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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Australian Bible gets church backing
Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary is referred to as a 'special kind of Sheila'
The Bible, already translated into 2,000 languages, has now been published in a new version - the Australian - and backed by, among others, the Archbishop of Sydney.

Among other changes, the Three Wise Men are "eggheads from out East", while the Virgin Mary is a "pretty special Sheila."

Meanwhile the parable of the Good Samaritan is "the story of the good bloke."

And the Three Wise Men greet the King of the Jews with a cheery, "G'day, your majesty."

"I'm really aiming it at anyone who doesn't read the Bible and who thinks, 'that's a really boring old book, there's nothing in that for me'," Kel Richards, the author of the new version, told BBC World Service's Reporting Religion programme.

"This is not meant to be something that you'd read very seriously in church."

'Fun to read'

He stressed that the book's more light-hearted tone was what made it appeal.

The book has been endorsed by both the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and Australia's deputy prime minister.

"This is a reading book - it's what I call a bedside, bathtub and beach Bible," Richards stressed.

"It's what you pick up because it's fun to read. Anyone who thinks that the Bible's no longer fun to read - this is for them."

Newsflash: There were drovers camped out in the paddock nearby keeping a eye on their mob of sheep that night. Their eyes shot out on stalks when an Angel of the Lord zapped into view and the glory of the Lord filled the air like 1,000 volts. The angel said: "Stop looking like a bunch of stunned mullets. Let me give you the drum"
Luke Chapter 2, Verses 8-21 from the Australian version of the Bible
Richards, who is a writer, journalist, and Christian broadcaster, said he was inspired by a similar reworked version he had seen in Britain.

"There was a guy in the East End of London who was trying to teach Bible stories to high school kids - which you might think is a fairly nutty thing to try to do anyway - but it wasn't working, it was just going straight over the kids' heads.

"Then he had a go at paraphrasing some of the phrases into Cockney rhyming slang.

"Suddenly it clicked - the kids understood the stories, they were interested.

"When he'd done a few of these, they were published as a book called - The Bible In Cockney - Well, Bits Of It Anyway.

"I came across a copy of that and I thought 'hey, this has been done for a bit of one city - we've got a language here which no-one else on Earth uses, our own distinctive English, we need this done for us'. So I did."


He added that while he had been paraphrasing, he had wanted to stay true to the version of history depicted in the original.

"We wanted to be careful not to change any facts, not to change the sequence of events, anything like that - I was just changing the language.

"It took me a year, because it was harder than I expected it to be.

"The temptation I had all the time was to keep wanting to throw in little jokes.

"I had to keep telling myself, 'this is not you - this is Matthew and Mark and Luke and John'."

But Richards denied that he was trivialising the Bible with his translation, pointing out that the original text was not written in the most formal language at the time.

"The Greek of the original New Testament is not the Greek of the philosophers - it's the koine age Greek, the Greek of the marketplace," he said.

"This is the language in which a bloke stood up in the marketplace in Jerusalem and yelled out the price of his melons.

"I don't think it's irreverent - I think it's giving us a bit of a feel of what it would have felt like for the first readers of the documents."

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