Should I Read The Passion Translation?


I'm not sure I have heard too many mentions of this Bible translation in the past. My guess is that when I might have heard about it, I might have thought there was some connection to the movie "The Passion Of The Christ". I have heard a few pastors recommend this "translation", and for this reason, I'd like to take a brief moment to share some considerations with you as you decide whether you will or will not read the Passion Translation as your main Bible.


There was a time when I could probably see myself getting excited about this particular translation. The title alone makes me feel that I will have a greater experience reading this Bible translation rather than others, as it appeals to my desire to be passionate in my relationship with God. A few years ago, I would listen to many speakers on TBN or other Christian tv channels that focused mostly on the spiritual and emotional experiences we can have as believers, but wouldn't dive in too deep into the fundamental teachings of Christianity.


I can remember receiving Bibles with different translation names and not really understanding why they were different. I supposed they were all reliable translations that simply changed their wording to their preferred particular style. It wasn't until I took a class at Biola University that a professor explained the reason why we have different translations. This is when I personally decided I'd like to choose the translations that are closest to the original, since I wouldn't be able to understand where I was reading something that Bible scholars would be able to identify as problematic.

Here is a chart with some of the most popular Bible translations available today: https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2018/07/why-view-a-bible-passage-in-more-than-one-bible-translation/


Notice that there are two directions on this chart: one that is more "word-for-word", but you might find yourself pausing as you read because it doesn't flow as well as one that is more "thought-for-thought".


Here is the troubling situation we find ourselves in regarding the Passion Translation. The lead translator, Brian Simmons, has called it a translation, whereas many Bible scholars argue it would be more accurately described as a paraphrase. Paraphrase Bible translations can be found on the thought-for-thought section on the chart above, such as "The Message" (MSG). To hear why Bible scholars argue this is the case about the Passion Translation, you can hear more about that on this playlist: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZ3iRMLYFlHvXha4rjCj1Po0WLQc_jGGW

Personally, as I have been learning more and more information about the experiences Brian Simmons openly shares have contributed to the making of the Passion Translation, I have been wrestling with something that I think a lot of well-meaning Christians fall for: wanting to believe that a person is sincere and that what they are saying is true. This is of course a recipe for being deceived. It's very easy to hear someone, anyone, say that they have heard from God and have seen angels, and so forth, and what is a Christian to do upon hearing these things? These claims sound like some experiences we believe happened that have been documented in the Bible. It leaves a believer wrestling with: "what if?" Who doesn't want to believe something if it is true? Who wants to say someone is lying and be wrong?


There are some things that have been stated by Brian Simmons that have left me wondering, "what if everything he is saying is true?". But then I remember what the Bible says in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" The Bible teaches us that we are not to receive new information that changes the message of the gospel, no matter who it is or what the experiences they share with us are, while attempting to convince us to the contrary of what we have already received in Scripture and has been passed on carefully throughout time.


If someone claims that they have had experiences in heaven, and has been given new information or even new books of the Bible, that should be a red flag for us. First, it has been done before by other cults, and second, it's like saying what we have in Scripture is not reliable or that it is incomplete. There is a difference in the way Bible scholars have made adjustments in new translations resulting from the discovery of more manuscripts, verses claiming subjective experiences that no one can check and creating a translation based off of them. With time, I have come to realize that it is possible for people to sincerely believe they are listening from God and be wrong. Or, that it is possible for people to be charlatans. Is Brian Simmons saying the truth, or why else would he say the things he claims he has heard and seen? Whatever the case is, we can be confident in placing our trust in God's Word over a man's word, no matter how sincere he may appear to be.


Ultimately, we rely on what God has spoken in His Word, and we do not need to be searching for something new that He has to say through spiritual experiences, especially when they are contrary to what the Word says. Invalidating Scripture in order to make it sound more like you personally believe it should sound is not what a good Bible translation should be about. The scholars in the link I shared above are fair in admitting there are some good things in the Passion Translation that may be useful as a secondary source, like a paraphrase, for people that know what it originally says. Still, the things that are not good need to be known by anyone reading this translation currently or who will do so in the future. Please take some time to look further into this topic if this describes you or you have recommended this translation to others.