Heading for the 21st birthday of its first conception, Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible continues to refresh the readers that other translations don’t reach. With striking new covers, purposeful editions and extra study resources, his groundbreaking paraphrase looks to its coming of age in world that more than ever needs to find the Word in words that are real and relevant.
Squinting In a Fog… (1 Cor 13: 12)
The big criticism of Eugene Peterson’s first publication was that he’d removed the verse numbers from the biblical text.
In fact, verse numbers were only added in 1560 to help readers navigate the then ultra-modernist edition of the Geneva Bible.
Peterson wanted to present the Bible with the vitality of sentences and phrases people use when talking today. To do this, he had to override the rigidity of those artificial verse structures.
By the time the completed Message Bible reached the bookshelves in 2002, the ‘paraphrase’ structure of its New Testament edition, with modern idioms and metaphors, was already the cause of as much controversy as its 16th century forerunner.
You Send Me in The Right Direction (Psalm 23: 3)
Though some of its language might seem shockingly down to earth, Peterson’s motives are as valid as the translators of the King James, The New International, New Living and any other endeavour to communicate the Word to the world.
Giving his own reasons for dedicating more than 20 years of his life to the project, Peterson recalls:
"I began to realise that the adults in my [Bible] class weren't feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original…"
"I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way." No one can deny the impact that this paraphrase still has, especially among the new to faith with an fresh experience as vibrant as Peterson's text.
A Soup of Nothingness (Genesis 1: 1)
True, if you’re familiar with the more conventional Bible word forms – especially those with a King James heritage, some of the figures of speech are a bit… quirky. Some certainly lack a poetic edge and even scientific (or culinary) logic. But that's how we share thoughts and ideas today.
But if this is your first encounter with the Word of God which, you’ve been assured, is real and relevant for your life today, wouldn’t you expect God to speak in the words, language and forms that you daily use?
The People Who Walked in Darkness (Isaiah 9: 2)
Don’t assume that 'The Message' is change for changes sake. Where the reviewers and editors can't better the most ancient form of words, they don’t try.
And behind the everyday, conversational style, the core meanings remain fundamentally unchanged by mere variation of words. The truth is the truth after all. What the new words do – and no one should apologise for this, is to make you think bout the truth from a new angle.
If you’re well versed (sorry for the pun) with more conventional ‘word for word’, rather than ‘meaning for meaning’ translations you'll get a refreshing new perspective on some familiar readings.
Celebrate its approaching maturity with the latest, easy to use Message//Remix 2.0 edition, and you’ll find the verse numbers are back! (or re-versed, perhaps?)
The Truth Is Too Close for Comfort (Matthew 5: 11-12)
Refreshing new Bible reading deserves a refreshing new Bible. This month, three striking new covers appear in the Message//Remix 2 Bible collection. Click on any of the images in this article and go straight to the full details and built in resources.
Simply follow The Message Bible link and choose from the full range personal editions, travel or student companions, special gift, large print, outreach mission.
Or, as Peterson’s paraphrase looks to receive its own ‘key to the door’, try this unique key to the Bible: a revealing and challenging, Side by Side Comparison of The Message with the NIV Bible translations.
After nearly 21 years of The Message and more than 400 years of Bible in English, the Word in - any words is still a truth that comes too close to comfort.
Want to read more? Here's an article I wrote about discussing its origins, purpose and criticisms called Message: A Lost Sheep of Bible Translation.
March 1st, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison