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147 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring new twist on the good old theme, 19 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Bible Message) (Hardcover)
There have been many recent efforts to put the Bible into contemporary language. In our varied Western cultures and our so-flexible English language, the translator will always have an impossible task, trying to get across the original sense with a single translation, yet read elegantly and simply.

Some don't try - they render the original (or a 17th century AV) idiom, often trying to translate the ancient language word-for-word and yet somehow get this to read well in modern English. They might, if we're lucky, give us some help to understand this. These can make 'worthy' translations, but they aren't rated well for being intelligible to ordinary folk. Others go too far with idiomatic paraphrase in addressing a particular sector of readership: think of the 'hip' testaments; or there's the 1000 word Simple English NT that jumped through hoops to 'avoid difficult words'!

Most modern translations steer a middle course, and for the past 35 years, all those I've seen have done it pretty well. A few are outstanding. The Living Bible and Good News Bible are the two popular versions which get quite colloquial. Both have been criticised for it, usually for missing important - to the critic - nuances. Well, of course! You can't have it all!

Eugene Peterson's 'The Message' New Testament is in the tradition of Weymouth, Moffat, Rieu and Phillips, aiming for an idiom that will be easier to understand than the more formal and especially the 'literal' translations, yet avoiding 'street language' that outdates faster than fresh fish. It first appeared in 1993 and, with help, he has expanded it steadily to finally see a full Bible this year.

It is colloquial, sometimes in the extreme, and uses a homely North American idiom which still feels comfortable in Britain and the Antipodes. What have ensured its steadily rising popularity, though, are Peterson's subtly 'right' turn of phrase, his terse yet apposite choice of words and, above all, his sheer poetry in many places. All of these are shown well in the earlier Psalms.

It isn't an even translation. Some parts are merely well-translated and without the spark of the best. However, I love it for the wonderful passages I keep finding when I look through a dozen versions for quotes to use in talks and prayer notes.

No translation can keep everyone happy and some reviews here show discontent in those who like their scripture smooth and erudite. Peterson is earthy, pungent and frequently poetic, but his scholarship is good (though imperfect as any mortal's). He hits my spot so often that I like to keep his translation near me, along with the AV, NIV and NLT for variety.Long live the people's translator!
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