Heart-Racing. Mind Altering. Life-Changing
Seven Million Readers Strong and Counting.
Finally, the wait is over. After 10 years in the making, NavPress announces the release of The Message Bible. All sixty-six books are combined into one Message volume. The Message is no ordinary Bible. Written in clear, direct language, The Message brings the Bible to life. Translated directly from the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts by pastor, writer, and poet Eugene Peterson, it has been designed as a reading Bible. With no verse numbers or stiff, formal language, the Scriptures unfold like a gripping novel.
Eugene Peterson has a flair for languages, spending much of his time studying different dialects.
"Language is where it starts," said Peterson. "If our language is shaped by the voices of television and radio, voices of that sort all sound alike, we lose a prophetic, raspy, sometimes harsh voice. But there's also something lyrical and soaring that spills out of the biblical text." As language changes, new words are formed while old words take on new meaning. There is a need in every generation to keep the language of the gospel message current, fresh, and understandable - the way it was for its very first readers. The Message is a version for our time and designed to be read by contemporary people just as readers savored the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts thousands of years ago. When passages from the Bible are heard over and over again in the same way, it can become so familiar that the text loses its impact. The Message strives to help readers hear the Word of God in a way that engages and intrigues people right where they are.
The New Testament read by the early Christians was not a formal, canonized document; it was simply a collection of writings. Paul wrote a letter to Christians who lived in the town where he worked. Luke gave a friend an eyewitness account of his involvement with Jesus. First-century readers were mesmerized and engaged by these writings. No commentaries were required to make the authors' meanings clear. The people understood what was written. Everyone who read the letters of the New Testament was dramatically transformed by what they read. It was not just the educated elite who was touched by the text, but the average person as well. They were engrossed and challenged, acting on what they heard, changing the course of history forever. That power, forcefulness, and directness of language is what Eugene Peterson has attempted to recapture in The Message. The New Testament was written for people in language that was both informal and forceful. The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. The original books of the Bible were not written in King James English. The Message recaptures the Bible in the words we use today.
When Peterson began work on The Message in 1992, he had only the Greek text of the New Testament before him - no commentaries, no English translations. Since he worked with the text strictly from Greek and Hebrew to English, Peterson did what a translator does by choosing contemporary English words that best express the meaning of the original language. That is why The Message is not considered a paraphrase of the Bible. Translation is generally thought of as bringing the meaning from one language to another, whereas a paraphrase is usually a rewording of a document within the same language. In a sense, all translation involves paraphrasing and there is no distinct line that can be drawn between the two. To gain a better understanding of this, Eugene studied how scholars had translated Homer from the Greek to English in order to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of idiomatic expressions, and the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.
The first segment of the Bible that Peterson translated was the New Testament book of Galatians, published by Inter-Varsity Press in a book entitled Traveling Light. One of the editors at NavPress read Traveling Light and was completely gripped by what he read. The flow of thought, the emotional impact of the words, and the forcefulness of Paul's letter to the Galatians motivated the editor to write to Peterson in April of 1990 and ask if he would consider translating the entire New Testament. After much encouragement, The New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs was released from NavPress in 1993.
Since that time, NavPress has received amazing stories from people all over the world and from all walks of life about how The Message has affected their lives. One compelling story was sent from a nine-year-old boy. It is a story about love, the power of God's Word, and childlike faith. During the Christmas holiday, he was sitting in the front yard with his mom and they were talking about giving and tithing when he said, "Mom, I bet not everyone in our neighborhood has a Bible." Together they decided to save their tithe money to work towards changing that. Three months later they had $500! As they talked with the staff at their local Christian bookstore, they decided that because of its easy readability and perfect fit (for most people), The Message Bible was the one to give. They bought nearly one hundred copies of the mass-market, New Testament edition and set to work leaving God's Word on their neighbors' doorsteps as Christmas gifts.
Another story came from a sixteen-year-old boy from India. He had read the The Message: New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs and wanted to see a catalog for the rest of the published translations. He wrote how much he enjoyed reading from The Message, expressed how much it had impacted his life, and asked for prayer.
In another case, one of the staff then working on The Message project sent word that he had met a man whose life had taken some wrong turns. Now homeless after spending time in prison, this man had no money, except for what he could get from collecting cans. He ran across a magazine and read an article about The Message. From that point on, he saved all his money, going without food, until he had enough to purchase a copy for himself. He told the photographer that from the day he bought The Message, he no longer suffered from depression. He sleeps holding The Message.
A woman contacted NavPress via the Internet to tell us, "I went to the (The Message) website and downloaded a sample of Ephesians, Philippians, and James. I read all of Ephesians this morning. I have never understood what it said in the way that I do now. I can hardly believe that the Bible says all that stuff!" Another woman received a copy of The Message as a Christmas present, just after being diagnosed with breast cancer. A friend had suggested she read Psalms 18. She had read it many times in the NIV but it didn't touch her. Then she read the same passage in The Message:
"The hangman's noose was tight at my throat;
devil waters rushed over me.
Hell's ropes clinched me tight;
death traps barred every exit."
"That was exactly how I felt," she said. Her cancer is in remission but she wrote to tell NavPress, "The peace I found (during this ordeal) was due in part to reading The Message."
From scholars to rock stars, business people to high school students, supporters of this new translation are seven million strong and counting. Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, reads passages from The Message to his audience during concerts. He refers to The Message in interviews with writers of a variety of rock and pop culture magazines as the most important book he has read in his life. Bono is not alone in this assessment. Singer, songwriter, and author Michael Card says of The Message, "I not only read words, I hear a voice behind them speaking - as, in fact, all these documents were originally experienced. The Message opens the door of the Bible wider than perhaps it has ever been opened." Recording artist Rebecca St. James says she reads The Message every day. "It's fresh, challenging, and at times shocking. It makes you want to jump up to your feet and take action."
Entertainers aren't the only ones touched by The Message in our modern American culture. Bill McCartney, former head coach for the University of Colorado Buffalo football team and founder and president of Promise Keepers, joins in the accolades. "Opening The Message is like reading the Bible with fresh eyes, and I'm very excited that it's finally going to be released in its entirety. Whether you've read the Scriptures through a hundred times or are just starting out, it's a wonderful tool for understanding God's Word!" Virginia Stem Owens, writer-in-residence and professor of English at Kansas Newman College, states, "As Peterson strips away layers of distant language, he reveals the timeless heart of these millennia-old prayer poems. You'll be startled to hear the Psalms' savage anger and ardent passion—and stunned to recognize the voice as your own."
According to the Associated Press News Service, sales of Bibles increased 40% in 2001. The tragic events of September 11th have played a part. Bookstore owners report that sales of Bibles doubled between September and December 2001. In an article in the December 24th issue of Publisher's Weekly, the manager of one major bookstore said her customers specifically asked for The Message more than any other edition of the Bible, stating that people wanted something in the vernacular and very understandable and immediate while seeking solace. NavPress worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in providing approximately 500,000 copies of The Message. The Salvation Army asked NavPress to partner with them in distributing more than 10,000 copies of The Message of Hope at Ground Zero in New York City. "We are receiving comments from readers that are particularly moving," says NavPress Publisher, Kent Wilson, in an interview with a reporter for The Times News. "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."
As America is engaged in the war against terrorism, more and more people are searching for insights into the religious implications that would move people to the point of suicide to support their cause. American culture is linked to the Middle East more closely than most citizens have previously realized. The very fiber of our country is steeped in biblical principles that go back to the days of Moses. Historical events recorded in the Bible shed much light and understanding on the Middle East, its culture, and its beliefs. The Message: The Old Testament Books of Moses describes the origins and history of the three major world religions currently in the news: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—illustrate the common thread between the Islamic world, the conflict between the Palestinians and Jews, and the effect on Western Civilization. It gives a clear picture of how we are all connected. Until now, most people found these Scriptures almost impossible to decipher—so much so, that the average person wouldn't even attempt to read it. The Message has changed all that.
The Message Bible is heart-racing, mind-altering, and life-changing. A direct translation of the original texts, this version of the Bible in contemporary language is a version for our time. Presented as "the reading Bible," The Message brings Scripture to life, attracting people to read God's Word with understanding and clarity. More than seven million people have read The Message in small portions. Now the entire Bible is ready to reach millions more.
Many thanks to our kind friends at NavPress for their permission to reprint this article.
Copyright 2002, NavPress. All rights reserved.