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The Gospel according to H. L. Hix

First we have to talk about the elephant in the room – though that might not be the
most polite term for Jesus!  For many millions of people around the world, Jesus is the
Son of God, the divine source of their salvation, his story told in the familiar four
gospels of the Bible, and any tampering with that story understandably will be met
with suspicion, distrust, even hostility.  So let’s begin with what this book isn’t. Hix covers this in detail in his Introduction to The Gospel, which you can read here, but for now it’s enough to say that this isn’t Jesus Christ, Superstar, or The Last Temptation of Christ. Nothing in this Gospel secularizes or desacralizes Jesus Christ. You don’t get less of the divine Jesus here, you get more.

That’s because Hix has gone back to the original source materials, both the canonical
and non-canonical gospels and histories and stories of the life of Jesus, and created out
of them a single, more comprehensive and nuanced narrative.  A good analogy is to
film editing.  Most movie directors shoot far more film than ever makes it into the
version we see on the screen, and much of that film ends up on the editing room floor,
the result of commercial decisions that may be far removed from what the director
intended for the film.  Occasionally the director gets the chance to re-edit the film to
restore that lost material, producing a “Director’s Cut” that may be very different
from the commercial film release.  So we can think of The Gospel as an ultimate
“Director’s Cut” of the story of Jesus, with all of those bits that didn’t make the
official version (edited by early church leaders to serve a specific agenda) at last
restored. Something for those enthusiasts who want to dig deeper, to know more.

But that’s not all he’s done.  Among the other virtues of his The Gospel, Hix has restored the meanings of essential words as they would have been understood by contemporary
audiences when the source materials were first spoken and written, overcoming what
he calls “translation inertia”, the tendency to retain a translation over time even after
the sense of the word has changed for current readers.  Thus “Lord” becomes “Boss”,
and the apostles “apprentices”, changes that allow for an entirely novel understanding
of the role of Jesus and of believers’ relationship to him.  Also of crucial importance,
Hix has eliminated gendered language wherever possible, in the process inventing new
terms that decouple our understanding of Jesus and divinity from the limitations of
gendered human bodies and relationships.  Thus “Son” becomes “Xon”, for example,
a form of literary transubstantiation that renders the divine even more transcendent,
and in the process opens the Gospel and its promise of salvation to greater inclusivity.

Gospel, of course, means “good news.”  And the very good news of The Gospel
according to H. L. Hix
, for believers and for non-believers alike, is that what has been
called “the greatest story ever told”, the life of Jesus, just got even greater.

Praise for The Gospel according to H. L. Hix

Slangy, familiar, yet freshly strange, all embracing, challenging, reverently irreverent,
H. L. Hix’s The Gospel is a faithfully non-canonical narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus. The Story lives. The Dance never ends. Fear not. Amen. —Joy Williams, author of Ninety-Nine Stories of God.

I’m amazed that nobody has really done this, not in this way. H. L. Hix, a first-rate
poet and critic, has translated and edited the gospels with a deft hand, harmonizing the
story in a way that brings the astonishing voice of Jesus to the fore. This is a brilliant
piece of writing, make no mistake: a combination of Hix and the great gospel writers,
whoever they were. I will gratefully keep this on my shelf beside the Bible. —Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God & The Way of Jesus.

I found myself like those at Emmaus whose eyes are opened suddenly, aware at last of all they have sealed their hearts against. I have been waiting all my life for someone like H. L. Hix to bring together the various gospels, canonical or not, into a singular account of the life and teachings of Jesus. What is this strange and wondrous book before us—newly translated, compiled, and composed for the first time as a single text, as new telling—if not good news? —Eric Pankey, author of Apocrypha and Dismantling the Angel.

Enjoy The Gospel, and discuss it with someone. To put it differently, just try to read this without imagining yourself in a discussion about it either among Biblical scholars
(my first thought was that the Westar Institute, Sojourners, and the like ought
consider this text), or people who are unsatisfied with church doctrines (I’m hosting a
picnic next week), or clerical staff in a diocese that could use a little shaking up, or a
book group that selects books that unsettle expectations. The Introduction delivers a
most succinct and entertaining narration of the pragmatic ramifications of the legacy
of the Gospels that made it into the Bible, and why it is most appropriate to resist the
foregone conclusions that dominate contemporary expectations of what they are.  If
only Biblical studies as a field enjoyed such engaging clarity. Perhaps in addition to
source, form and redaction criticism, we can now speak of Hix criticism.

Hix also argues for the value of his constructive wagers with refreshing brevity and
boldness. He tells us he is doing what was done in the writing of the Biblical Gospels:
He’s writing a Gospel. The Gospel. His transparency with regard to the sources
illuminates his remarkable breadth of knowledge pertinent to source and form
criticism.  Hix’s mastery and obvious delight in weaving a narrative arc by drawing
from forty-eight additional sources to the Biblical Gospels, an arc that begins with the
birth of Mary and concludes with the resurrection, elevates the reading to a kind of
artistry that specialists will particularly enjoy.  May Thunder: Perfect Mind find
xerself (see below) appearing again and again on our contemporary climate crisis

Three particularly relevant strategies that Hix uses include: staying true to simple
Greek words rather than translating them with specialized English words, and in light
of this first effort, he translates an immanent xe (see next item) in the sky we know
rather than a transcendent God in heaven that we cannot know, and finally he “tilts”
gender.  Biblical scholarship has been described up to this point as offering three
paths: progressive feminist (such as Mary Daly’s Wickedary), gender neutral (avoid
pronouns at all cost) or retention of He, Father, and Son,  claiming Biblical inerrancy.
Hix delivers another alternative with the introduction of fother (mother + father), and
perhaps with a nod to Generation X or Z, the xon of humanity replaces the Son of
Man, and the pronouns he, him, and his become xe, xer, and xers (where the x is
pronounced as zh).  These three very serious forms of strategic play transform the
reading and thus reflection on The Gospel.  This book should be entertained by
people interested in the enduring power of Biblical narratives. It should be discussed
by people who want to challenge the theological, class and gender hierarchies of
Christian doctrine and institutions. And those interested in the audacity of The Gospel as it challenges and transforms narrative will find herein a worthy jest for serious contemplation. —Mary L. Keller, Westar Fellow and author of the forthcoming Spirit of Climate Change
About the Author
H. L. Hix was born in Oklahoma and raised in various small towns in the south. After earning his B.A. from Belmont College (now Belmont University) and his Ph.D. (in philosophy) from the University of Texas, Hix taught at the Kansas City Art Institute and was an administrator at the Cleveland Institute of Art, before joining the faculty of the University of Wyoming, where, after a term as director of the creative writing MFA, he now teaches in the Philosophy Department and the Creative Writing Program. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai University, Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer at Yonsei University in Seoul, and the “Distinguished Visitor” at the NEO MFA. He teaches in the low-residency MFA at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

H. L. Hix’s previous work includes a retelling of the Book of Job, as “A Manual of Happiness” in First Fire, Then Birds, and a redaction and translation of a sayings gospel, as “Near Fire” in Rain Inscription.
U.K. Readers can purchase The Gospel at Amazon U.K.
Also available for purchase from the Publisher, Broadstone Books.

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