Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

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Eugene Peterson is convinced that the way we read the Bible is as important as that we read it. Do we read the Bible for information about God and salvation, for principles and "truths" that we can use to live better? Or do we read it in order to listen to God and respond in prayer and obedience?

The second part of Peterson?s momentous five-volume work on spiritual theology, Eat This Book challenges us to read the Scriptures on their own terms, as God?s revelation, and to live them as we read them. With warmth and wisdom Peterson offers greatly needed, down-to-earth counsel on spiritual reading. In these pages he draws readers into a fascinating conversation on the nature of language, the ancient practice of lectio divina, and the role of Scripture translations; included here is the "inside story" behind Peterson?s own popular Bible translation, The Message.

Countering the widespread practice of using the Bible for self-serving purposes, Peterson here serves readers with a nourishing entr¨¦e into the formative, life-changing art of spiritual reading.

Study Guide available.

Customer Reviews:

  • A meaty little book
    I read this book aloud. The expressiveness of the language really shone. I found it a timely inspirational book that has inspired me to continue reading the Bible particularly The Message. The wisdom , integrity, scholarship and passion of the writer impressed me. An easy must read for people who want to grow in faith in a vital relevant way by ingesting the message of the Bible....more info
  • Refocuses how you approach Scripture
    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.

    Fantastic....more info
  • Eating books?
    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
    ...more info
  • Spiritual Reading, yes - Lectio Divina, not so much.
    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.

    ...more info
  • Reading Scripture is much more than you ever imagined!
    A fascinating read - very encouraging and challenging. Peterson is the author of The Message, a contemporary translation of God's Word which many have praised for its insight and depth. In this book, Peterson examines the way that Christians approach reading Scripture and basically says that most read God's Word incorrectly. According to the Book of Revelation, Peterson says that we are to eat God's Word, to digest it, to allow it to enter our very being. He claims that even the way that the Bible is written is as important as what is written in the Bible - again, that the comprehensive manner of Scripture lends itself to a comprehensive digestion of the whole, as opposed to reading bits and pieces or taking smaller chucks of the larger whole. Like a novel or a movie, the Bible is written in such a manner to communicate a story that taken in small bites as verses or chapters misses the forest for the trees. Peterson also says that Christians shouldn't just read Scripture, they should assimilate it into their very lives - God's truth should emanate forth from their lives, in their decisions, by their actions and countenance. As Christ has described Himself as the Bread of Life and has declared that men should not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from God - Peterson uses this concept to further reinforce his premise that Scripture is the very nutritional sustenance necessary for daily living. Without God's Word we are anemic and frail, with it we are energized and empowered.

    Eat This Book is not an easy read - not as easy as Peterson's The Message translation. He dives into some deep issues in this book including the four elements of reading - lectio, meditation, oratio, and comtemplatio. The information is powerful and very challenging and I would suggest this book for any serious, or wanting-to-be-more serious, student of Scripture....more info
  • Not Knowing but Becoming
    This book goes down easy, like a comfort food. I expect nothing less from Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message, a wonderful modern English translation of the Bible. Here, he challenges why and how we read scripture while remaining gentle and encouraging about the matter, as a pastor should.

    In the first part, Peterson challenges "my holy wants, my holy needs, and my holy wants" as the false trinity competing with the real Trinity that wants to reveal both God and ourselves to us through the Bible.

    The second part is about the way Christians read the Bible: not just to know it but to live it - through lectio divina.

    The third part reveals the history of the Bible's translation, beginning with its origin as a translated document: Jesus' own words recorded therein are Greek translations from the Aramaic he likely spoke.

    I expect a wide audience will find this book relevant and engaging....more info
  • Living the Living Word
    Peterson has some thought-provoking ideas in this book. I particularly appreciate his insights on Western individualism and professionalism. Peterson quotes G.K. Chesterton who satirizes the situation in his book, HERETICS, saying, "Once men sang together round a table in chorus; now one man sings alone, for the absurd reason that he can sing better. If scientific civilization goes on (which is most improbable) only one man will laugh, because he can laugh better than the rest." We do this with our spiritual lives sometimes, don't we? The youth pastor is responsible for my kids' spiritual growth... the leader of my Bible study is the one on whom I rely to do all the Bible study and then pass it on to me... the head pastor is the expert I trust to tell me what to think...

    You may not go quite that far, but you probably know people who do. And it's something prevalent enough to warrant addressing it -- Since this is a pervasive way of thinking in my culture, has it crept into the way I think? Is professionalism all bad? How do we resist the ways it is unhealthy?

    I think Peterson swings a bit too far on the pendulum in reaction against the ideology of professionalism, particularly as he suggests everyone can be an exegete, which to some degree is true, but there are trained, or professional, exegetes upon whom we should rely for help in our Bible study efforts. However, Peterson is right. If we think, 'I have a job and a family and don't have time to study the Scriptures, but studying the Scriptures is the job of the pastor...' That's not a good place for us to be.

    Peterson also encourages us to develop a "hermeneutic of adoration" and draws our attention to Paul Ricoeur:

    "Paul Ricoeur has wonderful counsel for people like us. Go ahead, he says, maintain and practice your hermeneutics of suspicion. It is important to do this. Not only important, it is necessary... But then reenter the book, the world, with what he calls 'a second naivete.' Look at the world with childlike wonder, ready to be startled into surprised delight by the profuse abundance of truth and beauty and goodness that is spilling out of the skies at every moment. Cultivate a hermeneutics of adoration -- see how large, how splendid, how magnificent life is."

    Overall, I appreciate this book and hope it provides encouragement and inspiration for those wondering if personal Bible study is possible and how to begin....more info


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