A Mind-Bending Translation of the New Testament

Source: The Atlantic

BY JAMES PARKER

In the beginning was … well, what? A clap of the divine hands and a poetic shock wave? Or an itchy node of nothingness inconceivably scratching itself into somethingness? In the beginning was the Word, says the Gospel according to John—a lovely statement of the case, as it’s always seemed to me. A pre-temporal syllable swelling to utterance in the mouth of the universe, spoken once and heard forever: God’s power chord, if you like. For David Bentley Hart, however, whose mind-bending translation of the New Testament was published in October, the Word—as a word—does not suffice: He finds it to be “a curiously bland and impenetrable designation” for the heady concept expressed in the original Greek of the Gospels as Logos. The Chinese word Tao might get at it, Hart tells us, but English has nothing with quite the metaphysical flavor of Logos, the particular sense of a formative moral energy diffusing itself, without diminution, through space and time. So he throws up his hands and leaves it where it is: “In the origin there was the Logos …”

It’s significant, this act of lexical surrender, because if you’d bet on anyone to come up with a fancy English word for Logos, it’d be David Bentley Hart. Vocabulary is not his problem, unless you think he has too much of it. A scholar, theologian, and cultural commentator, Hart is also a stylist; or rather, the prickly and slightly preeningpolemical exhibition that is his style is indivisible from his role as a scholarly and theologically oriented cultural commentator. Like G. K. Chesterton, he has one essential argument: that God is the foundation of our being and that every human life therefore has its beginning and its end in eternity. He rehearses this argument in numberless witty variations against whichever non-God ideology happens to slouch beneath his pen:

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Categories: Bible, The Muslim Times

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