"The Message: Psalms," by Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress, 199 pp.; $15, hardcover; $10, paper). Reviewed by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., assistant professor of Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.
Following the same approach he employed in his folksy and informal rendering of the New Testament ("The Message"), Eugene Peterson has produced a paraphrase of the Psalms. Peterson writes in his introduction that "the Psalms in Hebrew are earthy and rough. They are not genteel." Allowing that the most widely used English versions of the Psalter are grammatically accurate, he believes that "as prayers, they are not quite right." Peterson explains that his paraphrase is intended to help ordinary people pray along with the psalmists "in the kind of language most immediate to them."
And one does discover renderings here that capture the vividness of the biblical text. For example, Psalm 44:12 laments, "You sold your people at a discount—/ you made nothing on the sale." Psalm 59:8 affirms, "But you, Yahweh, break out laughing; / you treat the godless nations like jokes."
Psalm 110:1 reveals, "The word of Yahweh to my Lord: / 'Sit alongside me here on my throne / until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.' "
These renderings are both faithful and effective. And throughout his version of the Psalms, one senses that Eugene Peterson must be both an understanding pastor and an interesting preacher.
But does a biblical version vindicate itself by helping people to pray? Is there not an antecedent and equally pastoral consideration, namely, consistent faithfulness to the meaning of the biblical text? While "The ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more