The Message Bible
The Message Bible is a paraphrase. According to Dictionary.com a paraphrase is “a restatement of a text or passage giving the meaning in another form, as for clearness; rewording.” The Message Bible was created by Eugene Peterson and was published in its entirety by 2002. Interestingly, even though many oppose this version as being not quite holy enough, it is the tenth most popular version of the Bible out of approximately 900 English translations as of August 2010.
Per Peterson, his inspiration for The Message Bible came from a class he was teaching on the book of Galatians. His students seemed to be unengaged with the text, possibly due, in part, to the familiarity of the words causing a bit of boredom. We’ve heard it all before so it loses its “punch.” Verses we have heard over and over become habit, even to the point that we skip over the associated scripture when presented as a block of verses as part of a devotional or some other inspirational material.
So Peterson endeavored to write an interpretation of the book of Galatians strictly from the Greek without comparison to any English versions to impart the passion of the writer (Paul).
“As he shared his version of Galatians with them, they quit stirring their coffee and started catching Paul’s passion and excitement as he wrote to a group of Christians whom he was guiding in the ways of Jesus Christ.” https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Message-MSG-Bible/
Peterson’s intention and purpose of The Message Bible is to present a readable translation to renew the passion the Bible has held for millions of people throughout recorded history. Peterson himself says that The Message Bible is a “reading Bible” as opposed to a study Bible. The Bible that stirs not the heart, cannot impact a life.
Every time I read The Message Bible it stirs my heart and brings new insights about God and His Word. I have read both the New International Version and the New Living Translation, so I have some foundational experience to base my observations upon. I view The Message Bible as I would a devotional book written by a contemporary Christian author, such as Max Lucado or Beth Moore. Both of these authors write with conceptual insights into Bible passages and shine a new light on these as to open the eyes of our understanding as they have been led by God to do so.
But the same way as many other translations have been rejected and/or criticized, there is plenty of opposition, but The Message Bible would have faded into obscurity was it not the work of God’s Hands. The Holy Bible is the most banned and burned book of all time, yet it has not, no matter how many have tried, been eradicated.
In the online “Bible Research – Internet Resources for Students of Scripture” website, under the heading of 20th century English Versions, the writer demonizes Peterson’s work as being facetious, filled with “punchy phrases,” “spiced up with slangy…idioms,” and “cartoonish.” There is an element of judgmental attitude that alludes to an intentional revision to remove references to the soul and spirit as “deliberate and intentional.” http://www.bible-researcher.com/themessage.html#note2
This article goes on and on with, not just objections, but with accusations of changing the focus of some the passages to make them more politically correct saying, “This is the traditional function of a preacher, of course — the contemporization of the message. But it is not the proper function of a translator.”
Interestingly, the writer made the same point as I did regarding the readability of The Message Bible as not suitable for study. Peterson is also quoted as saying, in a magazine interview, that The Message Bible is for “first time readers” who should “get weaned from it.” Yet the writer of this article basically calls Peterson a liar.
Every time I read The Message Bible I gain some new insights that I never had before. It moves my heart every time. I believe that anything that brings you closer to God – that helps you understand scripture more and love God more– is a useful tool, including The Message Bible.
Contemplating whether you should be reading your Bible daily? Read more.