The Message

The Message translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson surely has attracted many fans and “haters”. It is translation that receives many high praise as well as harsh criticism. But, forget about the haters. Here are some endorsements from other respected scholars,

The Message is exegetically sensitive yet speaks in the language of today—with the special flair for English style that has come to mark Peterson’s work.” – Gordon Fee

“In this crowded world of Bible versions Eugene Peterson’s blend of accurate scholarship and vivid idiom make this rendering both distinctive and distinguished. The Message catches the logical flow, personal energy, and imaginative overtones of the original very well indeed.” – J.I. Packer

The Message is one of the most dynamic recent versions of the New Testament that I have seen … Children can easily understand it, and veteran Bible readers will see Christ’s words in a fresh light.” – Billy Graham

Bono loves it, too. “There’s a translation of the Scriptures that this guy Eugene Peterson has undertaken. It has been a great strength to me. He’s a poet and a scholar, and he’s brought the text back to the tone in which the books were written.” said the singer.

Personally, I find this translation is, in many ways, intriguing and insightful, even though it is more like a free “paraphrase” or “commentary”. I sincerely do not think one should rely solely on this version if he or she was to study the scripture. But having it side by side along with some more “standard versions” is quite helpful.

Obviously, I have not read the entire “The Message” Bible, but the following are some examples of which I find useful.

“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me.  If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” (Matthew 10:38-29)

“Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right. All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life – a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” (Romans 5:18-21)

“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace – a new life in a new land! When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country. Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life – no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. ” (Romans 6:1-11)

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1-11)

Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom – it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats. Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.” (James :14-17)

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We thank God for Peterson and his faithful work over the years.

2 thoughts on “The Message

  1. Keri, I have a question for you. Someone famous once said, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” At this point, what does that mean to you personally?

    • Dear Ron,

      Thanks for your comment. I have been enjoying your blog very much!

      Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”. “The letter” refers to the Old Testament law in general, or even the entire Old Covenant (NLT has translated “the letter” to “the old written covenant”).

      The law serves the purpose of exposing our sin and even more so, the inability of our human flesh to achieve “good” (Romans 7:7). No one by their human effort can keep the law.

      Jesus testifies about the fruitlessness of flesh and human effort,“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63).

      Paul himself says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

      Therefore we don’t live by our human effort anymore. We live by Christ the Spirit. Jesus Christ, “the last Adam, who is the life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), now lives in us. Thus Ezekiel 36:26 is fulfilled: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”. Now we have the spirit of God in us. Whatever griefs the Spirit grieves us, and whatever delights the Spirit delighst us.

      Here’s what I think – we do need to spend time on the word because the word of God are spirit and life (John 6:63) but sometimes, we can turn them into “dead letters” as well. We make God’s living word into dead religion by turning them into legalistic rules in order to earn His favor and to condemn people.

      I was one who experienced this. I was serving God for a long time by my flesh but not by the Spirit. Sometimes it is not easy to distinguish the two, but serving God by flesh often gives us dryness and bitterness, whereas serving Him by the Spirit gives us the sense of life and peace (Romans 8:6).

      Also, living by the Spirit instead of the flesh keeps us boasting in the Lord instead of ourselves, because it’s nothing generated by our work.

      Sorry my reply is lengthy, these are just my two cents 🙂 The Lord be with you!

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