Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Message distorts John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17, KJV

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3:16-17, The Message

Some Bereans, such as Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon at The Berean Call, have commented about how Eugene Peterson in The Message alters the meaning of John 3:17. "That the world through him might be saved" is changed to "put the world right again," which makes Jesus Christ sound more a social reformer than a saviour.

However, it’s also worth taking a look at what Mr. Peterson does to John 3:16. This is perhaps the most beloved verse in the Bible, and one that directly led me to put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my saviour. The word rendered as "everlasting" in the King James Version and "eternal" in most modern versions is the Greek word aionios. According to An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine (1940), " is used of persons and things which are in their nature endless..." Which is to say, "everlasting" or "eternal" are correct renderings of the word. However, The Message changes "everlasting life" to "a whole and lasting life." "Whole and lasting" sounds a lot less impressive to me than "everlasting" or "eternal." It sounds as though Mr. Peterson is more interested in promoting a better life on Earth than in preparing people for eternity.

The reader will also note the absence of the word "begotten" from verse 16. I haven’t time to reprint it here, but Mr. Vine’s dictionary has a lengthy explanation of the phrase "only begotten," which is the Greek word monogenes. The phrase is unique to the writings of John, and is found five times (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; and I John 4:9), always in reference to Christ as the Son of God. I’ve already posted on The Message’s refusal to use the phrases "Lord Jesus" and "Lord Jesus Christ," and I don’t understand how such a perverse paraphrase can be seriously regarded as a "Bible."


  1. Thank you for posting this and for your determination as you contend for the faith! I've been making noise about "The Message" for awhile now and it always tends to hit a nerve! The New Age undertones of the book are astounding--and should be a huge red flag for any Christian. I've used your post on my blog, giving all credit and linking back here of course...I hope you don't mind!

    Blessings to you as you continue to stand firm on God's Word!

  2. Thanks for this post. I am also against anything that spins God's real message into anything that it is not...

    I do not understand these people who think they can do God a favor by improving His PR campaign...this is absurd. Where does the power reside? God or man? Too many think that man has the power. This is why stuff like Message Bible, PDL, Velvet Elvis and other drivel sell so well...

    Preach on, SB!

  3. I put your article on my blog. It's very good, very important to get this word out. I've been wanting to do some writing on The Message but haven't gotten there yet.
    Thanks for taking the time to do it!