Kingdom New Testament

Kingdom New Testament December 29, 2012

Kris and I are on holiday this week so there will be no Weekly Meanderings. We’ll be back on Meanderings next week!

I’m not hearing much chat about Tom Wright’s new translation of the New Testament, called The Kingdom New Testament, but it sure does deserve careful consideration to be on your desk or chair when you read the Bible. I hope everyone gets a copy and puts it next to the Bible they are now reading — read them together for a month or so, take it to church, and see what you think. I think you will like it.

Who has been reading The Kingdom New Testament? What are your judgments on this translation?

Better than any translation I know today, other than the most literal of translations (which have an entirely different problem), I hear the author’s Greek behind Tom’s translation. Still, Tom Wright is much more in tune with rendering the Greek NT into contemporary English, and that’s the subtitle of the KNT: A Contemporary Translation. He does so with elan at times. The translation is brisk and energetic, it’s gender neutral, and it has some real surprises that will make you smile — and provide insight at the same time.

I finished a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount and in reading Tom’s Sermon translation I found the following notable renderings:

Instead of saying Jesus “opened his mouth” and said in 5:2, Tom has “He took a deep breath…”

We get “Blessings” and not “Blessed.”
He turns it all into a I’m-talking-to-you promise when he has “You’re going to be comforted” instead of the 3d person plural passive “They will be comforted.”
“… hunger and thirst for justice…”
On the bad salt … “and walk all over it.”
As I said, “… unless your covenant behavior is far superior to that of the scribes…”
“to the ancient people”
We get “foul and abusive language” in 5:22.
He uses “Gehenna” instead of hell, and this is puts us in 1st Century Jerusalem.
“If your right eye trips you up…” in 5:29.
The exception clause: “unless it’s connection with immorality” (5:32).
At 5:3: “say yes when you mean yes.”
5:47: “Even Gentiles do that, don’t they?”
6:1: “When you are practicing your piety, mind you don’t do it with an eye on the audience!”
He uses “play-acting” and “play-actors” for “hypocrite.”
And when you pray, “don’t pile up a jumbled heap of words” (6:7).
“Give us today the bread we need now” … “don’t bring us into the great trial.”
In the fasting passage, “tidy your hair and your beard…”
“Show me your treasure, and I’ll show you where your heart is” (6:21).
“If your eye is honest and clear…”
“Take a tip from the lilies in the field” (6:28).
And “you little-faith lot” (6:30).
“Make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life” (6:33).
Golden Rule: “So whatever you want people to do to you, do just that to them. Yes: this is what the law and the prophets are all about” (7:12).
“He was teaching them, you see, on his own authority…” (7:29).

There is something quite distinct about Tom’s translation: he wants the reader to feel the 1st Century, to hear a Jew call Jesus “Messiah” or “King” and he wants his readers to know that the word “righteousness” just might not cut through ecclesial thickets and deserves to be translated at times a “justice” and (I observe in Matt 5:17-20) as “covenant behavior.” So, yes, there’s a touch of the new perspective, or as Tom calls his approach, the “fresh” perspective, but it’s very even-handed and not at all overdone.

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  • Mark Edward

    I really enjoyed Wright’s translation. It is definitely helpful for trying to get a hold of the emotion of what the speakers and writers have to say against some off the more ‘literal’ translations out there.

  • It’s very fresh and creative, but it’s also interpretively eccentric in a number of places, which makes it less of a translation and more of a Targum (as Bob Gundry nicely put it). Good to read, though!

  • I have appreciated NT Wright’s fresh perspective on the NT and this contemporary translation comes through as a new perspective while remaining faithful to 1st century Palestine.

  • Scot McKnight

    Andrew where is Bob Gundry’s review?

  • Steven

    Andrew, Great observation. As I was reading thriugh this, I thought the same thing. I am a literalist, so while I appreciate the thought proces behind some of these changes, I don’t think I will be replacing my current translation for Wright’s. Like Scot suggests, I will read it alongide my current translation when I feel its apropriate.

  • We love it here!

  • I have not seen this ‘translation’ but from what you are saying it would not be an actual translation but more of a close commentary or a creative following and author’s interpretation of the original ideas.

  • SuperStar

    Here is Robert Gundry’s review of Tom Wright’s KNT:

  • Clay Knick

    I use it alongside the RSV, NRSV, & NIV. I’ve enjoyed it very much. As the “Everyone” commentaries came out I mentioned to some friends that I hope a publisher would get Wright to do this. And I wish I had gotten him to sign my copy when I met him in May.

  • I was quite impressed with Bob Gundry’s review (read it awhile back).

    I need to read through the Kingdom New Testament soon, certainly in 2013. I appreciate your thoughts here, Scot. Thanks.

  • EricW

    Gundry says one of Wright’s flawed renderings is:

    The use of “fox” (Luke 13:32) where the original has “vixen” (a female fox) misses the slur on Herod Antipas (which in The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson got right by portraying Antipas as effeminate).

    Yet in my search of BDAG and LSJ of ἀλώπηξ (alōpēx) and all related/derived words, I do not find (unless I overlooked it) separate male and female terms for “fox” listed but simply one word, and it’s a feminine noun. The NT Greek text uses feminine adjectives to modify the word – τῇ ἀλώπεκι ταύτῃ – and I suppose if a male fox were meant it could have read τω ἀλώπεκι τούτω – but it doesn’t appear from LSJ and BDAG that there is a masculine form (though I haven’t searched Ancient Greek literature to see).

  • I bought this translation at the begining of the year! I love it! I am in the camp that would argue that N.T. Wright’s addition of Gehenna is appropriate and needed!

    Scott McKnight, I feel there is one notable but appropriate addition to the Sermon on the Mount translation that N.T. Wright highlights, that you did not include in your summary.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you: don’t use VIOLENCE to resist evil! Instead, when someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one toward him.” – v38-39

    The addition of “violence” is significant in the Anabaptist camp that hold the ‘Non-violent resistance’ position. Bruner, Wink, Hays and Yoder have all commented that if Jesus was teaching non-resistance, he would have reflected this in his examples:

    i.e. When someone slaps you on the right cheek, Do nothing
    When someone sues you and wants your cloak, Do Nothing.

    Instead what we do see is Jesus offering creative, non-violent responses to some very real first century situations. N.T. Wright, I believe is highlighting this fact with his addition of ‘violence’. NIV and other translations has lead many to read this passage and conclude ‘nonresistance’, and then almost in the same breath throw out this passage as idealistic.

    NIV translates it as: “do not resist an evil person”
    Bruner translates the phrase: “Do not try to get even with the evil one”

    Now this begs the question: Did Wright do ‘violence’ to the text? 🙂 I would say no, but this would a great topic to explore further.

  • Thanks for giving a good number of examples for us to get a feel. I’m not likely to look at in depth anyway, but I like knowing the general approach and tenor of it.

    I appreciate the comments by Paul Walker on non-resistance and non-violent resistance. I do, as a progressive but not a full pacifist, have to come to as objective a conclusion as I can, after lots of relevant study, that Jesus was indeed a “resistor” or an “agitator” for the Kingdom of God, but seemed to be among those who would use no more violence than such aggressive action as that in the temple “cleansing” incident. It appears he and his pre-crucifixion disciples were a complex mix of those willing or wanting to use violence (Simon the Zealot, or “Cananean” in Mark’s apparent obfuscation, maybe Peter in the arrest scuffle, etc.?) and those, perhaps Jesus himself, not supporting it, tho perhaps allowing violent self-defense in a non-political setting (thus the “two swords” among his group were “enough”?). The cleansing incident does seem to have been an “insurrection” (per at least one Gospel… not sure which at the moment), but perhaps apart from any intention of Jesus to bring the populace to arms, nor even his direct disciples.

    Nonetheless, whatever the larger picture which has become confused by the much later perspective of the Gospel writers and the needs of the groups served by them, post-Jerusalem-and-temple-destruction, the addition of “violence” in Wright’s translation does help clarify that Jesus probably did NOT mean non-resistance entirely. It wouldn’t fit with the rest of his teaching and actions, and his earthly Kingdom of God emphasis.

  • Scot – On “he wants his readers to know that the word “righteousness” just might not cut through ecclesial thickets and deserves to be translated at times a “justice”.”

    How one translates this word ends up being huge in my mind. Wright in other places holds to “righteousness” as “covenant faithfulness.” I had not notice him translating the word as “justice” elsewhere, but that seems to invite in the Greek idea of justice/righteousness as “harmony.”

    Do you have thoughts here?

  • Noticed this today reading the KNT…

    James 3:6, Wright chooses to translate Gehenna as “hell” rather than be consistent in his non-translation of the word Gehenna.

    Can anyone give a guess why Wright would do this?