Recently I obtained a copy of Brian Simmons’ “The Passion Translation”, published by Broadstreet Publishing. Gaining in popularity, I was anxious to be digging into it myself.
If you are not aware, The Passion Translation (TPT) is primarily the work of Dr. Brian Simmons. I say primarily, because the official website uses similar terminology. They state: “While Brian serves as the lead translator for The Passion Translation, every book (including the numerous footnotes) is evaluated by respected scholars and editors.” As of today, 5/12/2021, a list of who these reviewing scholars may be is nowhere to be found. At least I’ve not been able to find any.
I will say at the outset that I did find a number of places where Simmons’ rather poetic phrasing was very pleasing indeed. And there are touches of real insight here and there. That said, in the process of reading, I began to notice some things which caught my eye. A number of places (quite a few in fact) where the meanings of words from the original are quite oddly handled.
For example, his translation of Romans 1:1 – reads: “Paul, a loving and loyal servant of the Anointed One, Jesus. He called me to be his apostle and set me apart with a mission to reveal God’s wonderful gospel.” OK. But then there is this footnote (his footnotes I found out later he claims Jesus gave him a revelation to use) on the word “servant” which reads: “The Greek word doulos signifies more than a servant; it is one who has chosen to serve a master out of love, bound with cords so strong that it could only be severed by death.”
To put it quite plainly and simply – he is just plain wrong. It’s an interesting thought, but has absolutely no linguistic support whatever. You can look up the word doulos (the Greek word for servant in this text) in any Greek dictionary and see that Simmons’ definition has no basis at all. A doulos was the common, basic word for a slave. Love had nothing to do with it. It is not to say I suppose that some slaves loved their masters, but he is saying this is how you ought to translate the word. He, is simply wrong. His definition is fabricated. It may be well meaning, but it is in error. And to claim that he was inspired by God to make this translation when it is wrong on something this basic, simple and straightforward, really began to give me great pause.
Then as I continued to read, I saw a lot of footnotes that appealed to the Aramaic language. While it is most likely that Jesus spoke and taught in Aramaic, the reality is that the original writing of the New Testament was in Greek. Researching online I saw where Simmons claims that new scholarship says our Greek texts came from Aramaic originals. That was contrary to all I had learned over the years, but I investigated just in case I had somehow missed something. But the more I dug, as I suspected, the more I found that such a claim is utterly without foundation. All solid New Testament scholarship (Evangelical or not) appeals to the Greek text as original (excepting for a few short portions of Daniel for example). The Bible was LATER translated into Aramaic FROM the Greek, but the Greek was never translated from the Aramaic. He is either simply mistaken, or misrepresenting. In either case, he is quite in error.
Not satisfied, I continued to dig. And so as to make this a truly brief review and not unnecessarily long, let me give you a few links to check out in doing your own research.
The first is a short video from Alissa Childers on her research into the Passion Translation. I found much of what she reported to be quite disturbing. But it is only 10 mins. and good intro some of the chief concerns.
The article she cites from Biblical Scholar Andrew Shead raises some very serious red flags about using the Passion Translation as though it is the Word of God. That article is here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/burning-scripture-with-passion-a-review-of-the-psalms-passion-translation/
Shead’s article includes this abstract: “Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.”
That’s pretty strong language. I hope you will prayerfully and carefully consider it.
3rd, is a pretty full video from Mike Winger. Mike is a Charismatic pastor (Calvary Chapel) so he is not a guy opposed to the gifts of the Spirit for today, a crowd this translation seems to be aimed at. But this video, with his interview of Douglas Moo who is a world renowned Biblical and Greek scholar, is long, but very eye-opening. https://youtu.be/PcUmQJpi9Do
Not least in all of this is solid documentation I have found that Simmons has baldly misrepresented (if not outright lied) about his credentials and training for doing a translation. His website makes this claim: “As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Paya-Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama.”
In truth, Simmons’ doctorate is in “practical ministry with an emphasis on prayer” from Wagner Leadership Institute, not a seminary, accredited or otherwise – https://www.linkedin.com/in/passiontranslationbriansimmons). His training has nothing to do with study or credentials as a translator. Thus in interviews others have done with New Tribes Mission and Brian’s colleagues from Panama, they state that he has no training as a linguist and was never involved in the translation process beyond reading what the translators had done to some natives, and reporting back how they understood it. He was never a “co-translator”. In fact, in an interview I found on the Web he himself admits he has very “minimal” training in Greek and Hebrew. He deliberately lies about this on his website. And then when he says things like that Jesus told him He is going to give him a whole new chapter to the Gospel of John – I am afraid we are dealing with some pretty heavy delusion if not deception. Simmons has no closed canon, and will be the one to reveal new scripture to the world. YIKES! Things like this, for me, make everything more than suspect.
Bottom line, if you or folks you know are considering or using TPT, don’t. While Simmons’ gift for artful turns of phrases in English are pleasing in many places, the blatant misrepresentation of key facts – not the least of which are his own credentials and qualifications – the mishandling of the original texts and the insertion of sectarian phrases and ideas in catering to a specific group combine to make this a most untrustworthy and even destructive “translation.”
In closing, do you know why it is called the “Passion” translation? In an interview with Sid Roth, Simmons said that in a church service once he saw an angel, and God spoke to Simmons saying that angel was “with” his ministry, and that angel was “the angel of passion.” https://thewordlikefire.wordpress.com/2020/12/05/brian-simmons-comissioned-by-christ-an-angel-named-passion/