The Message. I've given it multiple chances. In the end I've come to a clear conclusion: I can't stand The Message.
The Message may or may not actually be a bible depending on who you talk to. If it is simply a commentary, then fine. However, at least the publisher considers it to be a bible. The cover shown here says, "The Bible in Contemporary Language." Additionally, I've met many Christians who carry this translation to church meetings and use it in bible study.
I'm not some sort of KJV-only type. I enjoy the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NLT, NASB, HCSB, ISV, and others. They are all good English translations that basically say the same the same thing. If I only had one bible, I'd be happy to have any of these translations (I generally use the ESV or NKJV, but it doesn't really matter to me).
However, I'd rather have no bible than have The Message. I'd prefer to recall what I have memorized than let The Message infect what I know.
The following are the three primary reasons I can't stand The Message:
First, in numerous places it is not accurate. I've been in bible studies where someone with The Message read aloud. Others of us would look at each other and then say, "Huh?" Eugene Peterson has tried so hard to use contemporary language that he has frequently lost the meaning of the original language. Single translators, even with good intentions, are dangerous; committees are much better.
Second, Peterson has effectively "dumbed down" the bible. He has simplified the language to the point that it is almost insulting. I'm not suggesting that the bible should be difficult to understand. However, it's also not play time. This leads me to number three...
Third, The Message is simply too cutesy. Many deep theological concepts are translated in such a way that they seem trivial. Peterson swings the pendulum so far in his quest for reader understanding that he paints a picture of a simplistic God with a simplistic gospel.
I realize it's not considered socially acceptable within Christian circles to criticize bible translations. In this particular case I'll just have to violate that unwritten rule. Not only can I not stand The Message, I also cannot understand why any other Christian would use it as their bible. If you want a bible that is easy to understand, get yourself an New Living Translation.
Scripture is not something trivial. We should desire to know what God has said. We have an embarrassment of riches in the English language as far as bible translations are concerned. What we don't need is a poor translation that actually harms the church. This is what The Message is doing. It sickens me what a high selling "translation" The Message is.
If you want to treat The Message as a commentary, go ahead. However, as far as bibles are concerned, The Message is a mess.