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Author Biography: Willis Barnstone is a professor of Greek and religious studies at Indiana University, a member of the Jesus seminar, and a poet who has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Posted October 21, 2005
Barnstone, Willis. The New Covenant, commonly called the New Testament. (New York: Riverhead Books, 2002) 225.5¿209-DC21 [Barbara Prose] This is a recent book written about the language of the Gospels in the most beautiful and emotive language of a poet. ¿Therein lies the ordinary art and the plain great passion of the people in the gospels. That picture of primal nakedness covered by a colorless mean cloth, of hurting bodies that speak with need from a primal poverty, ensures that the gospels, independent of faith, doctrine, commandment, fearful warnings, and metaphysic, will always reach those with eyes to hear and feel the human condition of the spirited body waiting on the earth.¿ (p.6) I believe that Barnstone is a poet first although he is also an author, professor of comparative literature, literary critic, and an award-winning translator. With nine volumes of poetry to his name, Barnstone writes of scripture like a river flowing through your brain and introduces his new translation of The Gospels and the Apocalypse with a passionate call to a reformation of openness which has no end. ¿A book need not end, nor a heart, nor a spirit roaming in the blur inside. The day and night of life need not end but stay open to vision, maybe the vision of the blind and crippled. So reformation is openness, and carries in its intellectual passion a small r.¿ (8) Barnstone has three goals in presenting his new translation: to restore the geography and Semitic identity of the characters that it might inspire understanding of the text as narratives about Jews, a rabbi, his family and his followers, who were to be the essential figures of Christianity to present a text which no longer serves to demonize the Jews to present a text which can thus become a New Covenant which Jews and Christians alike can read ¿for its spiritual firmaments and literary marvels.¿ (27) Although he only mentions the following goal tangentially, he also develops ideas about the Bible as an endless fountain of poetry and thus invites those who appreciate literature and poetry to read the Gospels with new eyes. He does this primarily in his preface and introduction of twenty-five pages. As a man who is passionate about the possibilities in translation, he describes the scarlet T of translation in ways which make the reader aware of the consequences of our choice of words and demonstrates how language can open or obscure windows of perception and understanding. An example of several of these goals can be found in his translation of Matthew 2:5-6. In the NRSV we read ¿In Bethlehem of Judea for so it has been written by the prophet,¿ is newly translated as, ¿In Beit Lehem in Yehuda, for so it is written by the prophet Malaci.¿ (23) If you love language and poetry you will enjoy reading this book. If you are interested in healing the wound between Christian and Jew you will find much to inspire you in this book. If you are intrigued by the art of translation you will be fascinated by this book. The introduction is an artfully composed presentation of Barnstone¿s reasons and motivations for a new translation. The twelve essays contained in his afterword are provocative, easy and exciting to read. Covering topics such as the Charge of Deicide, Anti-Judaism in the New Covenant, historical bases of Yeshua¿s life and death, the names of Old and New as used before the word Testament, Satanizing Jews in John and the other Gospels, you will find plenty of food for thought and more than enough words for a healthy massage of the brain, heart and soul. The bulk of the book of 576 pages is the translation itself. Barnstone states that his method, in the end, is to leave the text alone. Let the problems reveal themselves, the commentaries reveal the struggles of their times, the finite human blunders fade. ¿Holding dominion in the New Covenant are the beauty of the word, the compassion for the poor and hungry, the blind and the lWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.