What Is The Message
The Message is a reading Bible translated from the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures by scholar, pastor, author, and poet Eugene Peterson. Peterson spent ten years working on The Message after teaching in seminary and preaching in churches for more than thirty years. Thoroughly reviewed and approved by twenty biblical scholars, The Message combines the authority of God’s Word with the cadence and energy of conversational English.
The First Stirrings of The Message
The Message began with one pastor who was looking for a way to get the Bible into the hearts and lives of the people in his church. Eugene Peterson recalls:
“While I was teaching a [Sunday school] class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. 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.”
Peterson could tell from the way they stirred their cups of coffee that his parishioners simply weren’t connecting with the real meaning of Galatians. So he began to translate into English the rhythms and idioms directly from the original ancient Greek, without looking at other English Bibles. As he shared his translation with them, Peterson’s congregation quit stirring their coffee and felt stirred themselves. Paul’s own passion and excitement began to emerge from the text into the lives of Peterson’s own Sunday School class. They began to listen with new interest as Paul guided young Christians in the ways of Jesus Christ.
From Galatians to The Message
Eventually, Peterson’s translation of Galatians appeared in his book Traveling Light. When it did, an editor at NavPress was so gripped by what he read that he photocopied the Galatians passages and pasted them together. Convinced by the flow of thought, the emotional wallop of words, and the forcefulness of Paul’s letter, the editor wrote to Peterson in April of 1990 to ask him if he would consider translating the entire New Testament. At first Peterson resisted:
“I said, ‘I can’t do the whole New Testament! It took me a whole year to do [Galatians]. And besides,’ I said, ‘I don’t think I could do the Gospels. There’s such a kind of a purity and clearness and limpid openness. I don’t think I could …’ [The editor] said, ‘Well, do ten chapters of Matthew and let me decide.’ So I said, ‘Okay.’ So I did.”
The idea came at an opportune time. Peterson was contemplating leaving his pastorate at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He felt God was calling him to spend the latter years of his life ministering to a different congregation—readers, who over the years had appreciated his numerous books and dozens of articles. When Pittsburgh Seminary offered him the post of writer-in-residence, Peterson sensed God’s clear leading. Finally, he agreed to translate the entire New Testament.
The Message for Two Types of People
Peterson says, “I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’”
Today, The Message translation is available for the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Peterson brought his long-practiced skills as both pastor and writer to his translation of the whole Bible, helping readers discover the passion and personality that sometimes get lost. What began nearly 25 years ago among a few churchgoers who sat stirring their coffee now includes readers from around the world who are letting their coffee get cold as they find themselves hearing God’s voice in surprising new ways.