What I’m doing here is considered most uncool. Book reviews are supposed to focus on the latest releases, not past titles. Obviously, I disagree. In the rush to be first to offer an opinion on the latest manuscript, there may be some treasure buried on the bookstore and library shelves which shouldn’t be ignored.
Eighteen months ago, referencing the translator of The Message Bible, I wrote this:
For several days at Christianity 201, I’ve been sharing my excitement over discovering that Eugene Peterson The Message bible translator is also Eugene Peterson the author. For those of you who’ve known this secret for some time, I apologize for arriving late to the party. I’m reading The Jesus Way (Eerdman’s) and spreading the reading out over several weeks, which is really what is needed to take it all in.
Well, that was then. But more recently I picked up a copy of Tell it Slant. I love the titles he chooses. Others in this series include Practice Resurrection and Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places and Eat This Book. The full title — which begins with a borrowing from Emily Dickinson — is Tell it Slant: a Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (Eerdman’s, 2008).
There are two parts to the book. The longer section deals with what he calls Luke’s travel narrative, the teachings of Jesus ‘on the road again’ that fall between the end of Luke 9 and the end of Luke 19. The prayers are selected from a wider variety of texts.
Why, for example, read another book about the parables? The thing I like about the book is that Peterson doesn’t attempt to teach everything you need to know about the parables and prayers in question. He’s offering his insights, and is, I believe, assuming you’ve heard other teaching on these sections before. He recognizes the multifaceted nature of scripture and is willing to tilt the scripture toward the light and allow us to catch some fresh reflections and refractions.
The beauty of scripture is most evident when someone points out something that was there all along, but you had never considered it before.
Now, having read two of the five books in the Conversations series, I find myself wanting to complete the set. I might even do the uncool thing and review them here.
…In a world where recent Bible translations have involved upwards of 130 people, some will ask where Eugene Peterson gets the authority to write his own Bible. I think if someone questions The Message, instead of dismissing Peterson, they need to read some of his other writings like this one. To me, it’s clear that his depth of understanding of the text most certainly gives him the clout to complete his own translation.