THREE GOSPELS by Reynolds Price


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 Price, a prolific man of letters (A Whole New Life, 1994; The Promise of Rest, 1995, etc.), offers us a fine new translation of the Gospels according to Mark and John, and Price's own account of the life of Jesus, along with four lengthy introductory essays in which he explains his purpose and method. Forget that you ever read a Gospel or heard of Jesus. Read the texts afresh, in a new and relatively literal translation, and listen. This, Price explains, rather than yet another liturgical or ``official'' version, is his hope for his readers. He tells us that his starting point is literary: he sees the Gospels as stories that have exerted an unequaled pull on human minds. His translations are deliberately conservative, in that they stick closely to the original Greek and avoid paraphrase. The Word in John's Prologue ``became flesh and tented among us''; to sin is to ``go wrong''; to have faith is ``to trust.'' Price's English has a rugged, plain quality, lacking either archaism or an affected use of modern idiom, except for contractions: e.g. ``So they're no longer two but one. Thus what God yoked man must not divide.'' Price heightens the stark quality of his prose by a very sparing use of punctuation, arguing that the ancient manuscripts have none at all, although he is clearly motivated by his belief that minimal punctuation makes for a ``clean'' style and elicits attentive reading. His attempt to compose a Gospel of his own is a harmony of the canonical four with additions from unorthodox apocryphal sources. In the essays preceding each section, Price tells us a little about what the Gospels mean to him and how he approaches them. He displays a good working knowledge of Greek and a grasp of the complexities of current New Testament scholarship, much of which, in his capacity as a seasoned critic, he finds absurdly agnostic. Both linguistically and spiritually stimulating. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-80336-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996


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