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 Or, more sinister, one might conclude he had considered this requirement no longer valid in our society which little values commitment to mates.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).

6 thoughts on “The Message on Titus 1:6

  1. I’ve not spent any time in The Message, although I have two copies of it. I, too, am surprised at the omission of this phrase. Many thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Excellent observations, Randal. Unfortunately, omissions like this probably won’t matter to a society that puts less and less value on God’s revealed word. Feelings and experiences count for more than truth, in the minds of an increasing number. If they do happen to turn to God’s word, they won’t find all of what God has said in publications like this.

  3. Randal, good article. I have run across The Message many times in my internet evangelism, and it has usually caused problems. The Titus 1:6 passage is very surprising, and should be a warning to anyone using the paraphrase.

    Tim, I agree, and even the existence of paraphrases, in my opinion, are a sign of the devaluing of God’s word.

  4. Matt, I used to use J. B. Phillip’s paraphrase quite a bit and liked it, back then, anyway. But I’ve not been able to appreciate Peterson’s work, for some reason. I suspect it’s much more colloquial and free than the former work. Phillip’s translated the phrase in Titus 1:6 as “with only one wife,” quite acceptable, to my mind, as translations go.

  5. I’m not a radical on versions either. But I’ve felt distrustful of paraphrases since The Living Bible was published in the early 1970s. Though only in the 10th grade at the time, I remember feeling that the translators had been overly liberal with the text.

    I’ve no idea why the phrase was omitted. Or why the ESV rendered 2 Kings 5:13 as they did. I found no other translation that rendered it as they did, effectively negating the generally accepted meaning.

    This just reinforces my belief that one is well served by studying numerous translations and by lexical studies. I really like the ESV. I use it in my public speaking. But I’ve yet to find any translation that is error free (not holding my breath either). 🙂

  6. There is a professional translator that works for Thomas Nelson that I personally know of that said, when working on a version there has often been pressure from those promoting it, to leave out or add to the Word to support their agenda/view of the bible.

    When they do try to apply pressure, the translator told them, “sorry, it just doesn’t say that in the original language”.

    Sadly, not all translators resist this pressure and either agree or give in.

    It seems that a serious word study of “Godly fear” and “reverence” is in order.

What do you think?