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With the publication of a new Bible that translates the Old Testament into street language, PEOPLE asked Father Andrew Greeley, professor of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, whose recent novels include Fall from Grace and Happy Are the Peacemakers, to offer his opinion:
BLACK BIBLE CHRONICLES Translated by P.K. McCary
"Now when the Almighty was first down with his program, He made the heavens and the earth. The earth was a fashion misfit, being so uncool and dark, but the Spirit of the Almighty came down real tough, so that he simply said, 'Lighten up.' And the light was right on time."
So begins Black Bible Chronicles, called (inaccurately) by some a "rap Bible," which has angered many conservative Christians who think that street language is not reverent enough for Bible stories. It is not proper, they say, for the serpent to be called "one bad dude, one of the baddest." Or for "the sister" to reply to him that if she eats from the tree of knowledge she'll be "knocked off." Black Bible does not reach the literary heights of the King James translation, but it does not attempt to. More to the point, King James for all its sonorous grandeur is not exactly hip. In street vernacular the biblical narratives of sin and forgiveness, offense and grace, hatred and love come through loud and clear. This volume effectively conveys the essence of the stories, which is what any version of the Bible should be doing. If reverence interferes with that, then too bad for reverence.
Black street talk is marvelously vibrant and flexible. So Black Bible is not only vivid and forceful, it is also charming. I found myself smiling at the color and ingenuity of the language and also thinking more about what the old familiar stories mean. Whatever its impact on kids who live on the streets, a lot of other people of every racial and ethnic background might benefit from reading this lively retelling of the stories on which the religions of many of us are based. (African American Family Press, $14.95)
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