There’s some debate about whether Eugene Peterson’s The Message is a translation or a paraphrase. I’d argue that it’s both, in some ways.
That is, Peterson translated from the Greek without consulting English translations, according to him. That’s a translation. Yet it seems to me that he then took that translation and “riffed on it,” producing a paraphrase of his own work!
Look at Paul’s question to the Ephesians in Acts 19:2. Here’s how the NIV translates it:
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
I’m no Greek expert, but looking at the GNT, the question seems to consist of 5 words which basically state what is above. Now look what Peterson did with the question:
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?”
See what I mean? The first sentence is the translation. The next two… have no basis in the Greek text. They aren’t translation. At best they are paraphrase. Essentially they are Peterson’s commentary on the translation.
How is the reader to know that? How is the reader supposed to know when Peterson is merely injecting things into the text?
Look at Romans 8:38-39. In “translating” this verse, Peterson writes:
Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: (Tim: underline mine)
As a reminder, here’s how the NIV does it:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In another post, I’ll note how Peterson avoids discussion of spiritual powers; that’s a definite problem. What I’ve underlined shows a major theological point that Peterson has inserted into this passage… with no textual basis. Depending on what Peterson means in what he has authored here, I very well may agree with him. However… that’s not Romans 8. That’s not translation.
Again… how is the reader supposed to know?