Author Of The Message Dies: I Have Several Problems With The Message Paraphrase Version.


Image result for The message bible

The author of The Message paraphrase version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson, has died today at the age of 85. He was a prolific author and theologian.

This has made me think about The Message. I have a problem with The Message paraphrase version of the Bible especially when it is read as an accurate translation of the Bible along the same line as New King James Version. It is not.

The Message is a man’s paraphrase opinion of what each verse of the Bible says. It’s not an interpretation from the original Greek and Hebrew texts. It’s a paraphrase into contemporary language. Now please hear me. I am not entirely negative on The Message. I think it has it’s place to help people understand what the Bible is saying: to a point. I think if you want the deeper meat of the Word then you have to use the right study tools and I don’t consider The Message to be one of those tools.

Another problem I have, is when preachers preach consistently quoting The Message. It is not a version of the Bible and is certainly not a version that should be used by preachers to expound the word. I have to say that it bugs me when preachers quote it without even mentioning that its a paraphrase version.

Now here is my disclaimer. I have quoted The Message about five times in my Pastoring life but only after quoting the New King James Version and also after saying…this is from The Message Paraphrase version of the Bible.

Again let me reiterate:-  I think The Message has its place and I think it has helped people have a preliminary understanding of the Bible…but I don’t think it should be used by preachers nor by people wanting to undertake deeper study.

Anyway, that’s just what I think

Peter Pilt.



Categories: Theology

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. That about hits the nail on the head Pedro. When I haven’t been able to get my head to understand what I’m reading l have looked at the message to see if I could understand the verse better. Sometimes it was a bit left field so I then asked a pastor or someone with a better understanding than me. Like I said it has helped me from time to time

  2. If other preachers have misused Eugene Peterson’s material is he to blame? It’s exactly that “ a paraphrase.” Peterson wrote out the Psalms originally for the congregation he pastored. Their popularity encouraged him to go further. He never claimed nor intended it to be a literal translation, simply a devotional aid and particularly for North Americans. I love the fact that a local church pastor cared so much for his people that he went to all of that effort to try to explain the intent of the Scriptures in ways it would be easier for them to understand. If you don’t understand what he was trying to achieve then maybe do some research before criticising the authentic efforts… of a local church pastor – like you – who started from the motivation most church pastors do each Sunday.

    • My issue is not with Peterson, Mike. Like I said I think it’s good for people to read it to get a preliminary understanding of the word. And Peterson did call it a Paraphrase. I think the issue is when people see it as a version and Pastors preach out of it.

  3. Peter I feel the same regarding the Passion paraphrase….I use it to pray with but have discovered some things which are wrongly translated or missing. Unfortunately there are many who now only read the passion. Just my thoughts

  4. I agree the Message is a useful tool. I grew up with the New International Version but now use the English Standard Version. Bible Apps are great these days for comparing translations.

    I grew up in Northern Ireland and have crossed paths with a good few people who think that the King James Version was given directly from God! It’s a strange world.

    • I always find it interesting when people suggest that the KJV is the “only proper version” – as if Jesus spoke Elizabethan English. The KJV is translated from one of the poorest versions of the Greek, translated by Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus who trained as a Catholic priest and was a self-defined “humanist.” Erasmus did not accurately translate the Scriptures, some of the Revelation is very inaccurately translated, from Latin back into Greek. Also, King James who commissioned it did so for a variety of reasons – some political and financial as well as religious reasons, so not even the purest of motives. When studying the Word I think the best we can do is use multiple versions and refer to scholars who translate from the original languages, rather than rely solely on a single version (or a paraphrase!) And I have appreciated the Message as a devotional tool, to challenge thinking that can become studious and disciplined – not wrong in themselves – but can become solely an intellectual exercise and lose personal challenge and impact in our everyday lives.

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