Psalm 111.5 in the Passion [anti-] ‘Translation’: does Brian Simmons fear God?

I was alarmed recently to find a quotation from Brian Simmons’ so-called ‘Passion Translation’ on the home page of Kensington Temple, one of England’s larger and more prominent churches. Moreover, the web-site for the ‘Passion Translation’ carries endorsements from many well-known ministers in the United States and elsewhere, including Lou Engle, Chuck Pierce, Bill Johnson, Wesley and Stacey Campbell, James Goll, John Bevere, Patricia King, and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong. Ché Ahn believes that ‘The Passion Translation will be the Bible of choice for the next Jesus people movement’.

These are dark times when prominent Christian leaders such as these have apparently departed so far from the love of truth as to promote these publications which serve to distort and twist the divinely inspired scriptures. They need to be burned or shredded and put in the refuse, not sold to unsuspecting Christian believers, who have been given to believe that they are a valid expression of the holy word of God. Shame on the pastors for leading their flocks astray in this matter of absolute importance! And shame on BroadStreet Publishing for publishing it, Authentic Media for distributing it here in the UK and elsewhere, and for online and digital platforms including Bible Gateway, Logos, Olive Tree and YouVersion for hosting it! What is wrong with you? You must have seen the reviews by men who have sufficient knowledge of the original languages to make an informed judgement about the quality of this so-called ‘translation’.

Thus, Andrew Shead, head of Old Testament and Hebrew at Moore Theological College, Sydney, refutes (p. 58) the notion that it should be counted as scripture at all. Rather, it only ‘masquerad[es] as a bible’, and

threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.

What is wrong with it, then? 

First and foremost, Simmons changes the meaning of the inspired Greek or Hebrew test. To translate, by definition, expresses or conveys the meaning of a text using, so far as possible, equivalent words in a different language:

This is not what Simmons does. He will retain the original meaning if he is content with it. But he seems to have little or no compunction about changing the meaning if he thinks he can do better than God Almighty. A single example can suffice. To avoid selecting for a particularly egregious case, I use the most recent Old Testament ‘Passion Translation’ verse shared by the project’s official Twitter account. It is Psalm 111.5-6:

Here it is in the NKJV:

5) He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will ever be mindful of His covenant.
6) He has declared to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the [a]heritage of the nations.

Footnote a: inheritance

and in the NASB:

5 He has given [a]food to those who [b]fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
6 He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.

Footnote a: Lit prey

Footnote b: Or revere

For sake of brevity, let us confine ourselves to the first part of verse 5: ‘He has given food to those who fear Him’. Here is the whole verse in the original Hebrew:

5טֶ֭רֶף נָתַ֣ן לִֽירֵאָ֑יו יִזְכֹּ֖ר לְעֹולָ֣ם בְּרִיתֹֽו׃

and we just need the first three words, beginning with:

טֶ֭רֶף  (ṭęręp̄)  A noun, meaning according to Holladay’s Concise Lexicon 1:

– ‘prey’

– what the prey provides, ‘nourishment’.

נָתַ֣ן (nāṯan) A verb, in its Qal 3rd person singular masculine perfect (qatal) form, meaning:

– ‘he gave’

The qatal form was sometimes used in biblical Hebrew, for example in Proverbs, to convey a general truth, and some scholars believe that it can properly be translated with the English present tense, an approach taken in some translations made in the last few decades 2 Here it could mean either ‘to’, as it is rendered in the NKJV and NASB above, or ‘for’, as in the RSV and ESV, for example:

He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. [RSV]
He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. [ESV]

The verb is יָרֵא   meaning ‘fear, ‘be afraid’, ‘reverence’, ‘honour’. Here it is a masculine plural participial noun in the construct form יִרְאֵי 3, meaning ‘those fearing’ or ‘those reverencing’ or ‘those honouring’.

Such participles may also be listed separately as adjectives in lexicons. Thus Holladay has a separate entry for יָרֵא with meaning ‘afraid of’, ‘fearful’. BDB has no separate entry, listing the participle’s plural construct form  יִרְאֵי in the entry for the verb 4:

The suffix, ו, is the object pronoun ‘him’.

Here is יִרְאֵי  listed in Davidson’s Analytical Lexicon as a masculine plural construct form of the adjective יָרֵא , along with לִֽירֵאָ֑יו  with its 3rd person singular masculine suffix:

לִֽירֵאָ֑יו therefore means:

– ‘to/for those fearing Him’.

It is possible that a case could be made for ‘reverencing’ or ‘honouring’ as possible alternatives to ‘fearing’, but this would require an in-depth study of the possible range of meaning of  יָרֵא  .

In conclusion, therefore, the first part of Psalm 111.5:

טֶ֭רֶף נָתַ֣ן לִֽירֵאָ֑יו

means something similar to:

He has given food to those who fear Him,

This is not complicated stuff.

Brian Simmons against the Holy Bible

Simmons has changed the first half of Psalm 115 to read:

He satisfies all who love and trust him,

To love is one thing, to trust is another, and to fear is yet another.

If I give food to someone, they may or may not be satisfied. 

If someone is satisfied, it may or may not be their stomach that is satisfied, rather than, say, their heart or soul.

I agree with Brian Simmons that God does satisfy all who truly love and trust Him. Brian is free to express that thought in a book written under his own name. What he must not do, on pain of eternal damnation it seems to me, is pretend that this is what the holy scripture says in Psalm 111.5a.

The translator of the holy scriptures has an awesome and fearful responsibility to communicate the meaning of the inspired Greek and Hebrew (and Chaldee) texts for the benefit of those who don’t know those languages, or lack reading fluency in them. They must not substitute their own message for God’s message. If they do, they are in danger of being excluded from the tree of life and the holy city, as is stated explicitly about words being taken out of the Book of Revelation in particular:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. [Revelation 22.18-19: NASB]

Fear God, not man.

Rise up and insist that this awful abomination of a so-called ‘translation’ of the Holy Bible be removed from our pulpits and bookselling platforms. Expunge it from our midst! Have the heart and zeal of Phinehas who thrust Zimri and Cozbi through with his spear and stopped the plague. 

 

Notes:

  1. William L. Holladay, editor, ‘A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament’ (Brill, Leiden: 1971)
  2. The earliest example I have found is the RSV (1952).[/rev]:

    He gives food to those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. [Lexham]
    He gives food to those who fear him; he always remembers his covenant. [NLT]

    לִֽירֵאָ֑יו  (lîrēʾāyv) The prefix, לִֽ, is a preposition expressing existence or action towards, over against, or for something or someone. 5Holladay, p. 168a.

  3. See Page H. Kelley, ‘Biblical Hebrew: An introductory grammar’ (Eerdmans, Michigan: 1992), p. 202:

    where מְבַקְשָׁיו֙ means ‘those seeking Him’.

  4. but with a separate Strong’s number 3373 in the left margin of my paper copy

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Andrew Chapman

I live for Jesus. He is my life, my hope, my Saviour and Redeemer and Lord. Hallelujah! God has blessed me with a wonderful wife called Alison, and we serve the Lord together with gladness and joy. Pray for us that we may fulfill our calling and persevere to the end on the narrow path that leads to life.

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