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The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart (2017)- A Book Review

D. Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (Yale University Press, 2017) is an opportunity for Quaker reflection.  This translation of the New Testament is a different take from, for many, a different and unfamiliar tradition of the Christian Tradition in eastern orthodoxy.

The book’s format has the feel of a well-informed academic project, but not quite a New Testament as a scripture. The Table of Contents is a traditional listing of the books of the New Testament.  The author does not provide an index to aid the reader in following the text of the substantial Introduction and Postscript. 

This translation is refreshing and provides a different perspective on familiar passages. See the birth narratives of Jesus in Matthew as an example.

To help the reader, the author provides a technical Note on Transliteration (translation of Greek words into Latin), a significant clarifying Introduction, and a substantial Postscript (30 pages), which address the translator’s purpose and understanding of the translation task.  This translator tries to be as transparent as possible about the challenges of New Testament translation and human biases, a candor that is not as apparent in most other New Testament translations into English.

The Introduction addresses challenges of style, emphasizes the nature of the original radical community of Christians, and explains the role of footnotes in this translation project.   See Romans 5:18-19.    Note the focus on the moral dangers of wealth and intrinsic evil of wealth. The Postscript addresses the translator’s view of the authorship of the New Testament and its focus on death and after death.   Separate from the New Testament translation itself, the author is a thorough writer, but the paragraphs in the Introduction and Postscript are consistently too long.  These sections need a disciplined editor to provide shorter paragraphs to help the reader follow the argument. These sections are rewarding, but they are hard work for the reader.  Particularly, the content of the Postscript is excellent, but the paragraphs and sentences are so long as to dissuade the reader from persevering in reading the valuable content.

As significant as is this task of translation of the New Testament (Second Testament), this translation is effectively decoupled from the First Testament (Old Testament), implying its independence as a whole tradition, when, in reality, this Second Testament is only a part of a larger spiritual tradition.

In another recent book (D. Hart, That ALL Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, and the Quaker Universalist Fellowship Blog book review “All Saved”), the same translator/author argues for universal salvation based in the author’s view of the proper translation of the New Testament as it is reflected in this translation.

This book reflects the translator’s huge spiritual commitment and effort of translation, surrounded by reflections on the translator’s viewpoint in the introduction and postscript.  For anyone, this is a fine source for engagement with the New Testament.  This translation challenges us to recognize the importance of this scriptural tradition in which we are part.

Quakers: There is no reference to Quakers In the Introduction or Postscript in this book.  For context, Quakers are part of the Christian tradition regarding scriptures.


  • How do Quakers provide for New Testament study with the several English translations available?
  • From the Quaker tradition, what can Quakers say about the universal salvation message of this Hart translation of the New Testament?


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