25 June 2007

Punch Line Optional

by Phil Johnson

ow's this for an idea? A translation of Scripture that takes postmodern inclusiveness to the furthest extreme, dumbs down the text to something less than MTV level, and changes all the politically-incorrect parts to make them teach the opposite of what they mean?

It's been done. Seriously. I'm not making this up.

Titled Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures, this atrocity actually carries a foreword by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest-ranking minister in the Anglican Church.

The author, however, is a former British Baptist minister, not an Anglican. John Henson now identifies himself as a member of One, "a network of radical Christians."

Williams's foreword claims Henson's perversion of Scripture actually aims to show us "What . . . Christianity [would] look like, what . . . Christian language [would] sound like, if we really tried to screen out the stale, the technical, the unconsciously exclusive words and policies and to hear as if for the first time what the Christian scriptures were saying."

Yeah, right. Henson substitutes modern nicknames for most of the characters in Scripture. Peter is called "Rocky," Mary Magdalene is "Maggie," Aaron is "Ron," and Barabbas is shortened to "Barry."

Here's a typical sample, taken from Mark 1:10-11—Mark's account of Jesus' baptism: "As he was climbing up the bank again, the sun shone through a gap in the clouds. At the same time 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! You're doing fine!'"

Or consider Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25 ("Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!") Henson reimagines it this way: "Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs!"

But that's not the worst of it. Henson's version often turns the Bible's meaning on its head. Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. In the King James Version, it says, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

Henson renders it this way: "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."

When he gets to 1 Corinthians 7:9 ("If they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn"), Henson's revision reads: "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated."

Of course, the revision also removes every condemnation of homosexuality and carefully feminizes the language. In fact, the publisher's catalog copy for the book describes it as "women, gay and sinner friendly."

Here's a Web page with some samples of this abomination, if you want to read more.

The irony is that "Good As New" is being marketed as a tool for helping 21st-century readers "hear for the first time what the Christian Scriptures were saying." What it's really designed to do is just the opposite.

Phil's signature


Leberwurst said...


They always want to dumb down God and make Him like one of them.

"What if God were one of us, just a slob like one of us..."

They want the scriptures to be accessible, tolerant, and earthy.

I have always been in awe of the majesty of scripture, and how it is so different than anything men would ever write...

And God says:

Isa 55

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.


Isa 45

20 “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.

22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ [4]

24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.

I'd like to hear their namby pamby paraphrase of that!

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is not so much that this perversion has been released, but that "Christians" will buy it and embrace it as a blessing from God...

Anonymous said...

Just checked out their website. Here is a quote from them regarding their translation:

"ONE for Christian Exploration experiences God writing the bible through people today, as much as through people in the past. And he will rewrite it through the people in the future.

This translation proclaims that the scriptures upon which the Christian faith is founded are like the Spirit of God, changing and unforeseeable as the wind."

I honestly am speechless after reading that.

Matt said...

Maybe this, ahem, "version" lends some credibility to the latest wave of liberals when they claim they want to authentically follow Christ?

Carla Rolfe said...

None of this should surprise any of us. The lack of genuine fear of God and rightly dividing His word has been a glaring (and growing) issue among for many years.

I can only say that I am SO grateful for believers that not only follow the old paths, but have the courage to stand up and call this trash exactly what it is.

FX Turk said...

Rowan Williams? I thought you said Rowan Atkinson.

Kay said...

I do that all the time, Frank. But this is the more appropriate Rowan Atkinson pic, surely?

Even So... said...

I believe it actually must be Rowan Atkinson, actually, because he is the Black Adder, and this sure sounds serpentine to me...

donsands said...

"Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the trickery of the devil."

Satan has snares in abundance for every type of weak mind.

He the master at intimidation and manipulation.

Thanks for this fine post which exposes this obscene book.

May the Lord have mercy on their souls.

Matt Zion said...

I'm more and more amazed by the claim of "radical"-ness from the hip, culturally-relevant, postmodern crowd. But how radical is it, really, to be culturally and doctrinally just like everybody else?

Even outside the emerging church movement, I've heard sermons that spoke about how Jesus was a revolutionary, a stand-up-against-the-establishment kind of guy. A real rebel.

Now, in a certain sense, that's true. He did deliver sharp rebukes to the religious leaders of His day. He wasn't afraid to shake things up. (In fact, He's still shaking things up.)

But, in another sense, He was the greatest conformist our kind has ever seen. He conformed perfectly to the will of His Father. He never, never wavered from His perfect, divine subordination to His Father's will. As He said to His disciples, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work." (John 4:34, ESV) And when He was tempted to break from His Father's will, He communicated this will using a known, searchable, unambiguous standard: "It is written...." (John 4:4, 7, 10, ESV)

Jesus' first commitment was to doing His Father's will as communicated in the written text of Scripture, no matter how this upset of the social and religious culture of His day. So, if today's "radical Christians" want to be "radicals" like Jesus, then why does it seem that their first commitment is to appeasing the social and religious culture (particularly the theologically and socially liberal culture) of their day by substantially altering the written text of Scripture and thus muddying the Father's will?

Neil said...

More cause for weeping.

Highland Host said...

When I saw this abomination advertised in the Unitarians' magazine, I knew all I needed to know about it. That was a few years ago in England.

It is however the next logical step - re-writing the Bible to make it say what you want it to... although the JWs already did that.

Highland Host said...

Seeing as Mr. Henson has taken it upon himself to re-write the Canon of Scripture too (I just had to make sure I was remembering that right), we are surely justified in saying that this is another case of 21st century liberals re-creating Christianity in their own image.

FX Turk said...

Listen: I'm just as disgusted by this sort of thing as the rest of you. Let's be honest -- anytime anyone does this sort of hatchet job on Scripture, it's an affront to God and to the savior who spilled his own blood for men who would, well, do insolent and self-aggrandizing things like this.

But think about this: the Message hasn't taken off. The Word on the Street flopped like the final death-throw of a beached trout. tNIV is irrelevant -- it's not gaining market share.

ESV is gaining market share. NASB is expanding its place in what Bibles are used. And, for better or worse, the KJV/NKJV is still holding its own among people who (at least by confession) take the Bible seriously.

See: what's at stake here is whether people take the Bible seriously. People who take the Bible at all seriously -- that is, as if it says something which is even useful, let alone of ultimate and eternal importance -- cannot stomach this sort of trash. They read this post-Peanuts soft-soaking of the text of Scripture, and they see that it is completely worthless.

The Biblezines have been the only real eroding of serious Bible study -- and those are simply not read. The magazine articles get scanned (not studied), and the throw-away media gets thrown away.

Your work, as reader of this blog, is to take the Bible seriously. Be serious about the demands it places on you -- because it is both liberating and sanctifying. It doesn't drive you into a bunker but into the street and out to the marketplace -- to the modern equivalent of the synagogue and the Areopagus.

Yes: Phil is right. This "interpretation" is a complete fraud. But who will be able to tell that unless the genuine article is doing what it says it will do? And how will it do that without a messenger?

Check your feet. Make sure they are beautiful.

Dave said...

Phil (and other venerable Pyros), I have a question then, as a writer: Would all "retellings" of Scripture be considered wrong?

The reason I ask is that I'm working on a project right now that "remixes" these stories and parables, to perhaps gain a new perspective (such as the Parable of the Lost Son, from the older brother's perspective, or a story of Simeon seeing the Baby Jesus in the temple). In every piece, I've tried to stay as close to the text as possible, I have studied commentaries and other writings to make sure I'm not misinterpreting the Word, and I have maintained throughout that these are not translations or paraphrases, but creative examinations of Scriptural truth.

Would this type of project be too risky? Or are there some guidelines I can keep in mind so that I don't misuse or compromise the Scripture?

Ben N said...

this reminds me of a joke:

Jesus' body is being discovered and is brought at the Vatican. Now, 3 Catholic theologians are discussing what to do about it:
- I propose that we put the body in the middle of the square for all to see and worship, said the first one.
- No way! Do you understand the consequences of this discovery? said the other one. If Jesus is not risen from the dead, then our faith is in vain. We're all fools.
The third one looks at both of them with a surprised look on his face and remarks:Wow ... So there really was a Jesus ....

Liberal theology is no theology at all. A "new" Bible is no Bible at all.

Lee Shelton said...

Finally! A sinner friendly translation. Sanctification just got a whole lot easier.

James Scott Bell said...

dave, I don't think what you're doing is harmful. Most sermon illustrations would be harmful if it were. You're not presenting a translation of Scripture, as this new version from the Itching Ears Publishing Company is. You're providing your own insights into meaning. As long as you can defend them as being true to the Scriptures, I don't see a problem.

Kay said...

I'm glad to hear The Message hasn't taken off, Frank, especially as I keep seeing people recommending it as 'an accessible' translation for new Christians and keep seeing speakers use it in talks.

opinion-minion said...

There's a huge difference between
Good As New, the Message, and the TNIV. The TNIV is a translation, GAN (ugh, that looks horrible) and the Message are hip-hoppy paraphrases. Which, by the way, I flip through and chuckle every once in awhile.

By the way, the King James Bible took some time to pick up steam, and ultimately blew the Geneva Bible out of the water. When your grandma read you Bible stories, she wasn't holding a Geneva (I gotta get one of those sometime)

The popularity, one way or another, of a translation, doesn't prove anything about the translation itself, it only proves its own popularity, and perhaps good marketing skills on the publishers part. If GAN sold five millions copies, you and I still wouldn't start putting them in the pews! (I hope!)

Trinian said...

I really pray that God has a plan to save that man - otherwise, he's in for a load of trouble that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Al said...

I think this was put out by editorial team that put together the NBC version of Veggie Tales.

Of course if they use the word dude in the right context it might be worth a look. I mean, dude...

al sends

DJP said...

Dave, if you don't take your script, bind it in leather, and put anything like "Holy Bible" on the cover, I think you're all-good.

Doing some work of art based on Biblical stories is one thing; presenting a mangled mess as a version or translation or anything like that is wholly another.

Scott Bailey said...

"Take a running jump, Holy Joes, humbugs!" - The Ebenezer Scrooge Translation

This is a modern translation? Who talks this way? This one sentence alone should be an indication that the author does not have a grasp on post-modernity.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Back in the early days of the web, there used to be a great site called Mirsky's Worst of the Web, not to be confused with the current pitiful and non-funny imitation. Good ol' Mirsky, how I miss him.

Anyway, I was a semi-regular contributor of bad web sites, and we had a periodic correspondence. One site I suggested to him was a "translation" of the Bible supposedly for African-Americans called the Bible Chronicles. My favorite of the ten commandments in this version is number six: "Don't waste nobody."

Even Mirsky, a non-Christian, found this hilarious. My point? Even non-Christians find these "translations" ridiculous. You don't "reach" people with a parody of God's word: only the authentic God's word will do it.

LeeC said...

My stomach just churned, and I am not using that as a colloquialism....

How tragic.

Rest assured and rejoice in the fact that God Has, does and will preserve His Word in spite of all attempts by the deciever brethren.

They are simply building up condemnation for themselves.

Connie said...

It is sickening, but not surprising.

Recently had a discussion with a couple from the UK who were delighted at considering the "Gospel According to Judas". People will be attracted to anything and everything that softens and/or discredits the Bible and their accountability.

Depravity at it's finest.

Stefan Ewing said...

I guess Henson is a General Baptist, not a Particular Baptist. ;)

Stefan Ewing said...

Connie: Praise the Lord that we have Libbie to keep His faithful remnant in line on that side of the Pond.

Stefan Ewing said...

nath @ reformed geek:

I wonder how he rewrote Revelation 22:18-19?

étrangère said...

Cent, TNIV is picking up rather in the UK, given its helpful correction of some NIV errors, esp. with those who used the NIV but weren't entirely happy with it (e.g. it's unnecessarily chauvinistic - compare with ESV of all things, and you see NIV using masculine frequently when not necessary). It's a translation. Not one I favour, and not a theory of translation I think is best, but a translation nonetheless. Speaking other languages makes me appreciate the difficulties of translation theories! But it shouldn't really be put in the same category as Message and this thing.

étrangère said...

Sorry, when I said UK I should've said England. I'm fairly sure it's not catching on that much in Norn Iron, and I suspect not in Wales or Scotland.

Sparrowhawk said...

Williams' endorsement is still not as dreadful as Lucado and Maxwell endorsing Your Best Life Now.

Separated at birth: Rowan Atkisson, Sinclair Ferguson.

Kim said...


Frank, I really appreciated your comments. Especially the one at the end about beautiful feet.

donsands said...

"dreadful as Lucado and Maxwell"

I know Lucado, but Maxwell?

The only Maxwell that comes to mind is Maxwell "Agent 86, missed it by that much" Smart.

Andrew Jones said...

hi Phil. good post, as usual but there is another side to the postmodern angle on this.

One would assume that postmodernists are all about relevancy to the extreme, as you suggest in this post. But the opposite might in fact be true. Walter Benjamin (referenced in "the Task of the Translator" in the Postmodern Bible Reader) claims the dynamic equivalence is a modern enlightenment invention and he leans heavily towards the text's confrontation with its original meaning and not its transmission of meaning. as a great influence to post-structuralism in the 20th century, Benjamin's thoughts still influence a preference in translation away from such loose handling of the Scriptures and addiction to relevancy as you describe.

As for me, I dont even like Eugene Peterson's The Message very much, instead prefering versions that are as close to the original language as possible, even if some of the meaning is "hidden" and preserved, as Benjamin says is part of the task of the translator.

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

Donsands: I think he means John Maxwell.

Greg Welty said...


Read the translation of Mt 4:1-11, at the very bottom of this page. All the references to Satan got cut out. It's all in Jesus's mind.

wordsmith said...

That is simply appalling.

I think, however, that the endless proliferation of these "bible" versions is driven more by the bottom line than by a desire to publish (in the basic sense of the word) Scripture.

qaswedfr said...

Odd that Mark 1:10-11 is so colloquial, when Matthew 3:16 says "A voice from overhead was heard to say, 'This is the one I love and I'm delighted with him.'"

Though, the first part of Matthew 3:16 says the Spirit is female ("he experienced the coming of God's Spirit. She was like a pigeon flying down and perching on him."), so that makes up the lost irreverence later in the verse.

Also notice that this translation was published in 2004, it's not new.

Gregory said...

By definition, The Message is not a paraphrase, it's a translation. Peterson used the original languages to accomplish the work.

I would not recommend using The Message as your main Bible (neither does Peterson, by the way). I do, however, refer to it frequently because it puts into different terms some hard-to-understand passages and terms. For example, all modern translations pretty much use only one word to refer to God. But there are many different ways of referring to God in the original languages. And Peterson does a good job of highlighting those differences. For example, he will use God-of-the-Angel-Armies for Lord Sabaoth. All we get in the ESV (my primary translation) is God. Which is more helpful?

So I wouldn't refer to The Message and Good As New in the same conversation.

steve said...

I think, however, that the endless proliferation of these "bible" versions is driven more by the bottom line than by a desire to publish (in the basic sense of the word) Scripture.

This isn't the motive in all cases--altruism still has a faint heartbeat in some corners of the Christian publishing world--but by and large, you're right.

Dylan said...

Benjamin Nitu--

Your joke reminds me of another:

A conservative confesses "adonai," a "moderate/liberal" confesses "I dunno," and a liberal confesses "I deny."

The Shepherd's Desk said...

Sounds like yet another "Downgrade Controversy" in the UK. In my brief read of the comments, has anoyone considered that this is not merely a new version, but a violation of the Third Commandment. A drastic and deliberate misrepresentation of what God has said, thus blasphemy.
Could anyone shed light on any potential ties of the Rowan Williams to the Emerging movement?

How tragic that like Israel, this man has had access to the Truth and denied it. A true apostate.

"May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar," - Romans 3:4

I think there is an application of this verse here appropriate to the discussion at hand!

Sola Scriptura
Brian Fairchild

Stefan Ewing said...


I'm not necessarily knocking The Message (not having read it myself), but regarding the names of God, the ESV and many other English versions do in fact differentiate quite clearly between different Hebrew and Greek names for Him, so I'm a bit confused.

For instance, Zechariah 1:3 in the ESV calls God "the LORD of Hosts" which appears to be a translation of YHWH Sabaoth. The ESV uses different English names for different Hebrew and Greek names ("the LORD" for YHWH; "Lord" for Kyrios; "God" for Elohim and Theos; "our God" for Eloheinu or Theos hemon; and so on), and different name-combinations in English for different Hebrew formulas (like "the LORD of Hosts" above, or "God Almighty" for El Shaddai).

Jeff Fuller said...

Hey! This is awesome. This tool paves the way for all sorts of possibilities in my preaching!

Now instead of telling people that repentence and faith in Christ are proper responses to the gospel, I can just preach:

"Come down the aisle and ask Jesus into your heart!"

Bravo to the "Good As New" Bible!

T. Webb said...

I agree that this version and The Message are completly different. I love & use the ESV as my primary English Bible, but whenever I read my Greek NT or Hebrew Bible, I find it helpful to consult The Message, since Peterson usually nails the "flavor" of the original languages. And yes, while Peterson's purpose in it was to bring the flavor of the Hebrew & Greek into English, he states in the intro that it is a paraphrase. I highly recommend it as a supplement to the ESV or other more technically accurate translation.

Gregory said...


Okay, a couple of self-corrections. Yes, you're correct. The ESV does differentiate. It doesn't use solely one word for God, and I muffed that kick in the earlier post. But, The Message uses other imagery that is implied in the original languages but doesn't come out clearly in modern translations. I appreciate The Message for that.

Secondly, I disputed the fact that The Message is a paraphrase (technically it isn't) when just yesterday on my own blog I referred to it as a paraphrase. Most folks understand it as a paraphrase, and certainly it isn't suitable for use as one's main study/reading/memorizing Bible, so parsing it like I did was unnecessary.

Matt said...

Greg Welty pointed out something very disturbing! Not only is Satan removed as a personal being, but Jesus Christ has lost his mind and is delusional!? Apparently the Living Word has as much violence done to Him as the Written Word.

BTW, apparently I wasn't coherent when I put up my early AM post - I meant that, when measured against GAN, the liberal crowd can now rightly assert that they are obeying Scripture. Only problem is that this is not Scipture.

As far as the Message, I agree that it's not as over-the-top as this mutation is, but I think we need to be pretty discerning about promoting it to anyone, especially when there's so many good translations out there that were translated according to sound principles and are trustworthy renditions of the very words of God. If it's the original autographs that are inerrant and inspired, shouldn't we try to stay as close to that as possible? How does going to a loosey-goosey paraphrase bring a text to life if it's not an accurate portrayal of said text?

Carla Rolfe said...

Re: Greg Welty's link:

"Jesus felt he needed to spend some time in the desert to be clear in his mind which direction his life should take. (2) He went without food for about six weeks. By then he was near to starvation. (3) The thought came to him, "If I am God's Chosen One, all I need to do is to order these stones to become bread." Then he remembered some words from the old books..."

While none of this should surprise anyone, it is indeed revolting.

I read a short statement not long ago about recommending leaders and teachers with questionable character & beliefs, and it sure applies to the situation of questionable versions and translations of the Scriptures:

"On babies and bathwater: I don’t need to give my respect to men of dubious character or qualification “because they make a valuable contribution to the conversation.” I can throw out their baby with their bathwater because that same baby can be found in cleaner water elsewhere." Originally posted by David of The Thirsty Theologian.

Michael Marlowe said...

Thanks for linking to my article on the "Good as New" edition, Phil.

As for Peterson's The Message, which one person in your comments here has defended, I think some may find this review helpful:

The Message.

I do think it is comparable to Good as New in some important respects.

Michael Marlowe

Joshua Stevenson said...

What a new concept. Lets make the Bible less offensive and turn it into something everyone can not be convicted by.

Sharad Yadav said...


Scott Nelson said...

O-o-ohhh! I thought you said Robin Williams!