Wilde about Christ (4): Rediscovering the Gospels

In this excerpt from De Profundis, Wilde describes how the gospels can become stale through repetition, particularly if badly read. Returning to the Greek Testament, as Wilde did when in prison, is a good way to regain a sense of their freshness and urgency.

For some time I have been studying, with great fervour and zeal, the four prose-poems which tell the story of Christ. On Christmas I succeeded in procuring a Greek Testament, and every morning, after I had put my cell in order and cleaned my tin dishes, I read the gospels, about a dozen verses which I picked out at random. It is a delightful way of beginning the day. Every one should do so, even if he leads a stormy, ill-regulated life. Constantly repeating the gospels at any and all seasons has, as it were, run them into the ground so that their simplicity, freshness and romantic charm have been almost wholly lost. We hear them read far too often and far too badly ; and too much repetition kills the spirit. But when we turn to the Greek Testament we feel as if we stepped from a close, dark room into a garden of lilies. I derive double pleasure from the thought that we have in the Greek text the very words of Christ, the ipsissima verba.

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