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‘The Message’ Author Eugene Peterson Moves To Hospice

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Eugene Peterson, author of “The Message: The Bible In Contemporary Language,” has entered the last few months of his life, according to his son Eric.

The acclaimed author, scholar and pastor was hospitalized Oct. 9 due to an infection that surfaced in the course of his battle with congestive heart failure and dementia. Eugene will receive hospice care at his home. (RELATED: New Bible Published To Help Catholics Catch Up With Protestants In Scriptural Knowledge)

Robert Creech, professor of Christian Ministries at Baylor University, shared an email from Eric to Facebook, explaining Eugene’s condition and sharing the pastor’s positive reaction to the news that he is nearing the end of his life.

“Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list). He has refreshed Scripture for many through his thoughtful paraphrase of the Bible published as The Message. He has taught us to pray,” Creech wrote.

“It is time for those who have benefited from his ministry to return the favor to him and his family with prayer over the next several weeks as Eugene has been placed in hospice care: Christe eleison, Kyrie, eleison,” he added, referencing a Greek phrase meaning “Christ have mercy, Lord, have mercy.”

Eric shared that his father’s dementia and battle with heart failure were worsening, but that his overall demeanor and strength had improved since being admitted to the hospital. As of Saturday, the Peterson family planned to transfer Eugene to hospice care in one to three days. Eric said that, in light of the news of his father’s worsened health, he made three important messages clear to Eugene:

“1. You are deeply loved.
2. It appears that you are in the last months of your life. (And when I asked him how he felt about that, after some thought, he said, “I feel good about that.”)
3. We are going to try to help make these remaining months as comfortable and enjoyable for you as possible. (To which he gave us his million dollar smile and said, “thank you.”)”

Eric also said one of the last things Eugene said that evening was, “It just seems so sacred that they trust me so much.”

When asked in 2017 if death scared him, Eugene told Religion News Service “I don’t think it’s anything to be afraid of.”

“I have no idea how it’s going to work out. But I’m not afraid, I’ll tell you that. I’ve been with a lot of people who are dying. I think those conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had. These are people who have lived a good life and who have embraced their faith. They’re not afraid,” he said.

Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, developed with the help of several biblical translation scholars and intended as a companion to scripture to help illuminate its meaning, has sold over 16 million copies. It is one of over 35 books that he authored.

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