Hip and Holy

Debate over the relative merit of different Bible translations is so commonplace it is normally ignored but by a very few. Recently, however, ecclesiastic, and even secular, attention has been caught.

Hip and Holy

At the center of the current controversy are two versions of the Bible arising from the African-American context. Although each translator is seeking to make the gospel more inclusive of the experience of African Americans, the result has been discord; and the debate is over method not goal.

Caine Hope Felder, Howard University Divinity School professor and author of Stony the Road We Trod (see "The Hand That Interprets Controls History," December 1993), has edited the Original African Heritage Bible (Winston-Derek Publishing, 1993), an Afrocentric version of the King James translation. In the Heritage Bible, the words spoken by or to Africans are highlighted. And commentary by African and African-American biblical scholars is included prominently.

The Black Bible Commentaries: A Survival Manual for the Streets (African American Family Press, 1993), the work of storyteller P.K. McCary, offers the Pentateuch in a hip style, reminiscent of rap music. The author reworks the creation story this way:

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!"

McCary is herself struck with the splendor of the King James translation, but as a Sunday school teacher she is aware of the general disinterest of youth in the scriptures. Along with illustrations of Africans as biblical figures, McCary uses street slang to make the passages compelling to today’s youth, especially urban blacks.

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Sojourners Magazine May 1994
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