book review: eat this book [a conversation in the art of spiritual reading]

eat this book, eugene peterson

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

August 27, 2012

Every once in a while I come across something that drastically alters my thinking.

And I love it because I hate being stagnant, believing that I’ve got it all figured out. I’ve heard somewhere that the moment we stop growing is the same moment that we start dying (the Dan King paraphrase). When that thing alters my thinking about how I read the Bible, then it’s life-changing factor is magnified exponentially.

That’s what happened to me when I picked up Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading.

The whole premise of the book is the idea that Christians shouldn’t read the Holy Scriptures the same way we would any other book. Its very nature is different and should be received differently. Peterson uses texts from Ezekiel and this one from Revelation as the foundation for his ideas on spiritual reading:

The voice out of Heaven spoke to me again: “Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth.” I went up to the Angel and said, “Give me the little book.” He said, “Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach.” I took the little book from the Angel’s hand and it was sweet honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled. Then I was told, “You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:8-11, The Message)

In other words, eat this book. Don’t just read the words with your eyes. Devour it. Digest it. Make it part of your entire physical being. And then go…

Peterson is brilliant in how he discusses the idea of spiritual reading. He tells personal stories, informs us of historical findings, and presents a Scriptural case for spiritual reading that should inspire Bible readers at all levels to change the way they read the texts.

Even as he talks about the nature of the Koine Greek used to write the New Testament, Peterson uses a conversational language that makes it easy for everyone to read and understand his message.

His many years of service as a pastor and Bible teacher has equipped him to have this conversation. Much of what he shares in the book leads us into how and why he wrote The Message paraphrase of the Bible. The goal of much of his life’s work has been to make reading (and living) the Bible accessible to the average reader… as it was intended when it was written.

eat this book, eugene peterson

Even as I read through parts of the Gospel of John this morning, I do it differently thanks to Peterson. I’m no longer just trying to get the words of Jesus in my head. Rather, I’m eating them as I did my breakfast moments earlier. I swallow the words and let them feed every cell in my body. The words nourish me and give me the strength to become more like Christ (the Living Word).

They say you are what you eat. So just as the Angel told John, eat this book.



  1. Diana Trautwein

    This is a favorite of mine – but then, just about everything the man has ever written is a favorite! I’m into “The Pastor” now – his memoir. “Eat This Book” is part of a quintet of titles that I think Peterson views as his magnum opus – and every single one of them is I highly recommend the whole set.

  2. Nancy Franson

    I keep meaning to read this. I love me some Eugene Peterson. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Sandra Heska King

    Love. Him. This book is in the waiting. They say we’re a lot healthier when we eat a lot of leisurely little meals. Perhaps that’s true in the spiritual, too. Chew and chew and chew and chew, my mom used to say.


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book review: eat this book [a conversation in the art of spiritual reading]

by Dan King time to read: 3 min