“The Message” Is Not The Bible

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

    This may shock some of you, but Eugene H. Peterson’s book called “The Message” is not the Bible. And because it is not the Bible, it is not the Word of God. It is a distortion of the Bible, which is the Word of God. 

     However, this is not to say that no Biblical truths can be found in “The Message.” But why read something as if it is the Bible, when the Bible’s message has been seriously distorted in so many places? As an example of this distortion is Psalm 1 from “The Message.” It is taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com.

1 How well God must like you—
    you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
    you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
    you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
2-3 Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
    you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
    bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
    always in blossom.
4-5 You’re not at all like the wicked,
    who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
    unfit company for innocent people.
God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
     Now compare this perversion of Psalm 1 with, say, the King James Version, the New King James Version, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, or the New International Version.
Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on hislaw he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish. (Taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com.)


Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his seaon; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Taken from one my own copies of the King James Version.) 


     Many readers struggle with the old English of the King James Version. Although its antiquated words and phrases might make it difficult for us to comprehend some of what it says, that is a minor problem compared to the manner in which Peterson’s modern English paraphrase perverts the Bible. If you don’t want to struggle with the old English of the King James Version, at least use a reliable modern English translation such as the New King James Version.
     In spite of the fact that many well-known Christians promote “the Message” as the Bible, other Bible scholars and Christians say they are seriously mistaken.
     Here is an example of what I mean. It is taken from the end of an evaluation of “The Message.” This evaluation was written by Michael D. Marlowe, and is found on his website. A link to it is given below.
     Here  is how Marlowe concluded his evaluation of “The Message.” I have underlined some words because of their importance.
Michael D. Marlowe’s Negative Evaluation Of “The Message”
    “The Message has found a ready audience among ‘evangelicals’ who are bored with the Bible, and who wanted a jazzy and fun paraphrase to take its place. Its popularity is just one more example of the levity of the contemporary church, and of its unhealthy taste for novelties and fads, which have become so much a part of ministry in evangelical churches in the past thirty years. As Peterson has written in one of his books on pastoral care, American church leaders have been ‘transformed into a company of shopkeepers with shopkeepers concerns — how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from the competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.’ (10) And again, speaking of entertainment-driven ministry he says, ‘There are others who do not desert the place of worship, but in staying, they do something worse: they subvert it. They turn it in to a place of entertainment that will refresh bored and tired consumers and pump some zest into them.’ (11) But if there is one thing worse than turning the Sanctuary into a place of entertainment, it is turning the Sacred Page into a piece of entertainment.
     “This book should be recognized for what it is. It began as a stimulating paraphrase of the Epistle to the Galatians included in a popular devotional book, and it remains a piece of stimulating devotional literature. But it is not the Word of God. As Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary has put it, ‘it is freer even than a paraphrase. I think of it more as devotional literature than as a version of the Bible and wouldn’t recommend it for any other role.’ ” (12)


      If you want to read Michael D. Marlowe’s entire evaluation of “The Message,” click on this link:

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