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The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
N. T. Wright
HarperOne, 2011
544 pp., $25.99

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Robert Gundry


Tom's Targum

N. T. Wright's "Kingdom New Testament."

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Tom's saying "I have tried to stick closely to the original" almost forces a reviewer to judge the closeness of KNT to its underlying Greek text. First, then, some outstandingly close and accurate translations: "Leaven" (a bit of fermenting dough) rather than "yeast" (Matt. 13:33 and later). "Born from above" (John 3:3, 7) rather than "born again." "Crossbeam" (Luke 23:26) rather than the whole cross as carried. "Life of the age to come" (usually) rather than "eternal life" (though the aspect of eternality is not to be denied), and "assembly" rather than "church" (the latter of which tends to mean a building). "The Messiah, the son of God, is … Jesus" (John 20:31) rather than "Jesus is the Messiah, God's Son." "The spirit-animated body … the nature-animated one" (1 Cor. 15:46) rather than "the spiritual [= ethereal] body … the natural [= physical] body."

Second, some questionable or disappointing translations: "After the Babylonian exile" in Matthew 1:12, leaving the misimpression that "Jeconiah became the father of Salathiel" after the 70 years of Babylonian exile rather than becoming so right after the deportation to Babylon at the start of the 70 years. "Some wise and learned men" (Matt. 2:1) for the Magi, who were astrologers (and in other contexts dream-interpreters, magicians, or even quacks). "God's kingdom," connoting territory, without a complementary translation, "God's reign," connoting activity. "Corn" (Matt. 12:1 and later), which will make J&J think of corn on the cob rather than wheat or barley. "Anything remarkable," being weak tea for "miracle" at Mark 6:5. "Mattress" (Luke 5:18-19, 24; John 5:8-9, 11), which will suggest to J&J something too cumbersome to carry. "Time" instead of "hour" (Matt. 24:36; Luke 12:39-40), so that the specificity of an hour as the shortest unit of time named by ancients is lost. "I'm your friend" instead of Peter's "I love you [Jesus]" (John 21:15-17) and despite Tom's translating the Greek verb with "love" seven out of eight times earlier in John's Gospel (the sole exception appearing in 15:19: "The world would be fond of its own"). "Plenty of room" and "home" instead of "abodes" and "abode" in John 14:2, 23, so that the connection with "abiding" in Christ (John 15) is severed, a further severance occurring in the translation "remain" instead of "abide." "With … no god" (Eph. 2:12) for Gentiles prior to their conversion, in seeming contradiction of their former polytheism. There are also frequent failures to bring out prolonged and repeated actions in the past and present, as in "Ask [rather, 'Keep asking'] and it will be given to you" (Matt. 7:7) for beggars' wisdom.

Third, some tendentious and outright erroneous translations: "My friend" (Matt. 15:28) for Jesus' addressing a Canaanite with "Woman." "Oh, Mother!" (John 2:4) for Jesus' addressing his mother Mary with "Woman," which introduces exactly the same question used by demons in an attempt to fend him off, as in Mark 5:7: "What do you and I have to do with each other?" Also John 19:26, where Jesus addresses Mary with "Woman" rather than "Mother" (as falsely again in KNT) when putting distance between himself and Mary by calling the beloved disciple her son, and her the beloved disciple's mother.

"You and your silver belong in hell!" (Acts 8:20) turns a wish (so the original) into an exclamatory statement of fact. "Do it quickly, won't you?" (John 13:27) turns the original's firm command, "What you're doing, do very quickly," into a whimpering question (compare KNT's "Why don't you give them something [to eat]?" instead of the original's "You give them [something] to eat" [Mark 6:37]).

"Heal yourself, doctor!" (Luke 4:23) isn't a "riddle." It's a "proverb." Against the original of Mark 7:2-4, Tom treats immersing as though it were the same as washing. Outside 3:16 of his Gospel, John doesn't use hout¯os for degree, as mistakenly in KNT: "This, you see, is how much God loved the world: enough to give his only, special son"—rather, for manner or method: "in this way," here referring back to being "lifted up" as "Moses lifted up the snake in the desert." "Giving wedding parties" (Luke 17:27) disagrees with "being given in marriage [as daughters are]" (so the original).

Tom speaks of "God's word" as a sword that "can pierce right in between soul and spirit, or joints and marrow" (Heb. 4:12). But the original has no "right in between," and a sword doesn't pierce in between joints and marrow. So, according to the original, "piercing to the point of a division of the soul and of the spirit, and of joints and of marrow," depending on whether the sword strikes between two jointed bones or elsewhere deeply into the marrow of one bone. Therefore penetration into the soul and into the spirit, not between them.

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