112 of 116 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2006
Too often we USE the Bible, but Eugene wants us to enter into and LIVE it. He presents lectio divina (sacred reading) as the best way to do this. Lectio divina is a four-part way of reading Scripture:
Lectio. Read. God is speaking, so I listen intently to what he says.
Meditatio. Engage. God is speaking to me, so I listen personally.
Oratio. Pray. God is speaking to me, so I listen personally and reply personally in prayer.
Contemplatio. Live. God is speaking to me, so I listen personally and reply in prayerful living.
The final section of the book is an illuminating introduction to Bible translation and ultimately to The Message (his translation) itself. He argues that literalism in translation encourages USING the Bible as a tool, in which case we're in charge, not God. But putting the Bible in the same language as our day-to-day lives encourages LIVING the Bible, in which case God's in charge, not us.
The publisher is also releasing a study guide for small groups that I have written with Eugene. Once you read the book on your own, I think you'll understand why it is so important to study (and live!) together as a church.
Don't just use the Bible. Eat it! Let it get inside of you and change you. Live it.
64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Peterson has become my new favorite theologian. I wish reading him had been an option when I was in seminary. I have a suspicion that he's still not on the menu because he sees theology as something more than an academic exercise. Theology is ultimately about experiencing God and serving the Kingdom-goals that are not always in tandem with the academy.
This second volume of a projected five volume series is an exceptional work on the nature of scripture and how we relate to it, absorb it and live it. Rather than treating scripture as a still life from which we extract a theology, Peterson emphasizes the reader entering the story and allowing the story to transform our lives. More than just telling us to read and absorb, he helps us rediscover one of the church's older practices, lecto divina. He emphasizes that this is not a technique but an attitude of prayerful, respectful reading. So, rather than telling us what scripture is and isn't in cold, sterile categories, he shows us its value for the spiritual journey.
Peterson is distilling a lifetime of teaching, growing and ministering in this series of books. I hope that we as church are wise enough to push the academy to listen to his voice.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2006
This is the first book I can recall reading that addresses "How to read the Bible" ...
There's 3 essays here:
Eat this Book - John the Revelator, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah all ate God's message on command. What does the gastronomic lesson teach? Consuming God's message goes beyond the typical scriptural read.
Lectio Divina -Christ asked "How do you read?" in Luke 10:26 ... God only talks with you ... not through someone else. You can only hear him when you are addressed. Here's a discipline for creating the opportunity.
The Company of Translators - A great walk through the back alleys of translating the Good News for contemporary consumers through the ages. Is the 16th century King James hard to digest? Unless you read ancient Hebrew or vernacular Greek bolstered by late 19th and 20th century linguistic revelation, it makes sense to try to understand the message as close to the dirty, dusty streets of the gospel writers as you can get with words alone. The language of place and time needs transport into terms we can grasp. We recognize the limitations of the written word ... words don't capture body language, the emotional state of the participants, the state of mind of the listener, the smells, the backdrop ... all things that make for understanding beyond words. The job of the translator is indeed a challenge to strangle the most complete sense of the words into contemporary context. The job of the message consumer is no less challenging .
This can be an easy read or a study. It depends on your appetite I guess.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2006
Eugene Peterson, translator of "The Message", is a true wordsmith. Part of the pleasure in reading this book is the way in which he crafts his sentences, encouraging you think deeply and to read further. Subtitled "The Art of Spiritual Reading," this is no manual on Bible study approaches but it seeks to evoke a desire for us to delve into the Bible to search out God's voice - leaving our own selfishness and personalities behind. The metaphor of eating the book - really taking it within us and having it become part of us - was reinforced throughout the text.
The last two chapters sat slightly oddly in this book. They describe how Peterson began his "The Message" translation of the Bible and then discuss the important discoveries of ancient papyri at Oxyrhynchus and Ugarit and how they affected our understanding of the language of the New Testament. I loved these two chapters but I felt they were a slightly uneasy fit in the overall book - I would have preferred them to be the preface to another book entirely - one I sincerely hope that Peterson chooses to write!
Overall, this book is a pleasure to read, it spoke to me and convicted me about my approach to the Bible and the limits that we put on it through our superficial reading of these holy texts.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
Along with John Ortberg's "The Life You've Always Wanted" and J.G. Marking's "A Voice Is Calling," this book has done the most in my life to help me get a fresh look at entering the Word of God. Peterson does an amazing job of challenging the reader to not only read Scripture but to encounter the Word, expecting transformation.
I believe this is Peterson's greatest strength is that he believes and thus conveys to the reader how vital seeking the presence of Christ within the pages of Scripture instead of simply looking for information.
Peterson brings up a number of good points, especially that it is not so much whether you are reading the Bible that counts but how you read it because how you approach it ultimately determines just how much you get out of it and how much you can then grow.
Though sometimes long-winded, the book is a great discussion and examination without boring but engaging the reader.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
Last spring at about this time, I read Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Peterson's first volume in his projected five volume work in spiritual theology. It was poetic, beautiful, and systematic, and spiritual. I am a devoted reader of theology, so even really dense and plodding works are "fun" for me to read. But Peterson is unique- he writes his theology in such a way that it reads like finely crafted novel.
Furthermore, his theological insights are spot on. I may be sympathetic, because his theology seems increasingly more Lutheran as the years go by. By this I mean he is still on the Protestant side of things, but thinks liturgically and squarely out of the catholic tradition. He is the Kathleen Norris of the clergy.
This book will work wonderfully as an introductory text for any class you are teaching to introduce people to the Bible. It is also simply enjoyable to read, and I commend it highly.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2006
I have been in a bit of a funk in my Bible reading over the last several months. I think it had just gotten a little stale for me - the only reason to read it was to get ready for the next sermon I had to preach at work.
Peterson renewed my sense of awe over the Bible and reminded me of how important it is to read the Bible and allow it's nutrients to sink deeply into your spirit.
I particularly enjoyed the important section on Lecto Divina, this and his section on translation were worth the price of the book.
A must read for all who need to be reminded that the Bible is food for our spiritual souls!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2007
Eating books? The image is as old as the Bible itself, in which heavenly beings tell Ezekiel and later John the evangelist to "eat" scrolls. Tasting, chewing, swallowing, digesting, and being nourished by the Word of God --- it's an apt foundational metaphor for the "spiritual reading" Eugene Peterson espouses.
Although EAT THIS BOOK is the second of Peterson's five works on spiritual theology, it stands alone, independent of the first (CHRIST PLAYS IN TEN THOUSAND PLACES). Unlike CHRIST PLAYS, which I would hand to a serious but uninformed seeker, EAT THIS BOOK is more suitable for Christians with some familiarity with Scripture and Christian basics. This is not a book that explains, for example, where to start initial Bible reading (with Genesis? with Mark or John?) or that really commends one particular version, unless it is Peterson's own "contemporary language" version, titled THE MESSAGE.
Peterson devotees will be particularly interested in the last section of the book, which in the larger context of textual translation tells the story of how and why Peterson started retranslating the Bible from the original Greek and then Hebrew into the popular MESSAGE version.
But that's not the central message or purpose of the book. Peterson wants us to see the Bible, rather than personal experience, as the authority for living. Noting a contemporary interest in spirituality, he says, "An interest in souls divorced from an interest in Scripture leaves us without a text that shapes these souls." But this isn't an academic interest in Scripture. "An interest in Scripture divorced from an interest in souls leaves us without any material for the text to work on." He also wants us to read the text, not primarily for knowledge, for theological study, for proof-texting, or even for inspiration --- for our own purposes --- but rather to incorporate it into our lives. "Spiritual reading," he says, means "participatory reading." It involves really digesting the story --- the sentences and the words --- of the Lord and living them out in obedience.
A center section of the book --- 30 pages --- discusses lectio divina, a 12th-century pattern of biblical reading that is better known in Catholic than in Protestant circles: reading the text, mediating on it, praying it, and living it out. The four aspects aren't necessarily done in a "stair-step fashion" but "more like a looping spiral," Peterson notes.
Even these chapters on lectio divina aren't written in a how-to voice but rather as a conversation or an essay explaining the dynamics, purposes and benefits of participatory reading.
Peterson includes an interesting though probably obvious discussion about the nature of words and language itself --- that it is first a spoken, then a written, form, both in history and in personal experience, from infancy to more advanced learning. He has sparked in me a greater interest in listening to the Scriptures as well as reading them.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2006
The way we read the Bible as nearly as important as that it's read: that's professor Eugene Peterson's message in EAT THIS BOOK: A CONVERSATION IN THE ART OF SPIRITUAL READING. His is more than a set of reflections: it's the second in a five-volume work on spiritual theology and maintains the Scriptures should be read - and lived - as God's word. From the nature of language and the practice of scripture translations to an account of his own popular Bible translation THE MESSAGE, EAT THIS BOOK invites a broader perspective on Biblical study than those which advocate using the Bible for self-serving purposes.
Diane C. Donovan
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2008
I enjoy Eugene Peterson's work both for his theological insights as well as his accessible style. This book is a compelling study of how one should approach spiritual reading of the Bible. He addresses many common misconceptions (e.g. that the Bible is unintelligible to the average person, that Bible passages can be read outside the context of the whole, etc.). Eat This Book particularly targets literalism, and as such can come across as an apologetic for The Message: The Bible In Contemporary Language, to which some reviewers have taken exception.
If you are looking for detail about Peterson's perspective on Lectio Divina, however, this is not it. Had I looked at the table of contents, this would have been clear, as there are only 30 pages (out of 185) explicitly about Lectio.
Eat This Book successfully makes the case for reading the Bible in a way that focuses on living the Word that you take in. It is less helpful in guiding the reader in practical ways to do so (e.g. Lectio). I am glad that I read this book, but will pass it along rather than keep it in my permanent library. For further exploration of Lectio Divina, I recommend Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina.