The Message "Bible" Heresy
Who is "Dr." Eugene Peterson?  You may be surprised by what follows.......................

The Message: 

Eugene Peterson's Opinion of The Bible 


1 Corinthians 2:12 -13

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.


In the various related articles about The Message, analysis and information will be presented showing various theological bias implanted within The Message as well as verse and doctrine comparison to other versions. Research will be presented regarding the various promotions by NavPress, the publisher of The Message, using the words: Bible, Bible version, complete Bible, translation, paraphrase, complete Old and New Testament, accurate and so on. The research will present endorsements for The Message also used by the publisher as a means of authenticating this book as accurate, and will include biographical information on those many well known, and perhaps not so well known individuals.

Research has revealed that many people have assumed that Eugene Peterson has a doctorate in languages, which in many minds, would qualify his translating a Bible. However, several correspondences with NavPress proves that Eugene Peterson has no doctorate, with the definitive statement, "He doesn't have a PhD but he has 3 honorary doctorates from Seattle Pacific University, Messiah and Northwestern."

Further documentation shows that while having a BA in Philosophy at Seattle Pacific University, there was no language study mentioned in relation to that degree. Language study in Greek and Hebrew, with no clarification of what time was spent on either or qualification of time spent learning Koine Greek versus classical Greek, was limited to the two years spent at New York Theological Seminary. Originally called Biblical Seminary, this is where Eugene Peterson first attended to obtain a STB or bachelors in sacred theology, which focus, again, was not specifically languages. That was followed by a one year stint at Johns Hopkins where an MA in Semitic Languages was obtained, which means Koine Greek was not part of that course.  His return to New York Theological Seminary to teach "biblical languages and English Bible" was for a brief period, from 1959-1960.

The honorary doctorates Eugene Peterson has received are discussed as well as the teaching positions he has held, including, for example, the ecumenical Regent University, his return to the ecumenical New York Theological Seminary, the ecumenical St. Mary's Seminary, the first Catholic seminary in the U.S. It is owned and operated by the Sulpician Fathers, who are diocesan priests dedicated to the continued formation of priests for the Catholic church. These teaching positions are discussed in relation to his time spent at each and the theological positions of the various universities or seminaries.

Research uncovered Eugene Peterson's Pentecostal background and his ordination in the United Presbyterian Church, the relations that denomination has with the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement in general. It should be noted that his Pentecostal bias concerning tongues and "private prayer language" is implanted into The Message.

In depth information looked at a separate article concerning the ecumenical New York Theological Seminary, it's association with the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, the late Norman Vincent Peale's Marble Church, Riverside Church, the Rockefellers, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Temple of Understanding and so on.

Eugene Peterson has ties to The Chrysostom Society, its members and various associations, Renovare and the concept of Christian Mystics, the contemplative prayer movement, and also the ecumenical which posts his devotionals. The National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, etc., published the NRSV which is the source for Richard Foster's The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. Eugene Peterson played a significant role as editor for that New Testament as well as a contributor to various articles within it.

Why is The Message (Bible) not safe ?

By Justin Peters, Th.D. (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

One insightful reviewer wrote this:

This is one man's personal interpretation of the Bible. It is misleading to people. One of my students submitted an essay quoting Matthew 11:28-30 out of this translation, which includes: "28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Really?

Here is the English Standard Version: Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
"28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Burned out on religion? Unforced rhythms of grace? Really?

-John L. Weitzlon

Another reviewer wrote:

CAUTION: "The Message," thru Political Correctness and twisted scripture, SERIOUSLY distorts the intended biblical truth in at least 20 known passages. Please do not be deceived, but do your own research on "The Message", if not convinced. Three examples:

** Adds words that qualify homosexuality, providing a loophole for committed homosexuals who "love" each other. Deletes "God gave them over...":

Romans 1:26-27: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

The Message: "Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either - women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men - all lust, no love." [This strange wording leaves a loophole for homosexuality to be permitted if it was an expression of love, not lust - which many gay couples claim today. In other words, lust becomes the sin, not the choice of a same-sex partner.]

** Deletes "sexual immorality." Adds -- "avoids commitment and intimacy:"

1 Corinthians 6:18-20: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

The Message: "There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as a physical fact. As written in Scripture, 'The two become one.' Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever - the kind of sex that can never 'become one.' [One could conclude that "commitment and intimacy" or "becoming one", not marriage, sets the boundaries for acceptable sex.]

** Deletes words like adulterers and homosexual, which identify specific sins and Adds a politically correct reference to environmentalism.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders [sodomites] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified..."

The Message: "Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom....."

Please do not be deceived by "watered-down", politically correct, twisted scripture. Your life and eternity is at stake here. If you need an easy to understand version of the real truths in the Bible, please acquire a reliable translation such as the: NIV Study Bible, NASB Study Bible (1995 Copyright).
And then...Jonathan Lane wrote this:

People praise this book because its "easy to read" and because they can understand it better then a real Bible. This is hogwash people. Would you buy a dumb down version of The Lord of the Rings because you couldn't understand it how Tolkien wrote it? Would you water down Hamlet to make it easier to read? NO! This is NOT a Bible, it is one mans, yes, ONE MANS interpretation of what HE thinks the Bible means. Putting the words of God into "plain, everyday language" by changing his words in the end changes the ideas and meanings themselves, thus making this book irrelevant to any serious Christian. Sure, you can read this book for entertainment purposes and such, but for goodness sake do NOT use it for Bible study, for church, and for converting others. This is nothing more then a watered down, dummyfied version of the Bible that I for one refuse to ever use again.

Why Eugene Peterson is Wrong on Rob Bell and "Love Wins" (Among Other Things)

-Rev. Daniel Randle, Cleveland Road Baptist Church, Athens, GA.           

While reading up on the recent controversy over Rob Bell's new book, “Love Winds: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived,” I came across several in the larger "evangelical" community who are actively defending Rob Bell against his critics (and even against himself). One of the largest names in that group is Eugene Peterson, author of the most popular paraphrase of the Bible, “The Message.”  Peterson is currently Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. He is also an accomplished author, with some of his books winning awards and becoming best sellers.

Peterson's defense of Rob Bell started even before there was a controversy. Peterson supplied Bell's publisher, HarperOne, with the following endorsement blurb for Love Wins:

It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ . . . Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination--without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.

Recently Peterson spoke to Timothy Dalymple of Patheos about his endorsement and the controversy that has erupted over the book. When asked why Peterson endorsed the book, he said:

Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister. We have different ways of looking at things, but we are all a part of the kingdom of God. And I don’t think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight. I think that’s bad family manners.

I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell says. But I think they’re worth saying. I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people. I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another.

I knew that people would jump on me for writing the endorsement. I wrote the endorsement because I would like people to listen to him. He may not be right. But he’s doing something worth doing. There’s so much polarization in the evangelical church that it’s a true scandal. We’ve got to learn how to talk to each other and listen to each other in a civil way.

There is much in Peterson's statement with which we could disagree. In fact, I would disagree with almost all of it. But I think it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how we as believers are taught to confront error in the Bible. Before I get there, Peterson was asked the follow-up question, "Do evangelicals need to reexamine our doctrines of hell and damnation?" and he replied:

Yes, I guess I do think they ought to reexamine. They ought to be a good bit more biblical, not taking things out of context.

But the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community.

Luther said that we should read the entire Bible in terms of what drives toward Christ. Everything has to be interpreted through Christ. Well, if you do that, you’re going to end up with this religion of grace and forgiveness. The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.

Again, Peterson sounds like a man who both doesn't understand the significance of the Doctrine of Hell and hasn't read the parts of the Bible where false doctrine is confronted and condemned. And interestingly he includes in his defense against arguments in the Church a quote by Martin Luther, a man who saw no small amount of criticism levied against him for his overly sharp tongue.

Let's take a minute here, though, and examine what Peterson actually says about Bell and about the criticism directed towards him. First, he starts out by saying, "Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister." Now, I am going to give Peterson the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he is referring to the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (i.e., regeneration through the gift of the Holy Spirit). I shudder to think that Peterson would believe that the act of baptism either saves or confirms that one is truly a born-again believer of Jesus Christ.

But then he builds on that statement and claims that he doesn't "think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight", that doing so is to practice "bad family manners." I hate to tell Peterson this, but Jesus argued with His disciples. Paul argued with Peter. The Apostles argued with one another at the Council of Jerusalem. Members of the Kingdom argue. And often times it is quite beneficial. In Church History, debate has not always been kind, but very often it has been healthy. To claim that we shouldn't argue over doctrine because it's "bad family manners" is Biblically and historically ignorant.

Peterson adds further down, "I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another." I agree wholeheartedly with Peterson here, but is this really what is happening? Are people using the issues over the Doctrine of Hell as weapons against Bell? Of course not! In the ironic words of Billy Joel, "we didn't start the fire". The Doctrine of Hell has invoked heated arguments in the Church for centuries. And Bell threw himself into the line of fire by writing a book which advocates for a position against the one universally agreed upon by the Church for 2000 years. "Hell and the wrath of God" isn't a weapon being wielded against Bell, but rather are the objects of the firestorm that Bell ignited by writing a book on these subjects.

Now, from there I believe Peterson's words better represent a man who hasn't read the Bible, not one who wrote a bestselling paraphrase of the Bible and who taught classes on the Word of God and spirituality for decades. Two statements Peterson makes lead me to this criticism. First, he says, "...the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community." Then he says, "The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell."

Has Peterson read Galatians lately? How about 1 John? Maybe he needs to reread the Gospels, particularly John 8. And heaven forbid he stumbles upon 1 Corinthians 5 or Matthew 18, where confrontation is not only spoken of, but encouraged by both Paul and Jesus, respectively.

Both Paul and John advocate for litmus tests for Christians. Jesus, Himself, does the same thing. Living in community means precisely that we confront one another for not only sin, but false doctrine as well. Paul tells the Corinthians to cast people out of the community for sin and in Galatians he pronounces curses on those who advocate for a different Gospel. And I'm guessing that all of those he was speaking of were probably thought to have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of their actions and beliefs, however, communicated otherwise.

Finally, Peterson saves his most damning words for the end. He claims that that the "only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees" and based on that he concludes that "there's very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell." Not only is Peterson making a huge assumption about the spiritual lives of those "who are fighting Rob Bell" (notice how Peterson personalizes it, instead of relegating it to theological debate), but he is also completely wrong about Jesus.

In John 7:45, prior to the passage on the adulterous woman, we see that Jesus is speaking to the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. After v.11 of Chapter 8, Jesus picks up his conversation with the Jews (many have rightly concluded that 7:52-8:11 is out of place here in John and is not original to this Gospel, but rather represents good oral tradition which eventually found a home here). But in v.21, it appears that Jesus' conversation with the Pharisees is overheard by other Jews and they begin to talk among themselves in v.22. Jesus answers these Jews in v.23. Then further down in v.31, John identifies another group to whom Jesus is speaking as "the Jews who had believed in Him." Peterson identifies these in his Message as, "the Jews who had claimed to believe in Him."

Jesus then begins to speak to these Jews and they don't seem to like what He's saying. By the time the conversation is over, Jesus has told them that they are not children of Abraham or children of God, but rather they are children of their father, the devil. In v.47, Jesus says, "Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." Now, I don't know about you, but it seems clear her that Peterson's claim that "the only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees" is not only terribly incorrect, but a false basis for his further claim that "there’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell."

I've always respected Eugene Peterson, but in this case he's wrong. He's wrong on Rob Bell, he's wrong on the significance of the Doctrine of Hell, he's wrong on how to live in community, and more importantly, he's wrong on Jesus and on what the Bible teaches about confronting those teaching false doctrine. I get why Peterson doesn't like controversy in the Church and why he believes it is "bad family manners". None of us find it comfortable to confront sin or enjoyable to correct false teaching. But unfortunately, Peterson's attitude doesn't line up with the Bible and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find "very little Jesus."

"The Message from Hell"
by Laurence M. Vance:


The Message is neither a translation nor is it a paraphrase taken directly from the Greek and Hebrew.

The Message is a commentary written by one man.

The Message should never be the primary source for Scripture reading.

If you enjoy reading The Message, that is fine.  I am in no way suggesting Peterson’s book is not useful.  However, read The Message with the understanding that despite the slick marketing it does not meet the standard for a reliable translation.

Pastors should not use The Message in services as a substitute for reading the Scripture. In many cases, this usage gives the impression that The Message is a viable “translation” alternative.

More information may be found at their website:
Eugene Peterson is reviewed on "Fighting for the Faith":

Southern Baptist Entity Head Admonishes Christians to Read Pro-Gay Author Eugene Peterson