Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday's Message

I am beginning 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.  Stay tuned for some additional posts about this Bible.  If you are interested in receiving these readings, via email, the week before you can sign up here.

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?

First Reading
Ezekiel 33:7-9
“You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked man, wicked woman, you’re on the fast track to death!’ and you don’t speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I’ll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don’t do it, they’ll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life."

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7b, 7c-9
Come, let’s shout praises to God,
raise the roof for the Rock who saved us!
Let’s march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!
So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!
Oh yes, he’s our God,
and we’re the people he pastures, the flock he feeds.
Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks:
“Don’t turn a deaf ear as in the Bitter Uprising,
As on the day of the Wilderness Test,
when your ancestors turned and put me to the test.
For forty years they watched me at work among them,
as over and over they tried my patience.

Second Reading
Romans 13:8-10
Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”


rolf said...

The Message in Matthew 18:17 says; 'If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.'

The NAB says; 'If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, [then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.']

The Message leaves the last part of this verse out (which I marked with [ ]). It softens (and distorts) the verse by implying if the person still won't listen to the church, then just keep trying. It leaves out the fact that the person may at some point have to be expelled (excommunicated) from the church. The church's authority to do this is explained in the next verse.

Timothy said...


I think what we will see over the course of time is that there will spots, like which you pointed out, that clearly show the limits of this style of translation. I do think there will be others instances where the paraphrasal nature of this translation will be eye opening in a positive way. Who knows which will be more......

Paul W said...

To defend Peterson, I think what he is trying to do is communicate what Jesus means to treat one like a 'pagan' or 'tax collector'.

Jonny said...

Tim, I wouldn't even call the Message a paraphrase, let alone a translation! It is more of a pseudo-paraphrase with added non-Biblical embellishments.

I think there is a real danger in calling such a book "Bible," as that designation carries the weight of being the "Word of God." Personally, I would rather err on the side of more literal, and research the original language along with approved Catholic commentaries, so as to get a clearer understanding of what God is actually saying.

I am not saying the Message has no merit as a spiritual book, but I am having a hard time as a Catholic accepting this unapproved book that erroneously claims to be "Catholic" and a "Bible." I don't like posting anything negative, but I was feeling like Ezekiel in today's Old Testament reading... (even though I already know there is a disclaimer on their website :-) )

Carl Hernz said...

This is not a comment on the quality of the work in “The Message," but in light of Johnny's statements I felt it needed to be said. I admire Timothy and applaud his work in producing this blog. He has shown himself tireless in presenting an unmatched source for discussion of Catholic Bibles. I am grateful for your service to us, Timothy. Keep up the good work.

But as way of a reminder regarding Canon Law on this subject, lay people are not excused from following the guidelines of the Church in the matter of publishing information, religious materials in particular. Canon 822.3 states: “All Christ's faithful, especially those who in any way take part in the management or use of the media, are to be diligent in assisting pastoral action, so that the Church can more effectively exercise its office through these means.”

Exercise of this office includes actions taken by pastors to “safeguard the integrity of faith and morals” in published materials. Can. 822.2 states that “the faithful…have the duty of working together” with Church authority in these matters.

While Catholics are not forbidden from reading “The Message”, it remains unapproved for private Catholic use. The comments by the producers of “The Message” are unfortunately mistaken in claiming that their rendition, because it is not intended for “official” use, does not therefore need such approval. According to Canon Law 825.1, all Bibles published for use by Catholics whether for private use or official liturgy must be approved by proper authority. The requirements stand for this particular version and any other that produces a version of the Sacred Scriptures designed for Catholic use, private or otherwise.

At the same time it should be called to mind that this blog REVIEWS materials for the public at large. Reviews are not the same as teaching official Catholic doctrine. As such it is not entirely improper that a blog about Catholic Bibles totally ignore those translations which call themselves “Catholic” and yet have not received proper approval. The author’s statements regarding liking something are also not to be viewed as endorsements of the same.

If I might give my humble opinion in this matter, perhaps it might be best that if you are going to continue with highlighting this version that it be done with some way of reminding the public that the intention is not as a formal Catholic recommendation or being presented without consideration to the duty of cooperation with Church authority.

Again, Timothy, thank you for this wonderful online resource. I always look forward to reading it.

Timothy said...


Thanks for the critique and good to hear from you!

I will take what you say in the coming weeks as I have a few other posts regarding this edition coming up. I would note that I did a few posts last year on this issue of this Bible being properly called a "Catholic" edition. I do agree that I think they should pursue this, particularly think an edition like the Good News Bible has been authorized.

I must say that I am already glad that I am starting this weekly post, since there has already been more discussion than what I had been having recently on the Sunday Knox series. I will perhaps return to that one in the future.

rolf said...

I agree Timothy, this is more exciting to compare and critique!

Gerald said...

The Message is like a zombie.
It only lives on its "message" without any value to the words of the NT Greek.

Undeniably, The Message gives a fresh rendering of Biblical texts. Maybe for most of us who are just accustomed to more formal translations, we may find The Message an awkward one.

Thinking that The Message as a Bible, like Jonny, I think is hard to accept. As a biblical commentary, perhaps.

Now we know why it doesn't have the imprimatur.

A novel tip for Tim: You can likewise compare The Message with either Good News Translation, Jerusalem Bible, or the NAB so that we can appreciate more its fresh renderings.

Thom said...

Per Rolf's comment, I find it disturbing that The Message rewrites Matthew 18:17. That seems to be taking a rather huge liberty given that it's doubtful the sacred author meant to equate "treat them as Gentiles and tax collectors" with "try, try, try again". I doubt Matthew's primarily Jewish Christian audience would've read the passage that way!

I like the idea of making the Bible more easily understood but that certainly seems a bridge too far.

Timothy said...


Perhaps even more fascinating would be to compare it to the Knox Bible. They both follow a more dynamic translation philosophy, though the Knox is far less dynamic than The Message.

Timothy said...


You are, of course, correct in your comments about this text from Matthew, and how it certainly loses a bit of the historical and cultural circumstances in which it was written. From my reading of The Message, and from Peterson himself, I don't think he is as concerned about that. He wants this translation to be a contemporary paraphrase. Of course, you lose quite a bit by doing that, but you might gain a few more readers, who feel too overwhelmed about trying to understand every nuance of the Bible.

I think where this translation could be helpful is if it were placed in a parallel Bible with say the NRSV or RSV. (I don't include the NABRE because of the notes that would need to be included.) If a resource like that were available, one could see this being quite useful to catechists and teachers who are introducing the Bible to a new audience or even in the New Evangelization.