The Aussie Bible

G’day Jesus, say the three wise eggheads

A man by the name of Kel Richards has “translated” parts of the Bible into Australian slang.

The Virgin Mary is a “pretty special sheila” who wraps her nipper in a bunny rug and tucks him up in a cattle feed trough

The Three Wise Men are “eggheads from out east”…The Good Samaritan is a “grubby old street sweeper” who patches up the victim of a highway robbery with his first aid kit, then drops him off at the nearest pub.

The book has headings such as “Jesus is born”, “The Wise Guys” and “The Story of the Good Bloke”.

Even worse, this is being endorsed by significant voices within Christendom.

It has been backed by the Bible Society of New South Wales, with forewords by Peter Jensen, Sydney’s Anglican archbishop, and John Anderson, the deputy prime minister.

At first I was going to say that this was unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s indicative of the carelessness with which Christians treat God’s word today.

The difference between the “Aussie Bible” and most modern versions of the Bible is only one of degree, not of kind. If this statement surprises you, read on and I’ll explain why.

Many of the older Bible translations, such as the KJV and NASB, primarily use what’s known as “formal equivalency” (although I believe there are a handful of exceptions). The scholars sat down with what they believed to be the best set of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and did a word-for-word translation, as closely as possible. If they read a Greek word, they wrote an English word corresponding to it, with the necessary modifications for English grammar (for example, a literal translation of the Spanish phrase “la chica bonita” is “the girl pretty”, but writing “the pretty girl” is still a formal equivalency). Sometimes they had to add a few significant words to make sense of the grammar. In most KJV Bibles, these added words are in italics to show the reader that they were added. I’m not sure if the NASB follows this convention or not. The translators of these Bibles were deeply concerned about conveying the actual words of God.

This is entirely different from the approach used by many more recent translations. A more popular approach now is to use “dynamic equivalency”. Rather than a word-for-word translation, they attempt to translate thoughts.

As David Cloud explains, “The focus of dynamic equivalency is not faithfulness to the original text but the supposed “impact” of the translation upon the reader.”

An example will probably be helpful here.

Luke 9:44 (NIV) …”Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

Luke 9:44 (NAS) “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Luke 9:44 (Young’s Literal Translation) `Lay ye to your ears these words, for the Son of Man is about to be delivered up to the hands of men.’

I will pre-emptively agree with anyone who wants to argue that there’s no difference in meaning between the way the NIV and the NAS renders this verse. None whatsoever. But there’s also no difference between “Let these words sink into your ears” and “Listen up, y’all, I got something important to say.”

William Tyndale said “I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus, to give a reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one syllable of God’s Word against my conscience.” When Bible “translators” move away from this sentiment and freely rewrite God’s word in a misguided effort to somehow make it more relevant to people, they cease being translators and become paraphrasers. The “Aussie Bible” is just another step on the same path that begins with works such as the NIV and CEV, and continues on through the Living Bible and Amplified Bible, and has also produced such aberrations as gender inclusive Bibles (Father/Mother God), “jive” Bibles, rap Bibles, and now the Aussie Bible.

I wonder how the “Aussie Bible” translates this?

Rev 22
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

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13 Responses to The Aussie Bible

  1. Kirk says:

    The problem with your argument is that both Greek and Hebrew are totally alien languages to English. As a Greek major and also a person who took a few courses in Hebrew, I can assure you reading the texts in their original form is mind bogglingly different from the KJV or NASB. To give an example, in Hebrew we spent the whole time simply translating the old testament. The teacher didn’t have to be nervous about any of us simply picking up an English copy, because we could all tell immediately if someone had done so by the disparity in their translation.

    The point of my argument is that I’m sure to a Greek Christian 1000 years ago or a Jew the KJV or NASB are potentially as offensive a version as the Aussie or Rap Bible to you. Simply because you are unable to relate to their texts does not make them any less important. If people are going to find God, they need to be able to relate to his teachings. It doesn’t matter how the message is said, as long as it teaches the same lessons we’ve all been taught.

  2. both Greek and Hebrew are totally alien languages to English

    I’m not sure what you are attempting to refute by this statement? Are you denying that a (more or less) word-for-word translation is possible?

    I’ve heard the argument before so I thought I’d do what I could to verify it. I found a site that lets you compare Bible versions including the Greek interlinear.

    Here is the interlinear rendering of Luke 9:44 –
    qesqe (5640) {LAY BY} umeiV {YE} eiV ta {INTO} wta umwn touV {YOUR EARS} logouV toutouV o gar {THESE WORDS:} uioV tou {FOR THE SON} anqrwpou {OF MAN} mellei (5719) {IS ABOUT} paradidosqai (5745) {TO BE DELIVERED UP} eiV {INTO [THE]} ceiraV {HANDS} anqrwpwn {OF MEN.}

    This is certainly closer to the KJV or NASB than it is to the NIV. While a 100% word-for-word translation is clearly impossible, it appears that, as I originally claimed, the KJV and NASB translators did their best to leave the words themselves intact.

    Your argument sounds to me like “Well, it’s impossible to get it perfect, so don’t even bother.” It may be impossible to get it perfect, since it is a different language, but it’s clearly possible to do pretty good, like the KJV and NAS.

    I’m sure to a Greek Christian 1000 years ago or a Jew the KJV or NASB are potentially as offensive a version as the Aussie or Rap Bible to you

    Translating a Bible into a different language is different than paraphrasing God’s Word into “slang”, and I think that should be obvious.

    It doesn’t matter how the message is said, as long as it teaches the same lessons we’ve all been taught.

    I strongly disagree with this sentiment, so much so that it warrants a separate post. I believe that the words themselves are important, not just what we perceive the message to be.

  3. Kirk says:

    Well, I’m glad you realize that a 100% accurate translation is impossible. I agree, and also agree that its irrelevant (I certainly don’t think people should give up!) Contrary to what most Americans think, just because a foreign country speaks English does not mean the only difference is a cute accent. If you’ve ever talked to someone from England, they tend to be incomprehensible at times. While you call this “slang”, I call it their version of English. Thats why people write the Bible in Gullah, Aussie, etc. The words mean different things in their culture. Egghead means Wise Man to an Australian.
    As I said before, just because their version doesn’t conform to your culture or views does not make it any less valid. Should everyone be expected to learn the “King’s Good English” just so they can read about God? Do you expect an Australian to read the KJV with a dictionary so he can look up every word that, although we use daily, they might have never heard before?
    As for the importance of the words themselves, I believe thats going to just boil to a matter of opinion. I care more about other people discovering God in their lives in any way possible, rather than expecting everyone to accept him the exact way I did. To declare otherwise is no different than me walking into a Methodist Church and telling them they are worshipping incorrectly, simply because I was raised in a different Church.

  4. I’m glad you realize that a 100% accurate translation is impossible.

    I didn’t say that, nor do I believe it. I said a 100% word-for-word translation is impossible, due to differences among, and limitations of, language. For example, we don’t have enough English words to perfectly translate, word for word, the several Greek words for “love”.

    I call it their version of English.

    Referring to Mary as “a pretty special sheila” and calling the three wise men “eggheads from out east” is not a translation of the Bible into a language or dialect. It’s profaning the Word of God and we ought to be ashamed of it.

  5. As the publisher of The Aussie Bible, let me make a few comments.
    Firstly, The Aussie Bible (well, bits of it anyway!) is NOT a translation, but rather a retelling of the story of Jesus’ life, based mainly on Mark’s Gospel, presented in chronological order. Bible Society NSW takes its responsibility to handle the Word of God properly very seriously. The Aussie Bible (well, bits of it anyway!) is not the first re-telling of parts of the Bible. Walter Wangerin’s ‘Book of God’ and Jamie Stuart’s ‘The Glasgow Gospel’ are two other examples.
    Our aim by publishing this book is to interact with people who would otherwise never pick up a Bible or New Testament. Each copy will have a coupon so people can get a full New Testament to “read the full story for themselves.” The Aussie slang – which may sound strange to ‘non down-under ears’ is quite acceptable and Kel’s writings are in a long tradition of Australian story tellers.
    The Aussie Bible (well, bits of it anyway) is pre-evangelism and our prayer is that people will come to know the ‘fair-dinkum’ Jesus. The media and press interest has been astounding and Kel and I have had many opportunities to publicly share the Gospel story.
    Happy to answer any questions.

  6. Jim says:

    Martin, thanks for the comments about The Aussie Bible (well, bits of it anyway). We should all be happy that, in these uncertain days, someone out there is attempting to get The Word out to people who may not know it, no matter the form. Kel is just telling a story, right? Stories are what make up large parts the Bible. Jesus told stories in the form of parables to explain things to the masses, didn’t he. I say, right on to any opportunity to spread The Word!
    And Robert Williams: get a life, dude. If you’re going to be such a downer about the whole thing, why are you bothering to worry about the multitude of English translations? Go read the original Greek & Hebrew and let the rest of us use what works for us. N’est pas??!!

  7. Jim, didn’t Jesus say that man does not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God? Words are important. I believe God verbally inspired the Bible and we must take great care in translating or paraphrasing it. We must treat the Bible with reverence. I do not believe this is a reverent handling of God’s word.

  8. Tony Veasey says:

    I think that the Aussie Bible (well, parts of it anyway) is not only an excellent way to bring the story of the gospel and salvation to people who might otherwise never read about it, but it is also in accordance with Jesus when he said to go out into the world and spread the gospel.

  9. Jon says:

    I have three quote that sum up my opinion

    1) In the last days perilous times shall come.

    2 They shall heap to themselves teachers having iching ears.

    3) Having a form of Godliness but denying the power ther of.

    In fact all of 11 Tim 3 sums up the blasphemy that has been printed in this sinfull creation of man.

    Remember the words written “I am God I change not” this is yet another simble that the times of the Gentiles are nearly fulfilled.

  10. Graham says:


  11. Graham, “relax” is an admonition you pretty much WON’T find in the New Testament. You WILL, otoh, find things like “be sober”, “count the cost”, “endure hardship”. The Christian life, as well as the Word of God, are not things to “relax” about. This is a war, man! It’s serious business!

  12. Brendon says:

    I found this page while searching the web for details of this blasphemous ‘aussie bible’. As Jon said, this is certainly a sign of the apostate times we live in. I would not like to be in Kel Richard’s or Martin Johnson’s shoes at the Judgement, in the light of Christ’s warning in Revelation 22:18,19:
    “18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
    19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

    Mr Johnson says “Bible Society NSW takes its responsibility to handle the Word of God properly very seriously”. Are you kidding? If they actually believed in the Word of God they wouldn’t be so zealously perverting it.

    He says it “is NOT a translation, but rather a retelling of the story of Jesus? life”. If it is simply a story based on the Bible, then WHY CALL IT A BIBLE? It is being promoted as a translation, so why try to cover your filthy tracks by saying it now isn’t? The Daily Telegraph article says it “becomes the 2304th [language] the Bible has been TRANSLATED into”.

    The aussie bible is supposed to make God’s Word more accessible to people who may not understand the real Bible, right? Then why is there a glossary in the back of it? So that readers can un-translate back to English words or phrases like “popped her sprog”?? (From the aussie bible referring to the birth of John the Bapist). I live in the bush in rural Queensland and most of this ‘aussie’ bible is gibberish to me.
    Apart from causing the lost to mock and ridicule the truth, what do you really think that describing the Lord God Almighty as “the big brain behind the big bang” will acheive? Certainly not conviction of sin.. that requires God’s Word, and this perversion is not God’s Word.
    I firmly believe that Satan is responsible for the plethora of Bible (per)versions that are on the market today. Virtually all of them are translated from corrupted Egyptian manuscripts (check out how Jesus is a liar in the NASB in John 7:8,10 and how Jesus needs ‘purification’ in the NIV in Luke 2:22).
    There is only on perfect English Bible and that is the King James. I am no scholar, I’m just a farmer. I was not raised on the KJV, but I started reading it about four years ago and I have no trouble understanding it.
    Those who think that the Bible needs revamping and updating forget that this Book is a LIVING Book with POWER. It is the SWORD of the Spirit, yet many Christians today want to swap it for a blunt piece of rubbish that couldn’t cut anything. Instead of producing a new ‘version’ every month in the name of evangelism, how about we get back to the New Testament way of evangelism by preaching the Gospel using the unadulterated Word of God and then watch the Holy Spirit do His mighty work in the hearts of men.

  13. Adriaan says:

    I know I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but I only just discovered this page. The comments here are very interesting, and I agree with much of what has been said on both sides.

    I am a minister in Australia in a denomination which is frequently labelled ‘narrow-minded’ and ‘fundamentalist’ by the popular media. We actually take the bible seriously, and preach from it expositorily, in keeping with the practice of Calvin and other Reformers.

    I spent 4 years at college studying Greek and textual criticism, and 2 years doing Hebrew. I am currently engaged in post-grad studies in the OT. I love God’s Word, and I share the opinion of the Westminster Confession of Faith: ‘The Old Testament in Hebrew… and the New Testament in Greek… being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical…’ God?s word is the only rule for faith and life.

    I have enormous respect for the KJV. While it is not my preferred translation, it has been mightily used of God since its inception. In the tradition of the KJV, I prefer a fairly literal translation, although literal translations do not always pick up the nuances that a dynamic equivalent might (e.g. NIV). My preferred translation (save for its gender-inclusive language) is the NRSV.

    I have mixed feelings towards the Aussie Bible and Kel Richards. Let me state outright that as an Aussie who has lived in the country and the city, much of its language is gibberish to me. Brendon is spot-on. Kel Richards is well-known in our country as a specialist in Australian English, and has (with all due respect to his talents) become so immersed in the study of Aussie slang that it leaks out of him like no-one else I know. In short, the Australians I know do not speak as they do in the Aussie Bible. Kel exists in a language space that the rest of us seldom inhabit.

    I believe this translation / paraphrase / story / whatever you want to call it was misconceived from the outset. It is completely unnecessary, and I think it’s plain awful to read. I don’t know anyone who actually owns a copy, though I imagine someone does.

    Like Robert, I am very uncomfortable with some of its translations. The desire to ‘de-Catholicise’ Mary by referring to her as ‘a very special shiela’ goes too far in my book. This does not accord with the fact that God still chose to bless Mary with the privilege of bringing the baby Jesus into the world. I do not agree with Kirk that the term ‘egghead’ just means ‘wise person’ in Australia. It has slightly negative connotations. I do agree with Kirk that you Americans don’t understand Australian English!
    With all that said, let me say a word in defence of Kel Richards. Kel is one of a handful of Australian evangelicals who has actually earned the respect of the Australian public. He has been in radio for a long time, and, as I said before, is widely respected for his detailed knowledge of our ‘brand’ of English. I frequently hear him on the government radio station, which is widely listened to.

    When I say ‘evangelical’ with respect to Kel, I mean evangelical. He has done much to advance the cause of the gospel here. He has always clearly proclaimed the authority of scripture, the deity of the Lord Jesus, the atoning sacrifice of Christ at the cross, his bodily resurrection, and the necessity of repenting and trusting in him. If that is not evangelical, then I welcome a new definition.

    I believe that on the day of judgement, the Lord will say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ to Kel (though God will say whatever he pleases). Kel has earnestly desired to see the gospel advanced in Australia for a very long time. This is typical of Anglicans who live in Sydney. Our diocese is ridiculed the world over for its stance on homosexuality, the authority of scripture, the role of women in the life of the church etc. Sydney Anglicans believe the scriptures, and the rest of the country knows it. Incidentally, I am not an Anglican.

    Kel has written some marvellous books over the last 15 years. He has always aimed to write for the average person, and to present them with the confronting claims of Jesus. I believe this desire is continued in the Aussie Bible; I am sure of it.

    I do think, however, that the result does not reflect well on Kel. I feel the work lacks reverence — something that would, I think, grieve Kel — and I think it lacks relevance. It has failed on both fronts as far as I can tell.

    I questioned from the outset the need for yet another ‘translation’ into English while 2000 people groups still lack the scriptures. The priorities here are not right. Yet, as far as I can judge Kel’s character based on his past track record, I’m sure he thought he was doing a favour for gospel ministry here. Maybe for some people, he has. But not for this reader.

    I have no idea why Peter Jensen has endorsed this ghastly book. Peter is a well-respected theologian who has been widely-ridiculed for his stance on scripture. He has also been the source of some amazement, for under his bishopric the diocese of Sydney is booming as thousands of people are being saved and discipled. The media marvels at this phenomenon; I simply say, ‘The gospel is going out, and the Holy Spirit is working in people’s lives.’

    So to sum up: I give the Aussie Bible the thumbs-down. I feel it lacks reverence (though not deliberate, I believe), and relevance. It’s a dud.

    But as to Kel Richards, he’s a godly, hard-working labourer in the Lord’s vineyard. I don’t like his book, but I do not question his motives. The book may not be well-received on judgement (note the Australian spelling) day, but I believe Kel will be: he has demonstrated a clear trust in the risen Lord Jesus for many years, and has never been afraid to speak of it. Yet he is fallible like the rest of us.

    I have seen some wicked things done in the name of the Lord by ungodly men. And I have seen some unhelpful or silly things done in the name of the Lord by godly men who occasionally put a foot wrong. I believe Kel and his ‘bible’ fall in the latter category.

    Being well-intentioned doesn’t turn something bad into something good; but trusting in the atoning blood of Jesus does make sinners righteous (though not infallible). If the blood of Jesus cannot cover one man?s willing, but failed, attempt to bring the scriptures to the people in their language, then I fear for the rest of us unworthy sinners. This is not the willful sin of Rev 22:18-19; it is simply a misguided attempt to do something useful for the kingdom.

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