David Bentley Hart's New Testament translation

Today I received my copy of David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament, and am excited to read it. Upon first perusal of the blurb, I read John Milbank’s quote, at the end of which he states that this translation sheds light on ‘certain currents in Latin theology that are dubious, or inadequate.’ I will eventually get through the text and have my own views, but having read this quote I’m interested to know if anyone can shed light on what exactly Milbank is referring to?


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A priest wrote this about it:

A truly horrible translation, to be ranked among likes of the Jehovah’s Witness “New World Translation.” Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, David Bentley Hart has come to the task of translating the Bible with an agenda, and produced a text designed to promote that agenda. He denies the belief that hell is eternal, and has produced a Bible that supports his contention.

No thanks. I’ll stick to my Catholic Bibles and commentaries by Dr Scott Hahn and the like.


Hart’s work is a theological endeavor, not a scriptural one, as he calls his translation a work of “esti doctrina non daretur”.

So his translation would be a compelling read for any student of theology, but hardly suitable for a seeker of Christ and a faithful Catholic to use study or communion with the Lord.

There is no need to condemn the work, if it used as a theological abstract. but anyone expecting it to be a useful tool in our search for truth should be cautioned, again, that is a theological work…and theology is not for the faint of heart.

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I haven’t read it, and I’m not sure I ever will, but it clearly has a lot for going for it, according to the review in First Things a few months ago. Here’s a brief excerpt:

He conveys exceptionally well the urgency of the New Testament. The message itself is of supreme and burning importance, and the authors were in a hurry to get it out, and Hart lets us feel this “from the inside”—most successfully in his version of the gospels. His translational prose is emphatically nonprofessorial. He conscientiously preserves the rough-and-ready grammar of the original and its “wartime-footing,” functional vocabulary that combines homely household words with sublime theological concepts, with the result that the peculiar tang of New Testament Greek comes through with vividness and immediacy. Here is his rendering of Luke 23:50–52:

And look: A man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a man good and just—This man had not agreed with the Council and their actions—from Arimathea, a city of the Judaeans, who was awaiting the kingdom of God. Approaching Pilate, this man requested the body of Jesus.

Hart lets us hear a man who, though not precisely breathless, does not have a complete sentence in view before he begins it, but is nevertheless concerned to communicate all the essential information and whose second thoughts and explanations interrupt and crowd their way into his exposition. The prose itself—we don’t need a footnote—reminds us that St. Luke was not an essayist or a biographer but an evangelist, a man with a message of life-or-death importance to deliver.

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Yikes… seriously? “not a complete sentence”? I’d grant “not easy to translate into standard English while maintaining the structure of the original” but… “whose second thoughts … interrupt and crowd their way into his exposition”? Hmm… :thinking:

Yes, seriously. That’s the First Things reviewer describing Luke’s Greek.

Um, why?
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Because Hart made me a theist and I owe my direction in life and conversion to him. He is an excellent theologian and philosopher and I am an avid reader of his work, this translation seems to be adding something fresh which has been missed in previous translations. That’s the impression I get anyway.

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I guess I’m more interested in what actually happens in the Bible rather than whether the translation is exciting or not.

As am I, I simply admire his work and so this is something I looked forward to

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OK. That makes sense.

Reading the review of his translation (H/T @BartholomewB), I get the sense that the value of Hart’s translation is to entice readers of the GNT to ask “hmm… why’d he say that?” and go back to their GNT… and the danger of Hart’s translation is to entice non-readers of the GNT to ask “huh??? why’d he say that"?” and be confused.

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