Question: "What is the Passion Translation of the Bible?"
Answer: The most important problem with The Passion Translation of the Bible (TPT) is actually found in its name—specifically, the term translation. In truth, The Passion Translation is a re-worded and re-written Bible, apparently intended to support a particular strain of theology. If the same material was marketed as a “commentary” or as a “study guide,” it would still be concerning. As it is, The Passion Translation cannot honestly be called a translation or even a paraphrase. The TPT goes well beyond the idea of “translation” and reimagines the Bible as one human author thinks it ought to be written.
The Passion Translation is primarily the work of a single author, Brian Simmons. Simmons has a long track record as a passionate and successful missionary and evangelist. Part of his success has been in developing translations of Scripture for people with no Bibles in their own language. However, any translation completed by a single person raises questions of accountability. Such efforts are far more prone to personal preferences. As it turns out, The Passion Translation of the Bible not only reflects Simmons’ New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology, but it appears to be deliberately written in order to promote it.
The FAQ section of The Passion Translation website makes several concerning remarks about the translation process:
“… the meaning of a passage took priority over the form of the original words. Sometimes in order to communicate the correct intended meaning, words needed to be changed.”
“The Passion Translation is more in favor of prioritizing God’s original message over the words’ literal meaning.”
In other words, The Passion Translation of the Bible is not about finding corresponding words in different languages or presenting original words in a new language. The above comments imply that the Bible does not mean what it says, and so it needs to be changed to say what it should say. This is not an unfair assessment on our part, as passages in The Passion Translation of the Bible show extreme tampering with the text.
For example, on its own website, The Passion Translation quotes Luke 1:37. Here is that verse in several mainstream versions:
Luke 1:37 ESV: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37 NIV: “For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37 NASB: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37 KJV: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
This same verse, in The Passion Translation, looks like this:
“No promise of God is empty of power, for with God there is no such thing as impossibility.”
Clearly, there is an idea being added to the original words of the Scripture. Other verses show even more drastic, NAR-friendly additions:
Mark 1:15 ESV: “and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
Mark 1:15 NIV: “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”
Mark 1:15 KJV: “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
Mark 1:15 TPT: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”
On The Passion Translation of the Bible website, the publisher offers a comparison between the NIV and TPT translations of Galatians 2:15–21. The additions in The Passion Translation are justified with the claim that this translation “enhances [the Bible’s] meaning by going beyond a literal translation to magnifying God’s original message”:
From the NIV:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Although we’re Jews by birth and not non-Jewish “sinners,” we know full well that we don’t receive God’s perfect righteousness as a reward for keeping the law, but by the faith of Jesus the Messiah! His faithfulness, not ours, has saved us, and we have received God’s perfect righteousness. Now we know that God accepts no one by the keeping of religious laws, but by the gift of grace!
If we are those who desire to be saved from our sins through our union with Christ, does that mean Christ promotes our sins if we still acknowledge that we are sinners? How absurd! For if I start over and reconstruct the old religious system that I have torn down with the message of grace, I will appear to be one who turns his back on the truth.
It was when I tried to obey the law that I was condemned with a curse, because I’m not able to fulfill every single detail of it. But because Christ lives in me, I’ve now died to the law’s dominion over me so that I can live for God in heaven’s freedom!
My old identity has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for Christ lives his life through me—we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine!
So that is why I don’t view God’s grace as something minor or peripheral. For if keeping the law could release God’s righteousness to us, the Anointed One would have died for nothing.
Note that the third paragraph—beginning with “It was when…”—is not “translated” from anything. It’s not a re-wording or re-interpretation. It’s entirely the product of the author’s own thought process. This criticism has nothing to do with the particular point being made in the extra material. Right or wrong, correct or incorrect, that paragraph is not part of the actual Word of God. Yet it is placed within the rest of the passage.
The Passion Translation of the Bible is not, therefore a “translation” of the Bible at all. It’s a rewrite of the Bible. Referring to it as a “translation” and calling it a good choice for a primary study Bible, as the author does, is deceptive.
Other points in The Passion Translation show a similar bias. In many cases, doctrines are added without any support from the text whatsoever. The New World Translation, published by the Watchtower Society, is infamous for making subtle changes to the text in order to protect Jehovah’s Witnesses theology. The Passion Translation goes even further, completely re-writing or adding text in order to prop up New Apostolic teachings.
Referring to their treatment of Galatians 2, the publishers of TPT claim “this section from Paul’s letter in the TPT Bible reads as if he wrote it to contemporary English readers!” In truth, their version of this text reads as if it was written by a modern man looking to reword the Bible according to his own doctrinal preferences. Modernizing language in an effort to translate is not the same thing as “correcting” Scripture by making it say what someone thinks it should have said.
Brian Simmons may have approached this effort with good intentions, but his methods, his wording, and the marketing are spiritually dangerous. The Passion Translation of the Bible is not a “translation” to be trusted.