Q: Could you talk a little bit about the process as to how ACTA has become the publisher of The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition? How long of a process has this been?
ACTA Publications, a Chicago-based publisher of books for the Catholic /Christian market since the 1950s, signed a license in September 2011 with Colorado Springs-based NavPress, the original publisher of The Message by Eugene Peterson, to be the exclusive publisher of The Message: The Catholic/Ecumenical Edition. In addition to the material in previous editions of The Message, the new edition contains the deuterocanonical books of the Bible as translated by William Griffin, a well-respected Catholic writer and translator, in the paraphrasal style and spirit of the original version of The Message. The additional writings are in the order of the Bible used by Catholics (as contained in the New Vulgate, approved by Pope John Paul II in 1998). The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition will ship in August 2013 and will be available from booksellers nationwide or can be preordered now at a 20% discount at www.actapublications.com.
Q: How supportive has Eugene Peterson's been about this new edition becoming available to Catholics?
Eugene Peterson has been very involved and supportive of this project since the beginning. He personally chose his friend William Griffin to translate the deuterocanonical writings and approved the final versions of the new translations. He wrote a special introduction to the new edition that explains his reasons for and involvement in the project, in which he said, “I am immensely grateful to my many Catholic friends and colleagues for their encouragement to ‘complete’ The Message. I hope that it will lead to increased ecumenical use and dialogue. I prayerfully anticipate a fresh audience as together we cultivate the fullness of our salvation. “
Q: Your initial editions will come in paperback and hardcover. Are there plans to release it in leather? Some of NavPress’ The Message Remixed editions are quite popular.
We wanted to get a basic version of The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition out first and may follow with additional versions as the market develops. Many Catholics and others have never even heard of the original version of The Message because it did not contain the deuterocanonical books, and many of those who know and love the original will be delighted to see that this edition now contains all the books of the Bible that Catholics recognize. We anticipate that the Catholic/Ecumenical Edition will be used by ecumenical groups that include Catholics, Orthodox, and those from other denominations. The initial version is 1984 pages typed full 6 x 9” and available in paperback for $29.95 or hardcover for $37.95 or as an e-book for $9.99.
Q: Since you are publishing a Catholic edition of The Message, has there been any communication with the USCCB in regards to publishing this Catholic Bible edition?
The Message is a paraphrasal translation of the Bible from ancient languages and is meant to help people appreciate and understand what the Bible is saying in contemporary, idiomatic, American English. It is a “Reader’s Bible” without footnotes or references, a supplement to more formal and literal translations. The Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is meant for use by anyone who values the deuterocanonical writings as either an integral part of the Bible or additional sacred texts worthy of reading and discussion. As such, The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is not intended to be an “official” Bible of the Catholic Church for use at Mass or for formal catechetics. It was therefore not necessary or even appropriate for us to seek USCCB approval or an imprimatur from a specific bishop. The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is not a publication of the Catholic Church but an aid to seekers and believers alike in understanding and appreciating the Bible published by an independent, for-profit publishing house that specializes in books for the Catholic/Christian market.
Q: What would you say to someone who is considering purchasing The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition but perhaps may shy away from the translation style it utilizes?
The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition is a paraphrasal translation of the Bible from ancient languages that, we say, “Everyone can read and understand.” For Catholics (including young adults) who are not regular Bible readers it can be a great introduction to Scripture that we hope will lead them, as we say, “to fall in love with the Bible all over again…or for the first time.” The Message is a “compelling, fresh, challenging, and faith-filled Bible in contemporary language” that we hope will lead readers to seek out and study the more literal or traditional Catholic translations such as the New American Bible Revised Edition used at Mass in the United States and the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, used at Mass in Canada. We are even offering a free service called “New Message 4 Next Week” that will send subscribers an email each Monday morning with the lectionary readings for the following Sunday from The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition, allowing them to read and meditate on the readings as they appear in The Message prior to attending Mass on Saturday or Sunday and hearing the official liturgical readings proclaimed. To subscribe to this service, go to link www.catholicecumenicalmessage.com.
Protestants are very used to paraphrasal translations of the Scriptures. Here are just a few examples.
Way back in 1943, J.B. Phillips published his groundbreaking translation, The New Testament in Modern English. “Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high‑sounding nonsense,” read Phillips’ rendition of Colossians 2:8. “Such stuff is at best founded on men’s idea of the nature of the world, and disregards Christ!”
In 1971, Kenneth Taylor rendered the same verse in The Living Bible: “Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.”
In 1982, the Authorized Version of The King James Bible got a facelift by Thomas Nelson Publishers and a new title, The New King James Version. Here is how it translated the passage: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
In 1993, Eugene Peterson translated the same text in The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary English: “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ.”
And in 1996, Taylor’s The Living Bible was revised and retitled The New Living Translation and gave the verse this way: “Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men’s thoughts and ideas, instead of on what Christ has said.”
Bill Griffin, the translator of the deuterocanonical writings in The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition points out, “Catholics have been reading paraphrasal Bible translations since paraphrasal Bible translations began. But the only place they could find it was in books published by Protestants. Biblical paraphrase, apparently, is here to stay. The fact that it needs a face-lift every now and then isn’t really a sign of its senility or imbecility. Rather it’s the sign of our vibrant, ever-renewing language, the most flexible the world has ever known.”
Q: What are your hopes for this publication?
We hope that The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition introduces this beautiful and accessible version of the Bible to an entirely new audience of Catholics and others who may never have experienced it because it did not contain all the books of the Bible recognized by the Catholic Church. We also hope that it introduces the wonderful writings of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible (the books of Tobit, Judith, Baruch, One and Two Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and additions to Esther and Daniel) to those who do not know them—including some who may already be fans of the original editions of The Message. We would like to see The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition on the bed stand or bookshelf of Catholics and those of other denominations who love the Scripture, sitting right next to their more traditional and literal translations of the Bible. We hope that people will not see The Message as an alternative to other Bibles but rather as a valuable addition to the many resources available for understanding the power and relevance of the Christian message for today.
Q: Do you have a favorite verse or passage from The Message?
I have many, including: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).
I also love this very famous passage from John translated by Eugene Peterson that sounds so fresh in The Message that it makes me reflect about what the Good News really means for all of us:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: So that no one need be destroyed. By believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16-17).
As far as the new material for The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition, I am especially fond of this passage from the Book of Wisdom as translated by William Griffin:
“Just who is Wisdom and how did she come to be? I’ll tell you. There’s no secret about God’s arrangements; I’ll take her from her birth at the creation and place her in the light of today’s knowledge—no fibs, no white lies, no equivocations, no mental reservations! I could keep her history to myself, but I won’t; that wouldn’t be serving her best interests. The wiser the world, the safer the population; the wiser the kings, the more stable the kingdoms. To conclude, accept my invitation to meet Wisdom—you’ve got nothing to lose” (Wisdom 6: 22-24).