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‘Jesus Decoded’ fills in the background to the Bible


At a time where we celebrate 600 years of Bible translations, can there really be anything new? Les Marsh thinks so. His new translation of the Gospel of Luke portrays the cultural and historical scene of first century Israel, bringing out not only the words of Jesus, but what those words would mean to his hearers.

“Jesus spoke in parables, code, and his actions too were coded. A historical translation decodes actions.” explains Marsh. “We think of ‘translation’ as ‘translated words’. But historical translation translates what is implied in the words. It is not tied to literalism, but unfolds what the original is really saying.”

Drawing on the insights of the third Quest for the Historical Jesus, the book grew out of a series of weekly seminars for postgraduate students at Oxford University, where Marsh encourages students to grapple with the historical event of the life of Christ.

N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, praised the project: “I think each generation has to have a go at this kind of thing, to bring out the original flavour in ways which make sense today.”

Leslie Marsh is a historian and theologian, specialising in the historical understanding of Jesus. He is also a supernumerary Methodist minister and is a member of the advisory council of the Oxford University Graduate Christian Union.