Book Review
The Message


The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson (2002). The Message is not really a Bible translation. It is more of a Bible interpretation. What Peterson does is to consult the ancient text, then he retells the message of the Bible, verse by verse, in everyday, colloquial English, according to his own understanding of each verse's message. He does a pretty good job of it, except when his theological leanings get in the way of revealing the text's real meaning.

The Message does not fit into the category of a word-for-word translation such as the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Bible, or the New American Standard Bible, nor does it fit into the category of a phrase-by-phrase translation as the Good News Bible (Today's English Version) or the Revised English Bible. All of the above were done by teams of people that followed rigorous translation methodologies to ensure accuracy. Some of the Message's interpretation is very appealing, but it is not translation and much of the wording is not justified by the Greek text behind the verse. For example in John 1:1-13, there is so much that is mere interpretation, with no direct correspondence to the underlying Greek text, even though some of the interpretation is very insightful. Also Peterson's interpretation 1 John 5:20 represents the way he theologically understands the message, but his interpretation greatly differs from the way many other translators and commentators understand that verse. Overall, the Message should be read as one would read a Pastor's sermon, because it is really a sermon on the Bible, verse-by-verse. If one is intending to read an actual modern Bible translation with an accurate, non-theogically-biased, nuanced understanding of the ancient texts but written in everyday English, I would recommend the Good News Bible [book review] as the best choice.


Copyright 1996-2003 Robert Nguyen Cramer