Cover image for The New Covenant, commonly called the New Testament. Vol. 1, the four Gospels and Apocalypse
The New Covenant, commonly called the New Testament. Vol. 1, the four Gospels and Apocalypse
Barnstone, Willis, 1927-
Uniform Title:
Bible. Gospels. English. Barnstone. 2002.
Publication Information:
New York: Riverhead Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
577 pages ; 25 cm
Added Uniform Title:
Bible. Revelation. English. Barnstone. 2002.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BS2553 .B33 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This new literary translation of the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, and the Apocalypse (Revelation) returns the bedrock of Christianity to its origins as an outgrowth of Judaism. In place of the Greek names we are accustomed to, he restores probable Hebrew or Aramaic names to New Testament figures, and as in the Hebrew Bible, he lineates poetry as poetry. In translating Apocalypse in blank verse, he reveals it as the great epic poem of the New Testament. Barnstone uses all his talents as a poet, translator, and scholar to reshape our understanding of these seminal books of the Bible and of our own long-held assumptions about our historical and religious heritage. In a hundred-page introduction that is itself a fully developed work of scholarship, Barnstone places the Christian Bible in new perspective, transporting us back to the pre-Hellenic world and the Jewish tradition from which the New Covenant emerged.

Author Notes

Willis Barnstone was born in Lewiston, Maine. He attended Bowdoin, Columbia, and Yale, earning his doctorate. Barnstone taught in Greece from 1949 to 1951, and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War. He went to China during the Cultural Revolution, where he was later a Fulbright Professor of American Literature at Beijing Foreign Studies University from 1984 to 1985.

Barnstone has authored more than forty books, poetry collections, poetry translations, philosophical and religious texts. He is a former O'Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University, is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and is in the Institute of Biblical and Literary Studies at Indiana University. He has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Emily Dickinson Award, the W. H. Auden Award, and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Special Citation for translation. Barnstone was also a Guggenheim Fellow and Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry.

His titles include The Complete Poems of Sappho,, Translated with an Introduction, Ancient Greek Lyrics, Love Poems, and Café de l'Aube à Paris, Dawn Café in Paris: Poems Composed in French and Their Translation in English.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this ambitious new translation of Scripture, Barnstone restores to the central figure of the New Testament his identity both as a poet and as a Jew. The need for this restoration, prefatory chapters explain, arises out of the reduction of Jesus' words to mere prose in previous translations and of the introduction, very early, of anti-Semitism into the biblical texts. Barnstone's achievement will win plaudits from literary critics and textual scholars: his gifts as a poet confer a graceful elegance on idiomatic directness, while his talents as a scholar open up many historical and linguistic questions. Still, some of the very virtues that will attract scholars will repel ordinary Bible readers. For in making this translation, Barnstone has broken sharply with religious traditions that bring typical readers to the Bible in the first place. A Bible translator who doubts the integrity of the ancient texts, who questions the motives of the early Church compilers, and who refuses to recognize Jesus as divine has already alienated many of his potential readers. And although scholars may accept the linguistic justification for using "Yeshua the Messiah" in place of "Jesus Christ," or for using "The New Covenant" in place of "The New Testament," the typical Christian reader will find such substitutions too disorienting and will seek out other translations. Barnstone laments the general neglect of Richard Lattimore's excellent 1962 translation of the New Testament, but his own translation--for all its considerable strengths--may face a similar fate. --Bryce Christensen

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's difficult to make the case for something new in biblical studies, but Willis Barnstone's The New Covenant, Commonly Called the New Testament: The Four Gospels and the Apocalypse is certainly different. In deciding to provide "a chastely modern, literary version of a major world text," Barnstone restores the probable Hebrew and Aramaic names of all of the major characters. Jesus is Yeshua; his parents Miryam and Yosef take him to Yerushalayim each year for the Seder of the Pesach. Such determination to restore the Semitic origins of the New Testament is refreshing, and Barnstone doubles the fun by following the Gospels not with Acts, as would be traditional, but with the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation. Here is where Barnstone's literary skill shines most clearly, as he renders the Apocalypse as a great epic poem in loose blank verse. Barnstone's biblical interpretation is heavily influenced by former Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, but his literary contribution is quite original. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

An esteemed translator and poet and former professor of Greek at Colgate University, Barnstone believes that in his profession it is crucial to remember Christianity's Jewish roots. His fresh translation of the four Gospels and the Book of Revelation relies on Semitic texts, using Aramaic or Hebrew words for personal and geographical names in place of the more familiar Greek. For example, Jesus becomes Yeshua, and the Lord, Adonai. Wherever he thinks it justified by the nature of the text, he also writes in verse. His translation of the Apocalypse (i.e., the Book of Revelation) is presented in blank verse because Barnstone considers it the epic poem of the New Covenant (or the New Testament). While much of this work is similar to modern translations like the New Revised Standard Version, Barnstone's feel for poetry lends it a unique elegance and power. Furthermore, he provides many helpful footnotes that explain his choices. A 100-page introduction offers insight into the challenges of translation and important background information on the pre-Hellenic world of Judaism from which the New Covenant emerged. Although some of his opinions about the historical Jesus are bound to be challenged, his inclusion of this topic makes the work even more useful. An important addition to any library's collection of Bibles and biblical information. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.