One of the books I finished up during Lent, as part of my Lenten Growth Plan, was Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book (which I wrote about a couple times after I started reading it last year: Eat This Book 1.0 and Eat This Book 2.0).
Peterson also wrote The Message, a paraphrase/translation of the Scriptures, but I first discovered Peterson while I was in seminary in the early 1990s when I read The Contemplative Pastor, which had a huge impact on me, at the time.
In part two of Eat This Book, Peterson discusses the importance of right reading.
Reading the Bible, if we do not do it rightly can get us into a lot of trouble (81). … An enormous about of damage is done in the name of Christian living by bad Bible reading (82).
Specifically, Peterson writes about the ancient practice, lectio divina.
Lectio divina cultivates this personal, participatory attentiveness and thus trains us in the discipline of reading Scripture rightly (84). … Lectio divina is a way of life that develops ‘according to the Scriptures’ (89). … Lectio divina comprises four elements: lectio (we read the text), meditatio (we meditate the text), oratio (we pray the text), and contemplatio (we live the text) (91).
And I love this statement …
[I]t is not enough to understand the Bible, or admire it. God has spoken; now it’s our move (109).
In other words, God’s Word is transformational, not just informational.
Part three, “The Company of Translators,” deals with translations leading up to Peterson’s own translation, The Message.
It seemed that in the earliest years of my walk with God (mostly in the 1990s), there were a number of modern translations being published in this days. I think I must have bought a copy of each. My favorites are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV). I also have a copy of the God’s Word translation and I have more recently started referring to the New Century Version (NCV) online. I also like the online translation, the NET Bible, especially for study. And recently, I learned that there’s a new translation in the works, the Common English Bible.
I already liked Peterson’s translation, The Message, but after reading these last to chapters, my admiration/respect for this translation has gone up.
Stating that the “Bible is the most translated book in the world” (121), he discusses the challenge and the necessity of translation…
There is plenty of translation that takes place everyday in getting the American English I speak into the American English that you hear. … We all use words differently. And we misunderstand frequently. Language is ambiguous. We have to repeat often and explain patiently (168).
And finally …
Translation is interpretation. Always. It is interpretation because words always convey far more meaning than the dictionary assigns them. Words have histories, emotional associations, story-influenced connotations. And interpretation requires–to one degree or another–paraphrase (173).
Peterson is always challenging and inspiring, and this book has given me an even greater appreciation for God’s Word.