The Message

Introduction to the New Testament

By Eugene H. Peterson

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Introduction to the New Testament

The Biblical writers wrote for the people of their time! The Biblical writers did not write the Bible for us, but their words still speak to us today! God did not give the Biblical writer dictation on what to say and write. But indeed the Biblical writers were filled with the love and deep devotion to God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and were inspired to write in their words how the Triune God has entered into their life.

Each Biblical writer wrote a thread of what would become our Holy Scriptures, the Bible. But God is the one who wove all of these threads together!

I believe that one of the best introductions to the Bible and one of the best-paraphrased versions of the Bible is The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.

The arrival of Jesus signaled the beginning of a new era. God entered history in a personal way, and made it unmistakably clear that he is on our side, doing everything possible to save us. It was all presented and worked out in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It was, and is hard to believe – seemingly too good to be true.

But one by one, men and women did believe it, believed Jesus was God living among them and for them. To their great surprise they found themselves living in a world where God called all of the shots – had the first word on everything; had the last word on everything. That meant that everything, quite literally everything had to be re-centered, re-imagined, and re-thought.

They went at it with immense gusto. They told stories of Jesus and arranged his teachings in memorable form. They wrote letters. They sang songs. They prayed. One of them wrote an extraordinary poem based on holy visions. There was no apparent organization to any of this; it was all more or less spontaneous, and, to the eye of the casual observer, haphazard. Over the course of about fifty years, these writings added up to what would later be compiled by the followers of Jesus and designated “The New Testament.”

Three kinds of writing – eyewitness stories, personal letters, and a visionary poem.

In the course of this writing and reading, collecting and arranging, with no one apparently in charge, the early Christians, whose lives were changed and shaped by what they were reading, arrived at the conviction that there was in fact, someone in charge – God’s Holy Spirit was behind and in it all. In retrospect, they could see that it was not at all random or haphazard, that every word worked with every other word, and that all the separate documents worked in intricate harmony. There was nothing accidental in any of this, nothing merely circumstantial. They were bold to call what had been written “God’s Word,” and trusted their lives to it. They accepted its authority over their lives. Most of its readers since have been similarly convinced.

A striking feature in all of this writing is that it was done in the street language of the day, the idiom of the playground and marketplace. In the Greek-speaking world of that day, there were two levels of language: formal and informal. Formal language was used to write philosophy and history, government decrees and epic poetry. If someone were to sit down and consciously write for posterity, it would be written in this formal language with its learned vocabulary, and precise diction. But if the writing was routine – it was written in the common, informal idiom of everyday speech and language.

And this is the language used throughout the New Testament. Some are taken aback by this, supposing that language dealing with a holy God and holy things should be elevated – stately and ceremonial. But one look at Jesus – his preference for down-to-earth stories and easy association with common people – gets rid of that supposition. For Jesus is the decent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve when he sees how hard we try....

The Introduction continues by Eugene H. Peterson

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