The Passion Translation (New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and The Song of Songs) – An Overview

Nov 30, 2018 | INSIGHTS

There are so many excellent translations of the Bible in the English language – we are so blessed! I dip into many of them every day to deepen my understanding of particular passages, making good use of such resources as www.biblegateway.com  A new version of the Bible is now sweeping the English speaking world, and has found its way onto that select list of Scriptures. The author of The Passion Translation (TPT) has the particular aim of stirring up passion in our hearts towards Jesus, and the Word of God. Here are my thoughts so far . . .

From the moment I first heard a reading from an extended passage in the gospel of John in a meeting we were hosting it struck me as being strikingly original and made a deep impression. Since then I have come to really appreciate it – not least because of its many insightful footnotes. When I recommended it to a number of friends, I discovered that many of them had got it already. A friend kindly sent me a copy as a gift. It has a great feel, attractively large print and makes for seriously absorbing and uplifting reading – as witnessed by this list of ‘prominent’ people who endorse it.

It is only fair to point out, however, that the author’s use of the word ‘Translation’ is somewhat misleading. It may not be as ‘far out’ as the Living Bible was, or the Message is, but there are too many interpolations and glosses for it to merit that definition. Personally, I have not felt fazed when I have come across come questionable linguistic and etymological details, and translations which are presented as ‘fact’ when they are in reality more akin to conjectures and interpretations.

The author deliberately sets out to stir up our emotions and passions in order to promoute our intimacy with the Lord. Where these go beyond drawing out those that are already latent in the original text. they become more questionable – not least because of the risk of over sentimentalising the Scriptures. Bearing in mind that I have only had a copy for well under a month, I have noticed so far that the translator does not appear to be at his most convincing when describing the ‘laments’ aspects of the Psalms, whuch are so central to them. (Ps. 5:1 and Ps. 102:1 are two such instances that I noted).

These inconsistencies will present a major stumbling block to some. The more confident we are in knowing what an original passage of Scripture says, the less of a problem we will have – but which of us can remember every verse? I occasionally find myself in practice making ‘adjustments and allowances’ for the angle of presentation to accommodate the paraphrase, ‘picking my way’ between the literal and the interpreted. (Rather as, on an entirely different level, I find myself compensating accordingly when I am when reading a left or right leaning newspaper).

The Passion makes great play of using Aramaic roots, some of which are truly fascinating. Aramaic is indeed the language that Jesus spoke – but we need to bear in mind that the Aramaic manuscripts of the gospels date from several centuries or so after the earliest Greek ones. Neither is the translator on sure ground when he refers to Hebrew versions of the gospels. In other words, any idea that the TPT is ‘getting back to the original’ right across the board is a step too far. See for example:

e.g. A review of the Psalms – Passion Translation and What’s wrong with the Passion Translation

In conclusion, we do value The Passion highly for its vivid rendering of the scriptural texts, and for the depth of the insights expressed in many of the footnotes, and would recommend it – but with the caveat that it is best to look on it as complimentary Scriptural reading rather than as a sole diet. There will always be a place – and a big one – for more literal versions such as the ESV and the NKJV!

Here is a psalm chosen almost at random to give a flavour of the Passion. I suspect you will either warm to it and go for it – or decide to remain with the versions you already know and are familiar with! Psalm 62

1 Comment

  1. Sally Prittie

    A very helpful review Robert, thank you. Opening in BibleGateway it’s possible to do a direct comparison, and compared with NKJV it really is a paraphrase and an expansion of the original – verse 2 being a delightful flight of fancy. But I agree I do like it – and think God might have written it or at least given it a favourable review!

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