Friday, 19 April 2013

An Honest New Testament

There are two new books focusing on the New Testament canon that are worth checking out. Yes, I know, it sounds a crashing bore, but it's actually a key critical issue for those of us who still take the New Testament seriously. After all, the origins of these documents is a pretty basic concern, as is the process whereby they they got selected in the first place.

First up, their origins, and that ol' Missouri Synod sinner turned Episcopalian, Marcus Borg, has released Evolution of the Word. This is an edition of the New Testament with a difference; Borg has reshuffled the current canonical documents into a chronological order, from earliest to latest.

That's not unprecedented. Jim Veitch from Victoria University (and more recently Massey) attempted a similar undertaking some decades back, even providing his own translation. Sadly it was, from necessity, a self published affair due to a total lack of interest from local publishers who were more interested in the usual range of cookbooks and autobiographies of rugby players (ghost written, naturally, by sports journos). Somewhere I still have a copy of the first instalment on file. I believe they lay in unsold piles gathering dust, and the project was never completed. This says more about the apathetic nature of Kiwi Christianity than in any way reflecting Veitch's abilities (he is still active in the Presbyterian ministry).

Borg hasn't even bothered to offer a fresh translation, but tosses the NRSV up in the air and then bungs its various parts back in place according to the standard academic consensus (with the exception of Acts, which he places later than most.) 

What does make the Borg New Testament worthwhile, however, is his straightforward no-nonsense commentaries - introductory articles really - to each of the documents. This is essential information that all literate Christians should have ready access to but, by and large, don't. The amount of disinformation out there is mountainous, and you can almost be guaranteed that anything you find in a so-called 'Christian bookstore' is going to be built on deceitful apologetics and self-delusion. Borg skips the usual Zondervanistic blather and sanctimonious IVP face-saving qualifications and cuts straight to the issues. For that reason alone I'm a fan. This is an honest New Testament, and an easy introduction to the field of New Testament study that is sure to be an eye-opener for many, even if the translation provided is a stodgy warmed-over one.

The second book of note is Hal Taussig's New New Testament... But that's probably best held over till next time.


  1. I believe that eventually Christianity must acquire the maturity to admit that the Bible is not an execption to the separation between God and man but is, rather, a feature of that separation.

    -- Neotherm

  2. I'm just not sure the words "honest" and "New Testament" belong in the same sentence.