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Reader Mail: The Passion Translation and Philippians 1:1-2

Passion Translation Set of 7I received an interesting question about the Passion Translation–a new NAR translation of the Bible. (Read my four-part series on the Passion Translation here.)

Here’s the question.

I find it worrying that the Passion Translation left out “Christ” in Phil 1:1-2. Out of interest does this translation ever mention the name Christ?

–New Zealand girl

In answer to her question, yes. I checked and the Passion Translation does use the title/name “Christ” in other places. It appears Simmons has chosen to replace the word
“Christ” in the first verse of Philippians with “the Anointed One.” The emphasis here would be on the anointing of Christ. This bend in interpretation might be forgivable in itself were there not a confusion that comes from the equivocation of the term and concept of “anointed/anointing” in the NAR worldview.

But there are deeper translation issues in these brief verses that should cause us to be concerned with the Passion Translation. First, before I list those issues, take a look at Philippians 1:1-2, as it is rendered in one of the major and legitimate Bible translations, the English Standard Version.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now take a look at Simmons’ very different rendering of these same verses.

My name is Paul and I’m joined by my spiritual son, Timothy, both of us passionate servants of Jesus, the Anointed One. We write this letter to all His devoted followers in your city, including your pastors, and to all the servant-leaders of the church.

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.

Credit goes to my husband, Adam–who earned an M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology, where he studied Greek–for pointing out the following troubling issues with Simmons’ translation of these verses.

  • The first line “my name is Paul and I’m joined by” is not in the Greek text. This is a colloquial paraphrase at best of the simple word “Paul” in Greek.
  • Nowhere in Philippians 1:1-2 does Paul refer to Timothy as his “spiritual son.” Despite Simmons’ footnote referencing 1 Timothy 1:2, by what interpretive scheme can he loosey goosey import random passages from other books of Scripture as though they were part of the current verse?
  • Where does he get the word “passionate” from as an adjective describing the word “servants?” Again, he’s importing a word that’s not in the text.
  • How does Simmons defend his translation choice of “devoted followers” for the Greek word “hagios” which is typically rendered “saints” or “holy ones”?
  • “Overseers” or “elders” seems to be a more direct translation of “episkopos” in this verse–so why does he choose the word “pastors”? There is a specific Greek word for shepherd/pastor, “poimein,” and it is, again, simply not in the text.
  • Where does Simmons get the concept of “decree” in verse two? This is a clear instance of the importing of today’s NAR‘s theology of apostolic decrees.
  • “Anointed Messiah”? It seems Simmons sometimes translates the word for Christ as “Anointed” and other times as “Messiah.” But here he puts both words, though only one word for Christ is in the Greek text. Is an anointed Messiah better than an unanointed Messiah? On what grounds did Simmons put in both terms, though there’s only one term in the text?

If you take a step back and look at what Simmons has done in these brief two verses, he has:

  • added words that are not present, and
  • pulled from another book of Scripture to overplay the “fatherhood/authority” of the apostle in view, and
  • downplayed the “holiness or separateness” that the people in view are supposed to show, and
  • downplayed the role of “overseers” (which might sound like they have actual authority in the local church!) by referring to them not as “overseers” but as “pastors,” and
  • imported the NAR theology of apostolic decree, again to heighten the role of the “apostle” in a phrase that would have otherwise seemed like simply a benign and kind way to start to a letter.

The bottom line: the Simmons’ translation is twisting these verses to foist an unwarranted and overbearing view of the authoritative role of apostles.

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8 Responses to “Reader Mail: The Passion Translation and Philippians 1:1-2”

  1. New Zealand girl Says:

    Hi Holly
    Thank you for your time and thorough response to my question. I guess I am quite passionate about the name Jesus Christ. Can’t fathom why anyone would want to cut it short.

    There was no need for a new translation and definitely not an inaccurate one.   It sounds like the passion translation is full of NAR jargon, scripture is altered to suit their doctrine and it is targeted for their audience. Anyone reading it on a daily basis is going to have quite a different view of things from those reading a legitimate/standard version of the Bible. 

    We meant to mould ourselves to suit the Bible not mould the Bible to suits ourselves. 

    I hope and pray that people find and read your blog before they consider purchasing this translation.

    Blessings and thanks again for your site, it is much appreciated

  2. New Zealand girl Says:

    Sorry just to add to my sentence….”I can’t imagine why anyone would want to cut it short…IN SCRIPTURE”
    I.e. if the original text reads Jesus Christ then what is the purpose in changing it

  3. Kathryn Says:

    Thanks, Holly & Adam, for giving us an analysis of Philippians 1:1-2 from the perspective of the Greek which shows how Simmons’ has twisted these verses in the Passion Translation. It gives me a good, technical starting point in discussing the NAR with friends who love the Passion Translation.  So, then, I wondered about their Aramaic translation and I looked them up in four English translations of the Aramaic New Testament (Peshitta) that I have in Bible software programs.  They are as follows:

    Etheridge Translation of the Peshitta (1849):

    “Philippians 1:1 Paulos and Timothens, servants of Jeshu the Meshiha, to all the saints who are in Jeshu Meshiha at Philipos, with the presbyters and deacons. 2 Grace be with you and peace from Aloha our Father, and from our Lord Jeshu Meshiha.”

    MGI NT Peshitta Translation (Janet Mageira, 2006)

    “Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the holy [ones] who are in Jesus Christ, who are at Philippi, with the elders and ministers: 2 Grace [be] with you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Murdock Translation of the NT Peshitta (1851):

    “Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus the Messiah, to all the saints that are in Jesus the Messiah at Philippi, with the elders and deacons. 2 Grace be with you, and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus the Messiah.”

    George Lamsa Translation of the Peshitta:

    “Philippians 1:1  PAUL and Ti-mothe-us, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Jesus Christ who are at Philippi, together with the elders and deacons: 2  Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and from our LORD Jesus Christ.”

    So, even if Simmons only used the Aramaic to arrive at his translation, then I cannot see how he made such a huge leap resulting in his version.  They are all very close to the KJV.  Where did he get it from?


  4. Imelda C Jones Says:

    If God-Lord Jesus has gaven instructions to Dr. Brayan Simmons and blew in him from His Spirit so he can work on the translation with or without our permission and took him to haven, that God’s Plan for a new revival. I believe in what he is doing because since I stareted readin new translation my life changed 100%

  5. Pete - England Says:

    Do you think that when we get to heaven that God will call out “Simmons come here” or “Pivec come here”. I hope he calls out to me “Pete”

  6. Sandra Says:

    I get the impression this Passion is more likely an interpretation like The Living Bible buy not a translation from the original Greek and Hebrew. He is taking an English translation and adding and changing words.

  7. Stuart O'Neill Says:

    I have also noticed these differences in the  translation which seem to vary a little from place to place.  The footnotes often read, implied in the text.  I am not concerned when the meaning is not altered, but am cautious when it appears to.    The end result seems to be a lot more in depth bible study and looking at the bible with a fresh set of eyes……which is always a good thing.

  8. Preferring the NarrowStreet! Says:

    Holly, I am wondering if there have been some editing changes made to the more blatant mistranslated passages in Simmon’s “translation” since it has sparked some controversy?  I have the “Letters From Heaven” published by BroadStreet Publishing Group 2014.  

    Verse one of Phillipians reads the same as you quote above, but verse two in my copy reads, “May the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace that flow from God our wonderful Father, and our anointed Messiah, the Lord Jesus, be upon your lives.”

    It seems that this sort of defensive editing happened more than once with “Jesus Calling” when disturbing content was brought to light.

    Why has the use of the term, PARAPHRASE come to disuse?  The Living Bible used to be called a paraphrase because publishing houses wanted people to read it “with a grain of salt”.  And it used to be that anytime when just one person worked on a translation project, as opposed to a group of scholars who would keep each other accountable in the translation process, the work was considered a paraphrase no matter how good it was.  We used to know that the word of God was not something that you reworded lightly.  Miss presenting God’s written word is akin to false prophesy.

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