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A royal error: Brian Simmons’ knavish translation of Psalm 91

Last week one of my readers sent me a message and a question I want to share with you. They’re about Brian Simmons’ Passion Translation.

For those who don’t know, Simmons is an apostle in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement, who claims that Christ visited him personally and commissioned him to produce a new translation of the Bible.

His translation has sold very well and, sadly, has become the Bible of choice for a growing number of people in NAR. It’s become popular despite Simmons’ lack of qualifications to produce a reliable translation and despite the fact that he’s smuggled NAR teachings into it, making it falsely appear that the Bible support those teachings.

Here’s the message I received alerting me to another place he’s altered Scripture.

Reader Mail

Hi Holly,

Thanks so much for writing these great articles. Recently, my mom
came to my house and she excitedly showed me a gift that someone gave
her: The Passion Translation!

I had already warned her against it and I told her again that it’s not
good to read it but she is quite stubborn and insisted that she was
so blessed by Psalm 91 and loved it so much :/ .  (Btw, she doesn’t
speak English and used Google Translate to translate that psalm in the
Passion Translation.)

Now, I warned her over and over again and even translated two of your
articles for her (in my language — we’re from Europe) but I’m not
sure if she’ll listen.

Next, I checked out Psalm 91 in the Passion Translation and I noticed
the following and would love to hear your thoughts on this. In Psalm
91:1 it says:

  • “When you sit enthroned[a] under the shadow of Shaddai (…)”

In all other Bibles [rather than “enthroned”] it says “dwells / dwelleth”
and I looked up the word and there’s nothing that suggests that it really
means enthroned like the Passion Translation says!

Do you think the Passion Translation could be using “enthroned” as a
means to support their dominion theology, knowing that they use the
Passion Translation to support their own thoughts and ideas?

My short answer to this reader’s question is yes. Simmons has changed the wording of this psalm, making it appear to support NAR dominionist teachings.

The Hebrew word that Simmons has translated as “enthroned” is yashab, which means simply to “live or dwell.” This meaning fits with the larger message of Psalm 91, which is that those who take shelter in God — i.e., trust in Him — will find protection in Him. It’s not a psalm about believers being enthroned or reigning — contra Simmons.

The crazy thing is that it doesn’t take someone with a mastery of the Hebrew language to figure this out. It just takes a concordance. Or,  as this reader did, one could simply compare Simmons’ translation with the other translations to see that something is amiss with his.

So why does Simmons feel justified translating the word “yashab” as “enthroned”? Well, if you read the note he included in his translation of this verse, you’ll see this explanation:

“The Hebrew word yashab is often associated with one seated as royalty. It is translated in Ezek. 27:8 as ‘leaders or rulers.'”

But his explanation doesn’t add up. Yashab means to “live or dwell.” But to say that dwelling is often associated with royalty is like saying eating or walking is often associated with royalty. Sure, and they’re associated with non-royalty, too. And I’m not sure why Simmons says yashab is translated as “leaders or rulers” in Ezekiel 27:8  since I can’t find that rendering in any Bible translation.

What about Song of Solomon 4:9?

Lest someone think I’m being too hard on Simmons, consider another place where he has completely altered Scripture: Song of Solomon (also known as Song of Songs) 4:9. In the comparison below, take note how Simmons’ Passion Translation has added the words “my equal,” which can’t be found in any other translation, including the English Standard Version.

Passion Translation

With one flash of your eyes I am undone by your love, my beloved, my equal, my bride. (Song of Solomon 4:9)

English Standard Version

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride. (Song of Solomon 4:9)

Why would Simmons add the words “my equal” to this verse? This is not a minor change. And it’s especially disturbing when one keeps in mind that Simmons understands Song of Solomon/Song of Songs as being symbolic of Jesus’ relationship with the church. So, by having Jesus refer to the church as his “equal,” is Simmons promoting some sort of deification of the church?

The teaching that the church somehow attains deity is heretical. Yet some NAR leaders–including the well-respected prophet Bill Hamon, who recently appeared on the January cover of Charisma magazine–appear to suggest just such as thing. See chapters 18 and 19 of my co-authored book A New Apostolic Reformation? to read more about NAR teachings that seem to promise the deification of the church. Is this where Simmons is going with his translation?

And read my series of posts on the Passion Translation to see more examples of how Simmons has altered other passages of Scripture. Keep in mind that after I wrote these posts he actually changed his translations of some of the verses I drew attention to, based on my criticisms. He publicly acknowledged this. That explains why, if you look in his updated editions, you may not find the wording to be the same as I cited.

I hope you’ve seen that concerns about the Passion Translation are not minor, but show that it’s untrustworthy, spiritually dangerous, and should be avoided.

——

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.

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16 Responses to “A royal error: Brian Simmons’ knavish translation of Psalm 91”

  1. Patricia F. Says:

    Hi, Holly–

    First of all, thank you for your blog posts. You do an excellent job, trying to warn the body of Christ about dangerous and heretical ‘doctrines of demons’.

    When I read Brian Simmons’ ‘Passion translation’ of that Song of Solomon verse, I thought, ‘WHAT?!? My equal??? Really?!?’ The man is off his rocker. What’s wrong with ‘my sister’??

    Good grief.

  2. Linda George Says:

    I would like to say that I often use Blue Letter Bible (Blb.org) to check the original words. I’ve done an introductory course on biblical Hebrew which nearly sent my mind into a twist in the last ten weeks of the course, and now I think I really should have done biblical Greek! Anyway, from Blu letter Bible I can see the original words, I can parse the verbs in Hebrew, which is a big eye opener sometimes. I can go to Strong’s dictionary for further knowledge. It’s great sometimes just to do a word study for its own sake. I don’t know that I would have picked up on yashab in this context, but then again, I have no intention of reading the passion translation. I’ve only kept my message NT in case I want to show someone how wrong it is. If you don’t own a concordance, it’s blue letter Bible is a good place to start, unless you tell me it’s a pile of NAR rubbish. In which case, I would need to know that!

  3. John Orr Says:

    I have left a church that Brian Simmons preached at about fifty times. I was attending that church when Brian simmons translated the Song of Songs and latter began work on the Passion Bible. I have talked with Brian Simmons about mistranslations of verses in the Passion Bible and written him two letters about that translation.
    Psalm 91 is a psalm written by Moses, as I recall. When the Septuagint was translated in Alexandria, one problem with translating the Torah and, maybe Psalm 91 was that very few people were even fleuent in ancient Hebrew. In the Library at Alexandria there were many scrolls that allwed these translators to define many words and phrases contained in the Torah that were not in use in latter forms of Hebrew. My understandingis that much of the Old Testament is dependant on the Septuagint and not the Hebrew text for meaning.
    I know that Brian Simmons used a program named Logos to translate the Passion Bible. While I agree with your analysis that a mistranslation occurs in the Passion Translation occurs in Psalm 91, I do not think that a Concordance should be used to analyze a phrase in ancient Hebrew, because most likely the phrase may be defined by the Septuagint’s attempt to define a phrase that was not understood in the fouth century B.C.
    I like and respect Dr. Brian Simmons more than you might guess, even though I left a church that he was the apostle over. I would not recomend tbe Passion Bible to anyone, but I do not believe that Brian Simmons mistranslated the verse to support his doctrine. Maybe I will analyze Psalm 91. I am a mathematian by trade with a lot of training in communication theory and linguistics. I hope you will appreciate how much work this analysis will take. I know that Brian Simmons does not appreciate the time I spent trying to correct the errors be made that I was aware of.

  4. 'grandma' Jeanne Says:

    Why do we need another translation anyway? We probably don’t read what we have! Why would God tell Mr.Simmons to write another translation?
    His Word is settled…I think we can understand it the way it is.
    Let us keep our heads in the Scriptures and we won’t be looking for more and more changes.

  5. Vicente Mendoza Says:

    With over 50 English translations of the Bible, no wonder there is so much confusion in America. We only grew up with one Spanish Translation of the Bible, and when something was misquoted or another word was used or replaced, it was easy to spot it because we had memorized entire passages and chapters from scripture. Now even the Spanish versions are becoming distorted with the newer translations and change of words or omitted words. The use of a Strong’s or a Vine’s Concordance will aid in the correct interpretation of the particular word used in the passage. People need to become more Biblically literate and Religiously literate to understand the different streams of thought; but if you really seek the truth, delve into the culture, the history, check the translations, commentaries, dictionaryies, etc., then you can arrive at solid and concrete answers for the most basic of doctrines. It’s hard work. Not just anybody can do it. But it can be done if you study diligently to show yourself approved before God and rightly divide the word.

  6. John Orr Says:

    Elijah prayed the prayer(a word for word tranliteration of the New Testament Greek),”Neither rain nor dew shall fall except bt my word.” Fourty-two months latter he travailed like a woman in child-birth to make a cloud the size of a man’s hand. Peter states that Elijah was a man like unto ourselves. Is thisunbiased, sufficient and consistant evidence that a man like ourselves had dominion over natural law?
    More importantly, is the founding of the nation Isreal in 1948 or more exactly the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1967 and resently by President Trump the ultimate watershed moment that puts much American theology into a questionable state, because the LORD in celabrating the last of the appointed feasts may do a new thing that in His eyes is totally constant with Torah and the Prophets.
    Peter’s statement that we should hasten the coming of the LORD intoduce a similar paradox concerning the doctrine of a beliver’s dominion.

  7. John Orr Says:

    This morning I began to study Psalm 91 in the Dake’s Bible that belonged to Brian Simmons. The notes on page 591 column 4 may explain the origins of Brian Simmons’ attempt at a dynamic translation of the Hebrew word yashab.

    Heb. Yashab, to sit down;to dwell;to remain;to settle in the sense of taking up a homestead or staking out a claim and resisting all claim jumpers; to posses a place and live therein(1; 80:1; 123:1; Dt 26:1)

    Because I am writing this note on my phone I have not looked the Ezekiel reference until I logout. I will return!

  8. John Orr Says:

    Please forgive me; I did not read your post carefully enough to understand that the Ezekiel note was an enigma to you too. I think it might be a misprint.
    In “The NIV Exhaustive Concordance”that once belonged to Brian Simmons the Hebrew word yashab is translated as sit enthroned five times, sits enthroned four times, enthrones once, throne once, thrones once and untranslated twenty-seven times.
    In Psalm 80:1 and Psalm 123:1 yashab refers to the LORD so a translation of enthrone might be appropriate.

    “… O thou that dwellest in the heavens.” Psalm 80:1

    “… thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.” Pslam 123:1

    I conclude that your statement that examining a Concordance proves that yashab is translated dwells, while shown true, when Brian Simmons’ actual Concordance is consulted the translation of yashab as enthroned is used twelve times in the NIV, and when an actual Bible that Brian Simmons used ten years ago is consulted two Psalms may support a translation of yashab as enthroned in certain related cases!😀

  9. John Orr Says:

    Holly, I respect you for fighting for the faith and hope that none of my comments upset you because to me most of this is academic. Trust me, that many of our brothers and sisters at the NAR church I left would say I am too intellectual, as would Brian Simmons.
    In your post you say that many of the translational issues you have raised were changed. I hope that Galations 6:6 was not one of them!
    In the lexical aid compiled by Spiros Zodhiates that is in the back of one of my Bibles (not one of Brian Simmons books) under:

    “2841. Koinoneo … With a dative of the person to communicate, distribute, impart (Rom 12:13; Gal 6:6;Phil 4:15).”

    In short, I think Brian Simmons’ rendering of part of this verse is more correct than it is rendered in many English Bibles.
    Martin Luther changed German grammar to be more consistant with Greek grammar. If you can read German, the meaning of part of this verse is close to Brian Simmons’ translation. This is consistant with the rest of Galations, a book about teaching. Oh, I wish I knew how to phrase that better, but, anyway, Galatians 6 is about teaching. A teacher will reap what he sows. I do not believe that Brian Simmons intentionally twists scripture to support his doctrine, because if he were to alter the meaning of scripture I would suspect that his life would show more signs that God is not mocked!
    Finally, in your original post about this instant matter you mention some verse,”I decree peace and grace over you all,” as I recall. I never researched this, but in many languages a grammatical form like, “long live the king,” is idenified by a unique conjugation of the verb. Now, my Greek is limited to two semesters but I believe that Martin Luther may have used this grammatical form a number of times in his translation.
    If this grammatical form is in fact used in Phillipians I might still question Brian Simmons translation as being too intensive, but a somewhat acceptable dynamic translation and somewhat twisted to emphasize the speaker not the object (peace and grace). So your comment that it is an apostolic decree would also be valid.
    Finally, the Passion Translation’s rendering of 2 Timothy 1:7 tranlates the Greek word sophranos as ‘a brillant light’, I believe. I talked with Brian Simmons twice about why I liked this dynamic rendering of the philosophic consept of the Epicurean key to a successful life. Not to belabor the point because it is simply an incorrect definition of the word, but during our chat Brian Simmons told me about how hurt he was about your attack on his translation. The next day I called your husband and wrote a letter to Brian Simmons leaving the church, as your husband recommended. (I liked your husband – A GREAT GUY.)
    Love
    Your servant, John
    P.S I met Brian Simmons at Addulam Charimatic Conference Center in Jaffrey, N.H. soon after he returnded from his mission to the Kuna Indians in Panama. On the basis of this meeting I believe his account of how the LORD planted a church among these people, as miraculous as it seems. Yes, he and his wife in apologizing to these people put many into the presence of the LORD and many were slain in the spirit and within weeks a church of three hundred souls was established. His wife testified of her surprise at awakening with the whole village sleeping each night in front of their house. I would never believe that she lied. She is really so sweet. By the way, she rarely addresses the church.
    I believe Brian Simmons’ account of the coversion of the Kuna tribe because that was what happened to me when he called out, “God is here in His fullness …”. I was catapulted into the spirit and was unaware of the rest of his words even though I heard them, but I was for many hours aware of God, heaven and the spirit. My life was changed.
    I hope this helps you accept his testimony because I,wholeheartedly, believe it happened the way he discribed it.
    BLESSINGS!

  10. Mary Says:

    I recently bought Brian Simmons Translation of Psalms and Proverbs. I am so put off by the criticisms of his translations that I’m going to return the book.

    I’m am now wondering about The book of Psalms from “The Message” by Eugene H Peterson which is written in a down to earth manner.

    Holly, do you have an opinion on this book?

  11. dean Says:

    Since we know Christ sits at the right hand of Glory till his emenys are made his footstool we know this is a lie…. anyone who says they went to heaven or hell or died and saw Jesus or saw the dead in heaven or Jesus came by and gave them anything is a LIAR….. the word is easy to understand what Is and Isnt true no excuses…

    I never read Anyones book on anything nor do I use a study bible or footnotes….. if their wrong your wrong….

  12. dean Says:

    John orr said:  Yes, he and his wife in apologizing to these people put many into the presence of the LORD and many were slain in the spirit

    DEAN replys – slain in the spirit is DEMONIC and has no biblical backing…. if they didnt already know demons they do now.. you also have be fooled….

  13. dean Says:

    All these bibles are produced by unbelievers and you think they want to make it easlier to understand? No they want to take away Christ deity and new believers wont know what it really says and one day they will say to them: show me where Christ is God.. and the unlearned wont be able to…

    Kenny copeland already teaches – when God told abram I AM, I just laugh and say I AM too….

    The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.” He said, “Think this way — a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down… like that. I said, “What?” He said, “A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “You are the very image, the very copy of that one.” I said, “Goodness, gracious sakes alive!” And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, “Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?” He said, “Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, ’cause you’re a reborn man too.”

    BTW copeland has his own study bible….

  14. 'grandma' Jeanne Says:

    complete heresy….whoever told Copeland to ‘think this way’ was not God the Almighty for sure.

  15. Julia Says:

    Hello Dean,

    May I ask you where you quoted Kenneth Copeland saying what he did in what you mentioned on June 14th. I have been teaching on damnable heresies
    in the body of Christ. I believe I heard him say this on a video clip on you tube or it could have been in his magazine the BVOV.

    Thanks

    Julia

  16. Stephanie Says:

    Julia, according to a resource I found, they quote him as saying “I say this with all respect so that it don’t upset you too bad, but I say it anyway. When I read in the Bible where he says, ‘I Am,’ I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I Am, too!’” They cite it as this: Kenneth Copeland, “Believer’s Voice of Victory” broadcast on TBN, recorded 7/9/87

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