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 The Message & NavPress Promotions

 

Psalm 119:104-105

"Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

In April 2006, the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) listed the ranking of Versions/Translations by actual sales in Christian retail stores in the United States during February 2006. Eugene Peterson's The Message ranked number seven. The NIV was first, followed by NKJV, KJV, New Living Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible and Reina Valera 1960, which is a Spanish version. 1.

NavPress is the publishing arm of The Navigators. On their website list of their various ventures, the promo for NavPress is: "This ministry of The Navigators publishes books, Bible studies, periodicals and The Message Bible to enrich the spiritual walks of some four million people annually."1b

According to NavPress, publisher of Eugene Peterson's The Message The Bible in Contemporary Language, there have been over 10,000,000 readers of The Message. Although it is a paraphrase based on Eugene Peterson's opinions and beliefs, and not a word for word or thought for thought translation, many today are using it as their main source of study or as a secondary source of what they would call God's Word.

Pastors are preaching from The Message, and people of all walks of life and beliefs are reading it as a source of inspiration. Many firmly believe it is the  Bible in modern American language, regarding it with the same authority as their other various translations. Others believe it tears down barriers and allows this book to be understood by Believers in Jesus Christ as well as those who do not know Him. 

Many also believe that, for example, the language of the King James Bible is archaic and people cannot understand it, and Eugene Peterson's words clarify and make it all easy to understand. However, it is also viewed as an easier version to understand than the NIV, NASB and so on, making those versions, also promoted with the idea of modern language and easier to understand, suddenly obsolete.

The NIV for example, although using different manuscripts for their sources than the KJB, from their site stated the purpose of the NIV to be, "...The NIV was created and is maintained with the mandate to accurately and faithfully translate the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic biblical texts into clearly understandable English. The NIV is the most widely accepted contemporary Bible translation today..." 2 The NASB makes a similar claim concerning it being translated in understandable English.

The idea that Peterson's "American street language" is better understood, and for many, more accurate than the 'archaic English' of the King James Bible or even the 'clearly understandable English' used in NIV and other versions, needs to be addressed. Things not understood in the Scriptures has nothing to do with language used, according to the Word of God.

2 Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

The 'archaic English' used in the KJB, is the same English used in Shakespeare's writings, that is, Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. Shakespeare, who lived about 1564-1616, wrote his many plays and stories in the same time period as when the 1611 King James Bible was published.  In fact, Beowulf, is 'Old English' (500-1100 AD) while Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, studied by many, was in 'Middle English' (1100-1500) and both are studied in schools. The Shakespearean and similar writings are also studied in schools and understood. Shakespeare's archaic English stories are used in movies, theater and drama and actors ply for the 'honor' of being in a production of a Shakespeare tale. And remarkably, all seem able to understand the vernacular. Oddly the many thousands of individuals, including young people, that choose to read and study the KJB also seem able to comprehend it, as do those who choose to read the contemporary English of the NIV, regardless how one views those versions.

About half of the most commonly used words in modern English have Old English roots, which was spoken from about 500-1100 AD. Early Modern English, which included the 1611 King James Bible, was spoken from about 1500-1800 AD. According to one website discussing the History of the English Language, "American English is closer to the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some "Americanisms" that the British decry are actually originally British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost at home."  3

In point of fact, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy not only uses Old English, but several invented languages as well as words tied to Finnish and other languages, and yet, we see it not only craved by readers but now movies are made for the anything but 'modern English' connoisseur. 

The idea that Believers and non-Believers in Christ will flock to read a fable or book of fiction using the same 'archaic' KJB language or even contemporary English, while their Bible has to be in common or 'easy' language in order to be understood, is a false premise. 

It is not the 'archaic' English that is the problem. It is the desire for Truth and the obedience to God's Word that is a problem. We are told that the things of God are foolishness to those who do not know Him. 

1 Corinthians 2:14 "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Bible, Translation, Paraphrase

NavPress stated in one promotion of Eugene Peterson from 2001, "Biblical scholars recognize his intimate knowledge and understanding of Greek and Hebrew languages. These scholars have observed an authenticity and freshness of insight in The Message that comes only when a translator is not biased by the influence of English translations." 4

In an article by an Associated Press writer, it was noted that other scholars do not view Peterson's paraphrase as an actual Bible, nor his paraphrasing to be solid.

"....Vern Poythress, a New Testament professor at Westminister Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pa., says he and fellow conservatives may quibble with many of Peterson's renderings but have leveled few attacks because "The Message" isn't a Bible and isn't presented as such.

He sees it as useful for evangelism among people who know nothing about the Bible, so long as they realize it's merely one writer's interpretation of the biblical message.

He says Peterson's work "is at the far end of the spectrum, not only in paraphrasing but cultural updating."

Peterson translated the Bible directly from the Greek and Hebrew and avoided earlier English translations..." 5

Except, the idea that The Message is not presented as a Bible, is not entirely true. The title itself states, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Some have remarked that it says that it is a paraphrase on the cover. But that also is not entirely true.

It depends which version of it that one is looking at. For example, the front cover of the 1993 edition published by NavPress, and found at our local library states:   The New Testament in Contemporary English, Eugene H. Peterson The Message. On the back of the book it is stated in its entirety:

"It is commonly assumed that a book dealing with a holy God should sound elevated, stately, and ceremonial. If this is how you've always viewed the New Testament, you're about to making a surprising discovery.

One of the most striking features of the New Testament is that it was written in the street language of the day. The idiom of the playground and marketplace--not the formal, lofty language of government decrees and historical documents.

Written in the rhythms and idiom of contemporary language--the way you'd talk with friends, write a letter, or discuss politics--The Message brings about the expressive, earthy flavor of New Testament Greek. Which means, whether you've been reading the Bible for years or are exploring it for the first time, The Message will startle you and surprise you. And it will allow you to experience firsthand the same power and directness that motivated its original readers to change the course of history many centuries ago."

That is followed by endorsements from various individuals who refer to it as a Bible version, New Testament and so on, with no mention from any of the scholars cited there, or in the flaps, that it is a paraphrase. Nor is that word used on the title page. However in the Introduction on page 7, Peterson stated, " acting as a translator, providing the right phrases, getting the right words..."

The Message is sold in the Bible section of NavPress, as well as in the Bible sections of many bookstores, Christian or otherwise. NavPress states in their BibleProducts section of their website:

"We publish one of the best selling contemporary versions of the Bible—The Message® by Eugene Peterson." 6

In an email to NavPress, Tuesday, December 16, 2003, concerning manuscript sources used for The Message, the reply was, "As to the family of manuscripts that Mr. Peterson used in his work, I checked with his editor and he said "Eugene Peterson uses the latest Greek Testament from the United Bible Society, which purports to be the 'earliest and best.'" 7.

It is noteworthy that Eugene Peterson utilized the same manuscripts as those used for most versions today, including the NIV which is published by the International Bible Society, although the NIV states the Greek texts used for it "was an eclectic one." and "The best current printed texts of the Greek New Testaments were used." 8

 

The Message Bible Translation

Eugene Peterson and NavPress both have called The Message a "Bible translation", which it is not. It is a paraphrase, which is also stated, but... 

In one interview, Eugene Peterson stated that The Message was translating

"...The Message isn't writing, it's translating. When you write you may work for an hour or two on a sentence and suddenly it's there. you feel that nobody's ever quite done it like that before and they're never going to do it again. There is a sense of "A-hah! I did that." But I never get that with The Message . I'm always second rate to Paul, second rate to Mark, and John. I remember telling Jan once just after I had finished The Message , "I'm so tired of coming in second." I didn't want to do it anymore..." 9

The biography at The HighCalling.org, where Eugene Peterson's daily devotionals can be obtained and where he is a member author, states:

Eugene  Peterson

The Reverend Dr. Eugene H. Peterson writes full time from his home in Montana. A pastor for most of his life, he is professor emeritus of spiritual theology, Regent College (Canada) and Translator of The Message. " 10

In their History and Faq's about The Message, NavPress relates:

"In 1992, after 29 years of service at Christ our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. Eugene Peterson began his paraphrase of The Message. Today more than 10,000,000 people are readers of this inspiring version of the Bible."

"....5. Is The Message a translation or a paraphrase?
Since Eugene Peterson worked with the text strictly from Greek and Hebrew to English, he did what a translator does by choosing contemporary English words that best express the meaning of the original language. As all translators do, he used interpretative skill in choosing those English words. ... he "paraphrased" the original by selecting language that communicates the style and flavor of the original in Bible times rather than trying to achieve word-for-word correspondence. The Message, then, is a paraphrase from the original languages. 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. Yet in one sense all translation involves paraphrasing. There is no clearly distinct line that can be drawn between the two. Sometimes, it takes five English words to bring across the meaning of a single Greek word; other times only one English word is required to communicate five Greek words.

When Eugene began his work on The Message, he looked at how scholars had translated Homer from Greek to English. Some had tried to match word for word; others attempted to recreate the poetry of Homer in English. The Message leans toward the latter.

So is it a translation or a paraphrase? It is probably most accurately called a "translation of tone" or a "paraphrase from the original languages." It is a bridging of the gap between the original languages and English, and between centuries of time and language change, to bring to us the New Testament as it originally sounded.

....it is designed as a reading Bible...." 11 [bolding added]

The NavPress stated purpose for publishing The Message then was, "to bring to us the New Testament as it originally sounded." Which is an odd statement when the promotions state it is in 'contemporary language' or 'American street language'. If being fully candid, one would have to admit that many words and phrases that are part of 'American street language' are vulgar and unprintable.

The Message Bible

From the NavPress website promoting this "Bible", we see such phrasing as, "The Message—Eugene Peterson's easy-to-read, contemporary Scripture translation", "The Message paraphrase of the Bible...", "The Message is a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible from the original languages".

From the NavPress website promotion in 2004, we also see the much used reference of "Bible", including promotion of the New Testament and the whole "complete" Bible. Please note that the links no longer work and have been removed, as the NavPress website was redesigned:

You are Here: NavPress > Bible Products

 The Message Bible (Genuine Leather—black

The Message is a refreshingly unique Bible-reading experience. With no formal language and no verse numbers, this Bible reads like a letter from an old friend.
..

Also: Entire Bible
        
The Message
        
Verse-numbered

And : The Message Bible
by
Eugene H. Peterson

...The Message Bible (the complete Old and New Testaments in one volume)...

...PRODUCT DETAILS:
The Message Bible
Published by NavPress" 
12

The phrase, " The Message Bible (the complete Old and New Testaments in one volume") implies that all verses and doctrine will be found within The Message Bible that are found within other versions.

The NavPress promotion for 2005 includes, "The Message®, ...The Bible in Contemporary Language", and "Enthusiasm for The Message® has boosted its popularity as the most reader-friendly Bible available today." 13

Also from November 2005, "...The Message® is a refreshingly unique Bible-reading experience. With no formal language and no verse numbers, this Bible reads like a letter from an old friend. ..." 14.

And :

The Message: Numbered Edition [Black Genuine Leather]
The Bible
in Contemporary Language >
15.

A Message of Hope for you

Drawn from The Message®—Eugene Peterson's easy-to-read, contemporary Scripture translation—The Message® of Hope..."
16

We see the 2005 promotion of The Message with a union to the music industry with the release of The Message: Psalms, which coincides with the re-release of the The Message Bible, with the specific targeting of young people and young adults. Word Distribution is a division of Word Entertainment, a Warner/Curb company which represents "some of Christian music's top performers":

"NavPress and BHT are partnering on this companion music product which will accompany The Message Bible re-release in October.  THE MESSAGE, a modern paraphrase of the Bible, ... Utilizing The Message's established brand awareness, NavPress has committed extensive marketing resources for the re-issue, with half of it co-merketing this music companion product.

The project targets an 18-34 audience represented by ... Relevant Magazine, the Passion events community and the rapidly growing 'Emergent Church' network of congregations that ...meets the needs of today's student and post-collegiate generation.

Containing original songs using lyrics from the Psalms and text taken directly from The Message, this fresh and eclectic project will provide a unique way for listeners to experience the words of the Bible in a modern, relevant setting. ...

KEY SELLING POINTS
-Official co-branded product in association with THE MESSAGE, ...
-New songs written specifically for this project using lyrics from the Psalms taken directly from the Message....
-THE MESSAGE has found a vast and wide audience that includes lay people, pastors, authors, theologians, rock stars and heads of state.

MARKETING
-Target audience 18-34 age group - Relevant Magazine, Emergent Church, Passion Conference audiences.
-
Online marketing targeted to Relevant/Emergent/Passion audience through emails, web banners, music clips, etc.
-On-campus marketing via Navigators campus chapters as well as partner para-church groups such as Campus Crusade, Young Life, Inter Varsity, etc.

-Direct marketing campaign to NavPress database of consumers...
-1x2 Flats ...One side is for ... the CD directing people to the Message Bible, and the other side is for ...the Message Bible directing people to the cd in the music section."
17  

Other sources have also promoted The Message as a Bible:

"...Released in July, NavPress sold 320,000 copies in advance and ordered an initial print run of 500,000, the largest it has ever had for a Bible, NavPress spokeswoman Kathleen Campbell said.

Peterson's New Testament, published in 1993, sold 2.5 million copies, and his other "Message products" - more than 20 in all - have sold 4.5 million...." 18

"...Today more than 10,000,000 people are readers of this inspiring version of the Bible..."

 "In order to understand the Message right, the language must be a rough and earthy one that reveals God's presence and action where we least expect it."

"This version is in a contemporary idiom that is current, fresh, and understandable in the same language that we use in all our activities..." 19

With all the NavPress documentation, we can conclude that The Message is viewed by it's many readers and by NavPress as a Bible and as an accurate Bible, simply by their own promotions. That does not mean all academics or reviewers endorse The Message as accurate and faithful to the original manuscripts. It does mean that endorsements are meant to authenticate The Message as being accurate.

The Needed Questions

What Scripture is it that requires the Word of God and the Message of the Truth of Jesus Christ to be understood only if, "the language must be a rough and earthy one that reveals God's presence and action where we least expect it."?

Is it not true that to understand the Word of God one must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or be seeking God with the whole heart and He will open the individual's understanding?

Is it not true that the Scriptures state,

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

2 Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

Next Suggested Article: The Message Doctrine & Foundations of the Faith

 

Related Articles

The Message Eugene Peterson's Opinion of The Bible ;   The Message and Dr. Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson & His Ecumenical Connections ;   The Message & NavPress Promotions

The Message Doctrine & Foundations of the Faith

The Message Doctrine & Gnostic or New Age Terms and Concepts

The Message Doctrine & Gnostic or New Age Terms and Concepts Cont.

The Message, Who Endorses and Promotes Eugene Peterson's Opinion of the Bible 

 

Footnotes

 

1.  http://www.cbaonline.org/TrackingLists/trx.jsp?w=t

1b. http://home.navigators.org/us/index.cfm?Entity=24&Department=1&Dept_Order=1&This_TopicOrder=1&This_SubtopicOrder=1

2.  http://www.ibs.org/niv/index.php

3. http://www.wordorigins.org/histeng.htm A (Very) Brief History of the English Language; http://www.who2.com/williamshakespeare.html

4. NavPress 2001 http://www.navpress.com/message.asp#1

5. http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/religion/020803/paraphrase.shtml. THE DECATUR DAILY; Peterson paraphrases Bible in everyday language By Tom Laceky Associated Press Writer

6. http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/MessageProducts.asp

7. Email Tuesday, December 16, 2003

8. http://www.ibs.org/niv/background.php

9. http://www.leaderu.com/marshill/mhr03/peter1.html Mars Hill Review , A Conversation with Eugene Peterson, By Michael J. Cusick; Copyright © 1995 Mars Hill Review 3 Fall 1995 · Issue No. 3: pgs 73-90.

10. http://www.thehighcalling.org/library/viewbio.asp?AuthorID=44

11.  www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/History_andFAQs.asp?mscsid=UC3BPU9FW8528JBVRPH7VX25JBMNE035

parallel link November 2005 > http://www.navpress.com/Assets/PDF/Message/MSGPromo/msg.history.pdf

12. You are Here: NavPress > http://www.navpress.com/?mscsid=W056WE2XR8KE9JSN661ENHKHRRC00FK8"

Bible Products > http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/?mscsid=W056WE2XR8KE9JSN661ENHKHRRC00FK8"

The Message Bible (Genuine Leather—black >http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product.asp?mscsid=W056WE2XR8KE9JSN661ENHKHRRC00FK8&sku=1576832732"
Entire Bible >http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/Default.asp?mscsid=RPKMWPV53WBV9JQKRDG77QCAG2490B66
The Message >
http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/Default.asp?mscsid=RPKMWPV53WBV9JQKRDG77QCAG2490B66&Browse=true&Topic=The+Message
Verse-numbered >www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/Default.asp?mscsid=RPKMWPV53WBV9JQKRDG77QCAG2490B66&Browse=true&Topic=Verse%2Dnumbered

And : The Message Bible
by
Eugene H. Peterson >http://www.navpress.com/AuthorInformation.asp?mscsid=LG9TG6P7D2M58LEUKFWPLATG3B9X0R89&id=38

The Message Bible >http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product.asp?SKU=1576832899&mscsid=LG9TG6P7D2M58LEUKFWPLATG3B9X0R89

13. November 15, 2005 http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product/1576832732.html

14. http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/

15 http://www.navpress.com/Store/Product/1576838382.html

16. http://www.navpress.com/BibleProducts/

17. http://www.worddistribution.com/_products.php?mode=detail&pID=2240

18. Aug. 9, 2002, Folksy Bible Contemporary translation, 'The Message,' finds huge audience; By TOM LACEKY
Associated Press
http://www.jsonline.com/lifestyle/religion/aug02/65361.asp

19. Bible Explorer - The Message Bible Library http://www.wordsearchbible.com/scripts/displayproduct.cgi?productid=668

 

All Scriptures from the KJB

Copyright . All articles are the sole property of SeekGod.ca and Vicky Dillen. All Scripture King James Version unless otherwise stated.

 

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