The Bible in Contemporary Language

BibleToday’s question: What is the name of the tool contained in most Bibles which gives you a chart that compares what each of the four gospels has to say about Jesus? In most Bibles, this very helpful chart is referred to as the “Harmony of the Gospels.” If you want to have some fun, let me suggest that you use the Internet along with this tool. Using either or and your favorite web browser you can setup a “tab” for each of the four gospels. These websites not only have the complete text of the Bible, they also allow you to use your favorite translation. This way you can easily use the Harmony of the Gospels chart to jump back and forth between Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The chart is usually setup in chronological order which makes it even easier to walk through the three years of Jesus’ time of ministry on earth.

Speaking of useful tools to better understand the Bible, let me recommend Eugene Peterson’s The Message. I’m sure most of you have at least some familiarity with this modern language presentation of the Bible. Rev. Peterson was uniquely qualified to write this book in that he started his professional life as a professor of the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary. He later pastored the same congregation for 30 years. The author’s sharing how he found his congregation’s interest in the Bible to be nearly non-existent is very familiar to us. We have often experienced the same thinking with many of our ministry recipients at Judah’s Call.

In his introduction to the New Testament, the author explains how The Message was born. “For thirty-five years as a pastor I stood at the border between two languages, biblical Greek and everyday English, acting as a translator, providing the right phrases, getting the right words so that the men and women to whom I was pastor could find their way around and get along in this world where God has spoken so decisively and clearly in Jesus. I did it from the pulpit and in the kitchen, in hospitals and restaurants, on parking lots and at picnics, always looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people.”* Of course he did the same thing between Hebrew and English in the Old Testament.

Again, the author says it best: “The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was earlier in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again.”**

If I find myself struggling in my understanding of a particular Scripture, even with the help of my study Bible, I usually grab a copy of The Message to see if the contemporary language will make a difference. It almost always does!

I have often found great help in Rev. Peterson’s introductory comments to each book of the Bible. One sentence in his introduction to the New Testament dropped into my heart and mind with the impact of a boulder: “For Jesus is the descent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve when he sees how hard we try.”*** (my emphasis added)

Here’s your next question: Why do you think the Good News (gospels) about Jesus is presented in the New Testament four times? Here’s a link for those of you who might not have a Bible at your finger tips: Praying that you will allow the transforming power of His Word into your heart!!!!!

Don’t forget to refer your family, friends and church to the Bible Overview

* Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, ©2005 by NavPress Publishing Group: 1328.
** Ibid., 8.
*** Ibid., 1328.

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2 Responses to The Bible in Contemporary Language

  1. gotta say I love The Message also. It has really changed my perspective on Bible translation. I used to be very hung up on word for word accuracy, but I realize that when translating, we’re translating more than just words. We’re translating cultural and historical perspectives that might not be clear to a modern reader looking at an accurate word-for-word translation.

    Love what you do to make the Bible clear, Bill!

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