The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

That’s the translation of Matthew 6 from “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language” (Amazon ), by Eugene Peterson (Wikipedia entry), said to be directly translated from the Greek and Hebrew texts.

Predictably, people either love or hate this. (Bono of U2 fame apparently loves it and has sung some of its lines.) The two sides are aptly summed up in an Amazon commentary by Allan Smalling :

…I am really disappointed in the newly-released, full-volume work of Eugene Peterson’s bible account, marketed as “The Message.” Ironically, many of the most biblically sophisticated people will love “The Message” and praise it for its freshness and relevance to today’s world.

Ummm…why was that ironic again?

We can argue over which, if any, of [many extant translations] is the best, the inspired, the most correct or inerrerant Bible. Regardless, if you have read any of the above, you can honestly say you have read THE Bible.

Gee, I wonder what these capital letters are supposed to mean. In addition to THE Bible, is there also the BIBLE and THE BIBLE?

In my opinion “The Messsage” is not a bible at all…way beyond a paraphrase, more of a morphing of the bible text into late 20th-Century American Culture.

Well, any translation is “way beyond a paraphrase”, because it’s taking one language into another. All translations are “morphing”. And if you were not going to take the text into late 20th century American culture—which is where the people reading it happen to live—where would you prefer? Seventeenth century England?

Our reviewer grudgingly admits, though, that:

The power and the passion do get through. And I must admit with no trace of irony that people who are far better biblically versed than I will probably like “The Message” better because they crave a new way of hearing God’s Word…

Very odd. You think Bible-knowledgeble people will like this free-form translation better, and yet—you still say it’s “not a bible at all”?

One Response to “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language”

  1. Wren Says:

    Hello from Montreal, Canada.
    My name is Wren and I just happened upon your blog today.
    I have a family friendly discussion forum, and am trying to get discussion on various sects…or just plain old christian discussion! There is a christian section which already has a couple of threads (sects) in progress. Please feel free to join in the discussion or, if you don’t see your church mentioned in any of the topic titles in that section, please feel free to create your own new topic for it.
    Registration is free and the forum rules can be found here….
    It would be an honour to have you post there…that is if you wish to, of course.
    Have a wonder filled day!

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