A spirited retelling of the Gospel story in a Germanic setting, the ninth-century A.D. Old Saxon epic poem The Heliand is at last available in English in Ronald Murphy's graceful new translation. Representing the first full integration and poetic reworking of the Gospel story into Northern European warrior imagery and culture, the poem finds a place for many Old Northern religious concepts and images while remaining faithful to the orthodox Christian teaching of the Gospel of St. Mark. Accessible to students of medieval and comparative literature, Murphy's introduction and notes provide valuable insight and a cultural context for this unique masterpiece.
G. Ronald Murphy, S.J. is Professor of German at Georgetown University. He is the author of several titles, including The Heiland: The Saxon Gospel and The Owl, the Raven, and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms' Magic Fairy Tales.
Introduction to the Translation
The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel
1: The Creator's spell, by which the whole world is held together, is taught to four heroes.
2: Zachary see the Chieftain's angel in the shrine.
3: John comes to the light of mankind.
4: The All-Ruler's angel comes to Mary in Galileeland.
5: The Chieftain of mankind is born in David's hill-fort.
6: The Baby is brought to the Ruler's shrine.
7: Three thanes from the East, led by the workings of fate, follow a star.
8: The Three foreign warriors present their gifts to the Ruler's child.
9: Herod orders his warrior-companions to behead all two-year old boys around Bethlehem.
10: Mary and Joseph find the holy Child at the shrine.
11: John announces Christ's coming to Middlegard.
12: Christ the Chieftain is immersed in the Jordan by His loyal thane John.
13: The Champion of mankind fights off the loathsome enemy.
14: Christ the mighty Chieftan, chooses His first warrior-companions.
15: The mighty Rescuer call twelve to be His men.
16: The Chieftain's instructions on the mountain.
17: The instructions on the mountain.
18: The instructions on the mountain.
19: The instructions on the mountain; the secret runes of the Lord's Prayer.
20: The instructions on the mountain.
21: The instructions on the mountain.
22: The instructions on the mountain.
23: The end of the instructions on the mountain.
24: The marriage feast in the guest-hall at Fort Cana.
25: At hill-fort Capharnaum, God's Child of Peace heals a houselhold lad of a commander of a hundred men.
26: Christ the Rescuer raises the dead son of a widow outside Fort Naim.
27: Christ commands the wind and the sea.
28: The mighty Christ heals the cripple lowered through the roof by his warrior-companions.
29: The story of the earl who sowed good seed.
30: The explanation of the story.
31: The story of the wheat and the weeds.
32: The grim-hearted Jews of Galileeland attempt to throw Christ off a cliff.
33: John the soothsayer is beheaded.
34: With five loaves and two fishes the Chieftain of human beings feeds a great throng of earls.
35: The mighty Child of God and good Peter walk on water.
36: Christ the Ruler heals the daughter of a woman from a foreign clan.
37: Peter, the best of thanes, is given power over Hel's gates.
38: On the mountaintop the Son of God gives off bright light.
39: Christ pays the king's head tax to an arrogant thane.
40: Forgiving; the young man with the great treasure-hoard.
41: The story of the rich man and the beggar.
42: The story of the workers who came late to the vineyard.
43: Christ tells His loyal followers about His future torture and death; the curing of the blind men outside Fort Jericho.
44: The author explains the meaning of the cure of the blind.
45: Christ enters Fort Jerusalem and foretells its fate.
46: Christ praises the small gift to the shrine of the woman fated to poverty; He advises thanes to pay the emperor's taxes.
47: Christ the Champion protects the life-spirit of the woman caught in adultery.
48: Dissension over Christ's teaching; Martha and Mary send for Him; Thomas accepts a warrior's fate.
49: By decree of holy fate, God's Son is able to raise Lazarus from the grave.
50: The clan-gathering of the Jewish warriors decides to kill Chist.
51: The Chieftain of human clans teaches at the shrine.
52: The coming of doomsay.
54: The Passion begins; Judas betrays his own Chieftan to southen people; Christ washes the feet of His earls and thanes.
55: The last mead-hall feast with the warrior-companions.
56: The words of Christ give great powers to the bread and wine.
57: Christ's deep fear before battle; His last salute in the garden.
58: Christ the Chieftain is capture; Peter, the mighty swordsman, defends Him boldly.
59: Peter denies he is a warrior-companion of Christ.
60: Christ is brought before the assembly as a prisoner.
61: Christ stands in chains before Pilate of Pontusland; Judas, the deserter, hangs himself.
62: Pilate, Caesar's thane, speaks with God's son.
63: Warriors bring Christ in irons to King Herod; arrogant earls ridicule God's Child of Peace.
64: The Jewish warriors threaten Pilate with the ill-will of the emperor at Fort Rome.
65: Caesar's thane puts the Best of all men into the hands of the Jews.
66: The Chieftan is hanged on the criminal tree.
67: The Chieftan of mankind dies by the criminal tree rope; His spirit escapes.
68: The body is removed from the gallows tree and buried in the earth; Christ's spirit returns at night to the corpse; Christ rises.
69: The angel of the All-Ruler tells the women that the Chieftan is on His way to Galileeland.
70: The grave-guards are bribed with jewels; Peter, John, and Mary Magdalene come to the grave.
71: Christ the Ruler joins the warrior-company of earls on the road to Emmaus Castle.
Appendix 1. Germanic Religious Customs in Adam of Bremen's History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen
Appendix 2. Germanic Ties and Personal Loyalty
Appendix 3. Magic in the Heliand
Appendix 4. Symmetrical Structure in the Heliand
'it provides a fascinating insight into a world of which we knew little, assisted by Murphy's Introduction and footnotes ... Besides its fascination, the book raises many hermeneutical issues for the modern reader of the Gospels.' The Expository Times
A spirited retelling of the Gospel story in a Germanic setting, the ninth-century A.D. Old Saxon epic poem The Heliand is at last available in English in Ronald Murphy's graceful new translation. Representing the first full integration and poetic reworking of the Gospel story into Northern European warrior imagery and culture, the poem finds a place for many Old Northern religious concepts and images while remaining faithful to the orthodox Christian
teaching of the Gospel of St. Mark. Accessible to students of medieval and comparative literature, Murphy's introduction and notes provide valuable insight and a cultural context for this unique masterpiece.
"One of my own teachers, Father Murphy gives us a look at how the Gospel was spread into Central Europe. What he shows us is a different kind of warrior epic, and a look at how civilization began in a savage place."--Tom Clancy
"The specialists will appreciate Murphy's fine and very readable version, in view of the difficulties he had to overcome in creating an adequate modern text that can be used in the classroom. Students will value it as an exciting text for the modern interest in crosscultural studies."--Theological Studies
"A great translation. I recommend it highly."--S.L. Clark, Rice University
"An excellent translation which captures the spirit of the times and the people who listened to this unique blend of the traditional gospel message with the trappings of the heroic sagas which formed the other part of their literature. The text is readable and understandable and yet representative of the original. The notes on the translation were invaluable as is the material in the appendices."--Charles W. Nelson, Michigan Technological University
"Very useful for demonstrating the pagan and heroic influence on religious work."--G.N. Berqquist, Creighton University
"Fascinating addition to medieval literature in translation. Notes and introduction very helpful in considering cultural influences on translation of the Gospel into Saxon. The English version itself is clear, yet captures the Saxon style well."--Elizabeth L. Rambo, Biola University
"A valuable resource for the history of Christian piety and for the study of how Christianity was affected by transplantation to Northern Europe. Having such works available in translation is a real boon to teaching and to scholarship."--Richard Kieckhefer, Northwestern University
"Richly annotated. A provocative companion for students working with the original text."--Ray Wakefield, University of Minnesota
"A vivid retelling of the Gospel story from an early Saxon perspective. Ideal reading as a component of a culture and civilization course in translation....Also for the general reader who is interested in Germanic history of the dissemination of Christianity."--David J. Parent, Illinois State University
"An interesting and remarkable text, full of possibilities for defining epic machinery, and a welcome addition to the Old English canon."--R.E. Stratton, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
"We can be grateful to the author for the care taken in the translation and for the detailed notes....The supporting material should be required reading; it is both concise and stimulating."--John M. Jeep, Miami University
"Those who love the gospel will find it recounted in The Heliand in a way that will provoke and inspire."--Worship Works
"The translator is to be heartily commended for providing a highly readable prose rendering, carefully annotated, of a largely neglected yet important literary work from early Saxon missionary times."--Otto J. Zitzelsberger, Rutgers University
"Readable and accurate. The comments are informative and can serve as a springboard for further discussion. The select bibliography is useful. All in all, a valuable book."--Hubert Heinen, The University of Texas at Austin
"Murphy manages both to translate into a smooth modern English, and to preserve the historical sense through a careful choice of words and expressions for specific terms in the original."--Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona
"Excellent book."--James V. McMahon, Emory University
"Superb, long-awaited, vibrant translation of an essential medieval primary source."--D. McCaffrey, Providence College
"We...can only be grateful to Ronald Murphy for this 'light-shining' translation. It is a labor of love that anyone...will find irresistible."--James V. Schall, S.J., Crisis
"As well as putting the work in historical perspective, Murphy's commentary also helps readers understand where changes to the canonical Gospels reflect the poet's propaganistic interests."--The Times of Trenton
"This fine translation establishes the Heliand on the map of our literary interests and endeavors."--Theological Studies
"In his skillful translation Murphy has serendipitously addressed a major crux which has engaged scholars over the years."--American Journal of Germanic Literatures
"Murphy's English rendering is itself poetic and moving...A wonderful starting place for all readers to enter the mysterious world of early medieval culture."--Koinonia Journal
"Has always been and remains a focus of interest for historical linguists and for students of the Germanic languages more particularly...indispensable for the academic to whose work The Heliand is relevant."--Early Medieval Europe
"This translation succeeds so admirably in communicating a real affection."--The German Quarterly
"Provides a fascinating insight into a world of which we knew little."--The Expository Times
"There is an overwhelming sense of light and brightness associated with the Good News and a sense of shadows and darkness associated with missing it."--Crisis
"An excellent translation with very good notes on the Saxon Heliand. Very accessible to students with little background. I plan to use it in all my seminars on Anglo-Saxon England as comparative material."--Lisi Oliver, Louisiana State University
Oxford University Press, USA
G. Ronald Murphy
The Saxon Gospel
Country of Publication
Oxford University Press Inc
Place of Publication
Professional and Scholarly