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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., $29.99

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Robert Gundry

Tom's Targum

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

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Balancing the foregoing hits, though, are some misses: "Yes, I know that's weird, but there's more" (Phil. 3:8), instead of a simple "More than that," is too clever by half. "What d'you …?" "Where d'you …?" and "How d'you …?" (Luke 22:9 and often) are too colloquial. "Woe betide …" (Matt. 23:13 and often) is pedantic. "Without him knowing how it did it?" (Mark 4:27) is awkward. "Stone-cold sober" (Mark 5:15) makes an ex-demoniac seem to have been formerly drunk. To an American's ear, "Chloe's people have put me in the picture about you" (1 Cor 1:11) sounds as if they've included Paul in a photo of the Corinthians rather than that they've informed Paul about the Corinthians. Though traditional, Jesus' being "a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 5:6 and following) will sound to J&J as though Jesus became a high priest at Melchizedek's command. (How about "in alignment with Melchizedek," which corresponds to the Greek word's use for a line or rank of soldiers?)

"That indeed is what we are [viz., 'God's children']" (1 John 3:1) doesn't have the oomph of a literal translation: "And we are!" The characteristically British use of "lot"—as in "A fine lot [= amount] of faith you've got!" (Matt. 14:31); "This lot [= group] who came in last" (Matt. 20:12); "cut the whole lot [= male sexual organs] off" (Gal. 5:12); "you double-minded lot" (James 4:8); "Why do you lot eat and drink … with tax-collectors and sinners?" (Luke 5:30)—will befuddle some American readers. Tom dislikes "whom" where good grammar requires it, as in "I will show you who [instead of 'whom'] to fear" (Luke 12:5, also elsewhere), and regularly positions "only" too early, as in "only lasts a short time" (Matt. 13:21) instead of "lasts only a short time" (plus further examples). But in these cases he's reflecting popular usage.

KNT is peppered with words, phrases, and whole clauses that have nothing corresponding to them in the original Greek and that aren't needed for understandable English. Here are just a few of many such insertions: "And let everybody know it" (Matt. 20:25). "What had happened was this" (Mark 6:17). "Something new" (Mark 8:31). "Now look" (Luke 11:19). "After all" (Luke 19:11). "Really?" (John 1:46). "Oh, really?" (John 5:12). "Wait a minute" (John 1:50). "Come on" (John 4:31). "Well I never" (1 Cor. 5:1). "It's Passover-time, you see" (1 Cor. 5:7). "Well, well!" (John 3:10). Repetitions of legitimately translated words make up a special class of insertions: "For me, for me" (Luke 1:49). "Men, men" (Acts 14:15). "Kill him! Kill him!" (Acts 21:36). "Please, please" (Acts 21:39). "Welcome, welcome, welcome with a blessing, they sang" (Luke 19:38, plus an omission of "the coming one"). Admittedly, these insertions often add zest. They're the sprightly way Tom expresses himself. But they don't represent even loosely what the New Testament authors actually wrote.

Inconsistencies of translation also abound in KNT. But variety is the spice of life, and according to Ralph Waldo Emerson "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little … divines." Nonetheless, inconsistency can cause confusion and obscure connections, as happens in the following: A tunic is an undergarment, a cloak an overgarment; and Tom uses "tunics" for the undergarment (Acts 9:39), but also both "shirt" and "cloak" for the undergarment (Matt. 5:40; 10:10; Luke 9:3). Confusing! "Colleague," "servant(s)," and "slave(s)" alternate with each other for the same Greek word and in the same parable (Matt. 18:23-35; Luke 19:12-25). "The Righteous One," "Lord," and "God" get capitalized regularly (see James 5:1-11, for example), as does "our Lord and Master" for the Roman emperor (Acts 25:26). But "the father" (in reference to God), "the son" (in reference to Jesus), and "the holy spirit" (in reference to the third person of the Trinity) don't get capitalized. Are J&J to infer divinity versus nondivinity?

Tom makes a point of his translating the Greek conjunction gar variously and notes that English versions often translate it with "for" in the sense of "because." (It needs adding that a conjunctive "for" often introduces an explanation other than causal.) Judging this sort of "for" to be formal, stilted, and nonconversational, Tom translates gar variously with a semicolon, "So," "yes," "of course," "after all," "No way!" "Why not? Because …," "Look at it like this," "You see" (tiresomely often), even with elliptical dots (…), or not at all. For example, Mark 8:35-38 sets out four parallel reasons for the cross-taking demanded in 8:34. Jesus introduces each reason with gar. Tom translates the first gar with "Yes," the second with "After all," and the third and fourth not at all. So J&J may miss the parallelism of reasons given for cross-taking.

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