Pastor Russ’s Thoughts on the TPT
Every time we pick up a Bible to read, we are reading a translation. With the exception of Bible scholars who have devoted large portions of their lives to learning biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic), everyone on the planet reads a translation. And if you’ve ever used Bible software and looked at the long list of translations available, you know there are lots of them.
So whenever a new translation comes around, I always ask myself a few questions before fully embracing it. First, what is the translator’s purpose? Second, what is the translator’s translation philosophy? Third, what are the translator’s credentials? Fourth, what are other biblical scholars saying about the translation?
If those questions can be answered satisfactorily, I usually start reading the new translations. Over the years I have found that new translations give me fresh insight into the biblical text. New translations often keep my attention while older translations grow to feel too familiar. I enjoy using new translations because it always broadens my understanding of God’s Word.
That’s not to say, however, that we should embrace every new translation without testing it. I have found English translations of the Bible in bookstores that were so weird and skewed that they would curl your hair. And so when the TPT first came out, I carefully researched it to decide for myself if it is trustworthy. And, in a word, I found that it is.
If you Google the Passion Translation, you will find plenty of naysayers who are critical of the TPT and some are even hostile to the lead translator. By and large I’ve learned not to believe everything I read on the web. Lots of people attack Christian leaders in the name of “guarding the truth,” when in reality they’re creating division in the body of Christ, usually for their own gain, or for the sake of some personal agenda. However, the website of the TPT itself (www.thepassiontranslation.com) provides a lot of valuable information to help us discern whether or not it is a reliable translation. I found the most helpful information in the section “About TPT.” I encourage you to explore the website for yourself.
Here are the answers I found to my questions:
- PURPOSE: The translator’s purpose is to provide readers with an understanding of God’s heart for his people. It’s written in emotive language so that readers can perceive the passion that is present in the original manuscripts. Many Bible translations are dry and technical; I appreciate the emotion conveyed by the new approach of the TPT.
- PHILOSOPHY: The translator’s translation philosophy is called “functional equivalence,” meaning it is translating the manuscripts thought by thought—or paragraph by paragraph—rather than word for word (called “formal equivalence”). Now take note: One philosophy is not better than the other. We need both kinds of translations at our fingertips for bible study and devotional reading. Some online critics are saying that word for word translations are the only reliable translations. That isn’t true. Sometimes an accurate rendering of a biblical text takes much more explanation than a single word. That is the philosophy that drives the TPT.
- TRANSLATOR: The lead translator for the TPT is Dr. Brian Simmons. He has devoted his life to the study of biblical languages and the discipline of translating the Bible into modern languages. He is well-respected among missionary and church leaders around the world. He is well-qualified to translate the original manuscripts into the English language. One of the criticisms that have been leveled against the TPT is that it is translated by one man instead of by a team of translators. That is not technically true. While Dr. Simmons provides the first draft of the translation, his editorial team diligently checks his work and makes corrections or revisions where they see fit. Dr. Simmons is not working solo. He has an entire team working with him to ensure that the translation is as accurate as it can possibly be, and like most translations today, the TPT is being continually updated and revised.
- Finally, WHAT ARE OTHERS SAYING? The Passion Translation has been widely endorsed by many leading ministry leaders. Bill Johnson (Bethel Church), Bobbie Houston (Hillsong Church), John and Lisa Bevere, and many others have endorsed the TPT. Additionally, the TPT is published by a major evangelical book publisher (Broadstreet), and it is included in Bible reading resources from LifeChurch.tv (the Bible app), BibleGateway.com, and Bible.com. All of these publishers and ministries screen their resources carefully, and they would never include a translation that would lead Christians into error.
One unique feature of the TPT is the use of the ancient Aramaic versions of the New Testament documents. The translators believe that since Aramaic was the native language of Jesus and his followers, there are insights to be gleaned from these ancient Aramaic versions. The Aramaic does not change the translation doctrinally in any way, but it does give us some beautiful insights into what the authors of the NT documents may have had in mind as they wrote. I have personally found these insights fascinating and thrilling.
To summarize, let me say this: The Passion Translation is an excellent Bible to use for Bible reading and study. Every Christian should use many Bible study tools to help them plumb the depths of God’s word, and the TPT is a valuable tool to add to your toolbox. Remember that it is a thought-for-thought translation, so if you’re doing word studies, you might want to use the ESV or NASB. For daily reading, I love the TPT or the NLT. When I have questions about original languages I use BlueLetterBible.org for help with Greek and Hebrew definitions. All these resources are just tools that help us discover what God is saying to us through his Word.
One final thought: One reason I personally appreciate Dr. Brian Simmons and his new translation is because he is a Pentecostal. I am a Pentecostal pastor, and Connect Church is a Pentecostal church. It is refreshing to have a Bible translator who is in agreement with Pentecostals’ understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life. For that I’m especially grateful.