(AP) – After Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, he saw “the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased’ ” (Mark 1:10-11, Revised Standard Version).
Compare that with this new translation: “A pigeon flew down and perched on him. Jesus took this as a sign that God’s Spirit was with him. A voice from overhead was heard saying, ‘That’s my boy!’ “
There are many such chatty or doctrinally denuded passages in Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures, an exceedingly loose New Testament paraphrase by Britain’s John Henson, a fundamentalist-hating Baptist.
Should we call it the Boy Bible, or the Pigeon Bible?
Good as New is the wildest, wackiest and possibly worst of those trendy attempts to update Holy Writ. Billed as “women, gay and sinner friendly,” it has stirred up a minor ruckus in Canada and Britain, but less chatter in the United States.
This project might have slipped into obscurity if it weren’t for the fond foreword from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the Church of England and 77 million Anglicans worldwide. Perhaps he was too busy to actually read what he was endorsing.
“Patiently and boldly,” the archbishop writes enthusiastically, Henson has “gone back to roots” and produced translations “of extraordinary power,” though Williams granted that some passages “will startle.”
Good as New was produced by the radical ONE Community for Christian Exploration, which next plans to overhaul Christianity’s creeds. Henson’s proposed creed professes that God is “personal and passionate. God seeks friends. God is active, creative, explorative; God is strong and tender with a great sense of humour.”
Conservative writer Lee Duigon carped, “Is this a creed or a singles ad?”
Commentators in these sex-ridden times have naturally focused on that titillating aspect of Good as New. Call it arrogance or deception, but Henson freely changes what the Bible itself says.
The Apostle Paul taught that “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” and that if unmarried singles or widows “cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:2,9).
Henson’s version: “My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner. … If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated!” Likewise, Henson has Jesus rewriting the Ten Commandments: “Don’t take away someone else’s partner” (Matthew 5:27).
In 2004, this clearly implies approval for unwed heterosexual and homosexual couples, possibly including temporary live-ins.
Henson simply chops out things he doesn’t like.
For obvious reasons, one currently debated Bible passage is this from Paul: “God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men” (Romans 1:26-27).
Wielding a censor’s blue pencil, Hensom produces:
“God let them go on to pursue their selfish desires. Women use their charms to further their own ends. Men, instead of being friends, ruthlessly exploit one another.”
Henson even cuts out eight entire New Testament books that don’t suit him: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
There’s addition as well as subtraction. Following one scholarly sect, he puts the Gospel of Thomas alongside Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though Christianity discarded Thomas. Henson makes the debatable claim that it’s “probably” among the earliest Christian writings and “possibly” as early as the other four.
Then he outrageously changes the conclusion of Thomas to say that “every woman who insists on equality with men is fit to be a citizen in God’s New World.” What Thomas actually said was that “every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Political correctness similarly barred much masculine terminology.
Readers may be more confused than aided by Henson’s relentless use of nicknames (Rocky for Peter) and rephrasings (Complete Person instead of Son of Man).