eugene peterson

The MessageIf you’ve read any portion of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, then you know how dynamic it is. In this month’s issue of Relevant Magazine, there’s an excellent interview with Peterson in which he gives some answer to those who believe his translation is too dynamic. Pick up a copy of the print magazine to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

A lot of people criticize The Message, saying that you changed the meanings of certain passages. They say it isn’t a “literal” translation.
There is no “true” translation of the Bible because one language doesn’t translate literally to the next. Hebrew and Greek don’t translate literally into English. There is a context with each language, there are colloquialisms, there is the language of the street. Jesus used the language of the street in His day. I tried to do the same for our day.

But don’t some critics say, “Translation is betrayal”?

They do. But we’re translating all the time. Preachers translate Scripture every time they preach. Reading is a type of translating. I have come to believe that people who call for “literal” translations prefer unthinking to thinking.

3 thoughts on “eugene peterson

  1. You open a discussion there my friend.

    Peterson’s a genious with words. The Message is revolutionary. A mentor for those of us who would attempt to write, and write well. Among his many works are two of my top-shelf favorites: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” and “Leap Over A Wall”. Peterson is earthy and edgy. Raw when needed, and gentle as can be in the next sentence. I have been sharing the translation myself the past year in my countless writings and I can’t get enough of his approach to the Scriptures.

    It’s no wonder Peterson recieves much undue and even hateful criticism. Sort of reminds me of Jesus and the ever finger-pointing Pharisees. Jesus was harrased Himself for getting to close to “common” or “ordinary” folk.

    Like Jesus in His eating and gathering with scoundrels, publicans, harlots and sinners, Peterson’s writings aren’t for the high and mighty or the “learned”… although I find his translation very tasty, provoking, and pointed. The point isn’t that Peterson compromises the Word of God, no, he’s just not “religious” or lofty in his approach to the sharing of it (some do go as far as to say he compromises the Word of God, but they are a smaller group in my estimation). Peterson puts it on a shelf we can all can reach it on.

    The Message is written with “the rest of us” in mind. That would be the ones Jesus came to die for, I might add. And that rubs some of us very much the wrong way.

    As Peterson says, Jesus used the talk of the street, and I’d add, not to be confused with the talk of the gutter. There is a difference. Some might assume the two are one in the same. They are not. To speak in the “speak” of the audience one is trying to reach, is just a little important in trying to reach them, you know. If I was speaking to you in Chinese and you didn’t know the language, it might not do any good, even if I have the best words of wisdom under the sun for you.

    Translation is work. It’s not all black and white either. Laziness and the status-quo are the alternatives and easy ways out.

    It’s like saying to those we wish to reach…”We are serving beans and rice if you’d like any steak. If you can’t stomach the beans and rice, we will move along and share the steak with someone else; Your loss.”

    How pitiful of an approach, but sadly all too often it’s been ours.

    And that is the purpose of Peterson’s work. To relate to us who live in 2007, say, versus those who lived in 1807. Evil scheme I know. Peterson serves the steak of on a silver platter like it should be, if you will.

    Of late, I have tired of hearing the ultra-fundamentalists undermining every and any attempt of the “emerging”, “comtemporary”, “Driscoll afiliation”, or “seeker sensitive” movements. If I left any out, pardon me. Not everyone agrees with John MacArthur on everything. He is a dear brother. Sometimes however, I wonder if we have our own gospels? Disecting one one anothers’ every motive and figuring out how “their” interpretation is not as true or pure as “our” interpretation.

    Listen; Enough. Is that our calling? To figure one another’s motives out? We will have swindlers among us ’till the cows come home. None of our motives are absolutly pure anyways, in my not so humble opinion.

    Grace and mercy my brothers.

    So, we all preach Jesus… can we get along now? Or at least attempt to. Sure, we should exhort and even rebuke one another, but when so we get about sharing the good news with those who are waiting.

    Peterson does so. While untold war’s have been waged within the Church the last few decades, Peterson and a few others have been too busy telling people “about a man who…”.

    Jesus was hit hard. We will be too. He said so. I have not once heard Peterson, or read anything of the sort, in which he takes an ounce of credit for his work or gifts. Rather, he gives God glory. I think it’s jealousy of one another often times that is behind much of our troubling one another.

    Peterson has given us a classic for this generation. I intend to pass it along with joy. Sure, I had nothing to do with it, but that’s okay, I can do something for someone else in sharing it.

    Naysayers abound.


    P>S>For an excellent short interview with peterson in regards to the band U2’s ringing endorsement of The Message see:

  2. [Of late, I have tired of hearing the ultra-fundamentalists undermining every and any attempt of the “emerging”, “comtemporary”, “Driscoll afiliation”, or “seeker sensitive” movements. If I left any out, pardon me. Not everyone agrees with John MacArthur on everything. He is a dear brother.]

    I would like to know, simply because I have read it elsewhere about him — why is John MacArthur propped up as the representative of the fundamentalist, or in this quote from above, an “ultra-fundamentalist?” Can you show me a website, perhaps, where I can read more about this discussion? Thanks.

  3. Man, I have no idea where to point you with regard to how others view John MacArthur. A Google search may give you a few web sites for consideration.

    Personally, I haven’t read anything by John MacArthur in quite a while. In times past, I found that I didn’t enjoy his writings much. With so much out there to read, I try not to spend a lot of time with the authors who I don’t connect with real well.

    Point of clarification… that’s not to say that I don’t read stuff from people I disagree with. I think that is an important thing to do.

    Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.