Strangest Editions of the Bible
Thorstein's Veblen's little known sequel, Theory of the Loser Class, predicted that a society of unemployed nerds with way too much time on their hands would produce a body of spectacularly banal literature. For better or worse, he was right. With lots of leisure and little direction, several versions of the Bible have been produced with, when one considers the sheer amount of effort involved in re-writing the Bible, surprisingly little merit. Let's have a look at some of those, shall we? We shall.
Whenever I do an article like this, my regular readers know there will be a Star Trek entry. Because they make it so easy. So let's get it out of the way, shall we? Yes, of course, there is a Klingon Bible. Sort of. There's a Good News for the Warrior Race that apparently presents "the gospels and other selected scriptures in
parallel with a 'Star Trek' English paraphrase." I'm not sure what that amounts to, because I couldn't find any samples online. I imagine it involves adding "Make it so" at the end of God's commands, and every Gospel starting with "Apostle's Log." What I could find is a guy trying to explain WHY? With a brochure, no less. "In the study of artificial languages," he says, "translating standard works of
literature like the Bible is often done," because this develops the language. So, I'm still wondering WHY? Why does one want to develop a made-up language? Because it develops your soul, he says: " the work of producing such a translation can have
devotional value even if the translation is never used." Ah, y'see, Klingons are not from the Devil after all, 'cause they're making the kids read Bibles. Personally, I'm even less comfortable with Christian Trekkies.
2. Ebonics Bible
You know what was always missing from the Bible for me? The oppressive feeling of racism oozing from every passage. So let's get a little chocolate into that vanilla Bible, shall we? Someone translated parts of the Bible into Ebonics. Ebonics, for those of you who don't know, is an American dialect spoken by inner-city blacks. I think Ebonics is a fascinating development of the English language. After all, why is the verb 'to be' so irregular in English? Our pronouns make it unnecessary. Why say "She's a ho!" when you can say, without confusion, "She be a ho!" or, for that matter, "I be a ho!" Maybe you be a ho. We can all be a ho. But that's for the Jerry Springer Show; this is about Bibles! So here's a passage:
 In da beginnin'
Big Daddy created da heaven an' da earth.
 And da earth wuz widdout form, an' void; an' darkness wuz upon da face o' da deep. And da Spirit o' Big Daddy groved upon da face o' da waters.
 And Big Daddy enunciated, Let dere be light y'all: an' dere wuz light.
 And Big Daddy seen da light, dat it wuz fine ass: an' Big Daddy divided da light from da darkness.
Actually, I'm starting to see the merits of this translation. For better or worse, the genius behind this project never got beyond Genesis 1, but what little work he did accomplish is truly fine-ass.
Read the whole chapter
3. The Cotton Patch Bible
The Cotton Patch Bible is the work of one man, ol' Clarence Jordan, a Georgia man, a plainspoken farmer, who felt the Bible needed to sound more like, well, him. So he took his old King James Bible, pages falling out, and paraphrased the book in dictation to the local children from the schoolhouse during recesses. Then he found a typist and said, "These crayon marks are the Word of God through the words of Clarence." Okay, I made up most of that up. But it's roughly what happened. The website tells us, "This Cotton Patch Version is firmly planted in the cotton fields of the southern United States, not Palestine. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, for instance, became the Letter to the Christians in Birmingham, Alabama." So it's kinda like A Knight's Tale. Remember that movie? They're all knights, but they have modern attitudes and ideas and music. And Rufus Sewell was the evil black knight. Rufus Sewell is such an underrated actor and we could say a lot about his many brilliant performances, but we'd better get back to ol' Clarence and his Bible.
Let's just take a look at the titles of the Books of the Bible, 'cause they do bear mentioning. The Acts of the Apostles becomes, get this, Happenings. Peter gets renamed Rock, because in the ol' cotton patch o' Georgia, there ain't no Peters, only Rocks. True story. Jude gets renamed Joe. That's not even a legitimate translation! And my favourite, the Gospel of Luke gets renamed, Jesus' Doings.
So what's in the Book of the Doings? This: Now during the fifteenth year of Tiberius as President, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Georgia, and Herod was governor of Alabama, his brother Philip being governor of Mississippi, and Lysanias still holding out over Arkansas; while Annas and Caiaphas were co-presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the word of God came to Zack’s boy, John, down on the farm.
You can fiddle with Clarence's goods over here.
4. The Aussie Bible
Fact: Australia was designed as a penal colony for the punishment of criminals.
Fact: Australia is closer to the sun than any other place on Earth or Venus.
Fact: Over centuries of adaptation to the harsh conditions, Australians evolved into a subspecies of humanity that eats nothing but Barbies.
Fact: It's about time this species hear the Good News.
The Aussie Bible, yet another redundant translation into vernacular, finally makes the Word of God available to the long-deprived stereotypes who inhabit the land down-under. Here's a sample of what you get,
When Libby was six months gone, God
sent the same angel'this Gabriel bloke'to a backblocks town called
Nazareth, in the Galilee shire, to a nice young girl who was engaged to
the local carpenter, Joe Davidson. Her name was Mary.
The angel said to her, 'G'day Mary. You are a pretty special sheila. God has his eye on you.'
Mary went weak at the knees, and wondered what was going on.
Wow. That's almost as confusing as the Klingon.
But I think the Aussie vernacular transcends its squalid roots to achieve a certain poetry here, The angel answered, 'Leave the mechanics up to God. This is heavenly stuff. God's Spirit will come upon you, and the Big Brain behind the Big Bang will manipulate the necessary molecules to make it happen. So this little kid of yours will be as special as it's possible to be, and he'll be called God's own Son. Look, even Libby, your old cousin, is preggers'at her age! God can do these things. In fact, Libby is in her sixth month because nothing is impossible with God.'
What's the Aramaic for 'molecules' again?
5. Hippie Bible
Hippies preach peace and love--hey, just like Jesus! So what better recipients of the Good News? The only barrier all this time, it turns out, has been the lack of a translation into Hippie. Well that's all solved now thanks to the Phat News. To my knowledge, only the Gospel of Mark has yet been made available to Hippie-kind, but it has been rendered into the language of this trodden people with lapidary precision. For instance, 'As it was written and prophesied: “Behold, I send My seed camp, who will setup a Welcome Home before Him."' Gosh darn! If only Charles Manson had had this! Forty years too late, alas. And remember that deeply moving moment when Jesus cries out from the cross that he'd been abandoned? It's only more moving in Hippie: 'At 3 PM Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "Daddy, Daddy, why have you bailed on Me?"'
If you really want to read more, you may do so here-like.
6. Pidgin English Bibles
Well we wouldn't want the pigeons to be without the Good News! Oh, pidgin? Right, Pidgin! Defined by the dictionary as, an auxiliary language that has come into existence through the attempts by the speakers of two different languages to communicate and that is primarily a simplified form of one of the languages, with a reduced vocabulary and grammatical structure and considerable variation in pronunciation. So there are several Pidgins and they defecate on statues. Wait, wrong type of Pidgin again. There are several Pidgins, because the British Empire took over just about every country filled with technologically inferior people and made them all try to speak English. So we have Queen Victoria to thank for the Bibles to follow.
Hawai'i Pidgin, which begins with the book of Da Start, moves on to the familiar tale of Moses in Outa Egypt, and ends with the apocalyptic book of Jesus Show. I wish I were making that last one up. But I'm not. And now remove your hats for a selection from Paul's Epistle to the Romans: Dis letta from me, Paul. I one worka fo Jesus Christ, da Spesho Guy God Wen Send. God wen tell me fo come be his guy, cuz he like send me all ova da place fo talk fo him. God wen make me one spesho talka fo tell peopo da Good Kine Stuff From Him. Right. Moving on.
And now the Gospel of John in Cameroon Pidgin, Jesus he disciple them be go for catch fish for comer water way day for Galilee way them the call say, Tiberias, and Jesus been go meet-up he disciple them for there. The Cameroon Pidgin Bible didn't get any further than the Gospel of John. I think we can all be grateful for that.
Finally, West African Pidgin: 1 From wen taim bigin na im di word dey, and di word dey wit God, and God kpa kpa Imsef na im bi di word. 2 Di word dey wit God from wen taim bigin. I was under the impression that Pidgin is supposed to simplify the English language. Apparently in West Africa 'simplify' means 'strew with redundancies.' And just when you think there's a method to the madness, you run into 'kpa kpa.'
That's it for the Pidgin English Bibles. Had the translators of the KJV foreseen them, they might have said, "Maybe we'll just leave it in Latin, huh boys?" Well, what's done is done.
7. LOLcat Bible
Alright, here's my favourite, simultaneously mind-blowing and mind-numbing. Maybe I should explain just what a LOLcat is. A website called icanhascheezburger started captioning pictures of cats with baby-talk representing cat-talk. This was a cute fad for lonely losers who think their cats aren't merely feces-factories. Fair enough. Then the site began getting millions of views and developing an impressive array of in-jokes. Impressively stupid, that is! Anyway, having more time than brains, armed with in-jokes and cat-fur-covered turtlenecks, the denizens of icanhascheezburger began collectively writing a Bible entirely in their invented cattalk. And doggoneit, they did it!
While reading this version of the Bible for any period extending beyond 3 minutes your brain will feel squeezed by the flaming hand of the Angel of the Abyss into a singularity of metaphysical agony; however, I can give you a few amusing, even poetic doses that should leave you competent for mundane activities like doing the laundry and walking the dog. Here's the story of Samson's slaughter of the Philistines in LOLcat: findin fresh jawbone ov donkey, he grabbd it an struck down a thousand doodz.... Srsly. den samson sed, "wif donkeys jawbone I has made donkeys ov them. [a] Wif donkeys jawbone I has pwnd thousand doodz. Srsly." when he finishd speakin, he threw away the jawbone; an the place wuz calld ramath lehi. If that doesn't make a believer of you, nothing will.
Want to hear a proverb in LOLcat? You may regret it, but fine, if you insist: a kitteh who duzzent haz nollege iz a bad kitteh, a kitteh who iz ina hurrei will get dey bukkit stoled but stewpid kitteh go bad and then try to blame it on Ceiling Cat. Srsly, wtf? I warned you.
Okay, enough of that. If you really want to send your soul into an existential vortex of doubt about the value of human life, you can read more of the LOLcat Bible here.
8. Stinque Zombie Bible
Well this is stupid. I think it trumps the LOLcat Bible in sheer stupidity; but it's less damaging to your soul--I'll give it that. Yet another collectively-written Bible using wiki technology, the Zombie Bible's purpose is to gratuitously add zombies anywhere in the Bible they can grammatically fit. But the nature of a collaborative and largely unsupervised project is that the purpose is lost to the scatological humour of fourteen-year-old boys. Thus we get, So the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and thought, "Oh boy, I bet those zombies are going to pee in there. No manners!"
Sometimes, however, they manage to write something pretty clever, like this in the Gospel of John, 1:6 There was a man sent from Pittsburgh, whose name was George Romero. 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Zombies, that all men through him might believe.1:8 He was not a Zombie, but was sent to bear witness of them Zombies. Clever for anyone who likes Romero's films, not for anyone who likes the, y'know, Bible, which it purports to be a version of.
If you want to dig through the kitty litter of the Stinque Zombie Bible for gems, feel free to do so here.