“This stunningly executed allegory has furnished the Christian imagination with names and situations that have now infiltrated most of our literature. Not often does something so popular manage also to be accurate.” —Eugene Peterson, Take and Read Once the most deeply cherished book in English-speaking households other than the Bible itself, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the allegorical tale of Christian the pilgrim on his journey to the Celestial City. Along the way, Christian encounters both worthy companions and dreadful adversaries. Although The Pilgrim’s Progress was written more than three hundred years ago, this stirring spiritual narrative still bears the power to challenge and encourage readers on their own spiritual journeys.
I have not only recently read, but also studied, Part I of L. Edward Hazelbaker's unabridged revision of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Last summer I taught Pilgrim's Progress in my elementary Sunday School class and I wish I would have known of this book then. I have also done a college level research paper on Pilgrim's Progress. Not only does Hazelbaker make Pilgrim's Progress reader-friendly, he includes Bunyan's annotations in the text, as well as many annotations of his own. The annotations help the reader to experience more than a pilgrimage with Christian to Celestial City, but an in-depth Bible study as well. Other features the book includes are a brief description of Bunyan's life, a comparison outline of events in Parts I and II, and an index.
Access to Bunyan's scripture references gives the serious reader the opportunity to better his or her understanding of Bunyan's work while Hazelbaker's references and annotations also compliment the text. Hazelbaker, for example, elaborates on the importance of the seal that a Shining One (an angel) places upon Christian's forehead and on the Document given to him. Hazelbaker also offers his audience a clear and detailed understanding of the "Family" that resides in the palace called Beautiful. The reader will appreciate Hazelbaker's explanation of Bunyan's reference to "the goods of Rome" at Vanity Fair and why it would have been significant to the first readers of The Pilgrim's Progress. Hazelbaker also takes the time to explain to the reader why he uses the word "coat" for "bosom." These are only a few of the many helpful annotations Hazelbaker includes in his work.
In studying Hazelbaker's translation I referred to an early edition of Bunyan's several times. Each time I found Hazelbaker's translation true to Bunyan. Hazelbaker has made special effort to maintain the characteristic qualities and message of Bunyan's original work. In the translation process, he manages to preserve Bunyan's work by keeping himself removed from the text. This is his duty and obligation as a translator. His translation is, in all honesty, unabridged and non-paraphrased.
Of the 215 pages I have studied to date, I have found only one minor word choice in Hazelbaker's translation that I wish he would not have made. He translates Bunyan's "cartloads" with "truckloads" in the Swamp of Despondence episode. Although, by definition, "truckloads" is acceptable, it too easily causes confusion for the modern reader who thinks of pickups and tractor-trailers when he reads "truckloads." This is certainly a minor concern, but I mention it in an effort to objective.
Hazelbaker has done an exceptional job of making Bunyan's beautiful classic more appealing to the modern audience. This unabridged version is suitable for readers from middle and upper elementary ages to adults. I am glad to see that Hazelbaker has taken the time and made the effort to offer his audience a version of Pilgrim's Progress that is not watered-down and compromised. It definitely deserves a place in any library.