You are viewing a back issue of Darkness to Light Christian email newsletter.

Subscribe to receive future issues. Click here to view additional back issues.


Darkness to Light - Vol. X, No. 2

Darkness to Light
Volume X, Number 2
2012

Presented by Darkness to Light Web site
Director: Gary F. Zeolla


You are currently registered to receive the Darkness to Light newsletter. This newsletter is published about every other month. To change your email address or to unsubscribe, use the link at the bottom of the newsletter. To view back issues, click here.


Scripture Workbook: Second Edition; 2 Volumes in 1
 

This book contains two volumes previously only available separately. It contains forty individual "Scripture Studies." Volume I covers the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. It is these doctrines that separate the true Christian faith from cultic and other deviations. Volume II of this book then covers controversial theologies, cults, and ethics.


"The Lord's Prayer" in The Message

By Gary F. Zeolla

        "The Lord's Prayer" is the simple prayer that Jesus gave to us as an example of how to pray. Most Christians have it memorized. But maybe the prayer as Jesus gave it to us is too "outdated" or hard to understand for today. At least, that is the attitude of some Bible versions. They feel a need to alter it to make it updated and easier to understand. The Message (MSG) by Eugene Peterson is one such version.

        This article will compare The Lord's Prayer as it appears in the MSG to an actual literal translation of the Greek text. For the latter, I will use The Lord's Prayer as it appears in my forthcoming Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Devotional Version (ALTD).

Versions of the Lord's Prayer

        First is The Lord's Prayer as it appears in the ALTD (presented in red):

Our Father, the [One] in the heavens, let Your name be regarded as holy.
10Let Your kingdom come.
Let Your will be done, as in heaven, [so] also on the earth.
11Give us today the bread sufficient for the day.
12And forgive us our debts, in the same way as we also forgive our debtors.
13And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Because Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!  So be it! (Matt 6:9-13).

        Next is The Lord's Prayer as it appears in the MSG (presented in purple):

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's bestó as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

General Comments

First, it should be noted that the MSG does not number individual verses. And with as far as it is from a literal translation, sometimes it can be hard to determine when one verse ends and the next begins. But in this article, I will be doing a line by line comparison; but again, sometimes it can difficult to determine which lines(s) in the MSG is supposed to correspond to which line in the ALTD.

            The reason for this is the MSG is a paraphrase, while the ALTD, as mentioned, is a literal translation. These are two vastly different translation methods. I discuss them in detail in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. But simply put, a literal translation is a word for word translation, while a paraphrase rewords the text to make it simpler to read. The former closely follows the actual grammar of the original Greek text, while the latter pays little regard for the original grammar.

            What follows is a line by line comparison and evaluation of these two versions.

Our Father, the [One] in the heavens, let Your name be regarded as holy.

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.

            The first four words in the MSG are about the same as can be seen in most any Bible version. The ALTD differs because it is more literal than most versions. But they are at least very similar. But this is the only place where there is any similarity between these two versions. This can be seen with the next phrase.

            The ALTD has "let Your name be regarded as holy." This puts the focus on God and expresses our desire for His name to be revered. But the MSG has completely changed the meaning to "Reveal who you are." There is nothing in the original text of the prayer to suggest that this part of the prayer is asking God to reveal Himself. That might be a nice sentiment, but it has nothing to do with what Jesus actually said to pray.

10Let Your kingdom come.

Set the world right;

                Jesus talks a lot about the "kingdom of God" in the Gospels. Opinions vary as to what He meant by this phrase, but most would say it has to do with the rule and reign of God on the earth. And yes, when God is reigning, the world will be set right. So the MSG has expressed what the results of the coming of the kingdom of God will be. But by leaving out the actual word "kingdom" it leaves its readers without a sense of how often Jesus actually talked about the kingdom of God.

Let Your will be done, as in heaven, [so] also on the earth.

Do what's bestó as above, so below.

                God's will is another important theme in the Gospels and in the Bible in general. It refers to what God has decreed should happen. And yes, God's will is "what's best," but again, the MSG has left out an important theme in the Scriptures.

                But the next part of this line really differs. Most people understand the words "heaven" and "earth." So I see no reason why the MSG felt it necessary to leave them out and replace them with "above" and "below." Above what? Below what? The sky and outer space are "above" but they are not "heaven." And "below" most would take as being below the surface of the earth, which could be taken as referring to the literal inner part of our planet, or spiritually to hell. It is simply a confusing way of referring to the earth.

11Give us today the bread sufficient for the day.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

                The emphasis in this line is that we are to depend on God each and every day for our daily food. But the MSG has completely left the idea of our daily dependence on God out of its paraphrase.

                Second "bread" was a staple food in Biblical times, as detailed in my book God-given Food Eating Plan. And bread still today is a staple food for many. So Jesus chose to use "bread" as representative of "food" for this reason. But the MSG has replaced "bread" with "three square meals." Now that does get across the idea of food, but it is far from an actual rendering of what Jesus said. Moreover, there are many who believe that eating just three times a day is not the healthiest way to eat. Again, as detailed in my "Eating Plan" book, eating 5-6 smaller meals a day is probably a healthier way of eating. But the MSG makes is sound like Jesus is putting His seal of approval on the idea of three meals a day as being the best way to eat.

12And forgive us our debts, in the same way as we also forgive our debtors.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

                With this line, a literal translation can be a little confusing. The idea of "debt" is usually thought of in monetary terms. But the word "forgive" and the context of Jesus' teachings tells us that Jesus is referring to "sins" here. So the ALTD footnote for "debts" reads "fig., sins" and for "our debtors" it reads, "fig., the ones having sinned against us."

                The "fig." notation is short for "figurative." This is how the ALTD deals with somewhat difficult to understand literal terminology. It footnotes a less literal rendering. Footnoting such info enables the ALTD to be a literal translation while still being easy to understand.

                That said, with the footnote, it is clear what Jesus is saying. We are to ask God to forgive us of our sins, while at the same time remembering our need to forgive others. Moreover, the wording suggests that there is a connection between our forgiveness of others and God forgiving us. This Jesus makes clear in the two verses following this prayer.

                Meanwhile, the MSG begins by saying "Keep us forgiven." This seems to assume that we are already in a forgiven state and are praying to stay that way. But that is not what Jesus said. He said we are to pray to be forgiven. There is a big difference. And the MSG leaves out any idea of a connection between our forgiving others and us being forgiven. Now, it does "correct" this in the following verses, but still, the concept is left out here.

13And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

                Debates abound as to what is meant by "do not lead us into temptation." This makes it sound like God "tempts" us. But we know from James 1:13,14 that this is not the case. It is our own desires and lusts that tempt us. The MSG has interpreted the phrase in that manner. But it is just that, an interpretation, not a translation. And by only interpreting it, it has left out the whole conception of "temptation." "Keep us safe from ourselves" could be taken as asking God to prevent us from committing suicide. Now that might be a good prayer for someone who is considering such an action, but it simply is not what Jesus is talking about in this prayer.

                Next, the ALTD has "deliver us from evil." This is a general request to be delivered from all forms of evil. The footnote in the ALTD reads, "or, from the evil [one]." The reason for this is that a possible interpretation is that Jesus is telling us to pray to be delivered from Satan. Either interpretation is possible, although the former is most likely, hence why it is in the main text of the ALTD. But the ALTD presents both possibilities.

                But by removing the word "evil" altogether and substituting "the Devil" the MSG has restricted its rendering to the latter, less likely interpretation.

Because Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!  So be it!

You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

                This line is known as the "doxology" to The Lord's Prayer. It is actually surprising the MSG has included it since the MSG is based on the "Critical Text" (CT) Greek text. This is the Greek text that most modern day versions are based on (like the NIV and ESV). But it differs somewhat from the Textus Receptus (TR) which the KJV and NKJV are based on, and the Majority Text (MT) that the ALTD is based on. The differences between these three Greek texts are discussed in detail in my Bible versions book. But the important point is that this doxology appears in the TR and MT but not in the CT. But nevertheless, the MSG includes it.

                That said, it can be seen that the MSG has really changed this line, even making it four lines rather than just one. First, it changes "the kingdom" to "You're in charge!" Now it is true that God being King means that He is in charge. But once again, the MSG has left the very important concept of "kingdom" out of its rendering.

                Second, it is true that God can do anything He wants. But that is a far cry from the simple rendering of "the power" which is what Jesus said.

                Third, "glory" means "praise and thanksgiving offered as an act of worship to a deity" (Encarta Dictionary). The idea of "beauty" is not in the meaning of the word, so the MSG misses the concept entirely.

                Fourth is the word "forever." This is actually one place where the ALTD deviates from a literal translation. But it is placed in a footnote, which reads, "lit., into the ages!" On rare occasions, this is done; the ALTD footnotes a literal rendering and uses a less literal or "figurative" rendering in the text. But this is only done when a strictly literal rendering is excessively awkward or hard to understand.

                In this case, most every translation, even more literal ones like the KJV, NKJV, and NASB, use "forever" when the original text has "into the age." Similarly, the ALTD and most versions use "forever and ever" when the original has "into the ages of the ages." But unlike those other versions, the ALTD always footnotes the literal rendering. But whatever the case, it is important to note that God's kingdom, power, and glory are "forever." But the MSG has omitted this concept altogether.

And finally, the last word in this prayer in the Greek text is "Amen." This Greek word is usually just transliterated into English, meaning the Greek letters are simply changed into English letters. But both the ALTD and the MSG has translated the words. I guess "Yes. Yes. Yes." does capture the meaning as well as "So be it!" does. But the MSG sounds more like a cheer than a prayer. It should also be noted that the ALTD footnote indicates that the Greek is "Amen."

Conclusion

                What The Message presents is anything but a literal translation of how Jesus actually taught us to pray. That is par for the course for a paraphrase. But what makes its rendering of The Lord's Prayer particularly troubling is three-fold.

First, it has left out important concepts like "kingdom" and "forever" in its rendering. Second, it has introduced concepts that are not in Jesus' actual prayer. Third, it has interpreted the text when it can be taken in more than one way. But readers have no way of knowing this has been done. So they are just getting Mr. Peterson's opinion on what Jesus meant by how He said for us to pray, not what Jesus actually told us to pray.

               The ALTD, on the other hand, presents Jesus' actual prayer as He gave it to us. And I would say, what Jesus gave us is perfectly easy to understand and to pray. It did not need to be "updated" or "simplified." It is also easy to memorize the actual words. But trying to memorize the MSG's renderings would leave the reader completely confused if The Lord's Prayer were to be prayed in unison in a church service.

                Bottom line, Jesus gave us a perfect "model prayer." And I see no reason why Mr. Peterson or anyone else for that matter would want to try and "improve" upon it. You cannot improve upon perfection.

 



Differences Between Bible Versions
Discusses translation principles, Greek text-types, and KJV Onlyism.
Advocates a literal or formal equivalence translation method.
Advocates  the use of the Textus Receptus or Majority Greek Text for translating the New Testament.
Over thirty Bible versions are compared and evaluated.



Also by Gary F. Zeolla:

Zeolla.org is the personal Web site for Gary F. Zeolla.
Author of Christian and of fitness books, Web sites, and newsletters,
and a top ranked and multi-record holding powerlifter.

Fitness for One and All Web site and FitTips for One and All newsletter.
Helping people to attain their health, fitness, and performance goals,
with an emphasis on powerlifting.

 


 

All material in this newsletter is copyrighted © 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla or as indicated otherwise.

3/2/12