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The Poems of Jesus Christ Kindle Edition

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Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman 's Leaves, Herman Melville 's Whales, and the sonnets of Barnstone 's The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets, and my daily corn flakes that rough poetry of morning. --Jorge Luis Borges

Through this unique perspective on the words of Jesus, the author highlights the poetic qualities of the gospels. --Catholic Herald

About the Author

Willis Barnstone, a distinguished professor emeritus of comparative literature and biblical studies at Indiana University, is the author of The Restored New Testament (978 0 393 06493 3) praised by Margaret Reynolds in The Times: "The scholarship is exemplary, the attention to detail is meticulous, but most of all the feeling here is true."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1077 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (2 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007714AY2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,280,706 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x96b34624) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96b7e174) out of 5 stars Reconsider the lilies of the field, as poetry 8 Jun. 2012
By Roberto Perez-Franco - Published on Amazon.com
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! The evidence of malnourished kids around the world attested that these words have to be poetry.

A less charitable interpretation of these teachings "central to the doctrine of Jesus" is provided by the late Christopher Hitchens, of "new atheism" fame, who said that the instruction to "take no thought for the morrow, no investment, no thrift, no care for your children" is a ridiculous and immoral proposition. It can only be interpreted as the words of someone who honestly believed the world was coming to an end before the next meal, or else -- in the words of C.S. Lewis -- was "a lunatic" or "the Devil of Hell." With all respect to both C.S. Lewis and Hitchens, I think Lewis' Trilemma of mad, bad, or god, is incomplete without a fourth option: poet.

I invite you to read the following text as poetry (divinely inspired if you want, yet poetry nonetheless):

"Consider the birds of the sky.
They do not sow or reap or collect for their granaries,
Yet your heavenly father feeds them.
Are you not more valuable than they?
Who among you by brooding can add one more hour
To your life?

And why care about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow
They do not labor or spin
But I tell you not even Shlomoh in all his splendor
Was clothed like one of these lilies.
And if the grass of the field is there today
And tomorrow is cast into the oven
And in these ways God has dressed the earth,
Will he not clothe you in a more stunning raiment,
You who suffer from poor faith?"

Isn't this poem beautiful? Entitled "Birds of the Sky and Lilies of the Field," it is taken from The Poems of Jesus Christ, compiled and translated by Willis Barnstone.

Barnstone, himself a renowned poet and a prolific translator, is convinced that "Jesus Christ is the great invisible poet of the world," and that Jesus used "wisdom poetry" to communicate. Barnstone insists that, although we can still "hear the lyrical voice" in the common translations of the New Testament, Jesus's teachings have not been "heard as poetry" as they were spoken in two millennia. Where did the poetry go, you ask? Here's a tip: Jesus spoke in Aramaic, yet the earliest of the canonical gospels was written down at least forty years later in vernacular Greek. As Robert Frost famously quipped, "poetry is what is lost in translation." So after the conversion from Aramaic verse to Greek prose, we were left with the wisdom but without the poetry. It is this poetry that Barnstone has tried to restore in the texts, which he now presents as a collection of poems.

Translation of poetry is a particularly treacherous enterprise; "traduttore, traditore!" goes the Italian saying. When the poetry being translated is seen as sprung from divine inspiration, the perils are greater. Yet having victoriously translated many masters of Hispanic and Greek poetry, Barnstone has turned his linguistic and literary prowess to the translation of God: sacred texts, both canonical and apocryphal, have been rendered anew, often in the form of poems, by his ambitious pen.

I have a feeling Barnstone felt himself spiritually inspired in his task, and even sees himself -- perhaps immodestly ­­-- as more than a translator: "With respect to poetic felicity in translation," he says while discussing the Jerusalem Bible, "quality inevitably depends on the aesthetic pen of both translator and original artist. Hence, two poets are at work: the original poet and the translating co-author." The oblique suggestion is that he ought to be seen as Jesus Christ's co-author. With similar lack of modesty he warns the reader that "whatever our origin or our faith or doubt," once we are faced with the restored poetry of the Nazarene, "all ethno-religious epithets fade as clouds fade before the strong morning sun, and we enter the day and the night of the tale, never to return the same."

He is excused, since modesty in this case would be vain: Barnstone emerges victorious from the titanic enterprise. While I remain skeptical that I will be forever transformed after reading these verses, this much I can say: the same vibrant voice of wisdom that I found in the Gospel is here refreshed, one might even say "resurrected" into the lyricism it deserves, into the poetry it probably was when originally spoken two thousand years ago on the hills of Palestine. My days as a Christian are long gone, yet even now, I am willing to admit without hesitation that my heart still blooms when I hear this Jewish tekton speak of the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field. Barnstone may not be the co-author of Jesus Christ's poems, but I'll say this of him: "traduttore, salvatore!" He is certainly their savior.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96b7e1c8) out of 5 stars Enjoyable at a Glance but Raises an Important Discussion 25 Feb. 2015
By mitchy - Published on Amazon.com
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96b7e600) out of 5 stars Lovely Book 19 Sept. 2012
By One Woman's Voice - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
HASH(0x96b7e9b4) out of 5 stars A Magnificent Poetic Concert, Two Centuries Apart 25 May 2014
By adriana balducci - Published on Amazon.com
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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