Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday's Message: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

I am continuing a new weekly series which will be posted every Sunday morning called "Sunday's Message." Here, I will reproduce the readings for Mass from The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition.  I want to thank Greg Pierce at ACTA for giving me permission to do this weekly post.  While this is not an "official" Catholic edition, one of my hopes for doing this new series is to have a lively discussion on the renderings, compared to the more formal ones we are use to reading and hearing at Mass.  Is there a place for a translation like this?  Could this be a good Bible to give to a Catholic "seeker" or young adult? 

Numbers 21:4-9
The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. They spoke out against God and Moses: “Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water—we can’t stomach this stuff any longer.”  So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us.”  Moses prayed for the people. God said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live.” So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.

Psalm 78:1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths.
When he cut them down, they came running for help;
they turned and pled for mercy.
They gave witness that God was their rock,
that High God was their redeemer,
But they didn’t mean a word of it;
they lied through their teeth the whole time.
They could not have cared less about him,
wanted nothing to do with his Covenant.
And God? Compassionate!
Forgave the sin! Didn’t destroy!
Over and over he reined in his anger,
restrained his considerable wrath.

Philippians 2:6-11
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

John 3:13-17
“No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

“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."


Unknown said...

I think there is a place for a translation like this, and the lack of some of the technical language can even bring new things out of the readings. This reminds me a little of the Good News Translation, which I like. All of the translations have their share of positives and negatives. Sometimes the daily readings fly over my mother's and my head, and having a less formal translation handy can be a great help.

rolf said...

I can see where teenagers and young adults would like this paraphrase/translation. I understand it is called 'The Message' for a reason, that is its priority to get the meaning out of the text in plain easy to understand American English.

One thing that gets lost as in the second reading, is the 'hymn like' flow this reading possesses. This can be important to someone who is studying the Bible and reads in the notes that this was probably an early Christian hymn. And if Paul is reciting this early Christian hymn around 55 A.D., then this could be a very early part of Christian Liturgy that was passed on in oral form in the early services held on the Lord's Day (during the thirties and forties A.D.). And that would tell a student of the Bible that the belief that Jesus was divine ('in the form of God') goes back to the very early Church, and wasn't something that was 'made up' by latter Christians in the second century A.D.

Jonny said...

I took another look at the Message from an online site. Here is a comparison from the first chapter I looked at in Romans:

5:9 Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way.

Compare to RSV-CE:
9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Loose paraphrase + Protestant author = inappropriate for all audiences (especially from a Catholic perspective.)

There is a wide array of new and classic Catholic-approved spiritual books & Bibles, milk or meat for the hungry soul, but this seems like junk food to me, and a scandal waiting to happen!

Carl Hernz said...

While I'm very grateful to Timothy for making this review of Peterson's work available for our inspection, my misgiving have only increased for what the publishers of this version are attempting to do.

What bothers me most about “The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition” is that the publishers felt that forgoing the required approval process of all Catholic Sacred Scripture texts, for private or public use, did not apply to the work they were creating for the Catholic public.

This is like inviting an Orthodox Jew over for dinner and then purposely serving him non-kosher foods. Why not? Didn’t Jesus declare all foods clean anyway? (Mark 7:19) Ah, but that would be shoving one’s personal beliefs down another’s throat. Many Jewish Christians have also kept kosher up to this day and Scripture teaches that those who recognize their freedom from such restrictions are not to forsake their observance at the expense of others. So even if Peterson and his publishers don't believe this applies to them, surely they know what is a requisite for us. Have they not read the Scriptures they themselves have paraphrased? —Compare Acts 21:20-25 and Romans 14:1-15:2.

There was another translation that did the same thing a few years ago, namely “The New Living Translation, Catholic Edition.” They did not seek proper approval for their Bible and it ended up going out of print as a result. Why? Bishops spoke out against it and Catholics don’t regularly use Bibles that are not approved by Church authority.

I reiterate what has been mentioned in other posts, that there is a plethora of fine Church-approved Bible translations on the market, many of which make the Bible easier to understand than in other more formal versions.

Why not highlight and compare texts with the Contemporary English Version? It is approved for Catholics, offers an easy-to-understand rendition, and employs dynamic equivalence (making it an actual translation, not a paraphrase). The scholarship behind it is that of the American Bible Society and therefore highly reliable as an approved choice for Catholics seeking a Bible simple enough to be grasped by everyone.

The Good News Translation (and it IS a translation, via dynamic equivalence and not a paraphrase)is also approved for Catholic use and as easy to understand, if not more so, than “The Message.” Very few thought-for-thought versions are as recommended by scholars and churchgoers than the GNT—and again, it’s approved. Why would I want to offer to youths or other Catholics a non-approved version over approved and time-tested versions such as these?

I’m totally with Jonny on this one. I would be a fool to ignore what is already there for Catholics with such fine scholarship behind it for a translation with authors who didn’t care about my needs as a Catholic to submit their version for approval. I for one am glad for this being highlighted on this blog so that perhaps the publishers will listen to our comments and take this to heart.

Timothy said...

Thank you Carl for your comments. I am intrigued by this translation, I fully admit it. I am intrigued primarily in relation to this being a useful Bible for youth or young adult seekers. From my experience, primarily with high school kids and even some adult learners, there seems to be something that is needed to encourage a greater affinity for reading the Bible. I don't know of that has something to do with simply the technological world we live, the post-modern/post-Christian environment, or maybe the possibility that some people can't simply relate to the language of most Bible? I don't know. I am not saying the Message or translations are either? But I am intrigued. I am so intrigued in that in one of my high school classes I am going to have my students read The Message along with a more formal translation. I purchased for each of them a basic The Message NT. I simply want to find out if this paraphrase inspires or speaks to them in any way, more than the NAB or NRSV or RSV that the typically use.

How do we reach out to them in 2014 in order to encourage them to encounter the Biblical message? I simply desire them to hear a passage and seriously think about it, how it applies to their life, and how it brings them closer to our Lord. Again I am not saying The Message is the answer, but I want to see if it inspires them in any way.

Timothy said...

Thank you Jonny for your thoughts as well!

Timothy said...

Apologies for the various has been a long day and typing on my iPhone doesn't help.

Anonymous said...

heh. I really enjoy "reading" The Message. It is relevant to me as a (very!) senior citizen because frankly -- at this age I'm just about all Bible-studied-out!

I'm so old that when I was a child -- the EF was the O. :)

But of course, I'm hopeless. So hopeless in fact, sometimes I even read The Voice, too...

Thanks Tim, for having earlier introduced this version to your readers (and now your kids in class as well). They'll love it, I'll bet!


Carl Hernz said...

My comments should not be inferred to refer to whatever use you are putting "The Message" to, Timothy. I was speaking in reference as to making an informed choice among already available versions of the Sacred Scriptures approved for Catholic study and prayer.

"The Message" appears to have practical value, and many have commented how they appreciate it. My comments have nothing to do with this either.

My comments refer to the propriety of choosing an unapproved translation over approved ones that may often a similar or better approach. I was under the impression (and I can only assume by your choice of this version as a teaching text in a Catholic setting that I am terribly incorrect) that while Catholics are not forbidden to read other translations, their choice for private study and prayer should be a version approved by proper Church authority.

If I am mistaken, then it matters not if any Bible translation receives such approval. But if the choice I should be making as a Catholic includes using an approved version, then why aren't publishers following the guidelines set for Catholics? Are they expecting me to make a choice that is not in cooperation with our bishops?

The Living Bible was a paraphrase of the past that received approval for Catholics. It was not intended for official use in the Liturgy either, but it still went through the process. Am I to believe that The Message is so different that it doesn't need to do this?

Again, my issue is not with you, Timothy, nor your work or your use of this version. I am merely asking: What am I as a Catholic supposed to do? Should I act like its okay that a publisher says a Bible for Catholics doesn't need approval? Is the approved list of Bibles for Catholics just a guideline that includes any other Bible that publishers put the name "Catholic" on?

Again this is not a critique of your views, your preferences or choices. In all honesty, I am just very confused by this.

Unknown said...

This blog post, and its comments, makes me want to get the GNT-CE out again and use it for/compare with the daily Mass readings. I'm on my 2nd copy of it. The 1st one was the only Bible of mine so far to wear out.
I wonder if this translation would be another option for your students. A friend who used to be a DRE, said that the GNT-CE was used in her area for the high school level. The hard cover edition has the list of Mass readings, V2 document on Divine Revelation (very helpful to have to read again and again!) and other helpful stuff.

Jonny said...

Hi Carl. I understand your confusion, and wanting a resonable explanation as to what the lay faithful should make of the "Message, Catholic edition." I agree with you, your observations regarding Canon law are very insightful and spot on. (I am referring also to last Sunday's post and your response.) Here is my additional 2 cents on this whole thing.

First, it is a violation of Canon law for this thing to have the word "Catholic" on it at all. See Canon law 216. There is additional commentary in my MTF edition that specifically cites publishers as being required to obtain permission for using the title "Catholic" in any given enterprise.

Second, the "Message" cannot be used in any way, shape, or form in Catholic schools or for catechetical formation according to Canon laws 825 & 827 1-4. It requires approval from a competent ecclesiastical authority!

So the question is, finally, why did the publishers not seek the required approval? I think they knew the answer would be no! If Eugene Peterson himself cringes when he hears of religious groups proclaiming the "Message" as Scripture, why would anyone think the Catholic Church would approve it as such?

The publisher calls the "Message" a translation, but yet encourages people to read it as a supplement alongside another version (because it is technically NOT a translation!) OK, I'm confident, for one, that is not ordinarily going to happen. It is for is reason, and for the above mentioned concerns about disobeying or promoting disobedience to the Church, that I have serious misgivings about it even sitting on a Catholic family's bookshelf with the word "Catholic" or "Bible" stamped on the spine.

James I. McAuley said...


Now, after I wrote my strong opinion against Cardinal Wuerl's/Aquilina's combined books, I probably will astound you that I enjoy the Message translation. It reminds me of the old classic comics, and is very pleasant to read and to listen to - just read it out loud. I am less worried about people falling into heresy over this translation and more concerned with the liturgical presentation that Wuerl provides. It amazes me how different things are in Washington than were under Cardinal Hickey just 20 years ago. In any event, thank you for keeping up the Message and Knox transcripts.

Timothy said...


Color me shocked! :)