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Revealing the Heart of God in "The Passion Translation"

Beth Patch - Senior Producer

Choosing a Bible has become quite complex these days with so many different English translations. KJV, NKJV, MSG, ESV, NIV, ASV, etc. ... and a newcomer to the list, The Passion Translation. Developed by a team led by linguist, noted missionary, and author Brian Simmons, The Passion Translation is a unique version of the Bible for incorporating the ancient Aramaic scripture, the same language Jesus spoke.

"Aramaic and Hebrew are related linguistically, and both are considered to be passionate and poetic. Greek speaks to the mind while Aramaic-Hebrew speaks powerfully to the heart," says Simmons. "By referencing the text written in the very language in which Jesus taught, and then overlaying that with the Greek, we are able to translate the root meanings of the Scriptures in a new, fresh way."

Currently (Winter 2014), an initial release of The Passion Translation represents several books of the Bible in a set of seven books. The other books of the Bible are in the process of translation and will be released in stages between now and 2017, when the entire translation will be complete.

I recently sat down with Simmons to discuss how this new tranlsation is being received and his inspiration for leading a team to develop The Passion Translation.

I see that you have some history already with Bible translating. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into that?

Well, while we were missionaries in the 1980s, we were in a tribal village called Kukoro on the border of Colombia and Panama, and we were not only church planters, but we co-translated the New Testament into the Paya-Kuna dialect.

We now know that every person in our village has their own copy of that translation and the church is strong. They are autonomous. God is moving among them and they have the Word in their own language, so we're really thrilled about that.

What a great start. So, what was your inspiration for developing The Passion Translation?

After we left the mission field we came to Connecticut and pastored for a number of years, but the Lord put it on our heart to turn the church over to the next generation. And it was from that point on I had this longing rise up in me to translate the Bible again in a new, dynamic English version. But I needed the Lord to really make it clear, so I asked him and He confirmed it. He made it very clear to me and I'm understating it that He wanted me to pursue this project. So that's the real inspiration behind it.

Did your wife help with it too?

My wife does help. She is a brilliant editor and has such a better grasp at grammar than I do, so she helps me make sense when I put it together.

Can you tell us a little bit about what's different about The Passion Translation?

We're very grateful for every version we have in English. There's actually 2,000 translations in English (that we know about), so we're very thankful for all of them. But in these last days, God wants His passion, His heart to come through the revelation of the Word. He wants us to read the Word not just for our minds, to get it out of head knowledge and to really settle it into our heart. So we're attempting with the Passion project to really bring the scriptures into a heart level comprehension. We use vocabulary that will enhance the passion of God for us, His love, His fire, His emotions, and instead of ignoring the emotional aspect of God or even in our own lives, we're committed to making David's Psalms passionate. He was a man after God's own heart ... and Paul's letters passionate as he writes to the churches that he started. So yeah, we're excited about God's heart coming through this new dynamic version.

I noticed some of the [book] titles were pretty descriptive - Psalms: Emotional Poetry on Fire. I love that. How'd you come up with that?

Oh, I do too. Well, I just really feel like the Hebrew Psalms are so poetic and to really translate it, how do you translate poetry into another language? The best way to do it is to make it heart level, to put emotion into it. So that's what we've done and yeah, it's like reading poetry that burns inside of you as you absorb it.

Before you settled on the name, The Passion Translation, were there any other names that you thought about for it? Would you like to share any of the other names that were thought about?

Really, The Passion Translation was from the beginning, was our intent, and it stuck inside of me and I really felt the Lord was leading us to do that.

Who is this for?

The Passion Translation is for any English reader from, I'm going to say about 6 to 100, and I think really it's targeted to this generation. This millennia generation has no problem at all with the emotion of God, the passion of His heart, because they're very passionate and they respond to passion. So we're really attempting to bring it right into their heart and their language without it being overly colloquial or street level, but to make the language of the Bible readable and clear. So yeah, I think moms and dads and grandmas and granddads are all going to love it.

This generation is wonderfully tech savvy, has a digital device in at least one of their hands usually. Do you have some plans for its digital release?

We have it available as a Kindle download on Amazon.com and the Nook and other Internet ability to download it. So yeah, some people prefer it on their iPad, some people are still a little bit locked into paper and some are a little bit of both.

I was just wondering, The Passion Translation's been out since last month. Can you share with us what kind of feedback you're getting?

We're getting incredible feedback from pastors, Bible teachers, even scholars that are looking at this and are telling us that it's both accurate and passionate, so that's been our goal. Many people have told us they gave up on reading the Bible, it didn't make a lot of sense to them; but The Passion Translation has reignited their passion for the Word. So, we're excited about that.

That is exciting. In the Christian realm oftentimes we do have a few Christians whose theology just doesn't line up with new translations. Have you had any particular criticism?

For those that have locked into one version of the Bible all their life, they grew up using one translation, it's very hard. It's like coming between you and your spouse when you try to bring a new translation in front of them. But I just encourage people to read it, and once they read it their eyes pop open and they're hooked. They're really drawn into reading it.

I have The Passion Translation, John: Eternal Love. I really like the way, in John 1:1, it translates "the Word was with God... " the way you described the presence of Jesus in that time, what was the wording that you chose?

"In the beginning God was already there and before His face was His living expression, and this living expression was with God yet fully God." So in the Hebrew language, there's no word for "presence." You cannot say you're in God's presence if you're a Hebrew, you say, "I'm before His face." So that's really what John is saying (who was an Aramaic speaker). He taught in Aramaic. What John was saying was that, I'm before God's face and Jesus is right before the face of the Father from eternity. So it is different.

It is different and it was a nice visual for me when I read it.

I think truth is diluted by it's familiarity, and as we read the Bible, we read it over and over and we think we know it, and the fact is we really don't. It has to pierce our heart, but we're trying to do that.

Hey before I go, if you get a chance, be sure to look at Proverbs 31. It's a parable of the last day’s Church, The Radiant Bride. It's not a woman, it's really the church that's being described there and all of those footnotes. It's really liberated a lot of women to understand what that chapter's really about.

I did look at Proverbs 31! That was a wonderful revelation that you were able to put into this, and I said to my friend last night [about Proverbs 31], "... yeah, there's no purple cloth in there." It's really quite a new and fulfilling way to read the scriptures.

Yeah, well you don't have to get up early and fix breakfast for everybody now. Sleep in.

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Brian Simmons
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