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JOYFUL NOISE by Rick Moody


The New Testament Revisited

edited by Rick Moody & Darcey Steinke

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-316-57928-9
Publisher: Little, Brown

 A bid to shed fresh light on the New Testament, weighed down by a disappointingly predictable party line: Jesus-as-radical-moral-teacher. These baby boomer writers have mostly ``revisited'' only a fraction of the New Testament, the Gospels, which novelist Moody (Purple America, p. 164, etc.) sees as ``great liberal documents in strong support of ethical universals.'' In rescuing the New Testament from the Christian Right, though, these writers don't realize that by almost exclusively using the Gospels, they've ceded some of the richest territory to the fundamentalists. That's why Joanna Scott's marvelous essay on Revelation is nothing short of a revelation (her discussion of symbols as ``masks'' in the text is truly stunning), and why Ann Powers's contribution, ``Teenage Jesus,'' falls flat. In her zeal to make Jesus culturally relevant to bohemian boomers, Powers utterly trivializes his message and mission. Portrayals of Jesus as a rebel with a good cause, or a misunderstood ethical teacher, are beyond prosaic. Several of the writers mention that their views of Jesus were heavily influenced by the rock-opera movie Jesus Christ Superstar, which helps explain this book's unidimensionality. Why not try new turf and explore the irascible Paul? Aside from one obligatory essay on 1 Corinthians 13 (de rigueur at American weddings), Paul is completely ignored. Standout essays include bell hooks's creative offering on the transformative power of love; Benjamin Cheever's offhanded appeal to ``judge not,'' and Jeffrey Eugenides's witty portrayal of the Holy Ghost in Acts: ``Jesus gets all the attention, all the reviews,'' Eugenides wryly observes. The editors of this anthology should have heeded his remark. In its narrow purview, this New Testament revisited is considerably less juicy than the original.