The Message Bible MSG
For more than two years, Eugene Peterson devoted all his efforts to The Message® New Testament. His primary goal was to capture the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English. He hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people. The first group were those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant, irrelevant, and antiquated. The second group were those who had read the Bible all their lives but now found it "old hat," so familiar that they were no longer startled by the truth of its message.
Language is always changing. When we hear something over and over again in the same way, we can become so familiar with it that the text loses its impact. The Message® strives to help readers hear the living Word of God the Bible in a way that engages and intrigues us right where we are. The Message® is designed to be read by contemporary people in the same way as the original koiné Greek and Hebrew manuscripts were savored by people thousands of years ago.
Some people like to read the Bible in Elizabethan English. Others want to read a version that gives a close word-for-word correspondence between the original languages and English. Eugene Peterson recognized that the original sentence structure is very different from that of contemporary English. He decided to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.
The goal of The Message® is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather "a reading Bible." The verse numbers, which are not in the original documents, have been left out to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading. The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language. The Message® tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today.
Should We Use Eugene Peterson's 'The Message' Bible?
By Michael Brown, CP Op-Ed Contributor
In the aftermath of Eugene Peterson's controversial remarks about homosexuality, followed by his retraction, many have asked me if they should still use The Message.
My answer to the question remains the same today as it has always been: The Message is not a translation and should not be used as your primary Bible. However, as a very free paraphrase, it is sometimes powerful and brilliant while at other times it is seriously off target.
We can get a glimpse of the strengths and weaknesses of The Message by looking at how Dr. Peterson treated a number of key verses dealing with homosexual practice. This is a useful place to start, given the controversy currently surrounding this popular, 84-year-old, Christian author.
Let's look at Leviticus 18:22, first in the ESV, a conservative evangelical translation, then in The Message.
The ESV reads: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."
The Message reads: "Don't have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent."
Nothing is watered down here, and the paraphrase is close and fair. And the word "abhorrent" is as good a rendering of the Hebrew as is "abomination."
Next, we'll compare Romans 1:26-27.
The ESV reads: "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."
The Message reads: "Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either — women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men — all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it — emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches."
Dr. Peterson's paraphrase here is vivid and powerful, with nothing watered down or weakened, describing the most debased aspects of homosexual practice in stark, clear terms. (For the record, Paul was not saying here that homosexual couples are incapable of love or that all homosexuals are sex fiends. He is emphasizing how these same-sex acts are flatly contrary to God's design and also explaining how, historically, the human race was given over to idolatry and sin.)
When it comes to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, The Message is not clear at all, but I don't think it's because Dr. Peterson was trying to water down the two Greek terms used for homosexual practice. Instead, he became way too cute with words in general, taking away from the clarity of the original and even introducing some foreign concepts. This displays The Message at its worst, and it's another reminder as to why we should never use it as our primary Bible.
As translated in the ESV, Paul wrote, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
In TheMessage this becomes, "Don't you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom."
So, The Message does speak about those who "use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex," but what in the world does that mean?
If you're reading the ESV (or most other translations) and you're sleeping with your girlfriend or committing adultery with your neighbor's spouse or practicing homosexuality, Paul's words will hit you between the eyes: "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God."
If you're reading The Message, it will go right over your head: "Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom."
In fact, you might even turn to your partner as you read the verses together and say, "That doesn't describe us! We love each other, and we're not using or abusing each other."
This, again, is a great weakness of The Message: It sometimes produces beautifully phrased lines at the expense of the truth of Scripture. And notice also the reference in The Message to those who "use and abuse the earth and everything in it." When did Paul write this? He didn't.
Of course, I could cite hundreds of brilliant renderings in The Message, and sometimes, when preaching, I'll cite one of them, since it powerfully drills home the point. I've even cited The Message in some of my academic, biblical commentary writing.
But, to repeat: It should never be used as your primary Bible, since it is not a translation of the Bible but rather a free paraphrase of the Bible. And whenever I see people carrying The Message into church services, I groan, since I assume that, for those people, it is their Bible.
Use it, then, in a supplemental way and, where it really nails things or clarifies things, learn from it. But use it with caution: It is, by design, a very free paraphrase.
In sum, my view today of The Message is the same as it has been for years, unchanged by the controversial events of this week. I appreciate the years of effort that were put into it, and I recognize it for what it is, with all its great strengths and great weaknesses.
For a fair assessment of Dr. Peterson's comments and retraction this week, see Bill Muehlenberg's article here.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
The Message Bible for Android
The FASTEST Bible app and most efficient way to read & study the Bible. Quickly navigate to any verse and easily access tools to help further your understanding of the Bible. Over 5 million downloads on both iOS and Android, and over 400,000 people reading their Bibles each week!
The Message Bible is a paraphrase version of the Bible. The Message keeps the language of the gospel compelling and modern. It is an accurate paraphrasing of the bible rather than a translation. It captures the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English. Its purpose is keep the language of the gospel message current, fresh, and understandable—the way it was for its very first readers.
• Take Notes
• Highlight or Underline words & entire verses
• Bookmark Verses
• Add Margin Notes
• 4 types of Navigation (Scroll Wheel, 3-Tap, 2-Tap, & Keyboard)
• Full Screen Immersive Mode by a simple double tap (Android KitKat and higher)
• Folders to organize your notes & bookmarks
• Access Study Bibles & read the study notes beside the Bible
• Offline (No Internet connection required for downloaded Bibles)
• Red Letter text for Jesus' words
• Search the Old & New Testament to find verses containing the entered keyword
• Night mode for low-lit reading areas
• History folder to access past 50 viewed verses
• Split-screen mode to read two Bible translations at once
• Share verses & notes via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, email, & SMS
• Bible talks to you! Text-to-Speech allows the Bible to be read to you out loud
• Change font size and font type
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• Cross References & Footnotes by long-pressing on dotted-underlined words & superscript letters
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Is The Message as bad as they all say?
Recently, I had a conversation with someone regarding salvation and the afterlife. A death in her family had prompted her to ask questions about life beyond the grave, so we talked about faith in Jesus, and she showed a great deal of interest.
“Where can I read more about what Jesus said?” she asked.
Of course, the correct answer is to say, “Read the Bible,” which I did.
And she took me up on it! A few days later she told me she had taken my advice and downloaded a Bible app on her phone and had tried reading it.
“But it makes no sense,” she said, exasperated. “I don’t understand it.”
I enquired what translation she was reading, and she looked at me as if I was stupid. “English, of course!” she snapped.
When I looked at her phone it was clear the app she had downloaded used the KJV as its default translation. I went into the settings and changed it to an NIV and asked her to read a section. It was better, she said, but still somewhat esoteric. So I changed it again, this time to The Message.
“Oh, that’s much better!” she exclaimed. “I can understand this one.”
There are many criticisms of The Message, some of them justified. It’s not a reliable translation if that’s what you need. It’s a rendering of the text, an attempt to make the Bible accessible in the common vernacular. But as a doorway into serious Bible reading, it has been a gift to the church. At least that’s how my friend has found it.
In his book on Bible reading, Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson writes about his motivations in writing The Message. He goes so far as to say it’s a form of sacrilege to speak of God in language that is “inflated into balloons of abstraction or diffused into the insubstantiality of lacey gossamer.”
And that is the reason he agreed to provide people with a paraphrase of the Bible that makes sense in contemporary language. He sees it as part of the mission of God’s people. He explains:
“For those of us who take the Scriptures seriously as the word of God and the authoritative text by which we choose to live, translation is one of the primary defenses that we have against . . . letting language inflate into pomposities or artifices that are no longer current with the way we express our ordinary lives.”
Knowing this helps me appreciate The Message for what it is. It’s a protest against arcane and impenetrable religious language. It’s an invitation for ordinary people to enter the Scriptures once again.
But writing an accessible paraphrase didn’t arise only from his pastoral vocation, it goes even deeper for Peterson. In his 1997 book on spirituality, Leap Over a Wall, he opens by telling us how his mother used to recount Bible stories to him when he was a child. In quite a moving passage, he writes:
“My mother was good with words; she was also good with tones. In her storytelling I not only saw whole worlds come into being, I felt them within me through the timbre of her voice.”
Sure, he admits, she took some liberties with the stories, adding extracanonical detail, but “she never violated or distorted the story itself.”
Here we have our primary clue to reading The Message: it’s like sitting on Uncle Eugene Peterson’s knee and listening to him tell the Bible story, which is exactly what the woman I was talking to needed—the story!
Peterson takes the opening verses of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” and renders them like this:
“First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was like a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.”
God’s Spirit hovering like a bird; a soupy nothingness; an inky blackness. The universe came from this? What reader wouldn’t be intrigued?
At other times the text has a surprising, fresh beauty: “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
God-colors? What a startling way to put it.
Then there’s this:
“God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks” (Psalm 36:5-6).
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Sure, there are some slightly jarring colloquialisms: “God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son” (Romans 8:3). And some grating anachronisms: “The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it” (Romans 8:4). Or: “If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich” (1 Corinthians 11:33).
And occasionally, a deeply moving verse like, “Because of this, we have been comforted” (2 Corinthians 7:13) sounds a bit lame by comparison: “That’s what happened—and we felt just great.” Well, golly gee.
Others have been far more scathing in their criticism of The Message: it’s inaccurate; it’s misleading; it overstates the legalism of the Pharisees; it flattens out the beauty of the Authorized version, etc., etc. I’ve heard them all.
But it’s not a translation, folks. It’s Eugene Peterson’s retelling of the old, old story that was told to him on his mother’s knee, the rich tone of her voice reverberating through his body, and now through ours.
Twenty-five years later, it is still a story worth listening to.
[This article first appeared as part of NavPress’ 25th celebration of the publication of The Message].
Message version bible
What is The Message (MSG)?
The Message – History
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Languagewas created by pastor, scholar, author, and poet Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002 by NavPress. In the first four months after its release, 100,000 copies of The New Testament in Contemporary Englishwere printed by NavPress, and 70,000 books were sold. After that time, a legion of product offshoots flooded the bookstores, most of which are now out of print.
The Message – Translation Method
The Messageis not a translation, nor can it strictly be said to be a paraphrase of the original languages of the Bible. Peterson’s goal in creating The Message, in his own words, was to “bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat’.” Pastor Peterson’s parishioners, by his own admission, “simply weren’t connecting with the real meaning of the words and the relevance of the New Testament for their own lives.” However, this contradicts what Scripture reveals about the power of the Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit and made clear to those who are His: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Far from “losing its impact,” as NavPress describes traditional Bible versions, the Word of God becomes clearer and more impactful the more it is read and studied by those who seek its truth.
The Message – Pros and Cons
The original version of The Messagewas printed without the traditional numbered verses, making it read more like a novel. Many people found this refreshing at first, but also found it inconvenient for cross-referencing, comparison with other versions, and group Bible studies. As far as the negatives are concerned, there are numerous websites and articles devoted to the translation errors in The Message, too numerous to reiterate here. Suffice it to say that The Messagehas engendered more criticism for its lack of serious scholarship and outright bizarre renderings than just about any other Bible version to date. One common complaint from many who read The Messageor hear it read aloud is “I didn’t recognize it as the Bible.” Other critics declare The Messageto be not a paraphrase of what the Bible says, but more of a rendering of what Eugene Peterson would like it to say. In an interview with Christianity Today, Peterson described the beginning of the creative process that produced The Message: “I just kind of let go and became playful. And that was when the Sermon on the Mount started. I remember I was down in my basement study, and I did the Beatitudes in about ten minutes. And all of a sudden I realized this could work.” Aside from the impossibility of doing justice to the Sermon on the Mount in ten minutes, one wonders whether playfulness is the appropriate demeanor for those who attempt to “rightly divide the word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Awe and reverence for a holy God and His holy Word, yes. Playfulness? No.
The Message – Sample verses
John 1:1, 14 – “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
John 3:16 – “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
John 8:58 – “Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 – “Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!”
Titus 2:13 – “This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears.”
Recommended ResourcesHow to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions by Gordon D. Fee & Mark L. Strauss
More insights from your Bible study - Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!
Related TopicsWhat is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)?
What is the New Living Translation (NLT)?
What is the English Standard Version (ESV)?
KJV Only movement? Is the King James Version the only Bible we should use?
What is the Contemporary English Version (CEV)?
What is The Message (MSG)?
Why was The Message written? The best answer to that question comes from Eugene Peterson himself: ""While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren't feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become 'old hat.'""
Peterson's parishioners simply weren't connecting with the real meaning of the words and the relevance of the New Testament for their own lives. So he began to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original ancient Greek—writing straight out of the Greek text without looking at other English translations. As he shared his version of Galatians with them, they quit stirring their coffee and started catching Paul's passion and excitement as he wrote to a group of Christians whom he was guiding in the ways of Jesus Christ. For more than two years, Peterson devoted all his efforts to The Message New Testament. His primary goal was to capture the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English.
Language changes. New words are formed. Old words take on new meaning. There is a need in every generation to keep the language of the gospel message current, fresh, and understandable—the way it was for its very first readers. That is what The Message seeks to accomplish for contemporary readers. It is a version for our time—designed to be read by contemporary people in the same way as the original koin Greek and Hebrew manuscripts were savored by people thousands of years ago.
That's why NavPress felt the time was right for a new version. When we hear something over and over again in the same way, we can become so familiar with it that the text loses its impact. The Message strives to help readers hear the living Word of God—the Bible—in a way that engages and intrigues us right where we are.
Some people like to read the Bible in Elizabethan English. Others want to read a version that gives a close word-for-word correspondence between the original languages and English. Eugene Peterson recognized that the original sentence structure is very different from that of contemporary English. He decided to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts—to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.
The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather ""a reading Bible."" The verse numbers, which are not in the original documents, have been left out of the print version to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading. The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language. The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today.
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God Draws Us Into THEMESSAGE
In memory of Eugene Peterson, a guide as well as a fellow traveler.
Eugene Peterson lived the joy of the Christian life. Intent on sharing it with others, he found himself translating the Bible for his congregation. A scholar of the Greek and Hebrew languages, Peterson worked to get the ancient text in their language while being true to the Bible's original languages. Peterson never tired of sharing the invitation that is God’s Word.
"In-between The Man and The Message"
Hear what people love about The Message Bible.
"There's a translation of the Scripture that this guy Eugene Peterson has undertaken. It has been a great strength to me. He’s a poet and a scholar, and he’s brought the text back to the tone in which the books were written."
BONO, LEAD SINGER OF U2
Meet the pastor committed to seeing his congregation read the Bible.
Eugene Peterson scholar, pastor, author, and poet has written more than thirty books including As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Run with the Horses, and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. For his work on The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Peterson received the prestigious ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award.Read more
October Reading from The Message
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is emphatic about the free life we can live because of Christ. It is not the cheap freedom that is often celebrated by the world. But a freedom that allows you to serve others without being burdened by the compulsions of selfishness. A freedom that will slowly bear […]Read more