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The Poems of Jesus Christ 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393083576
ISBN-10: 0393083578
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Editorial Reviews


“The vividness and beauty of the language emerge in a fresh way… with evocative simplicity.” — Robert Alter

“Great and original… The writing in this form, as poetry, adds a new dimension to their beauty, conciseness, paradox, and mystery.” — Gerald Stern

“Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman’s , Herman Melville’s , and the sonnets of Barnstone’s , and my daily corn flakes—that rough poetry of morning.” — Jorge Luis Borges

“This recasting from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, presents Jesus’ words poetically and faithfully to their full power – that of poetry.” — Elliott Bay Book Company

“Barnstone offers excerpts from , his innovative and much-praised 2009 translation.” — Library Journal

“Like most early prophets, Jesus would have spoken in a form of poetry, albeit one based on patterns of sounds, repetition, and other devices of prosody quite different from the Greco-Roman forms. What Barnstone has now produced, he hopes, is a sequence of Jesus’s aphorisms.” — The Chronicle of Higher Education

“A book landed on my desk with the curious title . ‘Somebody putting words in Jesus’ mouth?’ I wondered. Not at all. The poet and scholar Willis Barnstone has simply gone back to the biblical text, translating from the original, and shown how Jesus in the gospels speaks in pure poetry.” — Guideposts

“In restoring the words of Jesus to their rightful poetry, and making an excellent case for this necessity, Barnstone brings their music, passion, ethics and intellectual rigor into a more complete view.” — Barbara Berman (The Rumpus)

“Barnstone’s is indeed an impressive and inspiring book. It convincingly demonstrates how the teaching of Jesus, spoken in verse, was "imbued with joyful or sorrowful insight and inlight."” — California Lit Review

“When I read such verses aloud, it does not matter to me whether a poem or poetic saying comes from King James, Douay-Rheims, New Revised Standard, New Jerusalem Bible, Revised English Version, or any of the dozens of translations I’ve read and loved. But, once again, Prof. Barnstone took our idea to a new level… After the second full reading and the third and fourth randomly-done peeks, I continue to recommend this book highly.” — Mary Harwell Sayler (Rattle)

About the Author

Willis Barnstone is a poet, translator, and religious scholar. Author of The Gnostic Bible, Cafè de l’Aube à Paris (French), and The Restored New Testament, he is a distinguished professor emeritus of comparative literature and biblical studies at Indiana University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393083578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393083576
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,233,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roberto Perez-Franco on June 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A master translator reconstructs the poems of Jesus Christ for a new millennium
[Review published in MIT's newspaper, The Tech]

I remember the exact moment when I realized some of Jesus' utterances only made sense as poetry. The time was an evening in early January 1994. The place was the public square in Chitré, a small city in Panama's countryside. While hundreds of youngsters rode their new Christmas bikes in the tropical summer breeze, I -- at the time an 18-year-old devout Christian -- sat quietly inside my father's car, reading my Bible under a dim yellowish light. The version was Nácar-Colunga's direct translation from the original Greek and Hebrew into my native Spanish. I remember the exact passage I was trying to assimilate: Matthew 6:25-34. "Do not worry about your life," said the Lord. "Look at the birds of the air ... Consider the lilies of the field." And then the inspired prescription: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow."

I remember having underlined those verses with orange fluorescent gel ink (hey, it was the '90s!) and shaken my head in awe. "Is He saying that one should not prepare for the future?" I asked myself in disbelief. Unless you can multiply fishes and breads on command, the policy of making no provisions for future nutrition doesn't fly as a practical logistics. People starve to death all the time, everywhere, so why did Jesus preach that they should not worry, since God would feed them? After a few minutes of rumination, the idea hit me: this statement is not a moral teaching, and one would be a fool to follow it as a command against long-term planning. The birds of the sky and the lilies of the field are something else. They are poetry!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book of Jesus' words that are somehow more touching in verse than in prose. I first found it at the library and knew it was a book I needed to own and read daily. So I purchased a copy for myself and another as a gift for a friend. I use it each day as part of my devotional reading. It's the type of book I think I will use for years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
Despite the splendid idea of "The Poems of Jesus Christ" and many enjoyable pages to read from, the last chapter bothered me so much that I had to write this: In Willis Barnstone's book "The Poems of Jesus Christ," Barnstone makes a terrible assumption that the Gnostic gospels --- at least the Gospel of Thomas --- was a source for the canonical gospel writers to create their own "mythical" stories (pg. 197). Unfortunately for Willis, his assumption is based upon a few faulty presumptions. For one, the gospel writers weren't just writing a biography of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph), rather they were explaining how the God of Israel was in Jesus Christ restoring Israel and the entire world through his life, death, and resurrection.

Secondly, the authors of the canonical gospels certainly believed in what they were writing, so much so that they paid the price of their beliefs through their own martyrdom. Out of the first 12 disciples, 11 were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Before being killed they were each given an opportunity to recant their beliefs, which they refused to do. To say that the original gospel writers "fleshed out" these "mythical" stories is a gutsy statement, denying both the beliefs of the disciples and the sacrifice each author had made. Thirdly, to assume the disciples made up this story of Christ, would show an awful inconsistency in the gospels themselves, because we never once find the disciples being witty or clever, yet all the time we read that the disciples were slow to understand the meaning of Jesus. After the crucifixion, we find the disciples hiding in fear from the Jewish leaders not plotting a new religion. Hardly the type of men that I would choose to devise such a twisted scheme, especially a fresh religion.
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I have not yet read a lot of the poems in this book, but what I have read has been deeply moving. For devotions, my son (who is 9) and I read a poem, talk about it, and then go on to read the entire story surrounding Jesus' words, sometimes looking at a couple of translations of the Bible. I find it a wonderful alternative to the many syrupy sweet devotional books for children out there, and we have had many thoughtful conversations. I would definitely recommend it to families or anyone who enjoys looking at different translations of the Bible. I also own A Literary Bible, which also promotes a lot of thought-provoking conversation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I find this to be a time, both personally and world wide where the search for hope, for love, for peace dominates. Many of the great philosophers and spiritual leaders are being quoted in our media. There are sites to find your soul mate. Friends just posted the following on my Facebook page: Pope Francis arriving in Jordan, Jesus changed my life, Maharishi University commencement, relaxing meditation music with sea views,etc. This quest is alive, overlapping with trials in the world.

Willis Barnstone has given us a beautiful and historical gift in his unveiling of The Poems of Jesus Christ; the perfect concert two centuries apart, by two deeply intelligent and influential spiritual souls. Peace and hope and love are here; Jesus' words and WIllis as translator are in solid harmony. This collection shifts my mental rumble toward a calming , a quietness.

The wisdom of the lyrics, the intensity and purity on each page is classic, reflecting hope. This is a beautifully designed book for children and adults, for novices and scholars. I've just sent one to a special friend, a brilliant a book to share.
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