Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A New New Testament ~ Hal Taussig and Friends

Is it Really "A NEW New Testament?"

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a superb function at Union Theological Seminary, which is likely to be something talked about for a long time to come.  It was the book launch of a tremendous project~and to say "of biblical proportions" would not be incorrect!~undertaken by Prof. Hal Taussig and a team of incredibly talented religious leaders and translators.  The book (or, really, "books") is the Bible.  "A book launch for the Bible!?" you ask?  Well, let's continue with the specifics of this project...

What makes this project special, is its content.  The book's actual title is "A New New Testament."  It is not a typo: "New" and "New" are meant to be together.  The underlying foundations of this work, which is part new translation, part re-working of traditional texts already translated, was to create a fluid biblical text, which provided a broader context of the ancient world, and especially one which included some of the so-called "extra-canonical" biblical texts discovered in the last one hundred years.  The new text, or "A New New Testament" also aimed at de-genderizing and de-gnosticizing the text, such that anyone could read this biblical treatment, expression, and translation, and find meaning in an open and progressive manner.  Such were some of the descriptions provided by the members of the translation team and "Council" of scholars and religious leaders, which Prof. Taussig assembled for this project.  The result was an expansive undertaking, which afforded a translation that could be used in the context of religious congregations around the country, and even the world.

The full house of James Chapel at Union Theological Seminary, heard a discussion from panelists on the "Council," moderated by Celene Lillie, Director of Translation, Coptic Scholar, and UTS Ph.d. Candidate.  A few key points to convey here: the new translation and rendering of the biblical text includes far more poetry for the New Testament "canon," however this may be now defined.   It was discussed how there is a paucity of NT poetry, compared with that found in the Hebrew Bible; in fact, one of my colleagues, Liz R. Miraglia, prepared the English translation of a Syriac poem, which was included in "A New New Testament," and has been praised for its beauty and elegance.  Also, and perhaps significantly, this work expands and promotes the biblical stature of women, and the voice of women in the text.  One can see that, as more than one panelist mentioned, this work will give new direction to many churches, many congregations, and many people.  It is something that will revitalize, and reconnect people with the biblical text, the ancient world, and beyond.

Prof. Taussig, seen above, signing a copy of his edition.  As some in the Q&A session brought up, there are always the possibilities of creating a stir, and when you involve the Bible, there is always going to be some "stirring."  As a founding member of the famed "Jesus Seminar," Hal Taussig has been involved in many of the questions around the historical Jesus.  And as it was mentioned last night, there will always be some sort of controversy surrounding projects like this.  But as Taussig himself said, in response to naysayers and controversy seekers, I paraphrase: "Let's not WAVE our Bibles, Let's READ our Bibles."  Well said, Hal.  Well said.


  1. I really enjoy reading your posts. You stated in your article that "The new text, or "A New New Testament" also aimed at de-genderizing and de-gnosticizing the text..." Could you give a few examples? Thanks for the insights.

  2. Those were statements by the editors. One example, I think, would be changing "he" or "she" to "one."