Dumbest versions/translations of The Bible?

Quick aside: I’m concerned about the use of language, not the accuracy of translation for this thread.

Inspired by Avalonian’s pit thread.

Avalonian if you’re reading this, I meant to ask this in my post and forgot. You’ve said that the Bible you were given (The Message) is dumbed down. Can you quote, say, the first paragraph or two of Genesis (which everyone knows) so we can see how? (the mind boggles with possibilites! :smiley: ) Two paragraphs is certainly within “fair use” guidelines.

I took a look at Bible Gateway to see if they included The Message in their list: they don’t.

There are, however a few astoundingly dumb versions, with the worst being some piece of offal called the "Contemporary English Version, which sounds like it was written with brain-damaged seven-year olds in mind.

The Story of Creation
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [1]
2 The earth was barren, with no form of life; [2] it was under a roaring ocean covered with darkness.
But the Spirit of God [3] was moving over the water.

The First Day
3 God said, “I command light to shine!”* And light started shining. 4God looked at the light and saw that it was good. He separated light from darkness 5and named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening came and then morning–that was the first day. [4]

and it can’t be that bad, can it?

Besides, ‘contemporary English’ my butt. Contemporary English would be more like:

When things got started there wuzn’t nuthin’, so the Big “G” made heaven and Earth. And the earth was an awful mess, and it wuz dark and the Big “G”‘s ghost floated over the water (which, as I said, wuz dark). Then the Big “G” said “Where’s the damned light?” and flipped a switch and there was light. And the Big “G” looked around and said “Hey, dis ain’t bad!” An’ the Big “G” called the darkness “Night” and the brightness “A damn good time to have football games”.

And my version is still better than the “Contemporary English Version”.


*Fenris’s law of Bible Translation: Any translation that loses the phrase “Let there be light” is doomed to be too stupid to use.

Not to nitpick what was clearly hyperbole, but why shouldn’t there be a version of the Bible on the market that seven-year-olds, brain-damaged or otherwise, are comfortable with?

Well, maybe, but that one was just (IMO) condescending and clunky. It’s possible to be poetic but still age appropriate.

Plus it’s supposed to be an adult Bible, not a children’s Bible.

Non-Christian here, but I likes me a bit o’ “thee” and “thou” in the Bible, and back when I was a Christian as a kid, it was the 70s, and we were given the Good New Bible which I remember hating at the time. I still do.

And the Lord said, “Right on Daddy-O” doesn’t quite do it for me.

Er… Good News Bible.

THE LIVING BIBLE and the GOOD NEWS BIBLE at least had some 1970’s Jesus-People trendy nostalgic charm. The Contemporary
English Version & the New Century Version (tho I can’t swear they just aren’t two names for the same thing) lack even that.

THE MESSAGE has some poetic style, I will grant, then really clunks in some places. My own preferences are the New King James Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version & the (New) Jerusalem Bible. The New Revised Standard isn’t bad. For some interesting reading, Everett Fox’s THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES & Fr. Ronald Knox’s Catholic 1950’s translation are great.

If anyone can top this, I’ll be shocked:


The translator’s home page is here:

From that page:


:: hands Lout a trophy ::

You win.


Wow. I was all ready to top everybody with Sir John Cheke’s “Pure English Bible” of 1554/5. See, Sir John had the great idea that the English language was “polluted” with evil foreign words like “congregation” and “lunatic” (just to name two out of about 250 that I identified). So he resolved to translate a Bible that didn’t contain any of that Greek or Latin stuff. Problem is, even after coming up with chewy words like “mangathering” or “moon’d-like,” it’s still impossible to get all the foreign words out of English; it’s like trying to empty the ocean with a spoon. He got as far as the book of Matthew and the first chapter of Mark. Sir John’s pointless exercise did have one benefit to mankind…in the preface, Sir John coined the word “atheist.” Delicious irony–it’s derived from Greek cognates. Also, it provided me with the subject of my MA thesis, so I don’t want to be to hard on ol’ Sir John.

But that “Anointed Standard Translation” takes the cake. What do they suppose Jesus was–King of the Almost-Christians?

I love both the Good News and Living Bibles.

For your consideration: “The Women’s Bible” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Link: http://www.undelete.org/library/library0041.html

Lout’s is far better though.

(Didn’t Thomas Jefferson do a version where he took out all the parts he didn’t like?)

Well, The Message has Jesus saying things like “Beat it, Satan!” and “Don’t play games with me, Judas.” I wouldn’t call it “dumbed down” so much as paraphrased into modern, informal, idiomatic language. As a fresh perspective on the Bible, it makes an interesting read; and the parts I’ve read, at least, range from clever, insightful, and aptly phrased to Just Plain Silly.

The oddest Bible version I’ve seen, though, is Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Gospel, which came out in I think the Sixties and has the story of Jesus transplanted to mid-twentieth-century Georgia.

Dangerosa, Jefferson was a Deist who saw Jesus’ message of love as invaluable. With this in mind, he did some cutting and pasting of the Gospels, arranging the sections by time and subject, to create Jefferson’s Bible.

Thudlow, Clarence Jordan was a biblical scholar and farmer living in Georgia, fighting against racism when the civil rights movement was at its peak. In writing the Cottonpatch scriptures, he made the message more accessible to late segregation era Southerners by setting the stories in Georgia and using characters that they could more easily understand (e.g. the Samaritan in the Good Samaritan parable became a black man who aided a white traveler who’d been robbed and beaten up). The Cottonpatch Bible seems strange at first, but once you know why it (or they; there were a few books covering the gospels, epistles, etc.) was written, it become much easier to appreciate.

There’s a musical of The Cotton Patch Gospel by Harry Chapin that I’ve been trying to get my hands on for years.

I’ve heard it’s really good.

Maybe it’s supposed to be pocket sized, as it can only contain, what…um, Luke & Acts?

If you want to see a really ghastly Bible translation, look for that done by Dr. James Moffatt, in the 1930s, I believe. He rearranges chapters and verses to suit himself throughout–he even put Genesis 2:4 (the colophon) ahead of 1:1. And his approach to textual criticism puts me in mind of the fox hired to guard the chickens. :frowning:

Ecclesiastes 3 starts

The King James Version has

Good News Bible has

I like to imagine that the original hebrew read ‘a time for gettting your rocks off, and a time to refrain therefrom’

The second halves of verse 5 are ‘to embrace’ and ‘to kiss.’ But too much info kind of ruins my joke.

Sorry for being a little late to this party… I wasn’t even aware I was invited! :slight_smile: Good subject, though.

I think Thudlow Boink summarized “The Message” best, from my scanning of its pages:

However, I would add that modernizing the language of the Bible is “dumbing it down,” at least it is to me… in the same way that telling the story of a Shakespeare play in modern laguage would be considered a “dumbing-down.” Not that the Bible is necessarily Shakespeare, but you see my analogy I hope.

Though I’m not a religious man, I can at least admire the lyrical qualities of a King James version, for example. It has its weak points, and it may be harder to read for some… but I personally enjoy its slightly archaic sound. It feels old when one reads it, and I think it should feel that way. It also has a certain poetic quality that is somewhat lost in, for example, “The Message.”

You suggested comparing Genesis, for example… I admire the simple, lyrical elegance of the opening passage in the KJV:

In same passage from “The Message,” however, the pastor who wrote it shows his predilection for overdone metaphor, driving the point in with a sledgehammer. Frankly, it reminds me of my own writing – when I was a high-school sophomore, before I learned some discipline.

This, it seems to me, is trying too hard.

However, a better example of the “dumbing-down” I was talking about comes in other places… in Psalms, for example. In the KJV, Psalms is full of great beauty and well-crafted verse. Again, I may disagree with its philosophy, but there is some stirring passages here. Psalm 1, for example, is quite beautiful:

Contrast this with Psalm 1 in “The Message,” and I think you’ll see what I mean. To me, this passage dilutes the message and almost hurts to read:

Once again, we see much over-wrought metaphor here, with a strange mix of simplified, modernized language. “Sin Saloon”? “Smart-Mouth College”? And what do the wicked have to do with a '90’s glam rock band? :wink:

Ugh… I have to demur slightly from Thudlow’s assessment of “The Message.” It’s full of such simplifications and changes which (I think) sacrifice the beauty of many of its predecessors. This, combined with an overly-heavy metaphorical style, do constitute a “dumbing-down” from previous versions, at least to me. It may work better for others, but as I stated in my other thread, I tend to be a little old-fashioned in these matters.

And with all of that said, I think Lout’s link to the “Anointed Standard” translation wins the game. Others have already pointed out the “no Jew” restriction and its “source-text” conceit. I particularly had to laugh at this neat little jab (bolding mine):

Nice touch, that… nothing like a little ad hominem to make your point, aye? :rolleyes: You win, Lout. By a long shot.

Anyway, good discussion Fenris. Thanks for starting it.

The Bible is definitely a unique book. It can be read many ways, but there are least two that are important.

Firstly, it is a work of literature, and if you’re treating it as such, you use an old and elegant translation. Performers reading scripture passages, framed quotations you hang on your walls, and literary analysts should use things like the King James Version. (Although if I want to write up quotations or do lyrical literary analysis, I’m going to the original Hebrew or Greek.)

Secondly, it is a technical manual, a textbook. In this respect those who read it should do so with the goal of understanding it, not admiring it. It is for these purposes that colloquial vernacular translations are needed.

I have no idea where a lot of these other translations fit in, though.

There’s a translation that’s gaining popularity within the Seventh Day Adventist church, a church I used to attend and still have some ties to. Alas, I forget the name. I’ll find it out, somehow. I do remember that it mixes Adventist theology in with the text, theology that has no scriptural basis - such that Noah suddenly preaches while building the ark, that sort of thing. I’ll try to find the name and report back.

To me, this sort of bible would be the most heinous. Although that Anointed one is horrific. Sounds like a bible for Hitler - “no Jews or homos for me, by God!”