Thinking Out Loud

February 10, 2022

Bible Gateway Pulls the Passion Translation

I wrote this to appear at a book trade blog I continue to write and edit, only to preview it and discover that I had formatted it for this one accidentally. It then struck me however that this a fairly major development, and it does speak to the sometimes awkward issue of “translation versus paraphrase” which I have covered here in 2018. So I think it’s worth sharing here as well. There are three links below and I encourage you to follow them.

The decision by BibleGateway.com to remove The Passion Translation (TPT) from the platform should, at the very least, give retailers pause. There have been a number of vocal critics of TPT since its inception, but Bible translation is always an emotionally-laden issue, especially in Bibles not the product of a large committee.

The decision, made at the end of January, came to our attention on February 9th, with a news article at Christianity Today. It noted that the original Living Bible and The Message — also single-author versions, as is TPT by Brian Simmons — remain on Bible Gateway, but added that,

“Eugene Peterson, was clear that he was putting the Bible into his voice—describing the project as a paraphrase, not a translation. He even said he felt “uneasy” about its use in worship and personally still preferred the originals in his devotions.”

The issue seems to be that TPT insists on calling itself a translation. However, an article on February 7th in Eternity Magazine, points out some striking differences, quoting their translation expert John Harris:

“The first is temptation is to add too much to the original text. This is the kind of thing The Message sometimes does, but Peterson does not claim that what he has written is the Word of God.

“The second temptation is to add things which were never there in the first place, to put explanations in the text itself. Here lies the real danger because there is always the temptation to add words which push the text towards a particular theological position.”

The Passion Translation is a good example of this, according to Harris.

“Philippians 1:2 says: ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)’

“In TPT, the same phrase reads: ‘We decree over your lives the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace that flow from God our wonderful Father, and our Anointed Messiah, the Lord Jesus.’”

The issue is a bit obvious! Greek, 11 words. NIV 14 words. TPT 27 words.

“There are obviously many additional words. A relatively harmless addition here is the word wonderful. Yes, God is wonderful, but the original is not talking about the wonder of God and so to use the word is to add to what the Bible originally said. We cannot add words, even good words, and say it is faithful to the original text,” says Harris.

A very short time after TPT was published, a revised version appeared with significant changes. When quoting TPT, one needs to be clear if they’re quoting the first second edition.

Criticism was swift to arrive when early editions appeared, but at the website Escape to Reality, author Paul Ellis offers something positive:

There are plenty of critical reviews pointing out what TPT gets wrong, so let me point out some things it gets right. Let’s start with this well-known passage from John 15:2.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit…

  • He takes away (ESV/NASB/NKJV/Darby/Wuest)
  • He taketh away (ASV/KJV)
  • He cuts off (ISV/MSG/NIV)
  • He breaks off (GNB)

For years I have insisted that these are bad translations of Jesus’ words. Jesus doesn’t cut or remove unfruitful branches; he lifts them up. As far as I know, TPT is the only Bible that gets this right:

He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches. (John 15:2, TPT)

Does this matter?

If you are an unfruitful Christian, would you rather hear that Jesus plans to cut you off and take you away (something he never said) or that he will lift you up? Bad translations hurt people; good ones encourage them to trust Jesus.

TPT is scheduled to be completed in 2026. The Christianity Today article quotes the publisher:

“An exhaustive and thorough review and update of the entire Bible will be undertaken ahead of its release in the next 5-6 years,” BroadStreet said in a statement. “The review of the text by our team of theologians and industry professionals will continue to address feedback, as has been our approach to-date.”

…One of the things which emerges from this at the retail level is the difference between Christian bookstore proprietors who got into the business because they saw some pretty décor items at a gift show, and those who are able to engage with the theological concerns of thoughtful customers. A store that cares about the potential impacts of the products you carry, needs to see the CT article in full because it raises important issues.

The article cites some people in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed communities who are naturally going to be opposed to anything that’s not ESV, but bookstore owners need to weigh all the evidence and allow it to, at the very, very least, temper future ordering of TPT products. But let us be clear, Charismatic and Pentecostal customers have historically been a driving part of the Christian publishing business, and alienating customer segments is never a good idea.

This has all developed in the last few hours, but for Christian retailers, I would think it also presents the distinction between titles which are accepted only as custom orders, versus things carried in-stock. Store owners are investing their capital in their inventory and need to feel at peace with where those investment dollars are going.


Footnote: The issue of textual additions came up before with The Voice translation, however all of their supplemented words and phrases were placed in italics, a tactic which had precedent in the decision of the KJV translators to include extra words in italics to clarify meaning. True, in English we use italics for emphasis — see what I did there! — but they wanted to be careful to adopt an already existing convention. Readers knew what was core text and what was added. Because The Voice followed a dramatic/script formatting, transitional paragraphs were added, but they were also made visible by their lack of verse numbering. With TPT, it simply not clear where one ends and the other begins, and this appears to be one of the major issues scholars and academics have with TPT.


Another example of people adding to the Bible text is the Amplified Bible. There again, the use of parenthesis makes it absolutely clear when words are being used to amplify basic meaning. It occurred to me while re-reading the example in Philippians 1 above that Brian Simmons was doing the same thing in TPT, but again, there was no use of parenthesis or italics, so the less-informed reader would take away TPT’s rendering as “what the Apostle Paul says” in verse 2, when in fact, that is far from the case.

July 31, 2020

A Closer Look at the New BibleGateway.com

Filed under: bible, Christianity, guest writer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

Earlier this week, something about Clark Bunch’s review of the new Bible Gateway site really resonated, so with his permission, we’re sharing it here. You can also click the title which follows to read this at source. You might also want to visit the site, The Master’s Table.

Bible Gateway Update

by Clark Bunch

In addition to the occasional book review (I posted one earlier this week) I have reviewed a couple of Bibles in the last year at the request of Bible Gateway. Regular readers know about the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid and as a partner The Master’s Table posted reviews of The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids and The Jesus Bible. A few weeks ago Bible Gateway asked Blogger Grid members to review the new website design at Bible Gateway. The new design has since rolled out so if you use that resource or follow our links from here then you have probably seen the changes.

New Design

According to Bible Gateway, the new design offers a cleaner, easier to read screen. To me, it looks like they took controls from the top and moved them to the left side of the screen. I don’t see anything that makes it easier to read. The difference was supposed to really shine when you start adding side-by-side parallel translations on the same screen. So let’s add NKJV next to the ESV text in each format and take a look:

Classic View

That’s a two translation parallel view on the classic layout. I have scrolled down the screen a bit, rolling the website banner and user controls off the top of the screen. The Bible text takes up nearly the full width of my laptop screen. Now look at the same text side-by-side in the new format:

New Design

The control panel to the left collapsed which makes the text field a little wider. But look at all that business to the right, and at how narrow the fields are that contain text. I could add three if not four translations side-by-side on the classic site before they get that narrow. This makes parallel study more difficult, not easier, in my humble opinion. Side by side translations, which is how I’ve been writing my sermons for years, was easier on the classic site than the redesign. Which is ironic considering the Bible Gateway claims.

Now, this next difference is going to be a picky little thing but it’s my picky little thing. On the left-hand sidebar of this blog (and if you’re reading this in an email or blog aggregator now would be a good time to pop in to the actual website) you see the Bible Gateway verse of the day. The text is in ESV followed by a reference and that reference is linked to that verse on the Bible Gateway website. Here is how the verse of the day for today’s date would appear on the classic site:

Classic View

And here is the landing page, the very first thing you see, when visiting Bible Gateway today:

New Design

In addition to the fact that the page just doesn’t look as good, the reference appears before the verse. Like I said, a picky little thing. But that’s how we normally display verses in print. If you share a verse on social media, make a graphic for a slideshow or write a verse at the bottom of a get well soon or birthday card, we write the verse and then add a reference. It would be the same if displaying a quote; first the words and then an attribution. If you click the link in the left-hand sidebar it will take you to the new Bible Gateway site not the classic site. The classic site is an option you can choose – at this time. When I visit the regular site, without getting technical, it recognizes me and displays the ESV text since that is my preference. If I click the link in the upper left of the screen for classic site those recognition protocols are no longer in place and the site defaults to NIV.

So, to copy and paste the verse of the day the way I like it and in ESV, I have to go to the website, click on classic, change the translation and then copy the verse and reference. I have discovered a work around but it still involves a few steps. I now go to the regular site, copy the reference and verse, paste it into my editor twice and then cut it so the verse comes before the reference. Like I said, I know it’s a picky little thing but it’s my picky little thing. And it’s not the only reason I prefer the classic view, namely that the side-by-side translation parallel was better before.

For the time being the new format of Bible Gateway and the classic site are both available. I don’t know if it will always be like that or just while users compare the two and get a feel for the new design. While I’m giving the new site design a negative review let me be clear: I have been using Bible Gateway for years and will continue to do. I will continue to include links on the sidebars and link scripture references I use when blogging to Bible Gateway. It has been and continues to be an excellent resource available anywhere I have my laptop or phone.

One final thought: since I mentioned my phone there at the end I was going to include a screenshot of the phone app. When I opened Bible Gateway on my Samsung (Android) smart phone, I noticed this little detail:

The reference for today’s verse shows two verses, Matthew 5:14 and 16. But on the website, new and classic formats, only verse 14 is displayed. The mobile app shows verses 14 and 16. I don’t know what that means but it is interesting. To me anyway.

July 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Amish Gone Wild T-Shirt Design from Kaboodle dot com

By the look of it, this “internet” thing could be really big someday. Here’s this week’s highlights:

Remember, every time you share the link list on Twitter or Facebook, an angel gets its wings.

Paul Wilkinson hunts for devotional writing each day at C201, rants at Thinking Out Loud and tweets to a vast army of followers. (They keep leaving the “K” out after the number.)

October 3, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Well they don’t build megachurches like this anymore… This is the First Church of Christ, Scientist (i.e. Christian Science) in Boston in a 1907 photo at Shorpy.com.

To begin this link list, you need a blank piece of paper.

  • Let’s start out with something completely different. Without clicking through… One of the best selling Christian books of the past 20 years has been The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Name the five languages without peeking.
  • How about another top five list? Again, without clicking, what’s your guess as to the top five churches in the United States by attendance. It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page.
  • Finally, before you click that link, what do you think are the top five Bible verses searched for at BibleGateway.com? Oh, and the one you think is number one, actually isn’t.  [More on that subject with our People’s Bible page sample.]

The regular links

  • If you lead a small group, here’s a YouTube channel you should know about while it lasts, because when it comes to small group discussion-starter videos, Zondervan is giving away the store.
  • Is the window on religious freedom in Russia about to close? Some people feel Christians could be adversely affected by a new law.
  • Borrowing material from the “public domain” Bible simply makes good economic sense for Hollywood.
  • He was an Independent Fundamentalist Pastor and now he’s an atheist and humanist.The blog Galatians Four looks at what can happen when your church is filled with abuses.
  • Russell D. Moore knows that the 2012 election has got more people talking to and about Mormonism. So he offers a few suggestions on confronting LDS theology.
  • Stephen Colbert gets serious at a Catholic university to profess his love for his Roman Catholic faith.
  • Being the worship leader in a church isn’t easy. That’s what Jonathan Sigmon’s pastor said one recent Sunday. But there are also some blessings that come with the job.
  • Not everyone will agree with one of the points on corporal punishment, but the rest of these seven tips for Christian parents should meet with approval.
  • For those of you who like to go deep, here’s an article about Augustine and the literal interpretation of Genesis 1.
  • You know it’s a slow news day at Christianity Today when the Facebook page, Awkward Couples of Liberty gets its own article. (My wife points out that in this instance, the university is not aptly named…)
  • Listen online to three sample songs from Matt Maher’s new album, The Love In Between.
  • This will cause a few people to say ‘I told you so.’  Brian McLaren led a same-sex commitment service in Maryland; one of the grooms being his son Trevor. The story has attracted over 120 comments so far at the CT Live blog.
  • Here are a dozen things that, thankfully, your pastor probably won’t hear in heaven.
  • The Big Picture pics of North Korea are obviously propaganda, but it’s the unanimous response of reader comments that seal the deal. 
  • Happy Birthday to the Compact Disc, which turns 30 this week.
  • Meanwhile, over at the daily comic strip Retail by Norm Feuti, the “Christmas” versus “holiday” semantics debate has already begun:

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