Introduction to The New Testament in verse
A good translation must refer to the original text,
learning from the weaknesses as the strengths
of the previous translations.
Poetry is what is lost in translation
At its beginning, the Greek text of the New Testament was
a long, fluid, limpid river flowing quietly through simplicity
and clearness. It was so fascinating that anyone, learned or
unschooled, rich or poor, could look at himself in it, and
discover his true being. So it was, so it must be again: a
well of living water for the Christians of our time, as well
as for all those, believers or not, who interested in the Scriptures,
feel sometimes perplexed by their meaning.
With the time the message conveyed by this stream has
lost part of its purity. Several translators, all along the
centuries, have endeavored to transcribe it into the language
of their time, and nowadays we find many different versions,
but quite often we wonder whether they use the same text, the
Greek original matrix. Their work, indeed, is invaluable, as
they form a precious chain from Origen with his Greek Hexapla,
Jerome with his Latin Vulgate, Wycliffe, whose English Bible
paved the way to the sumptuous Authorized King James Version,
to modern biblical scholars. They were all dedicated to making
the word of God accessible to the people of their time. Many
of their finds subsist today, and we are grateful to them for
their contribution. Still, when we look back at the Greek we
cannot help observing that something is missing. We have lost
its true meaning sometimes, its simplicity often, but above
all and essentially its rhythm. Accordingly, the ambition of
The New Testament in verse is to achieve three aims:
- clarity and
These ingredients being found, I had just to combine them
into the adequate construction, and for that purpose I have
designed a three-stage rocket. The first stage, I call it
truth, because it has to be solid, credible, embedded in
the original Greek, consequently authentic, faithful to the
idea meant by the author with all its subtleties. Destined
to restore the message of yesterday, this stage seeks to find,
as says Eugene Nida, the "closest natural equivalent words"
for today. To achieve that goal, I have compared the original
with seven copies, six English versions and my own in French
(La Bible en vers), and I chose from one version or another, a few times from my own.
The second stage, I call it crystal, because it must show
clearness without ambiguity, simplicity without sophisticated
constructions, in a word transparency. This supposes precision
mechanics made of elements combined in a syntax everyone
understands: what is the use indeed of speaking the truth
if you are not understood? Translating is not photocopying,
for literal interpretations are obviously treacherous.
Still many times some versions get lost in the word for word,
verging on nonsense, when they are not out of context.
Sometimes, the Greek being so concise, we must be more
explicit, but always faithful to the text: we must not disconnect from the first stage.
Finally, to pleasantly complete our rocket, the third
stage is rhythmic: it reproduces the rhythm of the oral
style of the narrative, of the sayings which where repeated
and repeated with, as says Diarmaid Mac Culloch, “a punchiness
which would make each saying easy to remember and recite long
after listeners had first heard it shouted in public.”
Of course, my version is not really versified, unless we
understand “free verse”. The idea is to recall the rhythm of
the words, their musicality, the atmosphere of the beginnings.
Indeed they were spoken loudly by the reader and by the “lector”
first. Isn’t that the way Jesus gave his message, for he wanted
to be sure that the crowd would not only pay attention to his
words : “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!”, but
memorize them: “You have eyes but you don’t see, You have
ears but you don’t hear! Don’t you remember?
That is why he used the technique of these times consisting
of many repetitions, parallelisms and well known formulas.
Naturally, the Gospels authors followed suit, making great
use of the immemorial oriental process with short sentences,
simple words, and they wrote simply, without sophisticated
constructions, in a style everyone understands. I had to
retrieve the rhythm of these phrases so musical, so simple,
yet loaded with meaning, and to respect their slow pace.
In short, I had to restore the original Greek with all its
color and shades. What better way of achieving that result
than in verses? That expression, I felt, was the only way
to recreate the ancient tone and structure.
Now our rocket is ready to take-off and to put in orbit The
Good News satellite, which anybody will be able and happy to
hear and trust, since it is truthful, crystal clear and
melodious. May this satellite be received in the whole world!
I have worked alone, following my inspiration (Do not quench
the Spirit! 1 Thes 5:19),
modestly, but didn’t the theologian
and philosopher Bernard de Chartres of the 12th century assure
us that being like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants,
we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because
we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are
lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature. For
myself, I am bringing my little stone to the building of
the evangelical message for today, to ensure that more and
more find or find again the path of the Gospels through poetry
The Greek New Testament is the New Testament.
All else is translation.
A few of the major discrepancies
THE RIGHT TENSE AND MODE
Do you mean now or later?
NLT with Herod is going to search,
or GNT with
will be looking
for do not really convey a sense of danger, even
less KJV and
NKJV with will seek.
NRSV is the only version to
give the correct meaning of mellei: is about to.
This you know!
This is evident. Of course they know that, no need to tell them!
All the versions but GNT
are confused with the Greek
which uses the same form for
you know (indicative) and know(imperative).
A matter of chronology
Lit. : Having put aside (past participle, not present):
this is a precondition before verse 2.
Once you have… you will… We find the same construction in verse
(as you have purified your souls…). This is not clearly expressed by the versions.
What about me?
These two verses are only two examples of the necessity to stress
the pronoun when it is opposed to another. Greek omits subject
pronouns: the pronoun is understood from the verb ending, and
is used only to emphasize the subject. In 3:11
NASB is the only
one to express ego (I).
In 3:14 again the subject is emphasized:
ego and su (I and you).
This emphasis is expressed by no one. Moreover all versions use
the interrogative, when it should be exclamative.
THE RIGHT WORD
To be or to become?
Those two examples show that, here again, there is a precondition,
a process to follow, and we should find you become, not you are.
Was Jesus tempted?
To be put to the test rather than
to be tempted of all versions. Can God be tempted?
NIV recognizes in note:
The Greek for tempted can also mean tested.
Doesn’t James tell us:
A matter of confidence
Tharsei is be confident,
more than take heart (NRSV and
take courage (NASB and
GNT), be encouraged
(NLT), be of good cheer
Jesus asks many times for confidence from the one who
wants to be healed. So it is an act of faith,
not a show of human courage.
Keep or observe?
Lit. : leave her, so that she observes it for the day of my burial.
Tereo : observe, keep an observance, keep my word, the observance
here, the general meaning being of observe, never keep something.
So all the versions are wrong with keep the perfume, but
She did this in preparation for my burial.
Didn’t Paul live as a citizen?
Politeuomai: to be a citizen, live as a citizen.
As acts 23:1.
this is ignored by all, but NLT
which however understands citizens of heaven.
Born again or born from above?
Anothen has two meanings: again and from above.
The context requires
the latter, as it will be seen below: born from the Spirit.
All the others say again, but in their notes
GNT accept from above.
Does the Law condemn before hearing?
Judge (krino), not condemn of
which is katakrino (found at 8:10).
Must we not resist evil?
All the others: do not resist. Do not resist an evil person?
In fact, anthistemi is: stand
(histemi) in front of (anth), answer to.
Words, only words
Rhemata means words, nothing else, and the Latin Vulgate rightly
says verba. So we may be surprised to find in these three examples
rhemata translated by things or matters.
We find words only
once (NRSV at
2:19, but things otherwise).
KJV is correct (and the best)
with sayings twice (1:65 as
NKJV and 2:51).
Yet it is clear that Mary is keeping as a treasure the words she has heard.
Isn’t Kingdom of God within us?
We cannot say in your midst as
or among you
Entos, which we find only twice in the New Testament,
here and at Mt 23 :26
(the inside of the cup opposed to the outside)
obviously means inside, within,
GNT), what the others admit,
but only as a possibility in their notes. The Gospel writers use
en, para, pros or en meso to express the idea of
among, in the middle of.
The Latin Vulgate says rightly intra vos (inside you).
Most of the French versions are also wrong here.
No faith at all or lack of faith?
Apistia is unbelief (privative prefix a),
not just a lack of
which we have found in 6:30 and
8:26 (you of little faith) with a different word:
You are Christ or you are the Messiah?
Christos is here evidently the Messiah everyone awaits,
but only for NRSV,
The prophetesses and deaconesses of that time
are the only one to see in Anna a prophetess (prophetis).
The others see a prophet. As for Phoebe, she is acknowledged as
a deaconess by
but in note only. She is a servant for
GNT, a deacon for
Didn’t Jesus go straight to his disciples on the sea?
All the versions understand pass by. Was Jesus going to ignore
his disciples? Parelthein does not mean only pass by.
It also means
come forward, join. We find that meaning in Luke
12:37 (he will come to them).
What Jesus just supposed to be the son of Joseph?
As NLT only.
Nomizo: acknowledge, consider, know as. Rather
than as was supposed, as was thought, which are rather confusing.
Did the servant ask his master to cancel his debt?
The servant did not ask his master to cancel his debt. He only
implored him: ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything.’
He never begged to forget his debt, as understood by
(because you begged me to) and
GNT (because you asked me to).
Did Paul just go and visit Peter?
alone, with to obtain information, gives its real meaning to
historeo (inquire of, ask, visit a person for the purpose of inquiry).
It is clear that Paul wants to know more about Christ. The others
understand only that Paul went to visit or to know Peter. Is that all?
It looks as if they were minimizing the significance of this event.
Didn’t Jesus talk to women?
Two observations here. First, the disciples are just surprised
to find him talking with a woman: when they left Jesus, he was
alone. But why these versions: they marveled
they were astonished (NRSV),
greatly surprised (GNT)?
They were just surprised (as NIV).
The verb thaumazo contains different shades of meanings, and
it is important to choose the right one to paint the scene,
depending on the context.
No one asked, ‘What are you saying to her? (Ti laleis),
are you talking to her of all versions. Laleo
(speak, talk, say)
is often an intransitive verb. It is not always so, and we have
a good example of the transitive at John
ti laleso (what I will say) and
with ti lalei , (what he says)
where all the translations agree on what.
Anyway is it credible
that the disciples should be amazed or shocked to find Jesus
talking with a woman to the point of asking him why he speaks to her?
Did the Law bring sins?
alone, gives the real meaning of this verse: God’s law was
given so that all people could see how sinful they were. Rather
than the versions: the Law came to increase the sins. In fact
the literal the Law came so that the sins abound must be understood as
so that the sins may be seen as abounding. For can we believe
that God sent the Law to increase the sins?
Didn’t Jesus suffer enough?
This passage, which has been written about extensively, needs a
few clarifications, for we find translations as I am completing
what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body,
that is, the church (NRSV),
the others being much the same. Is
Paul really completing the sufferings of Christ, since he would
not have suffered enough?
The verb antanapleroo we have here consists of three parts, and
we must break it down to understand it clearly : anti means:
in my turn, ana: again, pleroo: fully accomplish. So we have:
I fully accomplish again in my turn.
But what mystified most the Bible scholars is this word: Husterema:
extreme condition. Undoubtedly this word also refers to what is
lacking, and we find that meaning many times in the New Testament.
But to fully apprehend the word, we must turn to its etymology,
its original significance, which is the fact of being behind,
the extremity, indigence. We find an example of husterema as indigence
in Lk 21:4.
Are we really worthless servants?
Only, or ordinary as
Chreios means: that we need, indispensable.
So achreios is: not indispensable,
not essential, and consequently
ordinary. But worthless
unprofitable (KJV and
NKJV) are misleading… and demeaning. What
the servants just say is: it is not a matter of being worthy or
not, for we did just what we were to do.
Tempted or tested?
As we have seen before, all the versions say to be tempted
But just six verses later, excepted
NKJV which are
consistent in their way with tempt, all the versions have now
rightly put to the test or test.
Yet we have the same verb as before (peirazo).
Just a word
is right with but only speak a word, according to the Greek:
but say only by a word (logo).
just say the word, or
GNT with give the order. This is not the same.
Logo as in 8:8, is rightly, but incoherently, understood here
by all but KJV (his word).
PARALLELS ARE MISSING
Don’t versions miss parallels?
Apeitheo as opposed to peitheo (believe) clearly means refuse
to believe not disobey
This parallel between children in our faith and adults in their
faith is not significantly expressed by the versions.
Teleo is repeated. The parallel is respected only by
(accomplished, fulfill). The others have finished or
completed for the first teleo, accomplished or fulfilled
for the second one.
Epiteleo (finish, complete, bring to perfection) is obviously
finish here as apposed to enarchomai (begin), but only for
GNT, the others understanding perfect.
Who is holding the other in his heart?
Lit.: because of you to have me in the heart. Understood as
because of me to have you in the heart by all but
(because you hold me in your heart). It is logical to hear Paul
say he is happy to see the Philippians love him, and he explains
that they share with him his sufferings and his fight for the faith.
Moreover he speaks again of their love a little later:
Who was saved first?
Lit. : but through the grace of the Lord Jesus we believe to be
saved the same way , and they too (are saved). Which means: we
believe that salvation applies to everyone in the same way, so
it applies to them too. The versions understand we are saved,
just as they are, which is not logical, since Peter has just been
stressing the equality between first and new believers, the latter
being compared with the first: he welcomed them by giving them the
Holy Spirit, just as he did to us
(verse 8), and not the reverse.
Moreover Peter is just repeating what he already said
NLT is right,
but incomplete: We believe that we are all saved the same way.
MATTERS OF FAITH
Didn’t they choose eternal life?
Tetagmenoi (pluperfect participle): having agreed on, having
chosen for oneself. The verb tassomai (to place in certain order,
position, choose) must be understood here as to place oneself
(middle voice), and word for word we have: all those who were
having placed themselves toward eternal life. This, evidently,
greatly differs from all the versions, which declare: all who were
appointed or chosen. These believers have not been destined: they
have destined themselves to eternal life. We find the same verb in
the middle voice at 28:23: taxamenoi (aorist participle) : having
chosen, understood as such by all versions.
Besides their choice is linked to their faith: they believe and
they choose eternal life. For this is not the case for all the Jews:
Apeitheo (refuse to believe) is opposed to pisteuo (believe).
So in conclusion everything is a matter of faith!
ABC: From Antioch To Zion
It was at Antioch that the believers
Were first called Christians. (Acts)
And it will be given to you,
And you will find,
And it will be opened to you. (Mt)
Born from above
‘Truly, truly I say to you,
Unless one is born from above,
No one can see
The Kingdom of God.’ (Jn)
Children of God
For they are children of God,
All who are led by the Spirit of God.
Children of the Light
Believe in the Light
While you have the Light,
And you will become
Children of the Light.’
Once you were darkness,
But now with the Lord you are Light.
Live as children of Light.
You are all children of the light,
You are children of the day.
We do not belong to the night,
We do not belong to the darkness.
So whatever you believe,
Keep your own conviction
Between yourself and God.
Blessed is the one
Who does not feel guilty
When he does what is right
In his opinion. (Rom)
Then he said to Thomas,
‘Put your finger here,
Look at my hands.
Reach out your hand
And put it in my side.
Don’t doubt, believe!’
Thomas said to him,
‘My Lord and my God!’
Then Jesus told him,
‘You have believed
Because you have seen me,
Blessed are those who believe
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
Let him ask God,
Who gives to all generously
And he will receive wisdom.
But he must ask with faith,
For the one who doubts
Is like a wave of the sea,
Blown and tossed by the wind.
What then must we do,
Brothers and sisters?
This: when you come together,
One will sing a hymn,
Another will teach,
Another will give a revelation,
Another will speak languages,
And still another will interpret.
Everything must be done
For the edification of the church.
Finally, all of you, be of one mind,
Show empathy, love one another
As brothers and sisters,
Be compassionate and humble.
The man replied,
‘How can I understand
Unless someone explains it to me?’
And he invited Philip
To come up and sit with him.
Is the lamp of the body.
If straight is your eye,
Your whole body
Will be full of light.
The Lord said,
‘If you had faith even as small
As a mustard seed,
To this mulberry tree
You could say,
And plant yourself in the sea,
And it would obey you.’
To have faith is to be confident
In the things we hope for.
To have faith is to be convinced
We will receive things we cannot see.
For what of God
Appears as pure folly
Is wiser than human wisdom,
What appears as weakness
Is stronger than human strength.
Through all the towns
Teaching in their synagogues,
The Good News of the Kingdom
Every disease and sickness.
He said to them,
‘Go throughout the whole world
And preach the Gospel to all people.
For where is your treasure,
There also will be your heart.
We even boast
About our sufferings:
We know that suffering
Does not disappoint:
God has poured out his love
Into our hearts
Through the Holy Spirit,
Who has been given to us.
For it is this hope
That saves us.
But if you see happen
What you hope,
It is not any more hope:
Why should anyone still hope
When he sees this happen?
So we do not lose heart.
Our outward man
May be wearing out,
But our inward man
Is being renewed every day.
They were still talking about this,
When Jesus himself
Stood among them.
He said to them, ‘Peace to you!’
They were terrified
And, in their fright, they thought
That they were seeing a ghost.
He said to them,
‘Why are you troubled?
Why these doubts in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet!
Touch me and see!
A ghost does not have
Flesh and bones,
As you see I have.’
Consider it all joy,
My brothers and sisters,
When you face all kinds of trials,
That the testing of your faith
Kingdom of God
The Pharisees asked Jesus
When the Kingdom of God
‘The Kingdom of God
Does not come
As those things you can observe.
No one will say,
“Look, here it is!” or “There it is!”
Because the Kingdom of God
Is already within you.’
I am the Light
And I have come into the world,
So that everyone
Who believes in me
Should not remain in darkness.
Should I speak
All the languages,
Those of men,
Those of angels,
If I do not have love,
I am only a noisy gong,
A clanging cymbal.
Should I have
The gift of prophecy,
Should I have the key
To all mysteries,
To all knowledge,
Should I have such faith
That I could move mountains,
If I do not have love,
I am nothing.
Should I give all I have
To the poor,
Should I give up my body
To be burned,
If I do not have love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
Love is kind.
Love is not envious.
It is not boastful,
It is not arrogant.
Rejects all things shameful.
It is not selfish,
It never becomes angry.
Love does not rejoice
Love rejoices in the truth.
Love always endures,
Always keeps faith,
Always perseveres. (1 Cor)
And Mary said:
‘My soul praises the Lord
And my spirit rejoices
In God my Savior,
For he has considered
His humble servant.
From now on all generations
Will call me blessed,
For the Mighty One
Has done great things for me.
Holy is his name!
His mercy is upon generation
Toward those who fear him.
With his arm
He has done mighty deeds.
He has scattered
The proud in their heart.
He has brought down
Rulers from their thrones
And the humble he has lifted up.
He has filled the hungry
With good things
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant
Remembering his mercy
And his descendants for ever,
As he spoke to our fathers.’
With the same heart
They all were constantly in prayer
With the women,
Mary the mother of Jesus,
And his brothers.
Do not lie to each other,
Now that, having stripped off
Your old nature
And all its practices,
You have clothed yourselves
With your new nature,
Which is renewed
As you learn to know your creator
And become like him.
In this new nature
It does not matter who you are:
Greek or Jew,
Circumcised or uncircumcised,
Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free:
Christ is everyone,
Christ is in everyone.
There is no longer Jew or Gentile,
Slave or free, men and women,
For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
They said to each other,
‘Didn’t we have our hearts
Burning within us while on the road
He talked with us
And opened our minds
To the Scriptures?’
In our heart
We have plenty of room for you,
But in your heart,
You have no room for us.
In return, I speak to you
As if you were my children,
Open your hearts to us!
I leave you peace,
I give you my peace.
I do not give it to you
As the world gives.
Should not be troubled.
Do not be afraid!
To escape these desires,
You must do your best
To add to your faith goodness,
To your goodness, knowledge,
To your knowledge, self-control,
To your self-control, endurance,
To your perseverance, godliness,
To your godliness, brotherly affection,
And to your brotherly affection, love.
For if these qualities are in you,
And increasing, they will keep you
From being ineffective
And unfruitful in your knowledge
Of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those fights and quarrels among you,
Where do they come from?
Don’t they come
From the conflicting desires within you?
If there is no such thing
As resurrection of the dead,
Has not been raised either.
And if Christ
Has not been raised,
Then our preaching is vain,
And you believe in vain. (1 Cor)
All the believers were together
And they shared everything they had.
Then he breathed on them
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
Do not quench the Spirit.
About this we have much to say,
But it is hard to explain to you:
You are so slow to understand!
You should be teachers by now!
And you still need someone
To teach you again
The basic things about God’s word.
What you need is milk,
Not solid food!
So Jesus said to the Jews
Who believed in him,
‘If you hold to my teaching,
You are truly my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
And the truth will make you free.’
Thank God, I speak
More languages than all of you.
But in the church
I will rather speak five words
To teach others
Than ten thousand words
In a language you don’t know.
Then, when we have all achieved
Unity in our faith
And in our knowledge of the Son of God,
We will be adults in our faith,
As the fullness of Christ.
I am the vine,
You are the branches.
If you remain in me,
If I remain in you,
You will bear much fruit.
You can do nothing.
‘I am the voice of one
Shouting in the desert,
The way of the Lord,
As the prophet Isaiah said.’
He was approaching Damascus,
A light from heaven
Shone around him.
He fell to the ground
And heard a voice say to him,
Why do you persecute me?’ Acts
Jesus said to him,
‘I am the way,
The truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
But through me. (Jn)
Oh, how deep are the riches
Of the wisdom of God!
How deep his knowledge!
You will try to know in vain,
You will never explain!
But if any of you lacks wisdom,
Let him ask God,
Who gives to all generously
And he will receive wisdom.
Was the true Light
Which, coming into the world,
Gives Light to everyone.
For the Kingdom of God
Is not in words,
It is in works. (1 Cor)
What good is it,
My brothers and sisters,
If you say you have faith
But do no have works?
Will you be saved by such faith?
So do not worry
For tomorrow will worry
Sufficient is for the day
Its own trouble. (Mt)
Now God makes us right
When we place our faith
In Jesus Christ,
And this is true for everyone
No matter who we are,
Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’,
Let your ‘no’ be ‘no’.
Anything else you will say
Comes from evil.
But you have come to Mount Zion,
To the city of the living God,
The heavenly Jerusalem.
You have come to myriads of angels
Gathered in joyful assembly,