The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Languageby Anonymous, Eugene H. Peterson Published 05 Mar 2000
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The message preserves the authentic, earthy flavor and expressive character of the Bible in contemporary language. With more than six million copies sold, Eugene Peterson's unique paraphrase has opened up understanding and insight into God's Word. This new easy-to-carry format is great for carrying or for giving away. This new format brings the life-changing power of the New Testament into modern language with a preciseness that echoes the rhythm and idiom of the original Greek and Hebrew. The Message is consistently one of the top ten best-selling Bible versions listed in CBA's Marketplace. Great for new believers.
"The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language" Reviews
I love how The Message reads so smoothly, takes me into large sections of text, and makes me laugh when I recognize a verse and how appropriately Eugene Peterson expressed it with creative, insightful language. I recently read the intro to the Promise Keeper's edition and fell in love with his pastoral heart for us. I love how an author I've never met can feel like a personal mentor.
My second time through this version of the New Testament. It is easy reading and am now reading The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson. I've learned that to really gain insight into The Word, you keep rereading the Bible, whatever version you're comfortable with. As soon as you read the last page of Revelations, you turn to the first page of Genesis and start again.
I love to read The Message, OT and NT, for my daily Scripture reading. It is a paraphrase, and I would always confirm the meaning with ESV, Greek NT, etc. before teaching a passage. However, I love to read The Message.
The Good Book has been enshrined in its King James version so long that, for most of my life, every time I heard quotations from the Bible, the language sounded medieval--a bit stilted, though definitely poetic. The poetry of the King James edition, a preacher friend once told me, is what he associates with the Bible. But that same man went and bought me this edition, which has been translated into the idiom of our day, in order to show both of us something important about the Good Book: It's also a big, almost unwieldy collection of stories, letters, plainspoken poetry, and advice for how to live right. This edition performs a bit of a magic trick, bringing ancient scriptures closer to our contemporary context. In the transition, plenty is gained but a few things are lost, too.
Personally, I am less than devout--I pray as often as I need, go to church almost never, and hold to a more or less vague orthodoxy. The God of Peterson's translation of the New Testament, however, seems not to mind what set of beliefs I affirm as much as how I live in the world. The Psalms read like the street prayers of wise but uneducated citizens expressing devotion to God, or asking for mercy, or decrying injustice. Reading their words had the effect of putting their prayers into my own mind, so that eventually I felt their prayers were my own. What helped that sensation was the way these psalms, when rendered into the language of our day, lose nearly all traces of the exotic, feeling plainer and more direct, closer to my own language, therefore more honest. But along with that exoticism departs a certain aura, too--that sense of poetry which was so highly esteemed by the preacher who gave me this book. Of course, it is also true that such a translation shows how the plainspoken language of our time contains its own poetry. Part of the flavor of the King James Bible comes from its medieval language, for the language of another era can sound funny in the same way the carefully selected language of poetry can sound funny. There is value in looking past the poetry to the idea, in ordinary language. This value shone through most, I think, in the Proverbs, which finish this text and read like an instruction manual for living a virtuous, wise life. I read these a little each day, and they served well as daily reminders for how to live a peaceful, wise, right life. If I revisit anything in this Bible, it will most likely be the Psalms and Proverbs.
As for the testaments of Jesus, the change of language had a funny effect. The testaments read like magical realist fiction, set in a world very much like our own except for the man who possesses a direct connection with the divine. Since I am not devout, it's impossible for me to know fully the impact of seeing the story of sacred Jesus rendered in language that can look profane. I can only say that the story felt more familiar in this idiom, more like the literature I was trained to interpret. The characters therefore felt more human, more relatable to my context. Without being exactly edifying, the story of Jesus was touching in the way of good literature.
As for Paul's letters, they were a bit of a grind, feeling less like historical documents and more like a litany of corrective complaints. The delight in these letters came from seeing familiar passages rendered in unfamiliar phrases composed of contemporary language.
Sometimes called a paraphrase more than a translation, Peterson's The Message has none of the omissions and other problems that plague true paraphrases like The Living Bible. I've read elsewhere that The Message is actually superior to many "pure translation" Bibles in its fidelity to the original Greek and Hebrew. In my own reading, I've found it compares favorably with the New King James Version, and I can say personally that its breezy, colloquial phraseology saved my life at a time when I needed the whole New Testament but lacked the energy and will to stick with the KJV or NKJV to the end. Although in the years since, I've become a sold-out fan of the NKJV, it was this translation that ordered my steps back to my faith.
I'm sorry if this upsets people (that's not my intention) but the fact of the matter is that a serious look into "The Message" reveals some devastating changes to the original meaning of the scriptures. This takes ad lib-ing to a whole new level and the fear of God should at least make others look into the matter with honesty. It's colorful language and easy to read style does not excuse it's total lack of often even a vague similarity to the original text.