I read a heck of a lot of Christian books. Very rarely do I ever give a book 5 stars. Why is this book worthy of that honour? Two reasons: First, the content, it tackles a subject of primary importance - how to read the bible for 'formation' not 'information'. Peterson highlights that our basic tutoring in reading is with the aim of extracting information. That's not what the bible is for. It's a gift to us for the shaping of our daily lives. Second, the style, it is written by a master of words, someone at the peak of his craft. I found myself re-reading lines and phrases just for the sheer pleasure of letting the words dance again through my mind. The ultimate worth of the book though is that I found it worked. It taught me valuable lessons in how to read my bible again, afresh. My lazy habits have been corrected, I've received new techniques of engaging with the text, I'm a whole lot richer for spending an tenner on this book!
Eugene Peterson, translator of "The Message", is a true wordsmith. Part of the pleasure in reading this book is the way in which he crafts his sentences, encouraging you think deeply and to read further. Subtitled "The Art of Spiritual Reading," this is no manual on Bible study approaches but it seeks to evoke a desire for us to delve into the Bible to search out God's voice - leaving our own selfishness and personalities behind. The metaphor of eating the book - really taking it within us and having it become part of us - was reinforced throughout the text.
The last two chapters sat slightly oddly in this book. They describe how Peterson began his "The Message" translation of the Bible and then discuss the important discoveries of ancient papyri at Oxyrhynchus and Ugarit and how they affected our understanding of the language of the New Testament. I loved these two chapters but I felt they were a slightly uneasy fit in the overall book - I would have preferred them to be the preface to another book entirely - one I sincerely hope that Peterson chooses to write!
Overall, this book is a pleasure to read, it spoke to me and convicted me about my approach to the Bible and the limits that we put on it through our superficial reading of these holy texts.
Eat This Book focuses on how to do more than merely read the Bible for facts and information. It centres on the notion of "lectio divina", or spiritual reading, which Peterson presents as a (or even the) traditional form of engagement with the Bible. There are four elements:
Lectio/Reading Meditatio/Meditation or engagement Oratio/Praying Contemplatio/Contemplation, or as he explains it, living it out
He also offers some fascinating stories and examples that show how the Bible text has been shaped by historical context, and how translation has both helped and hindered our appreciation of it. One example: there are many words which were only found in the Greek New Testament. This led theologians to develop the theory of a unique language that only the Holy Spirit used. It was only as a result of archaeological research that people realised that the New Testament was actually written in down-to-earth street language - the very opposite of what they assumed. The Holy Spirit does not speak in elevated language at all, but the opposite, in a way that everyone can understand. What, Peterson asks, does this say to our love for complex language and religious phraseology?
Stories like this were fascinating and helpful. I found the model of spiritual reading helpful and will attempt to make use of it. I also appreciated Peterson's clear enthusiasm for the Bible and he shows how his scholarship has served to greatly deepen his understanding and love for it.
However, I did find the book rather slight: it feels rather like a collection of short essays than an in-depth study of its topic. I would have appreciated more developed thoughts on the stages of lectio divina (rather than one chapter on the whole thing). In some ways, I feel it presents an appealing ideal for engagement with Scripture, but Peterson leaves it without developed thoughts or insights as to how to go about it in daily life. As long as you approach this book as a broad introduction, rather than an in-depth guide to engaging with the Bible, you should enjoy it very much.
This book was full of nuggets to chew on. I have tasted and found the Lord to be very good. My desire to read the Bible with a more spiritual view has enabled me to get more from it. I highly recommend this book!!!!
Read this book as part of my use of Lectio Divina and it proved to be a very good read, informative and challenging. Written in Peterson's usual style I thoroughly recommend it for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of scripture and its translation.
Another excellent, thought-provoking book from the author of "The Message". I found myself highlighting many sections to return to later. In places, its not the easiest read, but still well worth five stars.
Its a pity that the writer chooses to defend his own translation method for The Message rather than leave it more general. He makes a good job of defending translation for meaning rather then translation for literal word for word accuracy. Well worth a read. The message implicit in "eat this book" can be applied to a wide variety of reading.