’t find people carrying Bibles when you go to some of these churches. Well, they’re seeker-friendly churches. Why would they carry a Bible?
Tom: Yeah, Dave, the point is really critical here. If I’m teaching something and I want to have a text that supports what I’m teaching—a proof text—well, if I have to keep searching for different translations that support what I want…
Dave: Not translations! Paraphrases.
Tom: Okay. That support what I want to say, what have I really done? I’ve not done anything! I haven’t brought people back to the Word of God so they can be Bereans to check me out.
Dave: Tom, it is so important—the Word of God. We are born again by the Word of God, 1 Peter:1:23-25: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever. This is the word by which the gospel is preached unto you.”
Jesus said, “Thy word is truth. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Every word is important. And to take God’s Word and change it, that’s blasphemy! That is, I mean, I don’t know how you would dare to do that! But it leads people astray. It’s not like you’re preaching a sermon and trying to interpret it, or explain it, but the person still has the Word of God. They can come to their own conclusions. Now you have corrupted, you have perverted, you have changed God’s holy Word! You have dared to do that! And people are being led astray.
Tom: Dave, we haven’t addressed at great length Purpose-Driven Life, or the The Purpose-Driven Church, but this being really the cornerstone, using paraphrases to support somebody’s position, somebody’s teaching—it’s—to me, it makes it very, very problematic.