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A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts Hardcover – March 5, 2013

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Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Conversation with Hal Taussig

Hal Taussig

Q. Aren’t the texts of the Bible set in stone?

A. Although the western branch of Christianity has implied that the Bible is eternally stable, this has really never been the case. Both now and for the past 400 years Catholics and Protestants don't agree on what is in the Bible, and neither do Episcopalians and Lutherans.  Internationally the eastern Orthodox, Ethiopian, and Syriac Bibles all contain different books than the western Catholic and Protestant Bibles.  From this perspective A New New Testament is simply yet another variation on what is in the Bible and what is not.  From another perspective, it is the first edition of a Bible ever to include the gospels, letters, and prayers that have been recovered from in recent times. 

Q. What will Christians learn from A New New Testament?

A. They’ll learn that their early roots are deeper, more diverse, and more widespread than the general story of how Christianity began is told. Perhaps most importantly for Christians, they will be able to claim a set of new resources for their 21st century life. A New New Testament opens the door to a wider set of expressions, practices, stories, and teachings than they have previously known. 

Q. What will non-Christians learn from A New New Testament?

A. Non-Christians will learn that some of the narrow-minded doctrines of orthodox Christianity and the old-fashioned ideas of the traditional New Testament are not the only way that the early Christ movements expressed themselves. 

Q. 19 religious leaders gathered to debate which non-canonical texts would be included in A New New Testament. What credentials do they have to make such a decision?

A. Eight of them have held national and international leadership positions in the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and Reconstructionist Rabbinical movements.  Others are best-selling authors.  Others are nationally known scholars.  Sixteen are Christian, three are non-Christian.  Four have had the highest rank possible within their own national or international Christian denomination.  

Q. Won’t changing the Bible offend people who have a deep connection with it in its current state? 

A. The Bible has always been a contested book. Christians argue about it regularly, even within the same denomination.  Indeed, it is a fairly regular occurrence that one Christian will be offended by another's understanding of what the Bible does and does not say. Martin Luther himself tried to remove some books from the New Testament, and successfully did so from what he called the Old Testament.  Debating about what the Bible does or does not say is a primary way that Christians claim who they are. 

Q. The Gospel of Mary, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and The Thunder: Perfect Mind, which are parts of A New New Testament but weren't in the traditional New Testament, each have strong female characters. Why weren't they included before?

A. The traditional New Testament includes both strong attacks on women's rights ("women must not speak in the assembly") and strong affirmations of women's mutuality ("there is neither male nor female in Christ").  So it is difficult to make a case that the traditional New Testament portrays a consistent bias against women.  Since, however, there are a number of texts in the traditional New Testament which do reject leadership for women, it is certain that certain parts of the traditional New Testament and early Christianity may not have liked the affirmations in these three new books.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This remarkable book arises from editor Taussig’s 30 years of pastoral and seminary teaching, during which he discovered that many people found their faith deepened and refreshed by studying the extracanonical Christian writings found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, together with the books of the New Testament. He and a council of 18 others—pastors, scholars, and teachers, representing (unofficially) Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Native American and Asian religions—selected nine of those lost writings, along with the never-lost, once highly esteemed Acts of Paul and Thecla, to add to the standing New Testament canon. Most appear with the kinds of writings in the canon they resemble and complement—gospel with gospel, epistle with epistle—while two freestanding prayers and the contents of a large collection of prayers, the Odes of Solomon, serve as devotional introductions to the collection’s six sections. Each writing, old or new, is separately introduced, and a concluding 70-page companion sketches the history of all the writings, explains how the selection council worked, clears up some misunderstandings (especially about Gnosticism), and suggests, citing examples, how to study old and new writings comparatively. The writings themselves are newly translated into common English and divided into chapters and verses in the manner of traditional bibles. Not meant to replace the traditional New Testament, this fascinating work will be, Taussig hopes, the first of several new New Testaments. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547792107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547792101
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's the New Testament, with ten "new" books from 1st & 2nd century sources added. The preface explains a bit of the reasoning behind doing this, and extra material in the back describes the process in a bit more detail, but the short story is: A council of 19 people selected these ten books from a larger list of about 60 early Christian writings which, for various reasons, never made it into the official New Testament "canon."

The books are grouped together thematically into sections, so the sequence is not quite the same as in the traditional New Testament, but within each section they follow the old Canonical sequence (except Hebrews and James are flipped out of order; I don't know why) Each book is prefaced with a brief essay talking about the book's historical context, its discovery, probable authorship, and prominent themes. Information about the provenance of these documents and the formation of the Canon is invaluable in encouraging readers to question why the New Testament contains what it does, and why the Canon should (or should not) be considered closed, authoritative, or absolute.

I think this book is worthy of every spiritual seeker's attention, but my criticial forte is .. well .. criticizing. So let me tell you about the things I found wrong.

First of all, the translation really goes out of its way to be PC and "gender inclusive" to the effect of ruining the beauty of phrases like "Son of Man" (which rolls off the tongue) by replacing it with the inelegant "Child of Humanity." This is especially senseless in passages where the substituted word "Child" or "person" or "human" clearly refers to Jesus, who was male - or did I miss something? The generic masculine pronoun is _already_ supposed to be all-inclusive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, the good: It's an excellent idea to present canonical and noncanonical early Christian texts together. Clearly, this is how early communities would have encountered these texts before the canon began to solidify, and it is very instructive to see them alongside one another.

But then there's the not-so-good: The editor is a member of the Jesus Seminar, and readers will not be surprised to find the Seminar's perspective presented throughout the notes, introductions, and other material. The editor is also very presumptuous - to put it mildly - in repeated assertions that this new collection of texts may prove useful to Christian communities as scripture. The references to the "council of New Orleans" (a gathering of the editor's friends and colleagues who selected the texts) are also tiresome in their exaggerated importance. Further, there are omissions (e.g. the Gospel of Phillip and the Dialogue of the Savior) which seem very odd, given the other texts which have been chosen. Lastly, I understand that the translators were striving to render sometimes challenging texts into modern English, but they missed any sense of poetry, and allowed modern concerns over gendered language to lead them to some incredibly clunky readings (e.g. realm of the sky for kingdom of heaven, and Child of Humanity for Son of Man).

Take this book for what it's worth, and know there are better and more beautiful translations of most of these texts. Perhaps someone will produce a better-translated, larger, and more even-handed collection of early Christian texts (canonical and non-canonical) for the general reader. It is certainly a worthy project, and it is disappointing to see far short this volume falls.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First: This book is NOT for everyone. I've read the Bible close to a dozen times, I've studied various commentaries and read philosophers, I've read the Gnostic Gospels, I've read Elaine Pagels' books...and this "New New Testament" is one more voice in a long line of very good and diverse research on early Christianity. The difference this time, however, is the editors' attempts to marry the old with the old-and-newly-discovered in a way that feels familiar to those who already engage in more traditional Bible study.

This is the New Testament, and in that, this book offers very little new. All the New Testament books are here, and the commentaries about them are very good. Alongside those, however, are the 10 "new" books, many of which come from the 1945 Nag Hammadi find in Egypt - a treasure trove of early Christian writing. The placement of the books next to each other is both an interesting aspect to this book...and also redundant. Any Christian who has read (or who actively reads) the New Testament may find the placement interesting, but it made me simply want to skip around more. "Yeah, read that a zillion times...seen that before...Oh! Now that looks interesting...."

On the other hand, though, the Study Bible-type introductions to the NT books is wonderful reading, containing good summaries of scholarly research in an everyday writing style that makes those introductions at once familiar but also enlightening. Again, though, not everyone will appreciate them, especially when the authors deviate from Christian traditions, such as the dates at which certain books were written, the "authors" of certain books, or the consistent use of CE instead of AD.

I'm not sure for whom this book was written, but I enjoyed it immensely.
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