I love this brief post – fact is, if you own a Message "translation" (er, paraphrase or whatever), you know that there are some that blast it because it doesn't "read" like the NIV, KJV, NRSV, NLT or ASAP or WWJD or any other version of the bible. Though people are tempted to marginalize it because it didn't emerge from the same methodology of translation that was utilized by popular bibles, make no mistake about it – Eugene Peterson is NO dummy – he has doctoral work level training and experience in ancient langugages…he studied under the best and spent YEARS translating and working through the text. His goal – to get the scripture in a language and means of speech that was normally used by people on a day to day basis. All good in my book…now, without getting into its "shortcomings", let's just say this – every translation has its shortcomings…is it the most "accurate" word for word translation? Probably not…but does it grab the essense of words in translation and bring the meaning of the text to reader in an understandable and applicable manner? By all means…so here's a short post about the Message that brought a smile to my face!
The Message Disclaimer – By Curtis Honeycutt
How many times have you been sitting in a Sunday morning worship service and heard this line: “Now I’m going to re-read that section from The Message, which is a paraphrase written by a guy named Eugene Peterson. It’s not the official pew Bible you have in the cool utility slots in front of you, or if you’re in the front row, the Bibles that are floating on a magical shelf under your seat. The Message is like Gnomeo and Juliet…you get the idea. So now that I’ve explained this into oblivion, here goes…”
The Message disclaimer is so prevalent, it has become a staple of the obligatory info slides that shuffle before the service starts. Right after “Please silence your cell phones and children”, you see the one that says, “At some point during the next 90 minutes, someone may or may not read from The Message, which was written by The Eugene Peterson. While we don’t believe it quite counts as The Bible, reading from it is a lot of fun. For your convenience, we will Auto-Tune any references read from The Message.”
Explaining The Message to people is like trying to explain Twitter to your parents—you’ve told them a thousand times, and the best way they understand it is that Twitter is like having a pager for the internet…except that, with The Message, we get it. It’s a lot like The Sixth Sense. Most of us understand it after the second time, and that’s just because we had to go to the bathroom during the ending.
But I get why we have to explain it: The Bible’s a tricky book. It doesn’t have an author listed on the front cover, but if it did, it would say “Various Artists Under The Influence of The Spirit” (which sounds like a crazy party where the cops show up at the end and say “Everybody out! Party’s over!”). With The Message, it’s right there on the spine. Boom: Eugene Peterson wrote this. Wait, he did? I’m confused. Can you explain that to me again?
What I would like pastors to explain instead of what the Message is, is a question I’ve struggled with since childhood, “what color are pew cushions?” I had the 96-pack caboodle of Crayolas in school, and I can’t match your pew hue to any of them. Are the pews light blurple with flecks of seared salmon? Are they magentreuse (a majestic offspring of magenta+chartreuse)? Do I sense a subtle paisleyflage (paisley camouflage) pattern? If I squint just right, will I see a Magic Eye picture of dinosaurs missing The Ark?
If you are like me and wish pastors would spend less time explaining The Message and more time interpreting pew cushions, leave your comment.