The Message Bible Author Eugene Peterson Dies at the Age of 85



Eugene Peterson, the man who penned The Message Bible, has died at the age of 85.

"It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as a pastor," Peterson's family said in a statement to NavPress, which published The Message.

"After a lifetime of faithful service to the church — running the race with gusto — it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath."

Peterson was the author of 35 books.

His latest, Every Step an Arrival: A 90-Day Devotional for Exploring God's Word, was released earlier this month.

Peterson's most famous work, however, is without a doubt The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, in which he paraphrased the Scriptures into modern parlance with the goal of giving those distant from the Bible a more accessible take.

He retired from pastoring in 1991 and became a professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He retired from there in 2006.


Peterson's last years were spent studying and writing at his home in Montana, where he and his wife, Jan, lived in a home Peterson's father built.

"Among his final words were, 'Let's go.' And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently," his family added.

"In such moments, it's best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: 'Holy, Holy, Holy.'"

Earlier this month, his son, Eric, revealed that Peterson was hospitalized due to heart failure and dementia and was in his last months of life.

Last July, the Presbyterian pastor stirred controversy when he said he knows many gays and lesbians who "seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do," and noted that he would not have said that 20 years ago. He added that he thinks the whole debate about gays and lesbians is likely "over" and responded affirmatively when asked if he would officiate a same-sex couple's wedding ceremony in his church.

He almost immediately retracted that statement.

"To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything," Peterson explained in a lengthy subsequent statement.

"When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment."

He was also critical of the megachurch model.

"My feeling is that when you're a pastor, you know the people's names. When 5,000 people come into the church, you don't know anybody's name. I don't think you can be a pastor with just a bunch of anonymous people out there. In the megachurch, well, there's no relationship with anybody. I think the nature of the church is relational," Peterson said last year.

Already gratitude for his life has begun to pour in.

"Grateful to God for a long obedience in the same direction. Thank you Eugene Peterson," tweeted Russell Moore, who heads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Brian Houston, pastors of Hillsong Church in Australia tweeted a heartfelt dedication to the author.

"God has used your exceptional writing skills to deepen and revitalize the spiritual lives of many. And God has used the fruit of your pen to deeply influence me...Well done good and faithful servant."

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