The Message was written by Eugene H. Peterson and first published in 1993. It is a contemporary paraphrase of the Holy Bible from the original languages, “crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.” The Message was written in order to recreate the spirit of the original books of the New Testament, which were written in the street language of the day. The Greek language has two levels: formal and informal. If someone were to write something intended for posterity, they would write in the formal language. Formal language was used for things such as philosophy, law, history, and epic poetry. However, the New Testament was written in the informal language, the everyday speech of the common people.
The Message was written as an attempt to return to that, to convert the Bible back into the language in which we think and speak. Peterson notes that in the course of the project, he realized that this was exactly what he had been doing in his thirty-five years as a pastor, “always looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people.” As Bible-researcher.com rightly points out, “Unfortunately, the publisher has advertised it as a “translation from the original languages” that “accurately communicates the original Hebrew and Greek” and brings out “the subtleties and nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages,” being the work of a respected “exegetical scholar,” etc., all of which gives an entirely false impression of the work. Instead, what we have here is a free paraphrase of the text, often very eccentric, with many unlikely renderings, lengthy insertions and omissions, and other problems; but to criticize this work for its many inaccuracies would be to miss the whole purpose of its author. Peterson’s purpose in this is to present something new and provocative at every turn, something vivid and unusual, in order to stir up the dull minds of people who have become bored with their familiar Bibles.” The Message goes far beyond being a paraphrase of the scriptures. Peterson’s work has no ties to the original languages as seen below:
NRSV: “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:”
Message: “This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term.”
NRSV: “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, O Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.'”
Message: “Isaiah maintained this same emphasis: If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “Chosen of God,” they’de be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.”
NKJV: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Message: “”Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.”
Not only is The Message just flat out goofy in many places (like James 4:7) but it also distorts the truth to be politically correct.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
NKJV: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. ”
Message: “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining 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.”
Where is the condemnation against adultery? Where is the condemnation against homosexuality? Where is the condemnation against drunkenness? Where is the condemnation against stealing? The Message just wipes it all away, simply declaring that we are not to “abuse each other” (whatever that means).
The Message is completely useless. It is not even a loose translation of the scriptures. Rather, it is Eugene Peterson’s commentary on the scriptures, and a painfully bad commentary at that. The Message does not represent any Greek or Hebrew words faithfully. No one should think they have the Word of God in their hands when holding this work.