The Gloves Come Off – David Bentley Hart vs. NT Wright

Translations of the New Testament, and the Bible as a whole, are a dime a dozen. In most United Methodist Churches you’re likely to find copies of the New Revised Standard Version in the backs of the pews. In other denominations you might find the New International Version, or the New Kings James Version, or the Common English Bible, etc. And every once in a while a theologian will undertake creating his/her own translation based on the original Greek/Hebrew.

Whenever someone produces a translation it is important to remember that a translation is also always an interpretation. The translator makes important choices on how a particular word or phrase should be rendered in contemporary English, and because this has been done again and again, there are certain verses in certain translations that are very different from one another.

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Back in October (2017) the well known theologian David Bentley Hart released his translation of the New Testament. Unique to his translation is a willingness to keep the strange (and sometimes confusing) nature of the original Greek in an English form. Comparing it to something like the NRSV results in a difficult endeavor, however what Dr. Hart accomplished is rather remarkable when one considers how the original Greek actually reads.

And, of course, other theologians began to weigh their opinion over the recent addition to the fray. Some said that Dr. Hart revolutionized the way we will read the Bible for years to come, while others dismissed it as yet another unnecessary addition to the great pantheon of translations.

But one particular review stood out regarding its negative tone and all around language: NT Wright’s.

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For months Dr. Hart has remained silent regarding his colleague’s review… until now. My friend and podcast partner Jason Micheli was fortunate to have a conversation with Dr. Hart regarding his translation and his thoughts about NT Wright’s negative review. The following episode covers a range of topics including lots of stained glass language, the Easter story, biblical grammar, spirits and souls, the worst translation of the New Testament, and an ax to grind in Revelation. If you would like to listen to the episode, or subscribe to the podcast, you can do so here: The Gloves Come Off

 

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Devotional – Luke 24.45

Devotional:

Luke 24.45

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

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Seminary required a lot of reading and writing. Every week our professors would assign readings from book and articles that we would never complete in time in addition to reflective papers on a variety of subjects. At the beginning of each semester you could almost hear the collective groan from the student body with every new syllabus that detailed the amount of work that would be taking place over the coming months.

During my second year I took a class entitled “Greek Exegesis of Mark.” Throughout the semester we would be translating Mark from it’s original language into English and explore the nuances of the grammar. I remember reading the syllabus on the first day and thinking that I was in way over my head. Yet there was one particular requirement on the syllabus that I was really excited about; every week we would be required to read through the gospel of Mark in English.

At the time I realized that I was spending so much time studying God’s Word that I was no longer enjoying and absorbing God’s Word. So each week two of my fellow students and I sat on the steps of Duke Chapel and read the gospel of Mark aloud. Depending on the week we would trade off chapters and until each of us had the chance to read every chapter multiple times.

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I read more grammar and theological works on the gospel according to Mark that semester than I care to remember, but none of them compared to the importance of just reading Mark over and over again. There were insights from theologians that I never would have discovered on my own, but spending time in scripture alone every week truly opened up God’s Word in a way I had yet to experience.

After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead he appeared to the disciples and opened their minds to understand the scriptures. For the first time they were able to begin seeing faithful discipleship through the lens of the resurrection (which makes all the difference). Today we can purchase commentaries and books about the bible to help us understand what’s going on in the verses but nothing can compare to spending faithful time with God’s Word alone. It is important to remember that every time we read a book about the bible we are actually reading someone’s opinion and interpretation; we can only create our own understanding and interpretation from the source itself.

This week let us challenge ourselves to read one of the gospels out loud. Mark is the shortest so it can be finished quickly, but they are all worth exploring on their own. The point is this: the more time we spend in the Word the more we will begin to understand.