Poetic Acts

The preceding post, by Peter Kirk, was about “poetic” and “accessible” language. This post is another about scripture set to poetry.

I have just received a copy of The Apostles’ Acts — In Verse, by my friend James Vasquez. James has written seven books of poetry based on scripture. James writes in classical poetic metre and rhyme.

Here is James’ rendition of Acts 17:22-34:

Paul in Athens

Within the Areopagus
Paul stood to view each person there.
He raised his hand and then his voice
Rang through the morning’s balmy air.

You men of Athens, hear me now,
For you are a religious lot,
And everywhere I look are seen
False idols that your hands begot.

And viewing each most carefully
As I in passing sauntered by,
An altar most remarkable
With its inscription caught my eye.

For “To An Unknown God,” it said.
Now what you worship as unknown
This day I will proclaim to you,
That you may all his wisdom own.

The God who made all things we see,
The world and every denizen,
Is Lord of heav’n and earth nor does
He live in temples made by men.

Nor do our hands yet serve him well
As though in need he looked to us,
For he gives life to every man,
His breath, and all things prosperous.

And from one man he made across
The earth all nations in their place,
And set the times for each and where
They were to live, each tribe and race.

He did this that all men might seek
And hap’ly find him reaching out,
Though close to every man he’s found,
His faithful promise leaves no doubt.

And thus, “In him we live and move,
And have our being as well,” one said.
“We are his offspring,” we are told,
By your own poets now long dead.

And since, O men of Athens, we
Are very offspring of this God,
Think not that like an idol he
Is made of gold or wood or sod.

For these are images and made
By man’s design and errant skill.
They hear not your petitions and
Your prayers remain unanswered still.

Now in times past God overlooked
Such ignorance and soul’s decay,
But now repentance he commands
For he has firmly set a day,

When he will judge the world at last
With justice foretold long ago,
By one whom he appointed and
Has given proof that all may know,

By raising Jesus from the dead,
The One whom I proclaim to you,
Though words I speak will never serve
To praise his name for honor due.

At once the air was filled with sneers.
Philosophers take pride in naught
But what their forebears have declared,
And oft their teachings have forgot.

But some asked Paul to speak again
And bring his message without shame,
While others who believed his word,
True followers of the Lord became.

3 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    In a book of poetry, this kind of thing can be fun but I think would be a tragic mistake to include this in any translation of the bible which was more the topic of Peter’s post.

  2. Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if I miscommunicated, Mike. In my opening comments I was just trying to create a segue from Peter’s post to mine. Setting scripture to poetry is another kind of presentation of basic elements of the biblical story, as are Bible movies, Bible story books, Bible plays, Bible storying, etc. I have set some scripture to poetry myself and personally find it a good exercise. But I do not consider it actual Bible translation.

  3. Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Wayne, I agree. Outside of direct bible translation, I think there is a whole lot of room communicate the stories of the bible in creative ways as long as long as we remain faithful to the message of the Gospel.


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