Eugene Peterson is a prolific writer and well known for his translation The Message. Currently, he is Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. Not only has Peterson taught in the classroom, he was the founding pastor of Christ our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. The Message is his most popular work, which received criticism from many. One critic claimed that Peterson only wanted to make more money on his commentary that he calls a translation. Essentially, since Peterson could not make revenue on publishing a commentary he “pimped the scripture (J.R. Miller).”
Sadly, I shared these criticisms ignorantly and through popular opinion. However, my opinions of Peterson have matured due to more recent reading of other publications, such as Eat this Book, The Jesus Way, and Practice Resurrection. In Eat This Book, I am encouraged and challenged by his approach to scripture and its meaning. Peters says that in order to read the Scriptures “adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them” (xii). I am also challenged to not see scripture reading as simply a cognitive exercise, as if learning more about the bible creates greater spirituality (although it does enrich ones faith). Scripture must be eaten and metabolized into good works. Peterson says, “Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son (18).” This line is worth the price of the book. I would make this into a poster and place on the walls of my office, if I had one, as encouragement for the extension of scripture beyond my cognitive knowledge.
Another aspect that Peterson draws out in Eat This Book is ones motivation behind the individual. Reading scripture should be motivated by wanting to do good works in the world for the kingdom. However, the motivations that we (and I) wrestle with are when we read the scripture because we need something, want something, and want to feel something. These are selfish needs that Peterson titles a new Holy Trinity. Perhaps when I read the scriptures, I should not be focused on my needs and rights, my wants or my feelings, because God supplies my identity through the text. These feelings, wants, and needs have saturated the world and the world pours over into our Christian world, including mine.
Finally, I appreciated Peterson’s apology for the Message translation. In reading Petersons own thoughts about the Message; It helped me to clarify issues. First, my false conception of Peterson was that he did not know Greek and Hebrew and thus I did not expect accurate translation. Of course, Peterson is a well equipped translator who knowing the languages took 10 years in translating the Message. Secondly, he reminded what translation is all about. Translation of the bible exists so that the words and message of God’s revelation may be understood in a specific language for a specific people. I feel that Peterson has alleviated my conscience from the misunderstandings translation meaning. I am extremely humbled and appreciative of the work that Peterson has done and what it means in my studying of the scriptures and my participation in the Kingdom of God.
*I will be adding to this blog upon completion of other works by Peterson.