The Singular Anomaly
I recently picked up a copy of David Bentley Hart's second edition of his translation of the New Testament.
I did a series when Hart's first edition appeared, highlighting how Hart took pains in his translation to bring into view much of the metaphysical strangeness of the Biblical imagination, the working assumptions about the cosmos and the spiritual realm that we, as modern readers of the Bible, can hardly fathom. Especially given how modern translations of the Bible tend to hide the quirkiness and oddity.
In the preface to his second edition, Hart describes what it was like, in editing and revising his translation, to revisit and reenter the cosmological imagination of the New Testament writers. Describing that world for the reader again, Hart closes with these stirring words about the the shock of the Christian message, a shock that continues to ripple and echo through time and space:
And yet, as strange as that world now seems to us, what would have seemed far stranger to the people of that time was the extraordinary claim that the God who reigned on high, over this entire order of light and darkness, with all its radiant hierarchies of spirits and powers and its abysmal mysteries of demonic malice, had appeared in the form of a slave and died as a criminal, only then to be raised up and revealed as the Lord of all things. Whether one believes it or not, the very announcement of such a conviction in that world, in that age, was as singular an anomaly within the normal course of things, and within the ordinary frame of human history and culture, as there has ever been. I doubt any of us has ever understood it nearly as well as we imagine.
For my part, I've spent my whole life trying to understand it. No claim I've ever encountered is as world-shattering.