April 21, 2017
more on The Message
The more I get to know The Message, the more I encourage you to check it out! As you might recall, I’ve previously reviewed a Catholic/ Ecumenical edition, which includes (as the original King James Version of the Bible did) the books often referred to as the Apocrypha. We’ve also talked about a special edition of The Message 100, which arranges the books of the Bible by the dates they were most likely written, rather than the sequence typically found in a Protestant Bible.
Instead of hoping for a review copy this time, I bought myself a present to read during Lent – a large print, reader edition of The Message in a premium leather cover as shown below.
Why leather? I want a reader edition that’s comfortable and pleasant to hold, which hardbacks just aren’t. However, I prefer hardback study Bibles on my desk to do the research needed for writing projects and to find the background information and insights that enliven a weekly Bible study discussion group.
When I’m just reading cover to cover, my Bibles and I often have conversations in the margins and, more important, develop a relationship that’s like the tangible presence of a spiritual being. Since John 1 tells us that Jesus Christ IS The Word, a huggable Bible is the closest I can come to a physical touch or embrace.
If that seems foreign to you, it's possible The Message will too! i.e., It’s not a word-for-word translation in heightened vocabulary and Shakespearean tempos (aka iambic pentameter.) It’s everyday language with rhythms that convey the inspiration, passion, and conversational tones of Bible times yet keep current readers reading and relating.
It’s real. It’s huggable.
To give you an example fresh from Lent, consider the opening lines of this penitential psalms:
“Generous in love – God, give grace!
Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
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.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.”
Long before reading those lines – or any other in The Message – I felt God leading me to prayerfully paraphrase scripture (prayer-a-phrases.) For decades I’ve been studying the Bible at home and in almost every church denomination, but I don’t have the advantage of knowing the original languages in which the Bible was written.
Dr. Eugene Peterson does. Not only did he study Hebrew and Greek, he taught those languages on a university level for several years. In addition, he pastored a church for decades where he brought members of his congregation into the life and heart of the Bible. Once I learned of those qualifications and saw Holy Spirit inspiration in his work, The Message became a totally unexpected favorite.
It’s real. It’s huggable.
Since Lent has now ended in Easter, let’s look at the resurrection story in John 20:19-23 to give you an idea of the language:
“Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, ‘Peace to you.’ Then he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: ‘Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.’
Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ he said. ‘If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?’”
Good question! Frankly, I’d rather let the forgiveness found in Christ Jesus take care of me and those I need to pardon! Otherwise, I have no good place to stack and store my lack of forgiveness.
The Bible is all about the forgiveness, restoration, and redemption culminating in Christ. To clarify this, my copy of The Message has an article in the back matter on “The Story of the Bible in Five Acts,” which includes Creation, The Fall, Israel, Jesus, and The New People of God.
Another unique feature of this Bible comes in the Introductions, which introduce us to the spirit of the message in each book. Take, for example, this intro to Philippians:
“This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves – the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.”
Then in verses 9-11 of the first chapter, we read:
“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that yu will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”
May the grace of God be with us to do exactly that!
Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer reviewer
genuine leather, large print