The Message

Eugene Peterson's The Message is sweeping into Christian bookstores, homes, and churches from coast to coast. In the first four months after its mid-July, 1993 release, 100,000 copies of this "New Testament in contemporary English" were printed by NavPress and 70,000 books were sold. Apparently, most readers were delighted: "The Message is so good it leaves me breathless," wrote popular New Age author Madeleine L'Engle in her endorsement.

The Message has also been endorsed by J.I. Packer, Jack Hayford, Warren Wiersbe, and Billy Graham. Graham's endorsement read: "The Message is one of the most dynamic recent versions of the New Testament that I have seen ... Children can easily understand it, and veteran Bible readers will see Christ's words in a fresh light." In fact, Graham even authorized a special edition of The Message to be distributed by his Evangelistic Association -- it comes with "... many explanations that I've written to help you understand what the New Testament says."

What does The Message's version of the New Testament really say? The Message teaches a different gospel and a different morality than the Bible (as well as a worldly/warm fuzzy view of life). For example, The Message translates Jesus' statement in John 14:28, "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life," versus the Bible's "...The Father is greater than I." In l Corinthians 6:18-20, the words "sexual immorality" are deleted in The Message and the words "avoids commitment and intimacy" are added; this change would lead one to conclude that "commitment and intimacy," not marriage, set the boundaries for acceptable sex.

Also, in Romans 1:26-27, the words "God gave them over ..." are deleted in The Message and words that qualify homosexuality are added, thereby providing a loophole for committed homosexuals who "love" each other. Thus, in The Message, lust becomes the sin, not the choice of a same-sex partner. There are hundreds of examples like these in The Message.

In his introduction to The Message, Peterson himself says:

"This version of the New Testament in a contemporary idiom keeps the language of The Message current and fresh and understandable in the same language in which we do our shopping, talk with our friends, worry about world affairs, and teach our children their table manners ..."

This all sounds like an excuse for "dumbing-down" Scripture to match our culture's downward trends. Should we then rewrite God's holy Scriptures to fit our more shallow and worldly communications? And what does it say about men like Billy Graham, J.I. Packer, Warren Wiersbe, and Jack Hayford when they endorse The Message as an authentic translation of the Bible rather than as Eugene Peterson's personal, politically correct interpretation?

[The above article was adapted from "What Kind of Message is THE MESSAGE?," an article by Berit Kjos.]