Because it offended me,
I lopped off my right hand
and dropped it behind me
into the shadowy noplace
where the Adversary is said to lurk
It fell as a root
and burrowed thumb-first
into the blind field,
sprouting fine white tendrils
Its chill blossom, a crown of fingers,
wavers in my sleep,
the petals cold and blue
I pluck that bloom for candles,
lighting them with a knife
dipped in blood and water
The light they shed is a web of shadows,
on which that severed hand lurches,
a maimed spider,
dribbling behind it a thread of regret
Better to lose that crabbed part
than to find at the end
my whole body grown to a stalk of weed
to be plucked up and burnt,
a candle of desire burning itself to naught

In 1943 I produced a paper-back volume entitled Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?—my literary firstborn. From the fifth edition (1960) onward, its title was modified to The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

When the first edition appeared, the teenage son of a friend of mine picked it up from his father’s table, thumbed through it, and remarked: “I suppose he takes 118 pages to say ‘Yes’!” He was right: the directors of the InterVarsity Press would not have encouraged me to write the little book if they had thought it at all possible that my answer might be “No”; and if, contrary to their expectation, “No” had been the answer, they would not have published it.

That edition was reviewed in the journal Theology by a theologian of my own age-group (now Professor of New Testament in the University of London). He commented on my remark that the professional theologian is apt to be more skeptical than the professional historian by saying that “this is presumably because the theologian is driven to a more exacting technique of criticism ...

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