A child fingerpainting (from here)
A child fingerpainting (from here)

Am I just finger painting in my walk with the Messiah Jesus? is a wonderful post by Michael Wilson that uses a verse taken from The Message to make the point that we cannot stand still as Christians. We must strive to grow and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:1

So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger painting exercises on the Messiah and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ.

When I read ‘s post, I enjoyed it, but my skepticism is ingrained. The Message is the Bible in the words of Pastor Eugene H. Peterson. Because Peterson’s goal was to make the Bible understandable, we cannot accurately call The Message a translation of the Bible. In fact, it is a bit of a stretch to call The Message a paraphrasing of the Bible. Hence, The Message has its critics (see here and here for examples).

The Message reminds me of those times I have heard a speech and wished the guy giving it had said something different, what I would have said.  So when I read a verse or passage from The Message, I always find myself comparing it with a literal translation (Here is an example.).

As a practical matter, I consider The Message a good Bible commentary, but I don’t consider it to be a translation of Bible. I will concede The Message generally sticks close to the original meaning in the text, but in our effort to grow as Christians, we should use The Message to help us understand a literal translation (see Hebrews 6:1-8). We should try to avoid using The Message and translations that paraphrase the Bible in the original language as crutches to avoid reading a literal translation.

Should we try to read the Bible in the original language? I wish I could, but few of us have the time to make that sort of effort. Perfect is not the enemy of good.

Anyway, on to a bit of amusement. What first struck me about Peterson’s version of Hebrews 6:1 is that I did not think the writer of Hebrews could have known anything about finger painting. After a little research, however, I am not sure. Apparently, Prehistoric Children Finger-Painted on Cave Walls.

In addition, Peterson wisely used the adjective “preschool,” that is, “preschool finger painting exercises.” What an expert can do with finger paint is really quite remarkable => This Artist Only Uses Her Fingers to Paint and the Results are Amazing.


  1. This is an interesting post Tom, and a subject that fascinates me. I am forever talking about subjective reality and perception, and how two people can hear the same thing and come to completely different conclusions. That is why I sometimes say we must allow the Author of the bible to read it to us. He really does reveal it to us, precept by precept, a little here, a little there, and it can be a very subjective thing, as we translate and apply it to our lives. That idea can scare some people, mostly because we fear being led astray or getting it wrong. I am blessed in a way, because I did not come to Christ through scripture, so I totally trust in His ability to read it to us, to teach us what we need to know, even when we do not have it at our finger tips. Also, there is the fact that the bible has been so well preserved for centuries, translated into so many languages, and protected.

    I do think we need to read those words ourselves though, whenever possible, and not just other people’s commentaries or translations. The movie “The Bible” came out and while something like that might be kind of fun, might open our eyes to different things, that is simply not The Word, it is not living and breathing like scripture is.

    1. @insanitybytes22

      I have no idea why your comment went into the spam queue. Every now and again a comment goes into spam, and I am left baffled as to why.

      I did come to Jesus because of reading the Bible. So it is precious to me because of that.

      I agree we need to study God’s Word. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus should read the Bible as much as they can. Because He wants us to read it, we should be determined to read His word. Because He instructs through the Bible, prepares us for eternity, we should relish the prospect of spending time in the Word. And yet people who call themselves Christians don’t study the Bible. That is difficult to understand. I know much of the Bible is difficult, but much of it is not, and these days they are plenty of free Bible study aids.

  2. I agree that solid translations are better resources than paraphrases of the Bible, such as the Message or the Living Bible. Paraphrases have their place as outreach, but not for accurate writing. Calling them a commentary is a good label. I also agree that nothing beats being able to consult the original Hebrew and Greek for accuracy. No translation is able to capture the nuances of the original text. J.

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