Building the Bible

Post-King James Translations and Adaptations

What are some examples of Bible adaptations published in the United States?

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), in his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, or the so-called Jeffersonian Bible (1820), rewrote the New Testament with drastic results. Using the original cut-and-paste method, Jefferson cut up a copy of the New Testament, excising all mentions of the Trinity and Jesus’ miracles, divinity, and resurrection. Also, he streamlined Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John into one narrative.

For his Cotton Patch Gospels, published between 1968 and 1973, Clarence Jordan (1912–1969) rewrote parts of the New Testament so that the setting is the American South of the 1950s and 1960s. So when Jesus was crucified, for instance, it was referred to as a lynching and reads like this: “They crucified him in Judea and they strung him up in Georgia, with a noose tied to a pine tree.”

Other versions, such as the 2011 New International Version Bible, reflect concern for twenty-first-century sensibilities by replacing masculine pronouns such as “he” and “him” with neutral pronouns such as “they” and “them.”

Not all versions of the Bible are bound in a book, however. Some versions, such as the ones available for download on iPad and Kindle, are digital. Some versions are audio recordings of actors and actresses reading the text.


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