Eugene H. Peterson

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Eugene H. Peterson
Eugene Peterson (cropped).jpg
Peterson speaking in Seattle, 2009
Eugene Hoiland Peterson

(1932-11-06)November 6, 1932
DiedOctober 22, 2018(2018-10-22) (aged 85)
Spouse(s)Jan Peterson
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Presbyterian)
ChurchPresbyterian Church (USA)

Eugene Hoiland Peterson (November 6, 1932 – October 22, 2018) was an American Presbyterian minister, scholar, theologian, author, and poet. He wrote over 30 books, including the Gold Medallion Book Award–winner The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Navpress Publishing Group, 2002),[2] an idiomatic paraphrasing translation of the Bible into modern American English using a dynamic equivalence translation approach.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Peterson was born on November 6, 1932, in East Stanwood, Washington, and grew up in Kalispell, Montana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Seattle Pacific University, his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from New York Theological Seminary, and his Master of Arts degree in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University.[4] He also held several honorary doctoral degrees.[5] In 1962, Peterson was a founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bel Air, Maryland, where he served for 29 years before retiring in 1991. He was the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, from 1992 to 1998.[6][7]


A controversy was created when Peterson was reported to have expressed support for religious same-sex marriage, which had been endorsed by his denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), in an interview published in Religion News Service on 12 July 2017. He denied saying this the following day and further clarified his position by stating:

Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I "haven't had a lot of experience with it." To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.[8]


Peterson was hospitalized on October 8, 2018, after his health took an abrupt and dramatic turn. "[It] was caused by infection", said his son Eric Peterson in an email. Peterson had retired from public life in 2017 after publishing his final book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire. This was around the same time as the same-sex controversy around him surfaced. In the days leading up to Peterson's death, his family is quoted as saying, "During [his final] days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven. We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well." Peterson remained "joyful and smiling"[citation needed] in his final days.

Peterson died on October 22, 2018, at the age of 85, a week after entering hospice care for complications related to congestive heart failure.[9]

The Message[edit]

Peterson is probably best known for The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.[4] The stated goal of The Message was to make the original meaning more understandable and accessible to the modern reader. Peterson said:

When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly, When the prophet Isaiah preached a sermon, I can't imagine that people went to the library to figure it out. That was the basic premise under which I worked. I began with the New Testament in the Greek — a rough and jagged language, not so grammatically clean. I just typed out a page the way I thought it would have sounded to the Galatians.[10]

Selected works[edit]

  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (1980)
  • Run With the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best (InterVarsity Press, November 1983)
  • Traveling Light: Modern Meditations on St. Paul's Letter of Freedom (Helmers & Howard Publishing, 1988)
  • Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination (HarperCollins Publishers, 1988)
  • Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (Harper San Francisco, 1991 reprint)
  • Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms that Summon You from Self to Community (Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1993)
  • Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up with Your Teenager (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994)
  • Subversive Spirituality (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish Publishing Group, 1994, reprinted in 1997 and 2006)
  • Take and Read: Spiritual Reading, An Annotated List (Eerdmans-Regent College Publishing, 1996)
  • Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians (HarperCollins Canada / Religious, 1997)
  • 1 and 2 Samuel - Westminster Bible Companion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1999)
  • The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends (Zondervan, 2001)
  • The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Navpress Publishing Group, 2002)
  • The Christmas Troll (Navpress Publishing Group, 2005)
  • Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in an Everyday Life (Navpress Publishing Group, 2006)
  • The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011)
  • As Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God (WaterBrook, May 2017)
  • Every Step an Arrival: A 90-Day Devotional for Exploring God's Word (WaterBrook, Oct. 2018)

Pastoral theology series

  • Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980)
  • Working The Angles: The Shape Of Pastoral Integrity (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, May 1987)
  • The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989)
  • Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992)
  • The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call (co-authored with Marva Dawn) (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000)

Praying with the Bible series

  • Praying with Jesus: A Year of Daily Prayer and Reflection on the Words and Actions of Jesus (Harper San Francisco, 1993) ISBN 0-06-066566-1 ISBN 978-0060665661
  • Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayer and Reflection on the Words of David (Harper San Francisco, 1993) ISBN 0-06-066567-X ISBN 978-0060665678
  • Praying with Moses: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words and Actions of Moses (Harper San Francisco, 1994) ISBN 0-06-066518-1 ISBN 978-0060665180
  • Praying with the Early Christians: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of the Early Christians (Harper San Francisco, 1994) ISBN 0-06-066517-3 ISBN 978-0060665173
  • Praying with Paul: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words and Actions of Paul (Harper San Francisco, 1995) ISBN 0-06-066433-9 ISBN 978-0060664336
  • Praying with the Prophets: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words and Actions of the Prophets (Harper San Francisco, 1995) ISBN 0-06-066431-2 ISBN 978-0060664312

Spiritual theology series

  • Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005)
  • Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, January 2006)
  • The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2007)
  • Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2008)
  • Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2010)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Christian Book Award® - ECPA". Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  3. ^ "Introduction to the New Testament, from The Message". Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  4. ^ a b Megan Rowe (October 22, 2018). "Eugene Peterson, Pastor and Author of Layman's Version of Bible, dies at 85". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  5. ^ Regent College faculty page
  6. ^ "Remembering Eugene Peterson". Regent College. October 22, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  7. ^ McFadden, Robert. "Eugene H. Peterson, 85, Scholar Turned Homespun Pastor, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  8. ^ "Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-sex Marriage". Christianity Today. July 13, 2017. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  9. ^ "Eugene Peterson Is Now Living the Resurrection". October 22, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  10. ^ Clint Kelly. "Eugene Peterson: The Story Behind The Message". Lifeway. Archived from the original on 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2008-03-28.

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