Eat This Book, The Art of Spiritual Reading (Eugene Peterson)

You may know Eugene Peterson through his paraphrased translation of the bible as 'The Message.' In this book we see that same deep trust in the power of words to change us, and this is his motivation for writing. “Language, spoken and written,” he says, “is the primary means for getting us in on what is, on what God is and is doing." 

Peterson explains how God unveils himself and what he’s doing through the revelation held within the pages of the Bible, and how crucial this revelation is to us if we are to avoid the dead-end of making our own experience - our needs and wants and feelings - life’s directive authority. These three, he writes, “a very individualised personal Trinity of my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings,” can usurp the place of the three-personal Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives."


It is Peterson’s passion for words and their power to change us that makes his argument for careful, intentional reading of Scripture so convincing. “It is the very nature of language to form rather than inform,” he writes. “Our best users of language, poets and lovers and children and saints, use words to make - make intimacies, make character, make beauty, make goodness, make truth." 

This idea of words producing something in us is part of his intention in using the metaphor ‘to eat this book’; our chewing over and digestion of God’s truth should result in us metabolising it into “practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love." If we are not changed by it, Peterson might as well have been saying, we are not truly reading it at all. This reading of the Bible in order to be changed, in order to use up its truths in our daily living, is what he understands to be the true meaning of ‘contemplative’.

Peterson is masterful in the way he describes the relational nature of God’s word, which he does by emphasising that it is a story on a grand scale, of which we are all a part. This is one powerful aspect of his book. He also includes a description of how to read the Bible in this careful, intentional way, and describes his journey into the work of translating Scripture.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, London (2006)