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The Poems of Jesus Christ


Willis Barnstone (Translator)

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The words of Jesus Christ are restored to their original poetic form in this extraordinary volume.

Jesus Christ, whose teachings have been on the lips of millions for two millennia, is revealed here as one of the greatest poets of all time. What happened to deafen us to the poetic nature of his words? In migrating from Aramaic speech into written Greek translation, and later into English translation, the lyrics got locked up as prose.

In The Poems of Jesus Christ Willis Barnstone unveils the essential poetry of the Gospels by taking the direct speech of Jesus from Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, and lineating and titling Jesus’s words as individual poems. Jesus’s poems are wisdom lyrics and narrative parables, rich with garden, animal, and nature imagery. Austere and poignant, they carry the totality of the Gospels’ message through the intensity of a single voice––the Gospel of Jesus.


“The vividness and beauty of the language emerge in a fresh way… with evocative simplicity.” — Robert Alter

“Great and original… The writing in this form, as poetry, adds a new dimension to their beauty, conciseness, paradox, and mystery.” — Gerald Stern

“Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman’s Leaves, Herman Melville’s Whales, and the sonnets of Barnstone’s The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets, and my daily corn flakes—that rough poetry of morning.” — Jorge Luis Borges

“This recasting from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, presents Jesus’ words poetically and faithfully to their full power – that of poetry.” — Elliott Bay Book Company

“Barnstone offers excerpts from The Restored New Testament, his innovative and much-praised 2009 translation.” — Library Journal

“Like most early prophets, Jesus would have spoken in a form of poetry, albeit one based on patterns of sounds, repetition, and other devices of prosody quite different from the Greco-Roman forms. What Barnstone has now produced, he hopes, is a sequence of Jesus’s aphorisms.” — The Chronicle of Higher Education

“A book landed on my desk with the curious title The Poems of Jesus Christ. ‘Somebody putting words in Jesus’ mouth?’ I wondered. Not at all. The poet and scholar Willis Barnstone has simply gone back to the biblical text, translating from the original, and shown how Jesus in the gospels speaks in pure poetry.” — Guideposts

“In restoring the words of Jesus to their rightful poetry, and making an excellent case for this necessity, Barnstone brings their music, passion, ethics and intellectual rigor into a more complete view.” — Barbara Berman, The Rumpus

“Barnstone’s The Poems of Jesus Christ is indeed an impressive and inspiring book. It convincingly demonstrates how the teaching of Jesus, spoken in verse, was "imbued with joyful or sorrowful insight and inlight."” — California Literary Review

“When I read such verses aloud, it does not matter to me whether a poem or poetic saying comes from King James, Douay-Rheims, New Revised Standard, New Jerusalem Bible, Revised English Version, or any of the dozens of translations I’ve read and loved. But, once again, Prof. Barnstone took our idea to a new level… After the second full reading and the third and fourth randomly-done peeks, I continue to recommend this book highly.” — Mary Harwell Sayler, Rattle

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