Yes, I think I just heard it. Exactly what I was expecting. It was a distinct, sharp intake of breath.
Yes, it was a gasp. Your gasp to be more accurate (not mine because it would be rather strange if I gasped at my own thought that I knew I was thinking). And now I can hear your thoughts (not technically true, this part I’m projecting): “Matt, you study the Bible at a Christian higher education institution and you like the Message? A paraphrase? Somebody’s loose interpretation that is about as far from the original Greek as it can get?”
Well, yes. I do. And yes, it is.
I recently received a nice, small copy of the Message:
I’ve been wanting one for awhile but I did not realize the inner turmoil it would cause me. Because the reality is, this is not an incredibly close or literal translation – and that is what I have assumed that I should study and grow from because it’s closest to the original.
But I think that such thoughts reflect a misunderstanding of the Word. As I started to thumb through some of the pages with verses that sounded vaguely familiar conceptually but quite different language, I found myself engrossed. I wanted to read it more. It sparked a new level of curiosity. Uh-oh, was I starting to like reading the Message more than my other, literal translations? Gulp. My fears were quickly relieved, however, when I found that I enjoyed reading the literal translations more too. The Message had acted as a catalyst to make new something that had become old. I was further reassured when my Greek professor (the class in which the claim is made that we have access to the most literal translation) advocated using the Message for this very reason – it restores excitement for the Word.
And that’s why I like the Message. I’ll probably never use it in a paper, maybe not even in a Bible study but I certainly will feed on it and let the excitement it ignites flow to all my reading of God’s Word. Perhaps paraphrases aren’t that bad, after all.
How do you feel about paraphrases? Good? Bad? Somewhere in-between?