Eugene Peterson's The Message Published
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Time Period
1993
Description
While teaching a Sunday School class on the New Testament book of Galatians, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor Eugene Peterson realized that his students were struggling to understand what they were reading because of the language of more formal Bible translations. Seeking to convey the underlying meaning of the text with more modern language, Peterson began translating Galatians for the class each week. He later stitched those pieces together into a devotional book.

That book caught the eye of an editor at a religious press who convinced Peterson to translate the entire Bible, which was published in sections from 1993 to 2002 as the The Message (Bible).

Most Bible translations are the work of large committees of scholars, but Peterson worked by himself and finished his translation in under a decade.
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Narrative
Eugene Peterson studied Semitic languages at Johns Hopkins University before serving as a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor for 29 years. He subsequently taught theology at Regent College, a non-denominational evangelical seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia.

While teaching a Sunday School class on the New Testament book of Galatians, Peterson realized that his students were struggling to understand what they were reading because of the stilted language of more formal Bible translations. As Peterson later explained, "When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly. When the prophet Isaiah preached a sermon, I can't imagine that people went to the library to figure it out. That was the basic premise under which I worked."

Peterson began translating each portion of Galatians for the class each week. He later stitched those pieces together into a devotional book. That book caught the eye of an editor at a religious press who convinced Peterson to translate the entire Bible. The Message was published in sections from 1993 through 2002. Most Bible translations are the work of large committees of scholars. Peterson finished his translation in under a decade.

The Message falls on the far end of the Bible translation spectrum, the last stop before being considered a paraphrase rather than a translation. While some versions of the Bible try to translate every word from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts into modern languages (called "formal equivalence"), translations like Peterson's The Message try to evoke the underlying meaning of the text (called "dynamic equivalence"). Precision is sacrificed for the sake of clarity.

Older translations, such as the King James Version and the Revised Standard Version preferred the formal equivalence model, but The Message is the culmination of a trend that began in the latter half of the 20th century toward dynamic translation. Other dynamic translations include the New International Version (1973), which is the most purchased Bible in the United States today.
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Photographs

Eugene Peterson speaking in Seattle- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Clappstar (CC BY 3.0)
Web Source(s)
http://www.leaderu.com/marshill/mhr03/peter1.html
Peterson talks about his translation philosophy and ministry at length in this interview.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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