“A grab bag of reportage, rumour, folk memory, and on-the-hoof mysticism produced by regular people”

Front cover of The New Testament by David Bentley Hart

This is how David Bentley Hart descrbes the New Testament and it is what his new translation hopes to reflect. An article about him and his work is available here from The Atlantic.

Some lines from the article really stir my imagination, and I can’t wait to get hold of and read the translation (which according to Amazon, isn’t available in the UK until 31st January 2018). For example, Hart has previously stated that “my chief purpose, is not to advise atheists on what I think they should believe; I want merely to make sure that they have a clear concept of what it is they claim not to believe.” I love that aim and have often wished I could explain why and what I believe in a way that is broader, more tentative and conveys the beautiful mystery of Jesus’ life to those that don’t believe. I don’t want to sell certainty to them (I suppose I can’t help thinking that it is the Spirit’s role to convince and convict, not mine), rather invite them to join in the adventure and journey on the curious paths that I have travelled seeking God.

Another couple of lines from the piece in The Atlantic: “Where an author has written bad Greek … I have written bad English” and “In Hart we can hear more clearly both the leper’s challenge—heal me!—and the quickness and intimacy of Jesus’s response.” Well, I suppose this is how it should be. As a fan of Ignatian prayer, in which one of the purposes is to imagine yourself in the roles and situations of the bible characters, a means of better understanding how they ‘sounded’ is very welcome. I want to experience the thrill of hearing Jesus and witnessing his life’s work as close to firsthand as possible. People just couldn’t keep away from him and his was the name on everyone’s lips. There would have been such a buzz in every vllage he went to and news of each miracle would have gone viral in today’s world. There was a lot to figure out too though – was that man really blind before he was healed? How did Jesus have the power to heal him and why wasn’t he getting on with ousting the Roman rulers more quickly? What a lot to discuss. Then when he died, who could figure that out? The events of his life would have filled newspapers, social media and kept journalists in print and on screens for years. Today we are still discussing what it all means and there are plentiful mysteries to solve. Just like looking closely at a diamond, the more I learn of and gaze at Jesus, the more beauty I notice and the richer the reward of intimacy with Him.

One final line that entices me to read the translation: “the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’s gently administered program for pulling down thrones, decapitating idols, and jamming eternity into the present tense.” Hmmm …. I’d forgotten how radical it was. I can’t wait to read this new version and have my mind blown again. Jesus message was astonishing, I am at fault for forgetting this, but I am grateful for new translations that jolt my brain back to life.

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