Paul’s Review of The Passion Translation

Several years ago, readers started telling me about this new Bible called the Passion Translation. “It’s fresh. It’s brilliant. Check it out.” The buzz reminded me of the excitement we felt when the Message Bible was published in the 1990s.

So I went to Amazon and bought this new Bible. Only I got the name wrong, and I bought a different Bible by mistake. When it arrived I didn’t think it was very good at all.

So for a while, people were telling me to check out the Passion Translation and privately I was thinking, “Why are they so excited about this? It’s not that great.”

Then I realized my mistake and bought the right one. And I have been reading the Passion Translation ever since.

The Passion Translation gets censored

A few days ago, Brian Simmons, the author of the Passion Translation put a message on his Facebook profile saying the good people at Bible Gateway had removed TPT from their website. He asked readers to head over to Bible Gateway and ask them to put it back.

This I did, and I also shared his message on E2R’s FB page. The response from readers was mixed. While most E2R readers were happy to support TPT, a few argued that it was not a translation but a paraphrase. They felt it was misleading for the author to call it a translation.

Others had deeper concerns with TPT and were happy that it had been removed from the Bible Gateway site. Some didn’t like that it had been translated by just one man. “It will be biased.” Others said it had an agenda which was heretical.

I am not in a position to comment on Brian Simmons, his training as a linguist, or any agenda he may have. I have good friends who vouch for him, but I don’t really know him. But I know his Bible. I read it often.

My verdict? I love it. It’s brilliant.

I do not care that TPT was written by one man any more than I care that the Message Bible was written by Eugene Petersen or other translations were written by single authors (e.g., Phillips, Wuest, Source, etc.).

I do not care that the Passion Translation is called a translation any more than I care that the NIV is called a translation.

I do not care that TPT has added clauses that illuminate the text. I find the Aramaic insights and explanatory footnotes that accompany the text most helpful.

But one concern I do have with the Passion Translation is it lacks the Old Testament (just as the Message Bible did when it was first released). However, I understand a complete OT may be coming in 2026. I look forward to it.

My review of the Passion Translation

No Bible translation is 100% accurate or free from bias which is why it is a good idea to read multiple translations. But should you read the Passion Translation?

In my view, Brian Simmons has done a masterful job unpacking the treasures of the New Testament. The Passion Translation is both poetical yet scholarly.

There are plenty of critical reviews pointing out what TPT gets wrong, so let me point out some things it gets right. Let’s start with this well-known passage from John 15:2.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit…

    • He takes away (ESV/NASB/NKJV/Darby/Wuest)
    • He taketh away (ASV/KJV)
    • He cuts off (ISV/MSG/NIV)
    • He breaks off (GNB)

For years I have insisted that these are bad translations of Jesus’ words. Jesus doesn’t cut or remove unfruitful branches; he lifts them up. As far as I know, TPT is the only Bible that gets this right:

He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches. (John 15:2, TPT)

Does this matter?

If you are an unfruitful Christian, would you rather hear that Jesus plans to cut you off and take you away (something he never said) or that he will lift you up? Bad translations hurt people; good ones encourage them to trust Jesus.

Let me give you another example from Romans 8:26:

    • the Spirit Himself intercedes for us (ESV/ISV/NASB/NIV)
    • the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us (KJV)
    • the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us (NKJV)
    • the Spirit himself comes to our rescue by interceding (Wuest)
    • the Spirit itself makes intercession (Darby)
    • his Spirit within us is actually praying for us (Phillips)

These are all fair translations, but they don’t fully capture what Paul says. As I explain in the Grace Commentary, the original word for intercedes (huperentugchano) is a compound word made up of two words: huper and entugchano (see screenshot below). The first word means hyper or super; the second word means intercede. The Holy Spirit is literally a super-interceder.

Does this matter?

If you are going through tough times, who do you want praying for you? An interceder or a super-interceder? The Holy Spirit is the latter, says Paul, but you will never know this unless you read the Passion Translation:

The Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf… (Rom. 8:26, TPT)

The next example comes from the Passion Translation footnote for Romans 5:20:

Again, the Passion Translation is the only English Bible that talks about the super-hyper-abundant grace of God.

Paul often wrote about the hypergrace of God, but you wouldn’t know that from reading modern Bibles. Brian Simmons should be applauded for having the courage to quote Paul accurately. I just wish he’d put this in the main text and not buried it in a note, but it’s a start.

Is the Passion Translation a paraphrase?

A translation is what you have when you take a text in one language (e.g., Greek) and translate it into another (e.g., English). Different translation approaches can be arranged on a spectrum with word for word translations at one end, and thought for thought translations at the other. Those at one end of the spectrum emphasize the original syntax (form and grammar) of the words. Those at the other end seek to capture the original meaning of the words.

What is a paraphrase? A Bible like the Living Bible is not a translation but a paraphrase because it is based on another English Bible (the ASV). But what if we are paraphrasing from the original language? When does a thought-for-thought translation become a paraphrase? That’s a thorny question that affects Bibles like the Message and the Passion.

Call the Passion Translation a paraphrase, and you are lumping it together with untranslated Bibles like the Living Bible. Call it a thought-for-thought translation, and you are lumping it with Bibles like the NIV, CEV, and the Message.

In my view, dismissing the Passion Translation as a paraphrase won’t work, because in several places it is more accurate than some word-for-word translations. Often it quotes the New Testament authors with greater accuracy than the NASB, ESV, RSV, etc.

And as I explain in my article, “How sexist is your Bible?” the Passion Translation is relatively unaffected by the gender bias that stains many older translations.

Put it altogether and the result is a Bible for our generation. The Passion Translation links our modern world with the Biblical world better than many other Bibles. It brings the Bible to life and gives fresh understanding to old scriptures.

Is the Passion Translation perfect? Of course not. No translation is.

Is the Passion Translation helpful, honest, beautiful, excellent, and praiseworthy? Definitely.

Will the Passion Translation help you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? Most assuredly.

It has helped me.

—–

In the bonus content for this article, available now on Patreon, I outline the pros and cons of different Bible translations and I explain when and why I use them. I also talk about which translations I rely on when writing for the Grace Commentary.

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34 Comments on Paul’s Review of The Passion Translation

  1. Margaret Eargle // February 9, 2022 at 2:21 am // Reply

    Thank you! I love the Passion Translation!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, Paul! I love the TPT. And as you said, no translation is perfect. I was disappointed to read elsewhere TPT is rewriting certain verses to be more “acceptable” to wider Christian audience. I think that’s a shame. Wish I’d bought more copies of original.

  3. Love this article and TOTALY agree! I too am glad that the Old Testament passion translation is on the horizon!! I can’t wait!

  4. Thanks for explaining what happened to TPT on BibleGateway! I was studying a verse online using several different translations, went away for a few minutes, and when I went back to my study, the TPT had vanished! Every translation has a bias, influencing which English word is chosen to express the meaning of the Greek, so we’re wise to read across a few different versions to get at the truth of what God is really saying.

    • Autumn, I agree… I do the same thing in my studies, using various translations. I have gone from being “spoon-fed” to Spirit-led. I miss the TPT on Bible gateway too.

  5. Brandon Petrowski // February 9, 2022 at 4:10 am // Reply

    I like this, and I like the TPT. I have read all of it that is available. I think it is pretty true to most of the actual meaning of verses, and I think some people resent it deviating from what they know. However, most honest Bible scholars should know that when reading the Bible, context and original meaning is paramount in gaining an accurate understanding of how to apply it.

    • Totally agree, Brandon! I think it’s like anything else – people get attached to their traditions and reject anything that seems different from what they’ve been told.

  6. Helen Teichroeb // February 9, 2022 at 4:27 am // Reply

    Are you familiar with the Mirror Bible by Francoise DuToit?

  7. The Mirror Bible is also quite amazing. For instance:

    John 15:2 – Every offshoot in me that does not bear fruit, he lifts up from the ground and fastens it to the stake and every fruit bearing part he dresses in order to maximize its yield.

    Rom. 8:26 – … assisting us in our prayers when we struggle to know how to pray properly. When we feel restricted in our flesh, he supersedes our clumsy efforts and hits bulls-eye every time.

    And in the notes for Romans 5 there is also the explanation that the original text means super abundantly; that which exceeds all boundaries.

    When I first got my hands on the Mirror Bible I was already far removed (rescued might be a better word) from my old legalistic days and considered myself surrendered to the persuasion of Grace. However, much of what the Mirror Bible was saying seemed like foreign concepts (in a good and wonderful way) I had never heard even in hyper grace circles. It has helped me see that no matter where we are in our journey, God is simply BETTER than we realize.

    • You put me in a difficult position, Jason, as I would prefer to limit comments here to the Passion Translation. The Mirror generally does a wonderful job emphasizing grace, but it undoes all by rewriting scriptures to promote the doctrine of inclusion. It says many things that are flat out contrary to what is in the Bible. I dealt with this several years ago and have no wish to revisit the issues on this thread.

      BTW, supersede is not the same as super-intercede. I’m glad the Holy Spirit does the latter and not the former.

  8. Thanks so much for your review of the Passion Bible – it was very encouraging and I agree with you ….gives understanding to scripture that is very helpful.

  9. I for one am glad Bible Gateway removed The Passion Translation of Brian Simmons from their website, in spite of the fact that it gets some important things right that other translations don’t, as you show in your examples. The first red flag for me about the TPT was when I read about Simmons’ interview with Sid Roth…

    • Please note the title of my article. This is a review of a book, not an author. Play the ball, not the man. If we made judgments about books and Bibles based on those who wrote them, we wouldn’t read the King James Version or anything written by Martin Luther. When I said I don’t really know the man, I wasn’t asking for your dirt.

  10. joyfulmomof7 // February 9, 2022 at 8:11 am // Reply

    I love the Passion Translation! I see it as the ‘Grace’ translation as it seems to be consistent with the Gospel of Grace. I love the footnotes as well. I really enjoy the description of the history and meanings of the words. It has some verses that don’t line up in my opinion, but for the most part I do love it. I have the OT Passion Translation on my Amazon Kindle…..Genesis, Isaiah and Joshua, Judges and Ruth. Can’t wait for the whole OT to be available!

  11. Erick Garing // February 9, 2022 at 11:00 am // Reply

    Thanks Sir Paul for this article. I was using the TPT and it’s so good to read and study. It is sad that one of bible resources website removed the TPT. For me it will help a lot. I am also the one who requested to bring it back the TPT in their website.

  12. Monika Sannoh // February 9, 2022 at 12:06 pm // Reply

    I love reading TPT. I like that it is translated from the Aramaic and I can read it alongside translations from the Greek. I read the Proverbs everyday from TPT. I see more Grace.

  13. ibejoyful@aol.com // February 9, 2022 at 1:47 pm // Reply

    Thank you, Paul! I really enjoy the Passion,too Thanks for your insight and evaluation!

  14. Helen Kearney // February 9, 2022 at 2:03 pm // Reply

    I’m so glad to hear this, Paul, Brian Simmons will be in my area next month and I want to go hear him speak!

  15. Wow, you went to a lot of trouble Paul explaining this. Thank you. For myself TPT has been wonderful during the last few years as I have come to a greater understanding of the gospel of Grace. I really do not have a Bible translation which I would call my favourite, as most people do. As you have pointed out they all all have their flaws, and no doubt their strengths. What I like to do is read a number of versions to glean the best meaning I can, with Holy Sprit’s help this works for me. The Passion Translation TPT is one which I would seldom leave out. And just like the well known Grace teachers around the globe, I do not hold onto too tightly any one in particular because I find they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  16. I appreciate some of the easier to read versions of the Bible when I want to enjoy some more casual reading time. When I want to study or search out the true meaning of something, I check multiple translations and concordances. I love your approach of taking into account what is helpful to people. I believe young people especially benefit from a modern translation. Most of them are not into the old King James language. Lol

  17. I love the passion bible! Extremely powerful!

  18. I will be one of the few dissenting voices on the book, The Passion. After reviewing a copy, I do not consider this work a translation or a paraphrase of the Bible. It is what one single, well meaning author thinks the Bible should be written. It is the author’s personal preferences and promotes primarily his theology and his ideas and thought processes. He has not translated the Bible but re-written the Bible. In closing, to me it should be called a reference or a commentary book with the author’s ideas, and not listed as a Bible. I would be very hesitant to use it as a study Bible. I think that it is good to be able to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

    • Brandon Petrowski // February 11, 2022 at 1:13 am // Reply

      I understand your perspective. However, many other accepted “translations” have the same issues you object to, and many of them are not accurate in conveying proper meaning. It’s good to have a variety of perspectives on the Word to challenge us to dig deeper into for ourselves.

  19. Well, you’ve never steered me wrong, Pau. I downloaded a copy for My OliveTree app and within 5 minutes had gained a couple wonderful insights from 1 Pet 5:6-9 (the verses I had opened in NKJV). What a delight!

    I got a good laugh at your statement “So I went to Amazon and bought this new Bible. Only I got the name wrong, and I bought a different Bible by mistake. When it arrived I didn’t think it was very good at all”. I grew up in a small town near the state of Utah so we had plenty of acquaintances who were Mormon. A friend of mine liked to tell them “I was going to join the church, but I got LSD instead of LDS and went on a trip instead of a mission.”

  20. Larry Cooper // February 12, 2022 at 7:09 am // Reply

    After reading your examples of better-translated Scripture provided in the TPT Bible, I accessed the Passion Translation.com website, LOVED discovering and reading their "Translation Philosophy" and "Statement of Faith", then READ;

    John 15 free and online (YouVersion). THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS READING OF THE TPT JOHN 15 (the entire chapter) AND THAT OF OTHER ENGLISH BIBLES IS ESTATICALLY LIKE DAY AND NIGHT . . . IN COMMUNICATING TO ME HOW MUCH   L O V E   JESUS AND FATHER REALLY HAVE FOR ME !!!  The Father doesn't "cut off" unfruitful branches . . . He LIFTS THEM UP OUT OF THE DIRT so they become fruitful !!!  Because "He cares for the branches" (verse 2)!

    I am going to do most, if not all, of my future New Testament reading  . . . using The Passion Translation Bible's described RE-WRITE (translation corrected to convey the essential message Christ wants to communicate to us).

    One more example of essential message superiority:  if I had had the TPT version of John 15:3 to read long ago, I would not have experienced many years of experience struggling with addiction and self-condemnation (Romans 8:1), TPT John 15:3 "The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you."

    Again, Paul, thank you for your TPT version recommendation this week. I feel sorry for persons who don't have the TPT NT version.
    God bless you, Brother.  Keep up the Lord's grace work.

    Larry Cooper, Brother in Christ; . . . whom the Lord is mercifully leading this 10th year of my diligent daily hearing, reading and learning about the Lord's GRACE.

  21. Re: Review of the Passion Translation
    Hello, I have enjoyed your teaching on extreme Grace and believe Jesus is the Grace of God. However I beg to differ
    on the Passion’s wording on John 15:2 and your endorsement. Our Lord would not prop up an unfruitful branch just as a gardener wouldn’t tie the branch to another branch when pruning it was necessary. He would cut off the dead parts enabling it to recover and bloom as it was meant to.
    Pruning is discipline from the loving hand of a perfect Gardener whose intention is to make disciples through discipline and course correction. We can’t ignore but must integrate into His extreme Grace these verses: Hebrews 12:6 says “For the Lord disciplines those He loves and corrects every son He receives”. II Timothy 3:16 “all scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction and for instruction in righteousness”. I look forward to your thoughts.

    • Hi Marie, you seem to have confused unfruitful branches with dead ones. As I outline in my study note, “Are unfruitful branches lifted up,” there is considerable evidence of ancient vinedressers doing exactly what Jesus said (i.e., staking or lifting up unfruitful branches). You can read the article-length version here.

      Jesus never cuts off “dead parts” of his body and he never casts away those who come to him (John 6:37).

  22. No confusion here, John 15:2 is referring to unfruitful branches not dead ones. We will never be cut off from God but we will be pruned.

    • But it is the fruitful branches that are pruned, not the unfruitful ones. I would be happy to hear your comments on the Passion Translation on this thread. Any comments you may have about unfruitful branches should ideally go under the article I linked above. Thanks.

    • Brandon Petrowski // February 19, 2022 at 10:06 am // Reply

      Gardeners only prune fruitful branches to make them more fruitful. If they want to try bringing life back to an unfruitful branch, they “lift it up”.

  23. The Concordant version also does a great job of hyper-abundant grace. Check out Rom 5:15-20! I think I’ll get myself a copy of the Passion Translation as well!

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