TheMessage100 – A Review

NavPress/Tyndale House recently sent me a review copy of The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence (2015)  Here’s the official website: themessage100.com.  This book is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message put in chronological order and separated into 100 chapters to make it read like a book.  To be sure, there are chronological Bibles out there, but this is the first one on my shelves.  I was happy to get it and read through big parts of it.

First, I do have to note that The Message is not my “go-to” Bible.  I view it as a modern-day paraphrase or sort of a commentary on the Bible.  If you’ve never read parts of it before, you’ll soon find out that it isn’t meant to be a translation.  For example, here’s Psalm 41:4: “You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil, You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.”  Sometimes Peterson’s paraphrase is quite profound and well-stated; other times it isn’t so helpful.  Using this paraphrase in my studies does help me look at the text closer, so I’m glad to own it (even if I don’t agree with all the paraphrases!).

Second, I do wish this Bible would have an index.  I do roughly know the chronology of the Bible books, so I can usually find the book I’m looking for.  However, if someone who wasn’t familiar with the chronology was looking for Psalms (for example), it may take awhile to find it without an index.  I also wish there were words that separated one book from another.  For example, James transitions to Galatians and there’s only some smallish grey print to note the change (the actual chronology of the books is also debatable, but that’s a different topic for now).  Basically, these are two formatting issues that makes this Bible a little less user-friendly than it could be.

All in all, I like having this paraphrase handy.  It does get me thinking, and drives me back to actual translations of the Bible when questions arise.  And, again, some of Peterson’s paraphrases are actually quite helpful, so that benefits my studies.  So if you want a Bible paraphrase (not translation!), and you want it in readable chronological fashion (albeit with a few formatting issues), here’s one to consider: The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence.

I received this Bible from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

shane lems

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4 comments on “TheMessage100 – A Review

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks for a balanced review! I experience such extreme reactions to The Message. Some treat it as “of the devil” leading people astray with rather ridiculous accusations. While others can fail to realize it is a paraphrase and use it as their primary Bible – and I think there are real problems with that. So…your balanced review is appreciated and needed!

  2. PaulW says:

    I’m surprised – usually I find myself in hearty agreement with your reviews and posts! Thank you for your work on these – and keep them coming!

    I think whatever devotional quality The Message may have has been overshadowed by the dulling and dumbing effect it has had on our people. Why do adults need another 4th-5th grade reading level non-translation of the Bible (that is essentially purported to be a valible Bible option)? Even Peterson himself has said, it is for “first-time readers,” and that these readers should quickly “get weaned from it.” In an interview published in Christianity Today he said, “When I’m in a congregation where somebody uses it in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, ‘Hear the Word of God from The Message.’ But it surprises me how many do.”

    “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.” – Craig Blomberg (but it is marketed as a Bible version)

    Does it help disciples to infuse God’s words with strained modern idom and remove or obscure the biblical language, vocabulary, poetry, and argument? For children maybe, but not adults. But do we even want children reading and memorizing sentences that they’re going to grow out of (hopefully)? The Message is a sign of our societal times…

    Hope that wasn’t too ranty…I look forward to your posts/tweets!

    • Paul W – thanks for the comments! Appreciate the tone; thanks for not just throwing me under the bus!

      I’d agree – the Message isn’t a good “Bible” for kids to use and it’s not a great primary “Bible.” I should have probably added one more sentence to the last paragraph to say that this is a good “paraphrase” for people studying the actual text and/or good translations. If this was a person’s “go to” “Bible,” I’d say that’s not a good thing! However, for me, when I study a text (using original languages at least to some extent), I look at the good translations, and then later on in my studies I look at “The Message” to see how Peterson said it. Sometimes it’s pretty helpful, sometimes it’s not.

      Anyway, I don’t disagree with your statements, and I’m not annoyed with them. Good discussion!

      shane

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