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  • Canon Paul Black

The Bible in contemporary language


Have you ever read The Message? Its ‘author’ is Eugene Peterson who described it as ‘the Bible in contemporary language'. Peterson was a Presbyterian minister who wrote this paraphrase in modern, easy language shaped by his lived experience of bringing the word of God to his congregations over many years.


He calls The Message a ‘translation’ because it is designed to translate the language of the Bible (‘that God uses to create and save us’) into the language of today, (which we use to ‘gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children’).


I particularly love the language he uses for our gospel story on Sunday - Matthew 5:13-20:


“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.


“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."


I love the idea of God-flavours and tasting godliness and seeing God-colours!


Many years ago, I made damper when on holiday at our coastal onsite caravan. Things get rather musty right on the coast, so I kept open packets of bi-carb soda in the cupboards to reduce the smell. I accidentally used that opened bi-carb in the damper rather than the sealed packet. Oh dear, it tasted horrible! It quickly ended up in the garbage that day! It deepened my understanding of that passage forever.


Try reading The Message sometime. It’s not designed to be an accurate biblical translation, but it helps me to visualise the scriptures and gives me new insights into God’s message to me.


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