Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Testimony/Gospel of John: Further thoughts

If you've managed to read the "whole thing," and you didn't know anything about me and when it was written, you should have been able nonetheless to pinpoint its genesis at sometime within the highpoint of New Age thought.
I was there--not as a participant, but as a bookseller. I worked at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver in the late Eighties, early Nineties, in the religion and philosophy section. At that time a large section of it was devoted to New Age thought--it was the bread and butter of that whole section. As such it resulted in a love/hate relationship between me and New Age--so much so that I honored one of the best-sellers with a rendition of its own, at least its title: Living in the Lite.
Anyhow, the point here is that whatever my feelings about New Age thought, when it came to re-writing John's Gospel, especially when I re-wrote those sections according to the Jerusalem Bible edition, with long passages in italicized free verse poetry form, I see now in retrospect how much they were influenced by New Age sensibility.
I might argue now that John's Gospel itself was the 'new age' thought of its era. But that would be a rather far reach. Still, there was something in it that lent it to being cast in a style not far from New Age writings of our own times. Maybe you saw it, too, and maybe you would like to comment on it. If so, please join me in The Potluck Catholic forum by clicking on the link below. You can then comment, upload any relevant material, others or your own, or just vent. As long as your discourse is civil, I will not edit it in any manner whatsoever.

Click here to go to the forum

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Testimony/Gospel of John Rendition

If you've stuck with me you know I'm already late in getting out another post. But in the meantime I discovered that I already had a copy of my rendition of the Gospel of John in MS Word; so I did not have to go through scanning a copy on a ten year old scanner, one page at a time. It is ready to view and download, just click on the link below. First, however, you might want to read the following description of the genesis of the gospel rendition project--it expands upon what I wrote a post or so back.


The Book of Jesus: Renditions of New Testament Writings is a collection of four new gospel renditions and one of The Book of Revelation. I have chosen to call them renditions, rather than translations, for obvious reasons. Foremost among these reasons is that I wanted to write different gospels for different audiences, and therefore I needed to take some liberties with the texts.

Let me explain by giving an example. The very first lines of this project I wrote were the rendition of the Prologue to the Gospel of John. I had picked up every new translation of the New Testament that had come out in the last thirty years or so; and every single one of them began this Prologue with the phrases, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The commentaries always offered the necessary explanations. But I waited in vain for a translation that would need no commentary. I would have kept right on waiting were it not for the new translation of the Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell. When I read these opening lines,

The tao that can be told

Is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named

Is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin

Of all particular things,

I realized right then and there that I would never look at the Prologue to John's Gospel in the same way; for what John was writing about was exactly the "naming" of the Eternal and the creation of "particular things." So, armed with that sensibility, that understanding, that awareness of the tension between silence and speaking, I rendered the Prologue anew,

This is how it began:

When the Eternal, the Unnamed,

Uttered the word 'God,'

That word, too, was God.

God was the first to name God.

Before that, there was only silence and the unnamed.

Thus it has gone with all the renditions below. I have not tried to imagine an evangelist living today, writing to an audience living today. Rather I have tried to imagine us and the evangelist, alive at the time of Jesus and/or shortly thereafter, armed with the sensibilities we possess today. A sensibility is simply a way of looking at things, an orientation, a disposition toward one or another point of view. We know them particularly in their worst manifestations. There is the "conspiracy nut," for example, for whom everything explains or is explained by a conspiracy. Or there is the "bottom line guy," for whom every thing is reduced to the economic dimension. I have tried to pick some of the more neutral and/or uplifting of the modern sensibilities.

For the eco-conscious among us, and for the eco-awareness we all possess in our day, I have rendered "A Gospel of the Earth." For those among us who continually search for the wisdom of the ages, who read the great masters, who seek the depth of being--in short, for those for whom there is always something more-- there is "The Hidden Gospel." On the other hand, for the doubters, the questioners, for those who are not quite so sure that everything is always perfect, about themselves or about the world, I have rendered "The Dark Gospel." Finally, for the intensely personal and individual, for those who want right now to be attended to in their need, there is "The Testimony of John." To these four gospel renditions I have appended a new rendition of "The Book of Revelation." The sensibility here belongs to those among us who are the real poets, the seers, the visionaries--the ones who deal with it in words.

The true test of the worth of these renditions will be if they inspire the reader to create another rendition. For I have always been of the mind that instead of longing for that one, perfectly harmonized gospel, we need instead as many more as there are seekers after Jesus.

Now to the full text: Click here to download the full text

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Testimony of John

(Please refer to the prior post for the context of this one. Obviously I did not master the technique of scanning--but I will.)

This is how it began:
When the eternal, the unnamed,
uttered the word God,
that word, too, was God.

God was the first to name God.

Before that, there was only silence and the unnamed.
God was the one word that broke the silence,
and made possible the naming of the unnamed.

Once the word God was spoken,
all speech became the vessel of light;
knowledge, truth and freedom
could never again be suppressed.

John came to remind people of this:
he came to help people say the word.
He, of course, was not God;
but when he spoke for God,
it was as though people heard the word for the first time.

When this new speech burst upon the world,
into a world of darkness,
it was a light so brilliant
that for many blindness was the only result.
Being blinded, they were speechless;
and being speechless, for them the silence remained.

But to all who stood in its light came speech;
and to all who spoke came the poetry and power of creation.
They spoke now not out of need,
nor because of the will to dominate;
but the word spoke itself through them.

God became our common tongue.
When God was named by people,
all language became sacred;
and we saw its glory,
the glory that it has as the only word of God,
full of grace and truth.

Now, the new name John gave to God was Jesus.
John testifies: "Jesus is the word, which when spoken,
reveals more about God than any other word;
for, in truth, God named Jesus; not I."

We, too, now realize this:
that all talk about God has forever changed because of Jesus.
Moses gave us God's Law;
Jesus is God's truth--that'e the difference.

The story that follows is about Jesus,
God's true word to us.

Let's just start here....

Over the course of however long this blog/website endures, I will be dipping into writings and avenues of concern I have pursued. Let's just start here...for this will be a continuing topic.

I'm back in Denver again, still working at the Tattered Cover Book Store--although that is not really germane--still, we were quite adequately staffed; and during the slow periods we could sample the fares. I worked in the religion section, where we saw every new translation of the Bible that came out. One of my tests was to read Chapter One of the Gospel of John, you know, the one that starts, "In the beginning was the Word...." always looking for a translation that didn't take two-thirds of the page to explain the one-third of text. Why couldn't the translation itself be the explanation of the text?

And so the step was taken. I sat down and "translated" the first 18 verses of that first Chapter. And then I just kept right on going, until some months later I had finished the whole Gospel Of John. As you will see, the translation is not a literal translation. It is rather, quite unabashedly, an interpretation of the text. I would translate it differently today. Somewhere in those verses would be the statement to the effect that "talk about God is God." But I am going to post here what I wrote sometime back in 1989-90--if I can master the intricacies of the scanner.

And if I do that, then I will post the whole gospel eventually--in the forum that this page directs you to. For now, "here is how it began..."

Click here to down load the test document