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The New Testament, translated by David Bentley Hart–a Review

There any number of translations of the Bible, in full or in part, and more each year, it seems.  There are classic Bibles like the King James and Douay-Rheims versions, modern Bibles such as the Revised English Bible and the New Revised Standard Bible, Protestant Bibles, such as the New International and English Standard versions, Catholic Bibles, such as the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible; there are more traditional formal equivalence Bibles (the New King James), dynamic equivalence Bibles (the Good News Bible), outright paraphrases (the Living Bible); and on it goes.  To this number has recently been added a translation of the New Testament by Greek Orthodox scholar and theologian David Bentley Hart.

Hart has made a name for himself as a scholar, theologian, and cultural commentator, having published eleven books and numerous articles in both professional journals and in venues such as The Wall Street Journal, The New Atlantis, and First Things.  Hart had planned to translate the New Testament for some time, but a spell of ill health slowed him down.  Finally, he completed the translation, which was released in October of 2017.

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Buffy, the Bible, and Not My Business

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Update:  A Facebook friend has reported that I misremembered the Hitchhiker’s guide, writing “Not My Problem” field for “Somebody Else’s Problem” field.  Due corrections have been made!  I have left the title intact, though, for the sake of the alliteration….

In the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as fans well know, the setting is the fictional Southern California city of Sunnydale.  Sunnydale just happens to be located on top of the literal gates of Hell–the Hellmouth, as it’s called in the show.  Because of this, Sunnydale is chock full of vampires, demons, and monsters of various sorts.  The ongoing joke in the series is that everyone in the city is completely oblivious to all of this, attributing supernatural events, murders, and general mayhem to anything but their real causes.  The explanation given by Giles, Buffy’s Watcher, is that most people subconsciously block out anything that conflicts with their picture of ordinary reality.  They literally can’t see the weirdness.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (consisting actually of five volumes by Douglas Adams and one by Eoin Colfer), there is mention made (in Life, the Universe, and Everything, I believe) of the SEP field.  It is explained that invisibility is extremely difficult to produce.  Therefore, if someone wants to hide something (in the novel, an invading spaceship), it’s easier to use the Somebody Else’s Problem–SEP–field.  Humans have a natural propensity not to want to get involved with anything that is “somebody else’s problem”.  The SEP field amplifies this natural tendency, so that while the object to be hidden is perfectly visible and in the open, no one actually notices it.

My contention is that most people who read the Bible are much like the people of Sunnydale; or to change similes, they read the Bible as if under the influence of an SEP field.

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Supersessionism

Last time I talked about the New Testament.  This post is a slight, but necessary tangent, since it deals with some issues that will be implicit in my discussion of the Old Testament.

Supersessionism is a complicated and fraught issue in Christian theology.  Simply put, it is the theological doctrine that in some way or other the New Covenant in Christ has superseded–replaced, fulfilled, augmented, gone beyond–the Old Covenant, that is, the covenant between God and the Jewish people, recorded in the Old Testament.

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Ananias and Sapphira

In a discussion over at Vox Nova, the story of Ananias and Sapphira came up in the context of a discussion on something else.  This is one of the most disturbing stories of the New Testament, and as I was pondering it, an insight that I’d not had before came to mind.

First, for those who may not be familiar with this story, here it is, from the New English Bible.  The first paragraph is Acts 4:32-35, the rest is Acts 5:1-12:

The whole body of believers was unified in heart and soul.  Not a man of them claimed any of his possessions as his own, but everything was held in common, while the apostles bore witness with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  They were held in high esteem; for they had never a needy person among them, because all who had property in land or houses sold it, brought the proceeds of the sale, and laid the money at the feet of the apostles; it was then distributed to any who stood in need. Read the rest of this entry