What is The Message?
The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language was created by Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002. It is an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible.
Peterson states the reason The Message was written was: " While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren't feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way.
I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become 'old hat.' " Peterson also states "And then one day (it was April 30, 1990) I got a letter from an editor asking me to work on a new version of the Bible along the lines of what I had been doing as a pastor. I agreed."
According to the Introduction to the New Testament of The Message, its "contemporary idiom keeps the language of the Message (Bible) current and fresh and understandable". Peterson notes that in the course of the project, he realized this was exactly what he had been doing in his thirty-five years as a pastor, "always looking for an English way to make the biblical text relevant to the conditions of the people."
The Message was published piecemeal over a nine-year period. The New Testament was published in 1993. The Hebrew Bible Wisdom Books were published in 1998. The Hebrew Bible Prophets were published in 2000. The Hebrew Bible Pentateuch were released in 2001. The Books of History came out in 2002. The entire Bible was released the same year and follows the traditional Protestant Biblical canon.
Although The Message is used commonly in congregations, Peterson stated his uneasiness with this in a Christianity Today interview: " When I'm in a congregation where somebody uses [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, "Hear the Word of God from The Message." But it surprises me how many do.
1. Wikipedia, used under GDFL (with minor edits)