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The Black Bible Chronicles Revisited: Word from the Author

December 10, 2010

As we approach the holiday season and church seats get filled with worshippers, we thought that we would revisit one of out most sort after posts from April 22, 2010, The Black Bible Chronicles.

Our post noted:

In September of 1993, P.K. McCary published the first of a two-volume set entitled Black Bible Chronicles. McCary explained that she wanted to create a version of the Bible that would relate to young people “in the streets”, and insists that there is no meaning lost through the translation. She felt that in order to reach young people of the streets and to get them to learn about God, the Bible has to be translated into a language they could understand–namely, African American English. Her version of the Bible is written with AAE features and vocabulary.

We then asked a question that generated much discussion among commenters:

What do you think of the Black Bible Chronicles? Do you think it will actually have a positive effect on the lower-class community and among speakers of AAE? Many people are likely to find her work offensive; not only within the religious sphere (for altering the Bible), but also among African Americans themselves, for numerous reasons. One is that the title (Black Bible Chronicles) suggests that all black people need or would benefit from a version of the Bible translated into AAE. We know this is not true, since every African American is not an AAE-speaker. Also, McCary’s version contains controversial and outdated terms and phrases, several of which are more like slang than AAE. Many people may also see her work as comical, and therefore fail to take it seriously. This would defeat the purpose of helping African American English speakers better understand and relate to God and Christianity.

And now we have heard from the Author, P.K. McCary, who writes to Word:

I find language an exhilarating experience of getting a message across. Just FYI for most of you, Black Bible Chronicles was actually written in the early 80s–but was part of my Sunday school class for urban teenagers. When talking about Joseph in the Bible and his refusal to enter into a sexual relationship with another man’s wife, one of my students said, “She was probably a dog anyway.” This generated laughter from the other young people, so my response was, “No, baby. She was a brick house!” And then we got down to real discussions rather than my finding his effort to be funny wasted. I used it. Still, some of your readers are correct when they say the language is problematic (which is why I want to reissue them), but like Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes before me, it depends on a number of issues–place of origin (I’m from Texas and no, we don’t consider ourselves Southern), when the language took place (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s–different genres of slang), and male, female–the list is endless. Hope we can have further conversations

We invite you to continue joining in on the conversation.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy A permalink
    April 19, 2011 9:33 pm

    I think that its great McCary published a version of the bible in AAE. Contrary to what some claimed about how it would lose some of its meaning, I think that it would actually become more meaningful to speakers of AAE. I do agree that the use of terms and phrases that have become outdated is controversial. However, if you think about, the original version of the bible also uses outdated terms like “begat,” “thou,” etc. which are at times cryptic. In terms of people being offended because they might think that McCary altered the bible, if we consider AAE to be a dialect of English or even its own language, then writing a version of the bible in AAE should be considered no different than writing the Bible in French or German. As long as the AAE version is respectful, and as long as it is used respectfully by readers and not as a joke, then I do not believe that it is offensive.

  2. Aaron Duffy permalink
    May 6, 2011 12:19 am

    I have to disagree with McCary. First of all, I think the bible is understandable enough to not require a “re-translation.” Most English translations of the Bible is neither AAE nor Standard English, but in a very distinctive prose and lyrical language (take the King James translation of Genesis). Literature language and spoken language have always been separate entities, so converting it to AAE or any other colloquial form is unnecessary. Re-translating a translation further erodes the meaning of the original texts. Imagine a colloquializing of Homer, Faulkner, or Shakespeare—the iambic pentameter and poetic genius of these originals would be literally “lost in translation.”

    I am not against AAE. I agree with any “colloquializing” of any text. It is not how the writers intended them to be read, and it is not how they should be read. Unless McCary directly translated the original Hebrew and Greek texts to AAE then I would probably be less disproving.

  3. Aaron Duffy permalink
    May 6, 2011 12:20 am

    *I DISAGREE with any “colloquializing” of any text.

  4. michael permalink
    March 9, 2012 6:28 am

    I guess I need a copy of this translation. I had one but lost it. Thanks.

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