Streetwise Version of the Bible

By Bill Marvel Dallas Morning News | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 17, 1993 | Go to article overview

Streetwise Version of the Bible


Bill Marvel Dallas Morning News, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


AND NOW, if you will all please turn to Genesis, Chapter 6, Verses 12 and 13, we will read together:

"So the Almighty was hipped to what was going down. He told Noah that because of these hard times He was gonna get rid of the world. "I'm fed up, Noah, with what's happenin' 'round here. These folks ain't what's happenin' anymore, so I'm gonna do what I gotta do, and end things once and for all. Man, I'm gonna blow the brothers clear outta the water."

The Almighty hipped? Gonna blow brothers outta the water? Are we reading the same book, here?

Yes and no. We are reading the "Black Bible Chronicles," an "interpretation" of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, by P.K. McCary, a writer from Houston. Published by African American Family Press ($14.95), the tome will hit bookstores in September. But already, a first printing of 40,000 has sold out.

Subtitled "A Survival Manual for the Streets," "Black Bible Chronicles" retells the well-known stories in street talk: "And that bad ol' serpent told the sister, `Nah, sister, he's feeding you a line of bull. You won't die. The Almighty just knows that if you eat from the tree, you'll be hipped to what's going down."

In the book, God instructs Moses: "Go back to Pharaoh and tell him that He should let My people go. And if he doesn't, a real hurtin's gonna come that will have cattle droppin' dead, left and right."

It recasts the Ten Commandments in everyday language: "You shouldn't be takin' nothin' from your homeboys," and "Don't waste nobody," and "Don't mess around with someone else's ol' man or ol' lady."

Admittedly, these are not the rolling cadences of the King James Version.

"When I first wrote it in 1980, I thought of it as black dialect," the author says. "I just thought of it as black slang."

The 40-year-old single mother of three began telling Bible stories in slang as a sometime Sunday school teacher in Prairie View, Texas, in suburban Houston. She would tell her class about Jesus walking on the water, for example. And when she got to the part where Peter nervously steps out of the boat onto the waves, she would add: ". . . and he found it (singing) `Solid as a rock.'

"Over the years, I have found that kids just pick up on this language. For them, it's a kick."

Her own father, says McCary, would not have been so approving. "He was an educator and a minister. He did not allow us to use slang. …

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