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    Entries in Bible Study (6)


    TheMessage100 :: New Format, Same Bible Paraphrase

    This month, NavPress re-released Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, TheMessage, in a new format. It is called TheMessage100I received a copy for review. Here are a few important highlights, and my thoughts:

    1. The books of the Bible are arranged chronologically, rather than traditionally.

     begins with Genesis, but is followed by Job. The New Testament leads with Matthew, Mark, Luke, but then we read Acts. John directly precedes Revelation, as John is traditionally believed to be the latest account of Jesus' life and ministry.

    Yet, in this chronological ordering, books of the Bible are kept together as wholes, rather than interjecting a Psalm, for example, to accompany an event in the life of King David of Israel.

    The chronological presentation results in a different encounter with the story.

    Recently, in a conversation with someone who is very new to Christianity, I offered this thought: sometimes, in attending a Bible study or a worship service, you might feel as though you have walked into a movie that is well underway. Placing that moment in sequence, then, is a challenge. There are key moments that have come before that particular encounter, and other events on the horizon that will bring the story to a new turn. The important thing is to remain patient with oneself, and with the story.

    A chronological reading of the Bible, in some ways, can help with sequencing. Placing the prophetic books between 2 Kings and 1 Chronicles brings new light to those historical accounts, by allowing other voices to be incorporated into the narrative, and new connections can be made.

    2. The 100 in TheMessage100 refers to the reading divisions within the text.

    1 Corinthians 14:40 says, "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." (NIV)

    The context there is the gathering of the church, or congregation, for worship, edification, and the Lord's Meal.

    But the same can apply to reading the Scriptures. It helps to have a plan.

    TheMessage100 is divided into 100 readings, meant to be read at one's own pace. Each reading portion is prefaced by a very short introduction, to set the context and focus the mind. The divisions can be used to pace one's walk through the Bible.

    3. TheMessage100 is a Bible meant for reading, and should be accompanied by other tools.

    As has long been known, TheMessage is a paraphrase translation of the Bible. This means that Rev. Peterson worked with the original texts, as well as within the cadences and rhythms of contemporary speech, to offer a rendering of the biblical text that imaginatively presents the message found there in modern form.

    Some people prefer a word-for-word rendering of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts in English, assuming that continuity between languages can be established clearly, apart from the interpretive slant of the translator. I understand that preference, and sympathize with it. If that is your preference, you may wish to acquire another translation of the Bible for devotion and study.

    Nevertheless, I find TheMessage helpful, knowing that it is a paraphrase. The shadings and nuances offered by Peterson expand the imagination, and can spark fresh insight. When I read TheMessage, I often have another translation of the Bible nearby. If there are significant differences, I might engage in a word study, to discover what choices were made by translators to try to present the original languages in a way modern readers of English can understand.

    And I would recommend that other readers do the same--having a good commentary, Bible dictionary, or study Bible to read alongside a paraphrase--or any translation of the Bible--is a wise practice.

    Keep in mind that this translation is meant for reading, and is presented in a way that is intended to help the reader get into the flow of the story, and to remain there till its culmination.

    4. I plan to use TheMessage100 for devotional reading in 2016.

    This year, I've been reading through the entire Bible with the help of an iPad app. Each day I am assigned a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm, and a Proverb or two. When I have missed days (and sometimes, I have missed multiple), I have taken time on my sabbath day or over the weekend to catch up. This has been a good practice for me, and I am on track to finish this year.

    When the new year begins, I plan to use TheMessage100 for my devotional reading, which takes place most mornings at home with a cup of coffee, or in my study at the church as the day begins.

    Check out TheMessage100. If you're a member of my congregation, I'll have it on hand in the office if you'd like to take a look.


    5 Verses of Scripture I'm Focusing On

    Photo by Cecil Walker

    Philippians 4:6

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

    Galatians 2:20

    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.

    Romans 6:23

    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Colossians 3:23

    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for people.

    Luke 16:13

    No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.


    Quick Review :: The Voice New Testament

    I have a deep love for the Bible.  From time to time, I am asked for my thoughts and opinions on various translations.  I often respond by asking what the reader is looking for.  Accessible language?  Scholarly precision?  Word-for-word translation?  Age specific?  Helpful notes and study helps?  Binding, aesthetics, layout, and feel?  Reputation?  Inclusive language?  Paraphrase?  The list goes on, and on, and on.

    There is no shortage of Bibles available for purchase, and in our family, we have a host of Bibles adorning our shelves.  The Voice New Testament: Revised & Updated, a fresh translation that has been produced by the Ecclesia Bible Society, came my way via Thomas Nelson publishers.  Claiming to be a blend of scholarly excellence and prosaic/poetic gloss, The Voice brings new life to old stories, invigorating the imagination through the combined use of the academic and the commonplace.

    I have been reading through this translation of the New Testament this year in addition to my regular readings in the NIV and NRSV.  I particularly enjoy the italicized poetic additions to the translations.  Due to the typesetting, these are easily distinguished as paraphrase or interpretive departures from the koine Greek.  I do find a few of the interpretative choices a little clunky (consistently replacing Messiah with "Anointed One", and references to Christ as "the liberating King").  But I acknowledge that this discomfort is due largely in part to my familiarity with other translations, and I am sympathetic to these choices, as the translation team surely deployed these phrases consistently to instill in the reader the importance of specific theological themes they feel have been neglected.

    In addition to the translation itself, the brief book introductions and the study notes are helpful, and are written in clear, accessible language.  

    I would recommend The Voice as an alternative translation for study and devotional reading.  Take a step back, read through it as though encountering the text for the first time, and fall in love with the story of the New Testament once again.


    I had a conversation with Stephen Proctor regarding The Voice last week.  Here is our exchange: 



    YouVersion :: Fantastic Online Tool for Bible Reading and Study

    Friends of mine have been using YouVersion for a while, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I checked it out for myself.  I'm impressed.  YouVersion is an easy to use Bible reading and Bible study online interface that can be accessed via your web browser, smart phone, or tablet.  Multiple Bible translations are available, and the study resources are helpful.

    As a Lenten discipline, I signed up with YouVersion to follow N. T. Wright's Lent for Everyone reading plan.  Each day, I receive an email that includes the devotional reading and the scripture selections in the translation of my choosing.  I can then log on to YouVersion and mark the readings "completed".

    If you're looking for a tool that can keep you accountable, plug you in to a community, and provide you with a systematic and easy to access Bible reading plan, YouVersion is perfect.  With the YouVersion app, you can also receive daily reminders that will remind you to complete your daily readings.

    When I speak with people about Bible reading, I often hear that they do not have enough time, enough discipline, or enough understanding to sustain the practice over time.  YouVersion can help with each of these concerns.  The readings are digestible, the reminders can help with discipline, and the resources and community can help with understanding.

    Do you use YouVersion?  If so, what is your experience?  If not, do you use some other tool or approach to remain disciplined in the practice of Bible reading?


    A Little More Overlap?

    With all due respect to the publishers of the NIV Life Application Study Bible, I think that faith intersects with each of these areas (and more) a little more than is represented by this Venn diagram.  This is illustrative, however, of the way many of us think about the Christian life.