The first time I picked up a copy of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the NT, The Message, it was on a Sunday morning, and I was visiting in a former professor’s home.
After I had done a bit of reading, he asked my opinion of it. I was going to preach in a few hours and had consulted the paraphrase on the passage of my sermon. Though I don’t remember the text, it had left out an important term contained in the original Greek language, and I pronounced my discontent with the work.
Later, thinking perhaps I had judged it harshly (I’m not a radical on versions), I bought a cheap mass market paperback edition. But with dozens of versions on my shelf and now more on the Internet, it sits neglected.
As I worked on the letter to Titus recently, I picked it up and read through the first chapter. Again, the paraphrase, in spite of its many catchy lines, disappointed by its omissions.
Not only disappointed, but surprised.
In Titus 1:6 an important phrase is missing, that of an elder being the husband of one wife. It reads, “As you select them, ask, ‘Is this man well-thought of? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?'”
The omission is stranger still, since in 1 Tim 3:2 he translates it as “committed to his wife” and in 3:12 as “committed to their spouses.” (In the similar phrase, “wife of one husband,” in 1 Tim 5:9, Peterson translates it as “married only once.”)
There are no text critical issues with the phrase in Titus.
So why the omission of the phrase in Titus 1, after including it in 1 Timothy? If he had not included it earlier, one might ask if he had assumed that, with the mention of the elder’s children, the reader would know he must have a wife. Or, more sinister, one might conclude he had considered this requirement no longer valid in our society which little values commitment to mates.
But with the inclusion of the phrase in the requirement list for elders in 1 Timothy, its omission in Titus is puzzling.
Whatever the translator’s logic, the effect has removed from the Sacred Text, in the letter to Titus, the requirement that an elder be the husband of one wife (however that requirement is to be understood).
For such omissions, one must wonder what value The Message can have to the saint who lives “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4 NET).