“Gospels, Awakening Words”

Why did you want to translate the Bibles?

In 2011, I supervised its new translation Bible Bayard, a collective project that brings together novelists and commentators. This work, which lasted seven years, turned my life upside down. I dug deep into these texts, but the four Gospels eluded me somewhat. I decided to deal with it. I regularly need the great classics (St. Augustine, Virgil…) to be re-translated so that these texts can be re-translated to our contemporaries. By re-reading the New Testament, often ignoring earlier translations ordered by their liturgical use, I discovered a language in the process of being invented out of the Jewish Scriptures, the Torah and the prophets, but in the language of the diaspora, the exile, Greek.

What authority do you give them?

The Gospels convey the astonishing testimony of the life of a young 1st century rabbi who was invited everywhere to discuss, teach, pray, even to the Temple of Jerusalem, the burning heart of Judaism. All his works consist of an interpretation of the Torah according to the Hebrew tradition based on the interpretation of accepted words. Because to interpret is to live: by putting the word into practice, we ourselves live.

But not everyone can translate like you?

It is more a question of owning individual means of interpretation than belonging to a community whose project is to discuss texts. The heart of the show is discussion! According to the Church Fathers, tradition continued this Jewish tradition, but has this debate been kept alive in the Catholic Church? I’m not sure. We can all comment. We do this constantly to translate our feelings and the feelings of others. But our sense of argument has faded, and not just in the church.

Rabbi Jesus not only teaches but also heals…

Like the rabbis of the day. Texts of magical incantations were found at Qumran. Jesus faces terrible forces, demons representing suffering, neurotic humanity. He heals the sick and raises the dead. This shamanic atmosphere in the texts no longer surprises us because we are used to it. But healing actions are also open to interpretation.

Often your translation moves the reader…

Translation enriches the meaning of the text by arousing our desire for interpretation. The word “sin” does not appear in the Bibles: it translates a word that indicates an error of direction, an interpretation with tragic consequences. When Jesus rebukes faults, he rarely makes others feel guilty, if he does, he lifts the sinner up. In “our father” I translate with “torment”, the word that is tired, pain, oppresses us, usually translated as “evil”, because there is another word for evil.

Good news is “good news” under your pen. What is this good news announced on Christmas Eve?

The gospel, the happy news, is found in ancient Greek literature. The news of the birth of the prince, the victory… The messenger who carries it, the messenger exposes himself: if the news is not received well, he will risk his life. But the Greek Bible also specifies the reward given to the bearer of the message. Evangelizing the gospel makes both the receiver and the one who delivers it happy. For John the Evangelist, where Jesus is, there is grace (John 1:17). In other words, Jesus does this by preaching the gospel. Ultimately, the satisfaction of the messenger depends on the acceptance of his message.

Do you personally experience this through this translation?

(Silence.) That’s how I hear the spiritual message there. We can all experience this. To be saved, we must accept what someone says to us: “You are saved.”

Is it a matter of trust?

The famous saying of Jesus “your faith has saved you” is precisely translated in Greek: “the faith born of you has saved you.” Trust is within us, but we need someone else to let us know they exist. His word saves us because it awakens an inner strength that we do not call upon.

You dedicate your translation to your late father. You have suffered losses. Did this translation job help you pass the test?

Something happened. When a person experiences the disappearance of loved ones, the question of resurrection arises. The four Gospels tell of Jesus’ trial, his death, and the disappearance of his body. Reports of the discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning show witnesses seized with shocks, visions, fear and delight. These are literally trance states. When we come out of trance, we come back to life. On Easter morning, the angel returns the women who came to the tomb of Jesus to others, to life. To pass the test of absence is to return to speech, to others. Death is not the end of the story. This worried me a lot.

The Gospels were written in a violent world.

Their language stems from the political and religious crisis of the time: what kind of messiah can we expect? What to do ? An expected one for the Gospels is not known. It is even Christ who must be forsaken: “The Son of Man must be forsaken by mankind” (Luke 24:7, translated by F. Boyer). I beat this word “abandoned” in the translation. Christ makes himself known by being abandoned by his disciples. It symbolizes the part of humanity that has given up on itself.

Can these texts still surprise us?

I think so. You still have to taste it to be surprised. The Jesus of the Gospels comes to interrogate the desire to understand the other. Do you want to worry?

His bio

Born in Cannes.

nineteen eighty one
Graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Editorial director of Bayard publications, where he oversees the new translation Bible In 2011.

It has been translated ConfessionsSt. Augustine (under the title Confessions, Ed. POL).

General director of POL publications was appointed

It has been translated Georgiansfrom Virgil (Concern for the earth, Ed. Gallimard)

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