4 Unusual Bible Translations

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The Bible has sold more copies than any other book, and it’s been translated into 349 different languages (though parts have been translated into far more—upwards of 2000 languages). In addition to the Chinese, French, and Swahili versions, you can find unusual translations in other languages, from real-life tongues to fictional ones.

1. Klingon

Star Trek fans often like to display their linguistic prowess by speaking, writing, and reading Klingon. So it only seems natural that a Klingon translation of the Bible would come into being. If you’ve ever wondered how to say “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” to a Klingon (or just a Trekkie in a particularly convincing costume), then be puzzled no longer: it’s quite simple. Make sure to get your glottal stops in order, and hack away: “Daq the tagh ghaHta' the mu', je the mu' ghaHta' tlhej joH'a', je the mu' ghaHta' joH'a'.”

2. Lolcats

Though it’s not a practical language, lolcats have invaded our lives online—which is why Martin Grondin set up the LolCat Bible Translation Project in 2007. By 2010 the best passages were printed in a book (LolCat Bible: In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh Skiez an da Erfs n stuffs). Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) becomes something altogether different in lolcats: “Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.”

3. The Word on the Street

Rob Lacey, an actor and performance poet, published The Word on the Street in 2003 as a modern-day version of the Bible, shrunk down to a more manageable 500 pages. Its cover is about as far from the strait-laced bibles traditionally seen, instead a picture of a lonely street in a built-up city.

Lacey himself was wary of calling his work a version of the Bible, but it did retell the story in more conversational language. Take, for example, his retelling of Genesis, which reads more like a Kerouacian beat poetry performance than a religious text:

First off, nothing. No light, no time, no substance, no matter. Second off, God starts it all up and WHAP! Stuff everywhere! The cosmos in chaos: no shape, no form, no function—just darkness ... total. And floating above it all, God’s Holy Spirit, ready to play. Day one: Then God’s voice booms out, ‘Lights!’ and, from nowhere, light floods the skies and ‘night’ is swept off the scene.

4. Pidgin English

If you're a churchgoer, you probably won't find yourself saying "rispek fi yu an yu niem" this Sunday. But that's the word of the Bible—at least in Jamaican patois. What you'd have said was the patois equivalent of "hallowed be thy name." In October 2012, at the Jamaican High Commission in London a new translation of the Bible was officially unveiled.

The translation came about through more than a decade of work between linguists at the University of the West Indies and Jamaican theologians. The immaculate conception is announced by the words "De angel go to Mary and say to 'er, me have news we going to make you well 'appy. God really, really, bless you and him a walk with you all de time", rather than the high-flying rhetoric of "And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.'"