By Norman A. Beck
Lima, OH 45802
Fairway Press, 517 S. Main St., P0 Box 4503. 681 pp. $29.95
2002 ISBN 0-7880-1678-4
Redaction means to edit or revise something in preparation for publication and this is precisely what Beck does in releasing this translation. He places the NT books in what he believes was the chronological order of their writing, so that I Thess., I Cor., 2 Cor., Gal., Rom., Philemon, and Phil. appear first in this version, followed by Mark, Matthew, Luke, & John, with the Johannine Letters following, then the Apocalypse, then I Peter and Acts, followed by what he calls the Pauline Apocrypha (2 Thess., Col., and Eph.), then Hebrews, James, the Deutero-Pauline Epistles ( 2 Tim., Tit., & I Tim.), and finally Jude and 2 Peter.
Secondly, he believes that Mark and the later gospels could not mention the sin of submitting to the power of the Romans without endangering the lives of early Christians, but that he (Beck) can be more specific now. Mk. 1:4 here says “John the Baptizer appeared in the desolate areas… proclaiming a baptism of repentance…for submitting to the Romans and to Caesar as their Lord.” These interpretative additions/expansions appear frequently in this translation.
Thirdly, he believes that perhaps the greatest temptation that the Jesus of history faced was the temptation to try to help his fellow Jews by submitting to Roman oppression and to work for the Romans by encouraging his fellow oppressed Jews to submit also and thus reduce the cruelty they experienced.
Fourth, Beck does not hesitate to speak disparagingly of the NT text at times as when, e.g. in Mt. 23:29-36, he relegates these lines to very small print because they constitute “vicious and defamatory name-calling anti-Jewish polemic” unfairly condemning the scribes and Pharisees. Again, he speaks of Luke 4:28-30 as a “vicious conclusion” and calls these three verses a “hateful anti-Jewish polemic…not appropriate for use in our church services
Fifth, he sees virtually every reference to Satan as a reference to Caesar. In fact, he sees so many of these in the NT that he has published a book titled Anti-Roman Cryptograms in the New Testament (published by Peter Lang). He further sees the references to unclean spirits as a coded message revealing that such persons cooperated fully with the oppressive Romans.
Beck has demoted nearly 400 verses scattered throughout the NT to very small type because he believes them to be “most viciously anti-Jewish and the most blatantly sexist segments.” He also anticipates that “in time a few of the most significant selections from ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ may find a place in our biblical tradition.”
Contrary to much of the NT record, Beck misses no opportunity to exonerate the Jewish leaders from any guilt in delivering Jesus over to the Roman occupation forces for his torturing and crucifixion. He holds the accounts of extensive trials of Jesus held by Pilate and by Herod Antipas to be “fantastic, (and) surrealistic” and rejects completely the account that says Pilate was intimidated by a group of oppressed Jews who forced him to execute by crucifixion a popular religious leader. Beck holds “highly unlikely” the text of John 18:39 and believes it to be a development within the Christian tradition used to facilitate the transferal of blame for the death of Jesus from the Romans to the Jewish leaders.
It seems strikingly evident that Beck has an agenda all his own before he ever puts pen to paper in translating the NT and that he bends every word and phrase to support his thesis, even to the disparagement of nearly 400 verses of the text. His thesis is that systemic gender bias and virulent anti-Jewish attitudes have tainted the text of the Christian Scripture since the first century. He asserts that these heavy handicaps bind the Christian community to an adolescent phase of development that is no longer appropriate. These biases and grudges must be given up. In this translation of the NT, along with his proposal for a revised lectionary also included with his NT translation, he offers the churches a NT that he holds to be more fitting to its mature years. His assumption that his presuppositions are true, this reviewer holds to be highly suspect.