|Where Your Treasure Is|
Eugene H. Peterson
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This bold book is about changing the life of American society, from the inside out, through the "source action" of prayer.
"I have written a book for Christians," says Eugene Peterson, "who want to do something about what is wrong with America and want to plunge into the center, not tinker at the edge. I have chosen eleven psalms that shaped the politics of Israel and can shape the politics of America, and I have taken them seriously...I have written to encourage Christians to pray them both as children of God with eternal destinies and as American citizens with daily responsibilities in caring for our nation."
Peterson is concerned with the "unselfing" of our self-preoccupied, self-bound society through the action of praying together with other believers. His insightful and personally challenging reflections on eleven select psalm-prayers gathered here---together with relevant quotes from a wide spectrum of writers---can help us overcome such things as self-centeredness, self-assertiveness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-pity, self-service, and self-love.
Originally published under the title Earth and Altar, Where Your Treasure Is provides solid fare for any thoughtful, concerned Christian. But the book is especially suitable for group study and discussion: what Peterson writes here will serve to stir small groups of Christians to pointed reflection and prayer-action.
NavPress Talks with Eugene Peterson
NavPress: On what date did you start and complete the translation of the Bible?
Eugene Peterson: I started it in June of 1991 and completed it in November of 2001.
NP: You spent eight hours a day immersed in the Scriptures. How did that impact your spirituality/relationship with the Author of the Scriptures?
EP: Working on The Message wasnt that much different from what I have done most of my adult life. Ive always been immersed in these Scriptures - preaching, teaching, and praying them. What I felt mostly was a sense of gratitude to God for having been able to do this all these years and now getting to gather up a lifetime of interaction with this holy text, getting these Greek and Hebrew sentences into "American" as accurately as I was able, inviting the men and women of my generation to enter into the story themselves. So, it wasnt anything new, really. It was more like harvest, realizing and having confirmed my relationship with the Spirit and the Spirits work over these years of preaching, teaching, and writing out of this Text.
NP: What was your favorite book to translate?
EP: Isaiah was my favorite. Isaiah is the best poet in the Bible - his language is a delight to work with, his sharp metaphors and wonderfully imaginative speech. And he is also a great pastor/preacher, so there was a sense of being a close companion, or maybe more like an apprentice, to a master in the same work to which I have been called.
NP: Which book was the most difficult?
EP: John. His language is so simple and profound at once. It is very difficult to carry across that simplicity/profundity from one language to another.
NP: Were there moments when you wanted to quit?
EP: No. I love doing this work. I was grateful for having such good work to do. Work is so much a part of who I am and what I have always done. I often had the sense that for 40 years I had been in the process of being prepared to do precisely this work, but, of course, not knowing that this was the task that would be asked of me.
NP: If you could go back and do this entire project over again, what would you change (if anything)?
EP: Nothing. Its remarkable, really, now that you ask the question. I realize what congenial and skilled companions I had in my editors and scholars, my publisher and family - a lot of details and people over a long time, and all of it working together so well.
NP: How did you know that God wanted you to take on this large project? Was His voice clear? How did He speak to you?
EP: I had no idea that it was a "large project" when I took it on. For a year or so, my wife and I had a gathering sense that we were, after nearly 30 years there, to leave our congregation, but with no clear knowledge of what we were to do next. A few months after we made the decision to leave, the invitation came from NavPress to do this work. We both felt a strong sense of the Spirits confirmation, that this was the next thing, that this was a natural continuation of the pastor/writing work in which we had been immersed for so many years in our congregation and community.
NP: What is your response to skepticism regarding the validity of The Message?
EP: I take my critics seriously, listen to them, often learn from them. But when people dont think I should be doing this kind of thing at all, or think that I am doing it badly, I have to more or less "pray myself" out of their disapproval. This is what I have been called to do, a gospel ministry to which I have been called and ordained by my denomination and that has been tested and validated by many godly men and women in Christs church. I am doing it as prayerfully and accurately as I am able. Some of the skeptics, at least, dont understand that The Message is continuous with my pastoral vocation - all my life I have been trying to get men and women to hear, really hear, the "wonders of God...in their own tongues." Ever since the day of Pentecost, the Spirit has used men and women to translate, in various styles of translation ranging from literal to paraphrasing, to keep this Word of God accessible in the mother tongue and culture in which people find themselves. The kind of paraphrasing translation that I have done is nothing novel - it has been done many times, sometimes with appreciation, but also, interestingly, often with disapproval. The Message was not my idea and I have never felt that it was my work - I was asked to do it; I have worked out of obedience. And as I have done the work, I have been surrounded, counseled, and in a sense "guarded" by learned and devout men and women.
NP: What is your favorite passage of Scripture?
EP: The gospel of John. Because the language and message are so incredibly congruent with each other, this fusion of sound and meaning is Word of God poetry at its best. And the personal relationships that Jesus has with us are so well developed in this gospel; I get such an "insider" feeling. Also, I have always thought of John as the patron saint of pastors.
NP: This project was a very consuming labor of love and obedience for both you and your wife, Jan. Where do you feel God is leading you next?
EP: I have mostly withdrawn from public appearances - speaking and lecturing - and am writing a series of books on spiritual theology. I see these books as companion books to The Message, conversations on how we live out over a lifetime the story and prayers and love and worship that the Spirit speaks to us as we read these Holy Scriptures.
NP: What does your day look like now that youve finished The Message?
EP: It hasnt changed radically. I have more leisure time, more margins to the day. With The Message, I had weekly deadlines (5 Hebrew or Greek pages a day, 5 days a week) that were unrelenting. But I still write nearly every day. There is more space and time for spontaneous walks and hikes, bird-watching, and woodworking.
NP: Which author and/or philosopher has most influenced you?
EP: Alexander Whyte, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) pastor, writer, and teacher. He had an enormous influence on me when I was starting out, an influence that continues to be formative. He demonstrated for me that it was possible to integrate the life of pastor and writer, scholarship, and prayer in one congregation over a long period of time.
- Lisa Marshall
Interview with NavPress Publisher, Kent Wilson,
on "The Message"
NavPress: Do you see any particular age category being helped more than others by the new Bible translation? Such as younger readers or newer Christians who have had no previous contact with other Bible translations?
Kent Wilson: The Message is written specifically so that it can be read by a wide variety of people at various reading levels. Many people who previously have not read the Old Testament due to the idea that the Bible is too hard to understand have been pleasantly surprised by the everyday language employed in The Message. It is read by people of all ages and stages of life, from those just beginning to seek what the Bible has to say to those who have been Christians for years. Younger readers also find The Message fun to read.
NP: Has there been a general acceptance of The Message among pastors? Any one particular denomination more than others?
KW: There has been a lot of enthusiastic support from pastors of many different denominations from all over the world. Here is what a few of them are saying about The Message:
"I use it and recommend it unreservedly."
Rev. J.A. Thompson, Christ Church Anglican, Woodbridge, Ontario.
"The Message is lively, readable, and insightful."
Paul Barnett, bishop of North Sydney, Australia.
"The Message is very easy to read, inspiring in its presentation."
Jay Scribner, First Baptist Church, Branson, MO.
"I have used The Message for my Scripture readings. It gets people to listen and smiling
not frowning because they dont understand it."
Rev. Bob Swope, Episcopal Diocese, Anchorage, AK.
"The Message is destined to become a devotional classic
a powerful pastoral tool
Jack Hayford, The Church on the Way, Van Nuys, CA.
NP: Are you seeing a new interest in spiritual matters, particularly Bible reading, since the events of Sept.11th? Has there been any special promotion for the NYC area?
KW: We have worked with the Salvation Army to distribute 10,000 copies of The Message of Hope at Ground Zero in New York City. We are receiving readers comments that are particularly moving. People who are seeking answers to complex questions as a result of the recent tragedy are reading The Message and finding peace and comfort from this version of the Bible in words that are clearly stated and easy to understand. It is important to note that The Message isnt just a paraphrase of the King James Bible. It is an actual translation of the original text in the current vernacular.
NP: Is there a particular interest during the Christmas season?
KW: Yes, by all means. NavPress has a pamphlet called The Message of Christmas, featuring the prophecies of the birth of the promised Messiah found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah coupled with the record of Christs birth found in the New Testament book of Luke, the most well known of all the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ.
NP: Right now, The Message is only found as portions of the Bible. Will The Message be available to consumers as the Bible in its entirety?
KW: The Message will be available for $ 39.99 in hardback. It will be the complete Bible and will be released to all major book outlets in July, 2002.
|Many thanks to our kind friends at NavPress for their permission to reprint these interviews. |
Copyright 2002, NavPress. All rights reserved.