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Ben Patterson


The Message

Let me get my complaints out of the way up front. At first I didn't like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased John 1:14 in The Message: "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood." It was catchy, "moved into the neighborhood," but I thought it bordered on cutesy. I thought Peterson should have stayed with something like the more traditional "dwelling." (It could be worse: I know someone who would have liked "zip code.") Also, I still think there are way too many hyphens in the book. Since I'm looking at the prologue to John's gospel right now, I can tell you that there are 14 hyphens in the first 18 verses, from "Life-light" to "one-of-a-kind god-expression."

OK, those are my complaints. That's as tough as I can get with Eugene Peterson's wonderful paraphrase. The problem with me reviewing anything he has written is that I want to be like him when I grow up, and I am almost 60 and running out of time. I'm in danger of becoming a Peterson-toady. See what I mean? Now I'm using hyphens with abandon.

One could do worse than emulate Eugene Peterson. His 35 years as a pastor have honed and polished an ability to boil a thing down to its essence, to really get it right, with a few vivid words. This art is apparent in his pithy and memorable renderings of Scripture, but also in the brief book introductions he wrote for The Message, which alone are worth the price of the book. Each one is a theological and devotional gem.

Thus Matthew is introduced through the lens of the genealogy that opens the gospel. Effortlessly, without pedantry and faithful to the author's intent, Peterson shows that the long list of names should be pondered as a key to the meaning of both the gospel and the Gospel:

The story of Jesus doesn't begin with Jesus. God had been at work for a long time. Salvation, which is the main business of Jesus, is an old business. Jesus is the coming together in final form of themes and energies and movements that had been set in motion before the foundation ...

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