Friday, January 6, 2012

The Message by Eugene Peterson

I had been given a copy of The Message. I had read bits and pieces of it over the years. I hadn't been impressed with what I'd read but before I made a final decision, I thought I should read it through. I did so last year.

I don't like it.

Sometimes it seems Peterson has taken freedom in assigning a trait to God that I do not think is valid. For example, in Psalm 78:21c, Peterson says, “...he lost his temper with Israel.” The ESV reads, “...his anger rose against Israel.” That God would lose his temper, to me, is near blasphemy. I don't think Peterson's paraphrase is warranted by the original Hebrew.

Peterson has used many phrases that are purely “American” or are so dated that I wonder if younger readers, or those from other countries, know what he is even trying to communicate. 
 For example:
“Getting on his high horse...” (Num. 16:1)
“Our brothers took all the wind out of our sails...” (Deut. 1:28)
“Why should we be toadies of Abimelech?” (Judges 9:28) Toadies?
“The Philistines had to eat crow.” (1 Chron. 20:4)
“...let them dissolve into snail slime...” (Psalm 58:7)
“All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork...” (Acts 19:19)
“If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet.” (1 Tim. 5:20, also 1 Pet. 4:5)

I'm 64 years old. I know what it means to get on your high horse. I know what it means to eat crow. I live in Washington State so I know what snail slime is. I know what it means to be called on the carpet, from childhood, when we didn't even have any carpet!

Imagine you are a Christian from another culture. You've never seen snail slime. You've never even seen carpet. But you can actually visualize beings coming out of wood. You can imagine eating a crow. You can imagine climbing on to a tall horse.

Granted, Peterson's work is definitely a paraphrase. But I would think that one would want the reading of the Bible to be something that could be done in an understandable way by English speaking people across the world. The Message just does not cut it. (Phrase intended!)


Something About the Joy said...

You have a really good point. I like the Message because it helps me look at the Word from a fresh perspective, but I see what you mean about the idiomatic expressions. And I see a significant difference between saying "He lots his temper" and "His anger rose." Good, thoughtful review.

Something About the Joy said...

LOL. I mean "lost" not "lots". I need to wake up before I go onto the computer.