After all these years, one could assume the Bible has held up pretty well, but a group of conservatives in the United States thinks it needs a rewrite.
The folks behind Conservapedia, a right-leaning version of Wikipedia, have launched the Conservative Bible Project, aimed at getting rid of what they call liberal bias, wordiness, emasculation and a general dumbing down of the Old and New Testaments.
A dozen or so users, led by Conservapedia founder Andy Schlafly - the son of conservative political activist Phyllis Schlafly - are tackling the 27 books of the New Testament and 39 books of the Old Testament. Anyone can offer suggested changes.
Mr. Schlafly is a Princeton- and Harvard-educated lawyer and home-school teacher in New Jersey who began Conservapedia in 2006 because he felt Wikipedia was too liberal and anti-Christian. He believes the project will restore the Bible to its original intent.
"The trouble is, new translations of the Bible are done by professors at liberal universities who overwhelmingly voted for Obama," Mr. Schlafly said. "Their political bias seeps into their translations and we felt it necessary to counteract that with one that uproots and eradicates any liberal bias."
In Mark 3:6, for example, they have changed "Pharisees" - the Jews who were regarded as antagonists of Jesus - to "Liberals" though one user helpfully suggested "self-proclaimed elite." The "girl" who danced in the Gospel of Mark, causing King Herod to behead John the Baptist, is more accurately referred to as a "temptress," Mr. Schlafly said. And "hell" isn't used nearly often enough, conveying liberal permissiveness.
News of the project emerged on the blogosphere this week. The reaction is predictably sardonic, with Rachel Weiner of The Huffington Post quipping, "Lo and behold, the Bible has gotten too liberal. ... Yes, even scripture is not orthodox enough for the modern conservative."
Conservapedia writes on its website that one benefit of the effort is that while "Liberals will oppose it, they will have to read the Bible to criticize it, and that will open their minds."
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow told viewers that when she first heard about the Conservative Bible Project, she "couldn't quite believe it isn't a joke." On Wednesday night, comedian Stephen Colbert challenged viewers to join the rewrite effort and add him as a biblical figure.
Mark 6:3 is lyrical in the King James Version: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him."
The rewrite takes a less poetic tact: "Isn't this a mere carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Juda and Simon? Don't we also know his sisters here? The public was not open-minded about Jesus."
James McGrath, associate professor of religion at Butler University in Indianapolis, said the translators don't appear to have any knowledge of the text's original meaning.
"If it's an attempt at humour, it's hilarious, but I have a sinking feeling it's something else - that conservatives are realizing the Bible does not always serve their interests, something the rest of us have known for some time," he said.
"But some element of humour should be part of a healthy response to this, because there's a danger that taking it too seriously gives it credibility it wouldn't otherwise have."
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