A new translation of the Bible which seems to contradict traditional Christian beliefs on sex has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The book, entitled “Good as New”, is aimed at refreshing the language and themes of the Bible for modern readers.
In the new version, St Paul’s advice that men and women should marry is replaced with they should have a “regular partner”.
Dr Rowan Williams says it is a book of “extraordinary power”.
But the Church of England leader admitted many readers would be startled by its content.
The words of St Paul are likely to cause most controversy.
A passage from the standard version of his Letters to the Corinthians reads: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.
“But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
In the Good As New version the same passage reads: “Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other.
“That is more likely to lead to sexual offences. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner.”
St Paul gives stronger advice in another section of the Corinthians.
“There’s nothing wrong with remaining single, like me. But if you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated,” he says in the new version.
John Benson, the former Baptist minister who translated the new book, made terminology changes throughout the book, such as replacing “demon possession” with “mental illness”.
Mr Benson also chose “God’s new world” in place of “kingdom of God”.
Dr Williams said he hoped the new translation would “spread in epidemic profusion through religious and irreligious alike”.
“Instead of being taken into a specialised religious frame of reference… we have here a vehicle for thinking and worshiping that is fully earthed, recognisably about our humanity,” he said.