Friday, 8 January 2010

got The Message? (1)

At the beginning of the New Year members of our three village churches started a challenge to read through the Bible in a year using the Everyday with Jesus Bible. During Spring Harvest last year I picked up a copy of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, and my version is divided into daily readings to be read in a year, so I thought I’d join in. One week in and I’m still on track!

I’ve used The Message on and off over the last coupmessage biblele of years as a complement to other translations. My preferred version and the one I have on my Blackberry is the NRSV, mainly because I grew up with the RSV, though I want to get back to using my Greek New Testament more regularly rather than just for sermon preparation. Our church pew Bibles are the NIV which I have to confess I have never been entirely comfortable with, not least because of some of the theological presuppositions which affect the translation. While I understand what the Good News was trying to do I can’t forgive it for denying the incarnation (all to do with the way it translates flesh as human nature). I also find it useful to check out Tom Wright’s translation of the New Testament as part of his For Everyone series of commentaries.

Anyway, back to The Message. I enjoy it’s pace and imaginative rendering of familiar passages. The narratives have a rhythm and flow which makes for ease of reading and the more poetic passages, the psalms and wisdom material for example, have a resonance that makes me want to speak them out loud. At times the translation is quite startling and I find myself reading a passage several times or turning a phrase over in my mind throughout the day. The downside of The Message is that sometimes I find the paraphrase attractive but unconvincing. I read a phrase that really captures the imagination but when I look more carefully it is difficult to see how the translation relates to the Hebrew or Greek. This raises the age old dilemma for the preacher; do we end up trying to make scripture fit what we want it to say? I would be concerned if this was the only version of the Bible Christians used, but if it gets people engaging with scripture then I’m all for it. These opening verses from Psalm 1 give a flavour of The Message and sum up what it’s all about:

1How well God must like you— you don't hang out at Sin Saloon, you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.
2-3 Instead you thrill to God's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

One final comment. I bought my copy of The Message at the Wesley Owen bookshop at Spring Harvest. Wesley Owen has gone into administration, part of the sorry tale of Christian bookshops in recent years, and it will be interesting to see who the bookseller at Spring Harvest is in 2010. Details about the future of Wesley Owen shops can be found at the Church Times blog with some excellent links to other sites.

1 comment:

Simon said...

One of the best things I found for my new iPhone, is The Daily Message - the whole Message Bible as an audiobook, divided into 15 minute daily episodes. This enables the whole Bible to be read (heard) over a year. All for less than £4.