Translating Scripture–into Our Lives!

Scripture has a way of becoming overly familiar to us. We hear or read the same words so often, they can lose their transformative power. When this happens to me, I reach for a different translation of the particular passage. Sometimes another translation will provide a fresh new insight into words I have begun to take for granted.

Today I’d like to present eight familiar verses from scripture, all from the gospel of Matthew. For each verse, I will provide four different translations: 1) the King James version, 2) the New American Bible (the one Catholics hear at Mass), 3) The Message a translation by Eugene Peterson, and 4) Prayers of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz, a translation based on the Aramaic words of Jesus. I suggest you read these words slowly and see what affect the various translations have on you:

1. Mt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect” (King James)

“So be perfect” (New American)

“In a word, grow up!” (Peterson)

“”Be you all-embracing” (Douglas-Klotz)


2. Mt. 6:9: “our Father which art in heaven” (King James)

“Our Father in heaven” (New American)

“Our Father in heaven” (Peterson)

“O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos, you create all that moves in light” (Douglas-Klotz)


3. Mt. 6:11: “Give us this day our daily bread” (King James)

” Give us today our daily bread” (New American)translations breadjpg

“Keep us alive with three square meals” (Peterson)

“Grant what we need each day in bread and insight” (Douglas-Klotz)


4. Mt. 6:12: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (King James)

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (New American)

“Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others” (Peterson)

“Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold on others’ guilt” (Douglas-Klotz)


5. Mt. 6:13: “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (King James)

“and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one”” (New American)

“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil” (Peterson)

“Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back (from our true purpose)” (Douglas-Klotz)

translations beatitude

6. Mt. 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”  (King James)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (New American)

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule” (Peterson)

“Blessed are those who are refined in breath; they shall find their ruling principles and ideals guided by God’s light” (Douglas-Klotz)


7. “Mt. 5:4: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (King James)

translations mourn“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (New American)

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (Peterson)

“Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love” (Douglas-Klotz)


8. Mt. 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (King James)

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land” (New American)

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought” (Peterson)

“Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe” (Douglas-Klotz)


So, what do you think? Are there any translations that surprised you? that you like? that you don’t like?

Do you think looking at various translations of scripture can be helpful for our prayer and spiritual life? (by the way, it’s easy to do. Just google the scripture reference and various translations appear!)

I invite you to let me (and my readers!)  know what you think about this! Thank you!

Let me close with these challenging words: Remember, YOU may be the only translation of the Bible others may see!



No Comments

  1. Kathleen Magiera on August 25, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Sr. Melannie,

    Great idea to look at differnt translations of Scripture. I particularly like the Petersen translation. That one seems the most down to earth to me.


  2. Michelle on August 25, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Peterson’s translation fits best with my heart & head. God’ s Word is not stuck in sofisticated & stiff language. Today’ s lingo is surely how God reaches our understantig best. Michelle

  3. mary james on August 25, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Yes! Petersen has become helpful to me, too. It brings out a whole
    new meaning sometimes, but also tells me what I like about the New American and Jersualem editions. I’m going to try the google idea.
    Also–another translation of “Be ye perfect…” “Be complete…which
    has special significance with regard to “completing communities”
    Thanks again, Melannie!

  4. Marilyn t. Sabatino, S.N.D. on August 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

    thanks Melannie, good to prayer with different traslations of the scripture…………gives one depper insights into god and Jesus and the spirit and new possibilities of our response in love………….

    I have a copy of Prayers of the Cosmos…and prayer wit it often and share it with my directees

    blessings, Marilyn

  5. Sister Miriam on August 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Many thanks for the different translations and I even copied a couple down from Peterson and Douglas-Klotz. Also, many thanks for telling us how to look up the different version; which I will be doing, for I found it very helpful.

  6. path on August 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    We have a delightful woman in her 80’s in our Bible Study who is constantly telling us to “just let it go!” The Peterson edition reminds me somewhat of the Good News bible of years past—-“In a word, just grow up!” Do some of us ever mature? Thank you for pointing out other translations!

  7. Maryann on August 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Sr. Melanie, I hope you’re doing well. I always enjoy reading your blog. Here are my thoughts on the scriptures: I found the King James version to be the most comforting in its tradition and familiarity. The Peterson version was down to earth; made me think about how to apply these words to life together. The Douglas-Klotz version was, honestly, a little “out there” for my tastes. How nice, though, that we have all of these different versions available!

  8. MaryLou on August 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Melanie,
    Love these translations. I do have THE MESSAGE. Some I like and some I feel a little bit , I don’t know how to say it, a little disrespectful.

    I am now living in Jacksonville, Fl. Do you come here, or anywhere around here, to offer prayer in retreats. I was going to Biddeford, Maine, but thought I would look for a place around here.
    Thanks for sharing your seeds and all that you do to make the world a better place to live.

  9. Susan on August 25, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I liked the Douglas-Klotz version because it was the most different and thus the most challenging. It made me reflect on scripture outside of the box which I believe was what you intended by offering us this spiritual exercise.

  10. Barbara on August 25, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Almost without exception I found the Douglas-Klotz version spoke to me very clearly. I hadn’t heard of his book before and can’t wait to get it. Thank you, your sunflower seeds always start a new growth in me.

  11. Carol McH on August 27, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I loved Douglas-Klotz #2, 3, 4 & 6!
    Thank you for introducing me to this creative & insightful writer.

  12. Diane Butler on August 31, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks Sr Melanie I like doing that as well although I only have 2 translations. I especially liked the freshness of the Douglas one.

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply