Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Bono's new introduction to The Message 100 Bible: review part 1

I see (via Google) that Bono's foreword to a  brand new Bible edition  --"The Message100: The Story of God in Sequence" AKA The Message 100 Devotional Bible
--  is so far nowhere quoted online...except in Google Books, where it can be read in its entirety (here).

Of course, that will all change as soon as I hit 'publish.' (:
How can I resist letting you know that this gem of  a foreword is out there, and including  a significant  preview?

I was asked by the publisher to review this new Bible  at some point in its inaugural month of October.
This is my first of a few posts, and suffice to say it's a positive review already!

As many of you know, this is not the first time Bono has written an introduction to Scripture (see his 1999 introduction to the Psalms at this link).  This new one overlaps a bit with that; fans will also recognize several familiar Bono phrases/mantras from other sources (interviews, lyrics).  BUT do check this out:

We imagine language was invented so we might communicate with each other better. 

Maybe not.

 Language is oft about exclusion—across an ethnic border where we speak differently or across borders we build intentionally, to separate and divide. In language,  we keep the other out. We can only be decoded or deciphered by one who speaks our language, by one who speaks us .

Across class or geography, across disciplines like medicine or economicsjargon and acronyms are given to separate us who must never grasp what we have taken years to learn.

 Human beings love to not be understood. 

 A confusion of tongues.

These texts become sacrosanct, their parsing and exegesis in the hands of lawyers and linguists, high priests and low ones. 

Even our scared scripture has been made to fit our view rather than the other way round. The King James translation of the Bible, now four hundred years young, with its baroque English and oaken sonority, is one of my favorites...but its translation can bear little resemblance to the rough hewn Aramaic and Greek of its original authors.

All of our writing and reading, all our translating of the texts we read, are seen through a prism of our own time and place, our own people and politics..

When the good book connects with our good lives, when the word sings in our hearts, there is a holy spirit busy in the translating.  The  most luminous of all translations of the word was the one into a single and unique life, that of Jesus of Nazareth.  The poetic heart of The Message is that there is no dogma apart from the flesh becoming word.

I discovered Eugene Peterson's The Message  through the Psalms.  In the dressing room before a show, we would read them as a band, then walk out into arenas and stadiums, the words igniting us, inspiring us.  Some nights I would half remember and invoke the psalmist's words directly over the plangent opening fanfare of "Where the Streets Have No Name"--a song which is an invocation itself.  No matter how good or bad a U2 show gets, this is one of those moments where the  unreliable arrival of the divine presence in the house is more, not less, likely.


As most musicians know, God is reliably unreliable in the matter of being “invoked,” but with more certainty than usual we find He will sometimes walk through the room during the playing of “Streets." Maybe it has something to do with relocating a psalm within a song. The Psalms, of course, were originally sung, and David is the favorite of all musicians —not just because he reminds this scribe of Elvis (check Michelangelo's marble) but because he does the kind of things musicians look up to,  like dancing naked in front of his troops

In fact, for any flawed male who has had his girlfriend's ex killed, David is the one, the life that can be turned around. Peterson too has the heart of a musician, his intellectual rigor and humility saving him from the vicissitudes that have the rest of us banging tambourines as he lats out a feast on the altar.  While a lot of the time we're all still babbling in Babel, in The Message Peterson is often speaking in tongues —a language that decodes and deciphers us, the reader; a language to approach the very subject of God.
-Bono, complete text  here)

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