Highjacking Christianity: The Passion Translation and Brian Simmons

The Passion Translation (TPT) and its sole translator, Brian Simmons, are intrinsically linked to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. Given the close connection between TPT and Brian Simmons to the NAR, it’s appropriate to dedicate an article to it to show how Simmons’ TPT is a unique danger to the Christian community. Simmons has masterfully composed a sectarian translation that’s unconcerned with accurately translating the original texts into English. Simmons appears to dishonestly leverage his lack of qualifications, questionable claims of divine revelation, NAR alliances, and a disturbing amount of church hype to keep the TPT a best-seller among Christian laypeople who’ll unknowingly get blindsided by this piece of Biblical malpractice. 

Mike Winger (i.e. Bible Thinker) has done a fantastic job researching the credibility of TPT and Brian Simmons’ qualifications in his Passion Project. I recommend everyone review this material, especially if you’re a TPT reader. Winger interviews Bible scholars that examined the TPT to see if it’ll withstand the test of serious scrutiny. Spoiler alert: the TPT fails with flying colors. 

Given that TPT has become synonymous with the Biblical equivalent of gas station sushi among informed Christians, why is TPT being used among some laypeople and pastors? It’s a sectarian translation aimed at a theological audience that generally identifies with charismatic or pentecostal denominations. Sadly, those who identify in this manner may knowingly or unknowingly align with the general doctrines of the NAR. This is where the TPT, Simmons, and the NAR converge in my assessment of the facts.

TPT is the Language of the NAR

The charismatic and pentecostal traditions lean into TPT heavily, which is the same tradition that frequently falls face first into the NAR (read more about the NAR here). To dissolve this criticism with their unfamiliar readers, the TPT posted the following question on their FAQs page, 

I’ve heard that Brian Simmons is part of something called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. Is that true?

“The New Apostolic Reformation, commonly known as NAR, is a name used by some Internet apologists and critics to identify leaders mostly in the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions who affirm (or seem to affirm in part or full) a group of beliefs the critics oppose. Brian Simmons has been unfairly identified with this non-movement because of his association with some of these leaders and affinity with Pentecostalism. Further, such critics have falsely accused Simmons of writing The Passion Translation as a stealth maneuver in support of the non-movement’s agenda and to bolster it theologically through translation renderings. Neither of these accusations are fair or accurate. Although his audience certainly includes the Pentecostal or Charismatic believer, he affirms historical Christian orthodoxy and is very much at home within the broader evangelical tradition.”

I’ll unpack their answer for clarity because their explanation is quite ambiguous. From what I can puzzle together, two refutations are floating around in their answer. 1) “Internet apologists and critics” are critical of the NAR and are “unfairly” identifying Brian Simmons with the “non-movement” and 2) Simmons wrote TPT as a “stealth maneuver to support the non-movement’s agenda.”  

It’s true that “internet apologists and critics” (i.e. orthodox Christian theologians and apologists) oppose the NAR movement (not a “non-movement). Orthodox Christians oppose the NAR because it’s heterodoxical at best and heretical at worst. There is no scriptural basis to Biblically validate the claims that the NAR makes (read more here). TPT has been enthusiastically endorsed by NAR advocates such as Bill Johnson, Che Ahn, Bobbie Houston, Lou Engle, John & Lisa Bevere, Patricia King, Heidi Baker, Wesley & Stacey Campbell, Graham Cooke, Chuck D. Pierce, etc… (you get the picture).  

Simmons’ endorsements page on the TPT website is populated by NAR spokespeople rather than serious Biblical language scholars. This fact leads to my response to their criticism that we’re accusing Brian Simmons of writing the TPT as a “stealth maneuver to support the non-movement’s agenda.” I wouldn’t argue that it’s a “stealth maneuver” at all. I wouldn’t make such a modest claimSimmons wrote TPT in a way that indisputably communicates NAR theology. This is obvious by the reading of TPT and evidenced by those that endorse the TPT. Simmons is also a staff member of Apostle C. Peter Wagner’s (i.e. the father of the NAR movementWagner University. These facts not only make it probable but virtually certain, that TPT is an interpretation geared to advance NAR theology.

Brian Simmons’ Lack of Qualifications and Blasphemy

Brian Simmons has been dishonest about his qualifications as a Biblical translator. 

Watch the short video above and you’ll see that the translation qualifications that Simmons cited through his missionary work with New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos 360) were refuted by members of that organization. Moody Bible Institute also refuted the timeline that Simmons provides about the completion of the Kuna Bible translation project. Simmons’ inflated his qualifications and gave inaccurate accounts about his accomplishments as a missionary. This should lead any reasonable person to suspect that Simmons is untrustworthy.

Brian Simmons was on a revealing television show called ‘It’s Supernatural & Messianic Vision‘ with Sid Roth where he discussed his calling to write TPT. Simmons said that Jesus personally appeared to him and called him to perform this translation project.

In this interview (transcript here), Brian Simmons said that in 2009 Jesus appeared to him and said, “I’m commissioning you to translate the Bible into the translation project that I’m giving you to do.” Simmons continued, “And he promised that he would help me, and he promised me that he would give me secrets of the Hebrew language.” Simmons also said that “He (Jesus) breathed on me so that I would do the project, and I felt downloads coming, instantly. I received downloads. It was like, I got a chip put inside of me. I got a connection inside of me to hear him better, to understand the scriptures better and hopefully to translate.”

Not as though that was problematic enough, Simmons described entering into the “library room of Heaven.” Simmons said that Jesus told him, “I have brought you here to let you take any two books you want.” Well, as it turned out, Simmons saw a third book that he wanted in the “library room of Heaven,” and Jesus objected by saying to Simmons, “Brian, I cannot let you take this book.” Simmons continues to describe that the third book was “John 22” (John only has 21 chapters – BTW). Simmons concluded by saying that Jesus said to him, “I will bring you back one day and I will give you that book.” 

This is nothing short of blasphemy. He’s claiming to have special revelation personally from Jesus and received secrets via “downloads” into the original texts. Simmons seems to be petitioning his viewers to believe that God gave him the ability to translate because he’s massively underqualified to perform such a translation project with any degree of Biblical accuracy. Simmons knows that TPT will be harder to reject if he can convince people that God “promised him secrets” of the original languages and that he was receiving direct “downloads” from God in the translation process. No matter what legitimate criticisms against the TPT’s obvious translation errors, Simmons and the NAR will defend TPT because they’re emotionally connected to the idea that Jesus personally anointed Simmons with this project and gave him the “downloads” to do it.

Translation Comparisons

Biblical scholar and translator, Andrew G Shead, conducted a review of TPT’s translation of Psalms. Shead said that Simmons has abandoned,

“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.” (emphasis and bold mine)

Does Brain Simmons expect us to believe that all the extra words are direct revelations from God via the “downloading” process? This would implicate any extra material he’s adding into TPT as directly “downloaded” from God. Taking Simmons’ claims about being given divine secrets of the original text and receiving “downloads” from God at face value, I’m not making a hyperbolic assumption when I say that he feels any addition he makes to scripture is blessed by God.

The TPT places a heavy priority on readability on their FAQ page, however, it has come at the cost of Biblical accuracy. As a random experiment, I’ll examine the first verse of each gospel to compare and contrast each translation:

Matthew 1:1

This is the scroll of the genealogy of Jesus, the Anointed One, the son of David and descendant of Abraham. (TPT)

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (ESV)

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (NIV)

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (NASB)

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (KJV)

This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (NET)

Mark 1:1

This is the beginning of the wonderful news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (TPT)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (ESV)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (NIV)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (NASB)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (KJV)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (NET)

Luke 1:1-4 (intro)

I am writing for you, mighty lover of God, an orderly account of what Jesus accomplished and fulfilled among us. Several eyewitness biographies have already been written, using as their source material the good news preached among us by his early disciples, who were from the beginning loving servants of the Living Expression. Now I am passing on to you this accurate compilation of my own meticulous investigation based on numerous eyewitness interviews. It is appropriate for me to write this, for he also appeared to me so that I would reassure you beyond any shadow of a doubt the reliability of all you have been taught of him. (TPT)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (ESV)

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (NIV)

Since many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting to me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (NASB)

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (KJV)

Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know for certain the things you were taught. (NET)

John 1:1 

In the beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God. (TPT)

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NASB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (KJV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. (NET)

As you can easily see, Simmons’ TPT is longer, sometimes considerably longer, than every other mainstream translation. Simmons is caught adding new words to the text or changing words arbitrarily from the original languages. In our comparison of TPT against reliable and mainstream translations using only a small sliver of scripture, we find that TPT fails under the slightest scrutiny. 

Conclusion

The Christian church can’t ignore the dangers of TPT, Brian Simmons, and the NAR any longer. Pentecostal and charismatic churches are most impacted because they’re more prone to be drawn into feelings, experiences, and emotions. While none of those things are bad at face value, they can stunt the maturity of your faith if that is all your faith is based upon. 

Based on the evidence, I can’t sidestep the fact that Brian Simmons is a false teacher who has deceived millions of Christians into 1) believing that TPT is a reliable translation of the Word and 2) believing that he’s been given “downloads” and secrets from God to translate the Word in a unique revelatory way. Paul has harsh words for false teachers in Galatians 1:6-8,

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (ESV)

Brian Simmon and his accomplices in the NAR movement are using the TPT as the vehicle to distort the gospel of Christ. Given that this movement has targeted the most emotionally tethered people within the Christian community, they’ve found little resistance as they press forward in their movement virtually unimpeded. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy about a similar time in 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV), “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” We’re seeing many get swallowed up in this movement, knowingly or unknowingly, and attach themselves to a movement that is rich in feelings and poor in substance.

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