I’ve written a series of posts about Brian Simmons because I consider his new “translation” of the Bible, the Passion Translation, to be one of the most dangerous developments in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
I recently ran across a television interview Simmons did last year on “Sid’s Roth’s It’s Supernatural,” where he makes a number of startling statements about his so-called translation–statements showing just how dangerous it is. I’ve highlighted some of those statements below, but before I list them, I want to be clear: this new translation of the Bible is not something that’s on the radical fringes of the NAR. It’s been endorsed by some of the movement’s most influential apostles and prophets, including Bill Johnson (of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif.), Che Ahn (formerly of HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif.), and James Goll (Encounters Network). And it’s selling very well. It needs to be on your radar. And if you know anyone who’s thinking about using it, warn them to run. I’ll show you why.
In short, Simmons claims to have received new, divine revelation that has given him special authority and insight to translate the Bible and to reveal new Scripture in the coming days.
Here are some of Simmons’ more disturbing statements during the interview. I’m not going to address every statement, such as his threatening God and his unsubstantiated insinuation to have singlehandedly brought conversion to an entire tribal village of more than 500 people. (I’d love to know what New Tribes Mission, his sending organization at the time, and his former New Tribes Mission colleagues think about this grandiose claim. I suspect they might not have the same recollection of events based on a comment left by a New Tribes representative in response to another post I wrote about Simmons’ translation.) And I won’t address Simmons’ other unsubstantiated miracle claims to have raised the dead and to be such a carrier of God’s presence that everyone he encountered one day, including a grocery store full of people and a school of 60 children, fell to the ground as he walked by them. Instead I will focus my comments on his statements about his translation.
Simmons receives divine ‘downloads’ and shows his cards
Simmons claims that, in 2009, Jesus Christ literally visited him in his room, breathed on him, and commissioned him to write a new translation of the Bible. He claims that, by blowing on him, Jesus gave him “the spirit of revelation.” In no way, he says, would he compare this “breathing” on him to that experienced by the original writers of Scripture. [Notice that he doesn't say how it was any different.] He says:
“he breathed on me so that I would do the project, and I felt downloads coming, instantly. I received downloads. It was like, I got a chip put inside of me. I got a connection inside of me to hear him better, to understand the scriptures better and hopefully to translate.”
These statements made by Simmons show his cards. What do I mean? When he’s interacting with critics of his work, he claims he’s just working as a professional translator, in the ordinary fashion, painstakingly using his training to accurately render the words of Scripture into English from the original languages. He’s gone so far as to say he’s revised his translation based on objections he’s received from critics, including myself. See his admission here. Yet, when he’s speaking to a friendly audience of people in the NAR, he claims he’s received direct “downloads” of revelation from God to help him in his translation work. So which way is it?
If he’s receiving his translations directly from God and has been specially authorized by God to do this translation, then why is he changing the ways he’s worded verses after receiving criticism? If he wanted to be consistent, he should have stood his ground. Can you imagine the apostle Paul changing the text of Romans when he got some bad press over his choice of words?
Simmons receives a new translation of Ephesians 5:22
Simmons claims God gave him revelation about how to translate a controversial verse, Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” He claims the word “submit” is probably a mistranslation and the verse should actually read, “Wives be tenderly devoted to your husband as the church is tenderly devoted to Christ.” The reason for this mistranslation, he alleges, is because translators have not been following the Aramaic text, which says, “tenderly devoted.” They should follow the Aramaic because, as Simmons says, “Jesus spoke in Aramaic. He taught in Aramaic. The apostles taught in Aramaic as well.”
The problem with Simmons’ claim is that the book of Ephesians was written in Greek, not Aramaic. That’s the simple and obvious reason translators have translated it from the Greek. If Aramaic is the key to correctly understanding this scripture, as Simmons claims, then why didn’t God give it to us in Aramaic? This is not to mention the fact that, in addition to Aramaic, Jesus and his disciples spoke Hebrew and Greek. So Simmons’ claim that they all spoke Aramaic–and therefore translation should be done from the Aramaic–is highly misleading. And his re-translation of Ephesians 5:22 based on new revelation he’s received–to do away with the apostle Paul’s politically incorrect teaching about gender roles–is deeply disturbing.
Simmons reveals a new chapter of the Bible about the end time
Simmons claims that, while he was asleep, the Lord took him out of his body and brought him to an immense library room in heaven. Simmons said, “And the Lord came up to me and he said, ‘Brian, I have brought you here to let you take any two books you want.’” Simmons goes on to explain that he selected two books, but then he saw a third book he also wanted. It was titled John 22. (This is noteworthy because there are only 21 chapters in the book of John.)
Simmons began to think of ways he might be able to steal this third book. He says:
“And then I said, oh, no, I’m shoplifting on God. I felt so ashamed. But I knew if I could take this book, there was this book, so if I could just take this book back with me to the natural realm it would trigger awakening in all the nations of the earth. It would bring, it would make the name of Jesus famous in the world.”
Jesus tells Simmons that he can’t let him take the book because he’s not ready for it yet. But Jesus promises, “I will bring you back one day and I will give you that book.”
At this point during the interview, Sid Roth responds, “But there’s [sic] only 21 chapters in John. What’s this 22?” Simmons says:
“Well John 22, go back to John 14:12 and you’ll see that there is a greater works generation… I believe the John 22 generation will be a people that do the greater works of Jesus. They will not add to the scripture, and that’s a sealed book. But it is a book that is unfolding and the works of Jesus will be replicated by an entire generation of people that believe fully in the power of God.”
Simmons’ claim to have seen into a new chapter of the Bible is alarming (not to mention his unholy impulse to steal in heaven–a place that is supposed to be free of sin.). He claims to have been given a glimpse into the content of new Scripture–content he will receive fully and reveal to the world at a later date. When he reveals this new Scripture, it will cause a worldwide spiritual “awakening” and make the name of Jesus famous (as if he’s not famous already!)
The apostle John makes it abundantly clear that he wrote everything he intended to write in his Gospel. His stated purpose for writing it is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). And he closes his book–in the final verse of chapter 21–with these concluding words: “Now there are many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). John believed he accomplished his purpose of demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. End of book. This tidy, wrap-up ending doesn’t allow room for another chapter. How in the world is Simmons planning to make a smooth transition to chapter 22 when he finally reveals it: “Oh, by the way, I [John] forgot to mention one more thing … ”
In sum, Simmons claims to have received revelation that is a key to the unfolding of God’s plans and purposes in the world, but we must wait for him to reveal it to us. If this isn’t a cult-like teaching, on a par with Joseph Smith’s Mormon revelation claims, then I don’t know what is! It totally contradicts his claims–and the claims of other NAR leaders–that, when it comes to their new revelation, nothing is being added to Scripture. NAR leaders like Che Ahn and Bill Johnson, who endorse and preach from this translation in the pulpit, need to have their feet held to the fire about this.
Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.