These pedantries should not obscure the measure of Hart’s achievement and the principal virtue of his translation: He conveys exceptionally well the urgency of the New Testament. The message itself is of supreme and burning importance, and the authors were in a hurry to get it out, and Hart lets us feel this “from the inside”—most successfully in his version of the gospels. His translational prose is emphatically nonprofessorial. He conscientiously preserves the rough-and-ready grammar of the original and its “wartime-footing,” functional vocabulary that combines homely household words with sublime theological concepts, with the result that the peculiar tang of New Testament Greek comes through with vividness and immediacy. Here is his rendering of Luke 23:50–52:
And look: A man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a man good and just—This man had not agreed with the Council and their actions—from Arimathea, a city of the Judaeans, who was awaiting the kingdom of God. Approaching Pilate, this man requested the body of Jesus.Hart lets us hear a man who, though not precisely breathless, does not have a complete sentence in view before he begins it, but is nevertheless concerned to communicate all the essential information and whose second thoughts and explanations interrupt and crowd their way into his exposition. The prose itself—we don’t need a footnote—reminds us that St. Luke was not an essayist or a biographer but an evangelist, a man with a message of life-or-death importance to deliver.