Controversial Bible translation removes endorsement from Michael W. Smith

Michael W Smith | Screenshot: YouTube/Surrounded

Did something “open the eyes” of Michael W. Smith’s heart?

An endorsement of a controversial Bible translation from the Grammy-winning Christian singer appears to have disappeared after Smith offered his endorsement of The Passion Translation (TPT) version of the Bible late last month.

Smith, a singer-songwriter whose career spans over two decades, offered his endorsement of the TPT version of the Bible, calling it “a gift to Bible readers” and “a beautiful marriage of powerful accuracy and readable, natural language.”

“The vivid wording strips away the centuries, reminding me with every phrase that each prophecy, letter, history account, poem, vision, and parable is God’s Word to me today just as much as it was to the original audiences,” Smith wrote.

The endorsement, however, no longer appeared on the website. No explanation for the change was offered on the site.

BroadStreet Publishing Group, the Christian book publisher behind this translation and other Bible study materials, did not respond to a request for comment from The Christian Post as of Tuesday morning.

Last February, TPT translator Brian Simmons said Bible Gateway “provided no explanation” when it removed the TPT version from its platform, but upon learning of the move, voiced — and then later deleted — his extreme disappointment with the decision to discontinue the translation.

“So cancel culture is alive in the church world. Bible Gateway just removed TPT from their platform,” Simmons said in a now-deleted Facebook post.

Author and CP op-ed contributor Michael Brown, who has spoken to Simmons on several occasions, said that while he can attest to Simmons’ “great love for the Word of God and his desire to produce a worthy translation (or paraphrase),” there’s also room for improvement.

“My hope is that he will do a thorough revision of the whole that will preserve the power and beauty of some of the renderings, but not at the expense of the purity and accuracy of the renderings (unless he wants to celebrate it as a paraphrase or as an interpretive rendering of the Word),” Brown said Monday via email to CP.

The issue with TPT, added Brown, is not that it’s a paraphrase of Scripture, but that it could be misapplied by pastors and other Christians. 

“Paraphrases have their value, but only when they are recognized as paraphrases. The problem with TPT is that it is somewhat of a hybrid, sometimes translating the original text quite closely; sometimes presenting a mild paraphrase; sometimes an expanded paraphrase,” he said. Sometimes it renders with real beauty and power — which has made it very attractive to many charismatic readers — at other times, the renderings are completely gratuitous.”

The endorsement, however short-lived, was far from a first for Smith: In 2017, he was among a number of high-profile Christians to endorse The Shack, a highly successful book and then movie, which also drew both praise and criticism for its depiction of God as both male and female and what critics said was a universalist message.

William Paul Young, the author behind The Shack, addressed one of the main controversies behind his book by disputing the Christian mainstream view that those who die without knowing Jesus Christ cannot achieve salvation.

Smith’s endorsement called The Shack “the most absorbing work of fiction I’ve read in many years.”

Following his announcement on the TPT, Smith faced calls on Twitter to reconsider the endorsement.

Mike Winger, a pastor from Southern California, tweeted, “I sincerely hope that @MichaelWSmith will reconsider his very troubling endorsement of TPT. Top scholars from a variety of Christian backgrounds unanimously say this is not a reliable Bible translation. And they are not just against paraphrases or persecuting the work as Brian Simmons has suggested.” 

Billed as a “dynamic equivalent translation of the Word of God without a religious filter,” the TPT website states that it's a translation that “uses Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts to express God’s fiery heart of love to this generation, merging the emotion and life-changing truth of God’s Word.” 

According to the website, TPT wanted “to trigger inside every reader an overwhelming response to the truth of the Bible and reveal the deep mysteries of the Scriptures in the love language of God, the language of the heart.” 

After its initial release in 2017 as a New Testament version including the Psalms, the TPT now includes the Old Testament books of Genesis, Isaiah, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon.

Simmons — a former missionary linguist and pastor who now leads Passion and Fire Ministries — was the lead translator for the TPT, having previously helped with a Central American indigenous translation of the New Testament, according to the site.

Long associated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement, Simmons has stoked controversy for some of his public teachings, including in 2014 during an event at Jubilee Church in Sydney, Australia, where Simmons suggested Jesus as the Son of God is no longer in human form.

“We are the Seed of Christ … we complete the genealogy of Jesus,” Simmons said. “Christ is no longer a man, He’s a people. You and I carry like Mary, we will bring forth the Christ.”

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