I was a teen when Eugene Peterson translated the Bible into modern, everyday language in The Message. One of the families for whom I babysat had a copy, so sometimes when the kids were in bed or doing their homework, I’d pick it up and flip through it. Recently, as I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of reading my Bible regularly, yet feeling like I’ve read it so many times already that it’s no longer interesting, I thought of The Message. Maybe hearing the same words in a new way would get me back into the pages of Scripture.
Peterson tells readers, “If there is anything distinctive about The Message, perhaps it is because the text is shaped by the hand of a working pastor.” (Tweet that!) This makes me think of Paul, writing his epistles for the churches he had founded around the ancient world. In The Message, I particularly enjoyed rereading his letters to the Corinthians. With the more current, less formal wording, it was easy to picture Paul as a pastor and to understand what he was rebuking the Corinthians for—or trying to teach them about their faith.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourself regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you.” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5-9 MSG
During my teens, I got into the habit of reading my Bible everyday. Over the course of several years, I read it from cover to cover several times. Which is great for knowing Bible trivia or obscure Bible stories, but sometimes as I’m reading now, I gloss over words and passages because I know them so well. I took my faith and my Bible for granted, as Paul says. The Message has helped me see both in a new light.
Because of my familiarity with the Bible, I was shocked one day years ago when a friend of mine shared excitedly about the new Bible she’d gotten, which was so much easier to read than her old KJV Bible. Eugene says he wrote The Message to “get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again.” Whether you’re a confused reader like my friend or a bored reader like me, The Message is for you.
I’ve always wondered what Peterson would say about “rewriting” the Bible. In a recent interview, he explains, “I never felt like it was my book. You know, a writer likes to write really well. And you like to really have your own things. I was always second place to Isaiah, and coming in second to Mark, and to Paul. I never was writing what I was proud of. I was just pleased I was able to get into their life and do it in my way. But I really never even think of The Message as being my book.”
For more about The Message or to read a letter from Eugene Peterson about it, check out the website. You can also find links to buy The Message there and sign up for brief daily readings from The Message via social media.
Book has been provided courtesy of NavPress and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller.