Is Brian Simmons of the ‘Passion Translation’ telling the truth?

In The Passion Translation of sections of the New Testament, Brian Simmons frequently claims in footnotes to have translated from the Aramaic text. For example he renders Romans 1.9 as:

with footnote:

The Greek text (NA 28) reads:

9 μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός, ᾧ λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι

which almost demands to be translated along the lines of the ESV, for example:

‘For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you’

All 36 English translations at Bible Study Tools, including the Message Bible, translate τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ with ‘good news’ or ‘gospel’ or ‘glad tidings’. Simmons has ‘revelation’, which is a different idea. He says that he has translated from the Aramaic, so to the Aramaic we go, expecting to find a word closer to ‘revelation’ than ‘gospel’.

Simmons’ Aramaic text is the Syriac Peshitta. From his web-site:

while incorporating insights from the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta, as well as the Roth text.

By ‘the Roth text’ Simmons must I think be referring not to another Aramaic textual source material, but rather to Andrew Roth’s English translation of the Peshitta. So it is to the Peshitta we turn for our Aramaic text. I don’t know Aramaic so use the Peshitta tools at dukhrana.com. First of all, here is the Western UBS text, with transliteration and three English translations, by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

The first thing most of us (who don’t know Aramaic) will notice is that all three translators have ‘gospel’ and not ‘revelation’. The more observant may be struck by the similarity between the transliterated word ‘bewangelīāwn’ and the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον meaning ‘gospel’. Clicking on the ‘analyze’ tool brings up the meaning of each word. Here are the words for the clause of interest:

Clicking on ‘2:282’ provides confirmation that the word for ‘Gospel’ is indeed the word that looks like εὐαγγέλιον:

The b’ suffix means ‘in’, in much the same way (I think) as בְּ does in Hebrew. The lexeme itself – which corresponds to the form of the word which appears in a lexicon (a dictionary) – is:

Clicking on ’16’ in the table above brings up the entry for this word in Jennings Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament:

It can be seen first that, although this is a Syriac to English lexicon, the meaning is given first in Greek because it is a loan word from Greek; and secondly that the meaning of εὐαγγέλιον, as said before, is ‘Gospel’. It can be seen also that Romans 1.9 is listed among the occurrences of the word, confirming that this is the Aramaic word used there.

Finally, the Peshitta tool at dukhrana.com has two alternative Peshitta text types, the Eastern and the Khabouris. I have checked these for Romans 1.9 and they both have the same word ܒܸ݁ܐܘܲܢܓܸ݁ܠܝܼܘܿ (bewangelīāwn), ‘in the gospel’.

My provisional conclusion then, subject to correction, is that Simmons’ rendering of Romans 1.9 is not in reality translated from the Aramaic as he claims. I have written to him for an explanation but not received one as yet.

Romans 1.11

Two verses later, there is an example of Simmons giving a rendition which actually does seem to derive from the Aramaic, as he claims. The Greek text (NA 28) of Romans 1.11 reads:

ἐπιποθῶ γὰρ ἰδεῖν ὑμᾶς, ἵνα τι μεταδῶ χάρισμα ὑμῖν πνευματικὸν εἰς τὸ στηριχθῆναι ὑμᾶς,

The ESV, as a typical example, has:

‘For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you’

and most versions (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NASB etc) translate χάρισμα … πνευματικὸν (charisma pneumatikon) as ‘spiritual gift’, πνευματικός being the adjective from πνεῦμα, meaning ‘spirit’.

Simmons’ text however has ‘the gift of the Spirit’ instead of ‘some spiritual gift’:

He explains in a footnote that he has translated from the Aramaic:

The Peshitta tool shows that all three English translations have ‘gift of the Spirit’ rather than ‘spiritual gift’:

The analysis tool confirms that the Aramaic text has a noun meaning ‘spirit, wind, breath’ rather than an adjective:

It is not that Aramaic lacked an adjective meaning ‘spiritual’, as one such was used in 1 Corinthians 2.13, 15 and elsewhere, as can be seen from the definitions in Jennings:

It just seems to have been a change made by in the translation process from the Greek original to the Peshitta.

In this case, therefore Simmons seems to be justified in saying that he has translated from the Aramaic. As I said above, I am not here examining the question of why he would prefer the Peshitta reading to the original Greek text. (I have written to him twice on that point and not received a reply so far.)

What remains is to investigate whether Simmons’ apparently mistaken claim in Romans 1.9 is a one-off and so probably an inadvertent error, or whether there are more such claims which turn out to be apparently unfounded. In my next post I give further cases where Simmons’ text differs from normal versions, with no possible basis from the Greek text, and where he has claimed to be translating from the Aramaic, but where this claim turns out to be false, so far as I have been able to ascertain, to the best of my endeavour.

Andrew

 

 

 

 

Brian Simmons, Bill Johnson, and the Passion [Anti-] Translation of the Holy Scriptures

At church on Sunday, a dear sister in Christ bounded up to me and warmed to her theme of the excellence of Brian Simmons and his supposed translation of the holy scriptures, which he is calling ‘The Passion Translation’. Not having heard previously either of the man or this work, I found to my horror that it cannot properly be termed a translation at all, because of the discrepancy between its content and that of the originals. Worse still, I discovered that it is being promoted by Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding California, whose ministry is very popular with many young Christians here in the UK. Here, for example, Johnson uses it to give a brief word of exhortation and encouragement before the start of a service on 18 September 2016. At 0.11 of the video he says:

‘We’re going to read some scriptures as we get the day started. So good to see you, my goodness. Psalms 25 in the Passion Translation.’

Thus he affirms the Passion Translation as scripture. He continues (00.30):

‘You are about to be so blessed. What I am going to read is going to bless you so much. You should be getting happy in advance just because of what is coming your way. This is so good. Alright are you ready? Have you got your happy gear on? Alright.’

Then (00.50) he reads verse 12 of ‘Psalm 25′ from Simmons’ book, ‘Psalms: Poetry on Fire’:

Johnson (1.03) then asks the congregation for a show of hands as to who has this question that Simmons has asked:

‘How many of you have that question? How do I live in a way that’s absolutely pleasing to You, that’s the question.’

But this is not the question that the bible asks. The Hebrew text begins:

מִיזֶה הָאִישׁ, יְרֵא יְהוָה   

There are only 5 words (or 4 if you count מִי-זֶה, joined by a maqqef, as one).

  1. מִי  (mî) meaning ‘who’
  2. זֶה (zeh) meaning ‘this
  3. הָאִישׁ  (hā·’îš) meaning ‘the man’
  4. יְרֵא (yə·rê) a verbal adjective, or participle, meaning ‘fearful’ or ‘fearing’, from the root  יָרֵא meaning ‘to fear’

  5. יְהוָה Yahweh, Yehovah, the LORD

Perhaps Young’s Literal Translation is the most accurate:

Who [is] this — the man fearing Jehovah?

so that it might be as if David was seeing a man who was fearing the LORD, and asking who this man was. But also acceptable are the NASB and the ESV, which both have:

Who is the man who fears the LORD?

and the RSV and the NKJV, for example, are almost identical:

Who is the man that fears the LORD?

This is perhaps a question that a preacher could ask of his congregation, and it is one that would tend to provoke reflection and self-examination. One might tentatively raise one’s hand a little and say yes, Lord, I do fear you, yet not as I ought to do, loving Father, help me to fear you more.

Indeed – and I found this after I had written the above – Spurgeon writes:

Verse 12What man is he that feareth the Lord? Let the question provoke self examination. Gospel privileges are not for every pretender. Art thou of the seed royal or no?’

In the Psalms, as written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are asked a question, effectively by the Lord, as to whether we truly fear Him as we should. Simmons has the question being asked by the reader, presumably of the Lord, and so our hearts are not searched in the same way. There is nothing gained, and much is lost.

Andrew

An assault on the gospel

It came to my attention that an anointed brother was being hindered in exercising his ministry simply because he had been leading a congregation of the saints in confession of sins, with the purpose of releasing the forgiveness, healing and deliverance of the Lord. Hallelujah for the promise of 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But some dear sisters had been misled by the teaching of Joseph Prince to believe that the confession of sins by believers is an aberration from ‘the gospel of grace’, which he understands in a very immature way, reasoning that since Jesus paid the price for all sins, past, present and future, our sins have already been forgiven, and there is no need to confess them. Much the same reasoning could be employed to demonstrate that all people are saved, whether believers or not! Instead of submitting his reason to the word of God, Prince claims that the first chapter of 1 John is written to ‘Gnostics’, and not to believers. The simplest way to refute this bizarre theory is to point out that John writes ‘If we confess..’ rather than ‘If you confess..’, including himself amongst those who have need of this wonderful provision of the grace of God.

Hallelujah also for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in convicting us of our sins and of the sin in our hearts, even as we are being transformed into the image of Christ, from glory to glory, by the Lord the Spirit. Hallelujah for His mighty grace too, which teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age. How can it be that Christians today can reduce the deep and subtle interplay of God’s initiative and our response, of free grace and human responsibility, of God’s mercy, love and kindness and His severity and rebuke, which have been expounded for many centuries by men of wisdom and learning who have meditated for many years on the truths of scripture before they have dared to add their modest contribution to the accumulated store of biblical and spiritual teaching in the body of Christ, to a simple-minded formula which denies essential doctrines and offers a life of apparent ease and success in exchange for the narrow path of holiness and sacrifice which alone leads to eternal life?

Joseph Prince’s most extraordinary aberration from sound doctrine is his relegation of the Lord Jesus Christ’s own teaching to the ‘old covenant’, to be ignored and even mocked as absurd when it challenges us to the depth of our being, and does its own work of destroying the soul that our lives may be saved on the day of judgement. How can it be that this assault on the Lord Jesus’s teaching should be being promulgated all over the world on television channels which bear His holy Name? Have we become so slow of mind that we can not see the lies and deception and the plain errors of Prince’s teaching, or is that the power of mammon has taken hold of these media to the degree that a blind eye and a deaf ear is being turned to them, and the warnings of godly men are being ignored?

Let us rise up and fight the good fight of the faith, and oppose heresy and the doctrines of demons wherever they rear their ugly head. A good shepherd protects his flock from wolves that come in to steal and devour. Let us not suppose that false teachings will die of their own accord, any more than do sinful habits or lustful tendencies or wordly ambitions. Let us put to death, as the apostle Paul wrote, our members which are upon the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. Let us put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created us. Hold fast the pattern of sound words that Paul taught, and in humility correct those who are in opposition, lest their false teaching spread like cancer, and in the hope that God may grant them repentance and set them free from the devil’s snare (2 Timothy 1:13, 2:25-26). Hallelujah, the Lord loves Joseph Prince deeply, and I pray for his correction and eternal salvation, in Jesus’ Name.

I have written a short paper, which can be found here, to expose the fact that Joseph Prince, at least in principle, rejects all the teaching of the Lord Jesus which is contained in the gospels as no longer applicable to Christian believers. Heresy is too weak a word for this departure from the faith once delivered to the saints, since it tears the very heart out of the Christian faith and life. No believer can remain in Jesus and in His love without obeying His holy and gracious and life-giving commandments, which preserve us from the sinful tendencies of our fleshly nature, and separate us from the world and its passions.

Olympic idolatry

In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were a part of a religious festival in honour of Zeus. They have no part in a Christian nation, and the United Kingdom still retains much of its Christian heritage, especially in the hearts of the people, who have far more faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ, than their leaders do. We are heading for a disaster as we approach the Olympic Games in London, and the only hope for this nation is for the people of God to recognise this festival as an idolatrous pagan celebration and to repent of our involvement and support of it. If we come before the Lord and confess our holding of the Games, and in particular the worship of foreign gods in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as a great and terrible transgression against Him, then perhaps He will have mercy upon us and turn aside from judgement and release the Spirit in power upon the believers who follow Jesus in love and meekness and faith and purity. Hallelujah, for the Lord will give us a great revival whether in the midst of a terrible judgement or not, and we must be ready for anything He gives us, be it mercy or a discipline that shakes us to the core of our beings.

Shalom to the nation of Israel as they face the greatest test since the war of 1948. Only God can give them victory over the Iranian aggression and destroy the weapons of mass destruction being prepared against them. Netanyahu is God’s gift to Israel and he will not falter when the moment to strike comes, as it seems it must. Shalom to the saints of God and the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who stand with Israel and stay the course when all the world turns against her in fury and protest at her legitimate action to preserve her people and her state. Shalom to the pastors and the evangelists who maintain the truth of God’s holy bible in the face of much backsliding in formerly evangelical churches, and fight the good fight of the faith. Hallelujah for the separation that must occur between the true church and the false. Wake up, for the hour is upon us when the Lord draws near for judgement, and only the pure of heart will see Him and be saved.

Revival in England

It is time for a clean break with the past. We have been sinking deeper into the mire of compromise with feminism in the church, as well as dallying with heresy in the essentials of the Christian faith, and there is little sign yet of an admission by the present generation of leaders that the experiment has failed to produce the revival in England and beyond that many have been longing for and even praying for during many long years.


The best known prophetic vision of revival in these islands is that of Jean Darnall, who was shown the fires of hungry believers seeking New Testament christian life, followed by lightning striking the fires and a great explosive wave of evangelistic fervour sweeping the land. What is not well known is that when she toured Scotland in 1987, she said wherever she went that the first sign of the great awakening would be a men’s prayer movement. This is in accordance with the scriptures, since they exhort first of all that prayers be made for all men that all may be saved, and then direct the men specifically to fulfill this most essential and holy ministry with uplifted and clean hands in every place without wrath or doubting.

Let us therefore heed the prophetic word and follow Jesus Christ in His mighty intercessory ministry and not fail the test by losing faith in God’s promise to Britain to restore its greatness and bring forth a new generation of holy missionaries who will not fear to evangelise the nations that are now held down in the darkness of false religion and idolatry.

I am reminded again of Winston Churchill’s moment of greatness when he rallied and fortified this nation to fight against the onslaught of an evil tyranny. Just three days after assuming leadership of a divided and irresolute country, and in the face of the breach of the defences of France and the Low Countries, he announced a policy of total war unto victory, and reversed the tide with faith and great courage. Taking up his task ‘with buoyancy and hope,’ he led the people of England into battle: “Come then, let us go forward together in our united strength.”

This not a time to give up, nor to draw back, but rather to march forward in unity and determination and fervour. The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is shining still – let us work while there is still light.

My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

(Hebrews 10 v 38)

Let us not be of those who shrink back to destruction, but be those who persevere in faith and hope and victory over the powers of darkness which assail us.

The fires of war are building in strength in the Middle East, and especially over the rocket war, for the Moslem nations have found a way to challenge Israeli military superiority without committing themselves to all-out battle. Syria is especially vulnerable to being used as a proxy by bigger powers who are currently close to breaking American military and economic hegemony through pressure in those areas combined with the subversion of that nation’s Christian foundations both in the church and in the social sphere. Oh that we would wake up and see the danger before it is too late.

Revival in the North East of England

Hallelujah. Dawn is breaking over the North-East of England as revivalists converge on the city of Newcastle in its darkest hour. A crescendo of angelic voices cry ‘Holy, holy, holy to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ as we await the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ the Son of God into His church to assume His rightful place as Master of the house and Ruler of His people.

Continue reading Revival in the North East of England

Turmoil in Pakistan

I appeal to all Christians to pray for Pakistan in this hour of grief and turmoil and great danger. The possession of nuclear weapons makes it a target for a takeover by Islamic fundamentalists who seek to destroy Israel and the danger is real and imminent if there is no truce between the warring parties and no cessation of hostilities between sects and clans. Buttho represented a message of goodwill and peace and her loss brings a bleakness and hopelessness which will result in violence if God does not pour out His grace and mercy upon the nation. Pray for the message of the gospel to be proclaimed in power and with authority in Jesus Name. Amen.

Almost persuaded

The apostle Paul tells King Agrippa (Acts 26) of his conversion and of his ministry to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the king declares himself ‘almost persuaded’ to become a Christian. However sound our arguments and powerful our testimony it is only God who can save. This is a matter of God’s election for sure but also of our choice and of the prayers of the saints, who are commanded to pray for all men – for God desires all men to be saved.

Continue reading Almost persuaded