American author, pastor, and theologian, Eugene Peterson, has passed away at aged 85, a short time after entering hospice care. He authored over 30 books, many of which reflect his heart for and experience in pastoral ministry, but he has perhaps become best known as the author of The Message, a contemporary English translation of the entire Bible which has sold over 20 million copies in nearly two decades.
A scholar of biblical Greek and Hebrew, Peterson was an assistant professor at a seminary when he decided to pursue a pastoral vocation. In 1962 he founded Christ Our King Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation in Bel Air, Maryland, leading it for three decades while also writing to encourage other pastors.
“Peterson’s decision to pursue the pastoral life did not involve turning away from intellectual pursuits or discarding his passion for biblical languages,” David J. Wood wrote in 2002 when interviewing Peterson for the Christian Century. “It is equally clear that his vocation has been distinctly pastoral and that his intellectual flourishing has been shaped by and for that vocation.”
According to Christianity Today:
His [Peterson’s] family released a statement on his final, joyful days earthside.
“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” they stated. “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.
“Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”
…Peterson’s influence among the church extended long after his nearly 30-year tenure as pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian in Bel Air, Maryland. His popularity famously reached U2 frontman Bono, and the two appeared in a film about the Psalms in 2016.
May Eugene Peterson rest in peace.