cover image The Gospels: A New Translation

The Gospels: A New Translation

Sarah Ruden. Modern Library, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-59294-2

Ruden (The Face of Water) wrestles fresh meaning from Christianity’s sacred texts in her startling new translation of the four Gospels. Working from the original Greek text and within the context of the ancient Greco-Roman-Jewish era, Ruden strives to rescue a “defensively hermetic” text from “under the muffling, alien weight of later Christian institutions.” The result makes the familiar unfamiliar and intriguing. Faith and believe are translated as “trust”; one does not repent but “changes purpose”; disciples is rendered as “students”; and Jesus is not crucified but “hung on the stakes.” When Jesus comes to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead, Ruden uses the affecting formulation that Jesus “howls within.” Ruden also appealingly modernizes many scenes, such as Pilate, after having Jesus whipped, saying, “Look at this guy.” Thousands of her word choices differ from common translations, and footnotes provide essential pithy explanations of her reasoning, as do a lengthy introduction and a “discursive glossary” of key terms. This audacious translation is essential reading for anyone who thinks they already know the Gospels. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Mar.)