Eugene Peterson, renowned pastor and author of “The Message: The Bible In Contemporary Language,” died in hospice care Monday morning at 85-years-old.
Family members of Peterson, who was hailed as a “shepherd’s shepherd” and whose paraphrase of Christian scripture received wide acclaim, said that he spent his last few days praying in English and in angelic tongues and conversing with people who, his family believes, were welcoming him into Heaven. Peterson’s last words were reportedly “Let’s go.” (RELATED: New Bible Published To Help Catholics Catch Up With Protestants In Scriptural Knowledge)
“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” his family said, according to Religion News Service. “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.”
While Peterson is most widely known for his paraphrase of Scripture, which he authored with the help of Biblical translation experts and intended to make the Bible more accessible, he also served as pastor to Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland for 30 years and authored over 35 books.
He was hospitalized on Oct. 9 due to an infection that surfaced in the course of his battle with congestive heart failure and dementia and on Oct. 15 medical personnel and his family decided to place him in hospice.
“It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as a pastor. After a lifetime of faithful service to the church — running the race with gusto — it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath,” the Peterson family statement added.
David Taylor, assistant professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, said Peterson’s life goal was to “change the pastoral imagination of pastors today,” and to encourage them “to slow down and to be present to their lives.”
Peterson accomplished that, according to Robert Creech, professor of Christian Ministries at Baylor University.
“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 in a Facebook post urging fellow believers to pray for Peterson and his family during his hospice care.
Peterson said that impending death did not fill him with dread or fear, but curiosity and hope.
“We do know what’s going to happen, those of us who believe in the Trinity. For us, there’s something quite … I don’t want to use the word ‘miraculous’ in a sloppy way,” he said after publishing his final book, according to Religious News Service. “But there are people who die well, and I want to be one.”
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