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Now, to dumb down the Bible

Ed Vulliamy

A 100-minute, `user-friendly' book This is a gateway to the Bible for everybody. We have to face the fact we live in an overwhelmingly secular society and must do all we can to present people with the story and what Christianity is about."


  • Published at the Canterbury cathedral
  • In 57 pages, a pocket-sized edition
  • Among omissions, the book of Ruth

    LONDON: They may be the words of the Lord. But there are simply too many of them for the modern attention span. That, at least, was the reasoning behind the launch on Wednesday of a more "user-friendly" edition. The 100-minute Bible was published at the cradle and headquarters of British Christianity, the Canterbury cathedral. It is a 57-page pocket-sized edition, the latest in the long and often turbulent legacy of the Bible, from Hebrew through Greek and Latin to Martin Luther, the glorious King James edition and recent English translations. Entire cycles of frescos by medieval and renaissance painters may have derived from a few poetic sentences in the Bible, but the harsh reality of modernity suggests people just do not have the time to concentrate on the book any more.

    The man who had the responsibility for condensing the Bible was the Rev. Martin Hinton, who spent two years on the task. "We have sacrificed poetry to clarity," Mr. Hinton told people attending the launch. "Those who want a sense of the glorious poetry in the Bible will have to look elsewhere, but anyone who wants a sense of the story and the argument will find it here.

    "This is a gateway to the Bible for everybody. We have to face the fact we live in an overwhelmingly secular society and must do all we can to present people with the story and what Christianity is about."

    The Bible is summarised in elegant prose, without slang, and is not split into testaments. The Gospels are, said Mr. Hinton, "central to the document," with the Old Testament dealt with chronologically, "incorporating the prophetic books into the story and dealing with a few books such as Psalms separately." They and Moses get a page each as do the crucifixion and resurrection.

    The publisher of the book, Len Budd, a former chairman of the deanery at Canterbury, said: "Is it a dumbing down of the Bible? Yes, but that's the world today. Although we as Christians love the Bible it is very user-unfriendly. People just don't have time to read it. If this book means more people can answer pub quiz questions on the Bible, so much the better.''

    It was "not an evangelical document," he said, but a version aimed at "interested outsiders," especially "young people who, quite honestly, don't know anything about the Bible, the story, or Christianity at all." He added that it had been written in a style to encourage page turning but lacked "literary gimmicks."

    Mr. Hinton said: "In the words of Frank Sinatra, `regrets, I've had a few'. There are omissions.'' One of them is the book of Ruth, "which we just could not get in."

    © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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