The New Covenant: The Four Gospels and Apocalypse

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From an award-winning poet and scholar of Greek and Biblical Studies: the New Testament's four gospels and Revelation, newly translated from the Greek and informed by Semitic sources.

"Willis Barnstone has a problem: he's too good. Everything he writes, from his invaluable The Other Bible, a compendium of holy texts no writer should be ...
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Overview

From an award-winning poet and scholar of Greek and Biblical Studies: the New Testament's four gospels and Revelation, newly translated from the Greek and informed by Semitic sources.

"Willis Barnstone has a problem: he's too good. Everything he writes, from his invaluable The Other Bible, a compendium of holy texts no writer should be without, through his brilliant translations and beautiful poems, is a breathtaking achievement."
-Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

This new literary translation of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, and the Apocalypse (Revelation) returns the bedrock of Christianity to its origins as an outgrowth of Judaism. In place of the Greek names we are accustomed to, he restores probable Hebrew or Aramaic names to New Testament figures, and as in the Hebrew Bible, he lineates poetry as poetry. In translating Apocalypse in blank verse, he reveals it as the great epic poem of the New Testament.

Barnstone uses all his talents as a poet, translator, and scholar to reshape our understanding of these seminal books of the Bible and of our own long-held assumptions about our historical and religious heritage. In a hundred-page introduction that is itself a fully developed work of scholarship, Barnstone places the Christian Bible in new perspective, transporting us back to the pre-Hellenic world and the Jewish tradition from which the New Covenant emerged. Notes. Bibliography.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Harold Bloom
Willis Barnstone's The New Covenant is both an eloquent, fresh translation of the Four Gospels and of Revelation, and also a superb act of restoration, in which these Christian scriptures are returned to their Judaic origins and context. The introductory material is wise and poignant, and makes an authentic contribution to the common reader's understanding of the Gospels.
Robert Alter
Willis Barnstone's new English version of the core texts of Christian Scripture is almost startling in its freshness. Scraping away many centuries of stylistic fussiness and supersessionist distortion, he gives us a set of Gospel narratives that are bold and direct in their simplicity and that show how steeped the first Christians were in the Jewish world from which they derived.
Publishers Weekly
It's difficult to make the case for something new in biblical studies, but Willis Barnstone's The New Covenant, Commonly Called the New Testament: The Four Gospels and the Apocalypse is certainly different. In deciding to provide "a chastely modern, literary version of a major world text," Barnstone restores the probable Hebrew and Aramaic names of all of the major characters. Jesus is Yeshua; his parents Miryam and Yosef take him to Yerushalayim each year for the Seder of the Pesach. Such determination to restore the Semitic origins of the New Testament is refreshing, and Barnstone doubles the fun by following the Gospels not with Acts, as would be traditional, but with the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. Here is where Barnstone's literary skill shines most clearly, as he renders the Apocalypse as a great epic poem in loose blank verse. Barnstone's biblical interpretation is heavily influenced by former Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, but his literary contribution is quite original. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
An esteemed translator and poet and former professor of Greek at Colgate University, Barnstone believes that in his profession it is crucial to remember Christianity's Jewish roots. His fresh translation of the four Gospels and the Book of Revelation relies on Semitic texts, using Aramaic or Hebrew words for personal and geographical names in place of the more familiar Greek. For example, Jesus becomes Yeshua, and the Lord, Adonai. Wherever he thinks it justified by the nature of the text, he also writes in verse. His translation of the Apocalypse (i.e., the Book of Revelation) is presented in blank verse because Barnstone considers it the epic poem of the New Covenant (or the New Testament). While much of this work is similar to modern translations like the New Revised Standard Version, Barnstone's feel for poetry lends it a unique elegance and power. Furthermore, he provides many helpful footnotes that explain his choices. A 100-page introduction offers insight into the challenges of translation and important background information on the pre-Hellenic world of Judaism from which the New Covenant emerged. Although some of his opinions about the historical Jesus are bound to be challenged, his inclusion of this topic makes the work even more useful. An important addition to any library's collection of Bibles and biblical information. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573221825
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.74 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2005

    The New Testament Through the Eyes of a Poet

    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 l

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