The Beginning of a New Era

Three kinds of writing—​­eyewitness stories, personal letters, and a visionary poem—​make up this book. Five stories, twenty-​­one letters, one poem.

In the course of writing and reading, collecting and arranging, with no one apparently in charge, the early Christians, whose lives were being changed and shaped by what they were reading, arrived at the conviction 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.

They were bold to call what had been written God’s Word, and they 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 this writing is that it was done in the street language of the day, the idiom of the playground and marketplace. Some people are taken aback by this, supposing that language dealing with a holy God and holy things should be stately and ceremonial. But one good 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 descent of God to our lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping he might approve.

The Scriptures not only reveal everything of who God is but also everything of who we are. And this revelation is done in such a way as to invite participation on both sides, of author and reader. This may be the single most important thing to know as we come to read and study and believe these Holy Scriptures: this rich, alive, personally revealing God as experienced in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, personally addressing us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, at whatever age we are, in whatever state we are—​me, you, us.

As we read we find ourselves included in a conversation in which God has the first and last words. We didn’t expect this. But this is precisely what generation after generation of Bible readers do find: The Bible is not only written about us but to us. In these pages we become insiders to a conversation in which God uses words to form and bless us, to teach and guide us, to forgive and save us.

Everything in this book is live-​able. Many of us find that the most important question we ask as we read is not “What does it mean?” but “How can I live it?” So we read personally, not impersonally. We read in order to live our true selves, not just get information that we can use to raise our standard of living.

This is new for many of us, a different sort of book—​a book that reads us even as we read it. The Bible is given to us in the first place simply to invite us to make ourselves at home in the world of God, to become familiar with the way God speaks and the ways in which we answer him with our lives.

Be sure to answer.

Eugene Peterson
Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson (1932–2018) was James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. In addition to his widely acclaimed paraphrase of the Bible, The Message (NavPress), he has written many other books.