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John Henson, ed., Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures. New Alresford, Hampshire (U.K.): O Books (Imprint of John Hunt Publishing), 2004. ISBN: 1903816734.
This "radical retelling" of the New Testament drew widespread attention in England when it appeared in June 2004, mainly because it contained a forward written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he expressed his hope that the version would find a wide readership. A brief review published in the Times of London pointed out that apparently one goal of the version was to eliminate biblical strictures against homosexual and other illicit sex: "St Paul's notorious condemnations of gay sex are deleted and Christians are told to go out and have more sex." (1) The version's chief editor, John Henson, responded to the Times with a letter in which he asserted that the Good as New version eliminated nothing, but was merely "less homophobically translated" than the old "slanted translations" which have "notoriously and shamefully used by the Church in times past." He indignantly declared that "the time has come for this to stop." (2)
For an example of a "less homophobically translated" passage we may take Romans 1:26-27:
God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Good as New
God let them go on to pursue their selfish desires. Women use their charms to further their own ends. Men, instead of being friends, ruthlessly exploit one another.
In addition to this kind of politically correct censorship, the version also offended the public by departing from the traditional canon of Scripture, omitting several of the Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude), and the Revelation of John. In their stead, Henson substitutes an ancient Gnostic tractate known as the "Gospel of Thomas," a favorite text of the neo-Gnostic "New Age" spiritual movement. The version's publisher ludicrously asserts that this represents "a return to the selection of books which were held in the highest esteem by the early Church in the first two centuries." (3) Yet it seems that Henson could not refrain from meddling with the "Gospel of Thomas" either. He transforms the misogynist ending of the tractate into a feminist slogan: "Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For ...
...every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven. (4)
Good as New
...every woman who insists on equality with men is fit to be a citizen in God’s New World.
The publisher's website gave the following information about the version's editor and its sponsoring organization:
John Henson is a retired Baptist minister who has been the translation co-ordinator on behalf of ONE for Christian Exploration for the last twelve years. ONE is a network of radical Christians and over twenty organisations in the UK. In different ways they work to renew the Church from within, believing that all denominations should make more rapid progress towards unity and a more urgent response to contemporary issues. This translation is unique in being a community translation in which anyone interested in the work, not just members of the ONE community, have been welcomed to contribute. Contributions have come from all across the spectrum, from fundamentalists to liberals, all denominations, and hundreds of people have been involved. The criteria for inclusion has been understanding the aims of the translation, which is clarity for the ordinary person.
The method employed in this version is comparable to Eugene Peterson's way of treating the Bible in The Message (1993). It is much too interpretive to be called a translation, and it can only be called an imaginative paraphrase. In the Introduction Henson predictably invokes principles of modern translation theory (viz., dynamic equivalence) to justify the liberties he has taken with the text. He stresses the need to use "the language of the majority of ordinary people," the language "understood by everybody," so that nothing will hinder "the first-time reader" from "instant comprehension." He asserts that all translations embody interpretations, therefore "the common distinction made between a translation and a paraphrase is ... a false one." Like Eugene Peterson, he points to the translation of J.B. Phillips as his model. And, of course, he does not fail to repeat the old canard about the Greek of the New Testament being "street language." Needless to say, the version features "inclusive language." Gender-neutral language is used for God (eliminating the sexist 'Father'), and also for Jesus (the male-oriented 'Son of Man' becomes 'The Complete Person'). Yet on the basis of mere grammatical gender ('the Hebrew word for spirit is feminine') Henson argues that the Spirit of God should be represented as a feminine person. These arguments represent an attempt to justify the version's 'Radical Retelling of the Scriptures' as a true translation. It is claimed that the adjustments are made according to widely-accepted theories of translation, and that they represent the true meaning and intention of the original. Yet it is plain to see that the drift of this version has little to do with any concern for the meaning of the original text. In fact, what we see here is an application of the 'post-modern' hermeneutical approach which says that because our apprehension of the text is inescapably subjective ('all translation is interpretation'), the original text itself has no fixed meaning. It is whatever we wish to make of it.
In order to understand this version in its context, it may be helpful to mention a recent book by an Anglican bishop, Richard Holloway. In his book Godless Morality (Canongate Books Ltd, 1999) Holloway writes,
We either admit that God is, to some extent at least, a human construct that is subject to criticism and evolution, or we weld religion to unsustainable prejudices that guarantee its rejection for the best, not the worst of reasons, so that to abandon it becomes a virtuous act of revolt against an oppressive force that imprisons rather than liberates humanity. (p. 4)
Holloway goes on to explain that "unsustainable prejudices" persist in the Church because some people continue to treat the Bible as "a law book for all generations." Among these prejudices are "taboo against women holding sacred office" (p. 29) and the various "strictures against sexuality" in the Bible (p. 55), including "homophobia." Our response to these unenlightened prejudices should be "allowing the living scripture of our own experience to challenge the dead letter of the written law ... acknowledging that it witnesses to an earlier, no longer appropriate, attitude to human relationships" (p. 80f).
Because such arguments are now commonplace among Anglican Bishops, we can see how the Archbishop of Canterbury could endorse the Good as New version of the Bible, in which Henson does nothing other than carry into practice the low view of Scripture which now predominates in the hierarchy of the Church of England.
Finally, we will note that in the Introduction Henson maintains that Jesus never warned anyone to avoid "the wide and easy way" that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). At that point in the text he sees "a favourite picture of the Pharisees which Jesus quotes in order to refute it." Henson explains that the Church has completely misunderstood Jesus: it is the wide and easy way that leads to life, while the "narrow gate" spoken of by Jesus is the way of death.
Below we reproduce from the website of the sponsoring organization the Forward by Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Introduction by John Henson, and the first four chapters of the Gospel according to Matthew. The text reproduced here may differ from later printings of the version, as Henson has stated that "there is nothing final about this translation. It is a rolling translation. It will be changed in future editions in response to constructive suggestions from those who find it helpful." (5)
1. Ruth Gledhill, "St Paul urges more copulation for couples in sexed-up Bible," The Times (London), 23 June 2004.
2. Quoted from the letter as posted on http://one.gn.apc.org/Translation.htm - accessed 3 July 2004.
3. http://www.o-books.net/goodasnew.htm - accessed 3 July 2004.
4. Literal translation by Helmut Koester, The Nag Hammadi Library in English (Harper, 1988), p. 138. New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce explains the misogynist element so often encountered in the ancient Gnostic literature: "The general rabbinic idea that women were incapable of appreciating religious doctrine -- compare the disciples' astonishment at Jacob's well when they found Jesus 'talking with a woman' (John 4.27) -- was reinforced in Gnostic anthropology, where woman was a secondary and defective being. Yet none could deny Mary's fidelity: to an objective observer, it surpassed that of the male disciples. Jesus's promise that she will become a man, so as to gain admittance to the kingdom of heaven, envisages the reintegration of the original order, when Adam was created male and female (Genesis 1.27). Adam was 'the man' as much before the removal of Eve from his side as after (Genesis 2.18-25). Therefore, when the primal unity is restored and death is abolished, man will still be man (albeit more perfectly so), but woman will no longer be woman; she will be reabsorbed into man." --F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, pp. 153-154.
5. Letter to the editor of the Times, http://one.gn.apc.org/Translation.htm - accessed 3 July 2004.
What would Christianity look like, what would Christian language sound like, if we really tried to screen out the stale, the technical, the unconsciously exclusive words and policies and to hear as if for the first time what the Christian scriptures were saying? John Henson has devoted much of his life to wrestling with this challenge, and has for many people made those scriptures speak as never before - indeed, as for the first time. Patiently and boldly, he has teased out implications, gone back to roots, linguistic and theological, and re-imagined the process in which a genuinely new language was brought to birth by those who had listened to Jesus because they knew they were in a genuinely new world.
"Some of John's versions will startle; but only because we have forgotten what the impact might have been in the ancient world of a small library of books written in the dialect of the streets and shops, with many of the leading characters identified by slightly outlandish nicknames. And also, because we have not much living language left for authority figures, we fail to sense the impact of the images of royalty and so on in the pages of scripture; we need other terms to make them come alive.
"John's presentation of the Christian gospel is of extraordinary power simply because it is so close to the prose and poetry of ordinary life. Instead of being taken into a specialized religious frame of reference - as happens even with the most conscientious of formal modern translations - and being given a gospel addressed to specialized concerns - as happens with even the most careful of modern "devotional" books - we have here a vehicle for thinking and worshiping that is fully earthed, recognizably about our humanity. Here are sensitive meditations, blunt and beautiful prayers, familiar hymns made fresh (polished and re-set as John likes to say). The Gospels tell us that Jesus' unprofessional and unreligious audiences heard him gladly; if they are to hear him gladly today, they will need something like John's renderings for this to be plausible. His work is for a large part of the "religious" reading public a well-kept secret; I hope that this book will help the secret to be shared, and to spread in epidemic profusion through religious and irreligious alike."
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Despite the fact that my shelves, and yours probably, are sagging beneath the weight of all the translations of the scriptures which have appeared in the past forty years or so, we still await a version which strikes as a genuinely contemporary version. Life and language move so quickly that it is a matter of running to stay on the same spot, and translators of the scriptures are characterised by care and caution rather than by the need to keep pace. Move on we must, however, if we believe the scriptures have abiding value for every age and culture as a unique record of humankind's adventure with God. Two things need to be done. In the first place scholars must continue to study the original languages and explore the cultural situations they expressed. This work has been done very well in the past hundred years and there are commentaries full of sound scholastic argument for the probable meaning or meanings of every word of the received texts. Rarely, however, is there total agreement on the precise meaning of any particular passage, only a study of the options. The choice means that the translator can never avoid a bias of a sort. An attempt at word-for-word translation of the Greek or Hebrew, even if possible, would not produce clarity but mystery and ambiguity. In order to clarify, the translator must opt, and this accounts for quite conflicting meanings in differing translations, which nevertheless claim to be true translations rather than paraphrases. Did Jesus say to Simon Peter, "Do you love me more than all else?" (NEB) or "… more than these others?" (REV)? Both are possible, but which you choose will strongly affect the total meaning of the incident recorded. It is no help to take the line of the NIV, which translates "more than these." This allows us to make up our own minds but is of itself meaningless since we are given no clue as to the 'these' referred to. Too much of this kind of ambiguity will confuse or bore especially the first-time reader who is seeking meaning not a puzzle. The common distinction made between a translation and a paraphrase is thus a false one. What usually passes for a paraphrase rather than a translation indicates the degree of venturesomeness in elucidating the meaning. This is what most readers want unless they are scholars, in which case they should be directed to the original languages. We need to warn people that no translation or paraphrase is any more than somebody's intelligent, scholarly, inspired and, one hopes, honest guess. For those who prefer certainty to faith this is a hard pill to swallow. We should always advise the devotee to have at hand at least two translations in order to preserve choice in the matter of interpretation. The work of scholarship must go on in order to check avoidable inaccuracies and to open up the field of options.
The second thing needed is a combination of "human skills." The scriptures were written by real people for real people. We must assume a common humanity between the first writers and readers and ourselves, otherwise we may as well give up from the start. Nobody will communicate anything to anybody. However, within our common humanity people differ. Some people are held to be more "religious." Others are thought to be more down-to-earth. Some revel in wandering through the forests of scholarship and doctrinal dispute, others want to get to the point, otherwise they are not interested. The problem is that those who translate the scriptures have always been religious and scholarly and heavily committed in the matter of doctrine. To such people communicating with the rough and ready is difficult and for many of them it does not occur that they need to try. They translate in the language of an academic elite and assume this is the language which ought to be spoken by everybody else. I remember asking J.B. Phillips in a seminar what was the essential difference between the language of his translation and the language of the New English Bible, which had just appeared. He replied, "I read the Daily Mirror, the translators of the New English Bible read the Times." J.B. Phillips produced single-handed the best translation of the twentieth century simply because, at the time, it came nearer than anything else available to the language of the majority of ordinary people. It was thus downgraded in some quarters as a paraphrase, and indeed J.B. Phillips humbly claimed no more for it. Such a view suggested that the other translations were not paraphrases. But who translates more effectively — the one who translates in the language of an enclosed circle or the one who translates in a language understood by everybody?
According to the record of the Gospels, the genius of Jesus lay in his ability to put into language which could be grasped by ordinary folk things which the scribes obscured by their sophistication or pedantry. "He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes." The trouble is that Jesus' words and the words of his followers have been translated for us over and over again by those very scribes and Pharisees. "He spoke as one having authority" is ironically, a good example of a scribe-type translation. What someone in the crowds who heard Jesus for the first time would have said would have been something like, "That chap knows what he's talking about!" The question of authority is a scribal question, ("By what authority do you do these things?") Jesus was in the business of making God intelligible and lovable to ordinary people. So what is required to turn our scholarly paraphrases into lively translations is the spirit of the founder, the feeling for what makes contact with Ms. or Mr. Average — imagination and more imagination, based on a common and sympathetic humanity. Imagination is essential for translating and interpreting the scriptures. If you use your imagination you may get it wrong. If you don't use your imagination you are bound to get it wrong!
The Good As New version of the early Christian scriptures seeks to be an "inclusive translation" and this means in the first place inclusive of those who are neither Pharisees nor Scribes. Ordinary people, even those with university degrees, rarely use correct grammar when they speak. The Gospel-writers used the simplest, most straightforward Greek. It is therefore bad translation to put the gospels into sophisticated English. We avoid descriptions such as "Pharisee," which will require the novice to go to a Bible reference book for an explanation. Instead we seek descriptions which are immediate and require no explanation, such as "one of the strict set." Some words which started off as common, homely words in the original Greek have been allowed to become formal ecclesiastical terms by not being translated but left in Greek. Thus "baptise" for the Greek indicated "dip," but to us it has become exclusively the word for a religious rite, losing its common meaning on the way. When Jesus called Simon "Peter" it indicated something like our "Rocky." Previous translators simply fail to translate and Peter becomes a surname instead of an affectionate nickname. When we see a dove in the street we call it a pigeon! Numerous are the lay folk who when asked to read "the lesson" say, "Please don't give me a reading with lots of big words." Names from other languages and countries can be a block to instant comprehension. We have tried in the translations to produce shorter and more familiar names, either by the common practice of shortening e.g. Nick for Nicodemus, or by choosing a name which reflects the meaning of the Greek or Hebrew name e.g. Ray for Apollos (the sun God). (The first Christians shortened names in the same way e.g. Priscilla into Prisca, our "Cilla.") We have also translated some Biblical place names — Dategrove for Bethany, Fishtown for Bethsaida etc. thus restoring the meaning they would have had for contemporaries.
More controversial is our principle of "cultural translation." We translate "demon possession" as "mental illness," which is what the instances in the Gospels would be called by most people nowadays. We can still relate to these stories provided we understand that the purpose of their telling is to demonstrate the healing abilities of Jesus rather than to assert the existence of demons.
As the translation has progressed we have also become aware of the need for "contextual translation." The Greek can never be translated word for word. Neither should it be translated sentence by sentence, or even in some instances paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes the scripture writers developed what they wished to say over longer sections. For example, the words of Jesus about the "narrow way" have been taken in isolation to mean that the narrow way is the recommendation of Jesus for us. However, Matthew puts the saying in a context that begins with a warning about not judging others and the narrow-mindedness of those who go about looking for specks of sawdust in other people's eyes (Matthew 7). Looked at in context, the narrow/broad way picture is a favourite picture of the Pharisees, which Jesus quotes in order to refute it. We should no more go searching for the narrow way than we should go around looking for specks of dust. Similarly, Paul appears to advocate celibacy by saying, as in the KJV "touch not a woman" (1 Cor. 7). A reading of what he goes on to say shows he cannot be advocating any such thing, for he actually tells people not to go without sex for too long. Paul is quoting someone else's opinion in order to contradict it.
"Inclusive" also refers to the inclusion of the feminine experience. The custom of using male language to indicate everybody is no longer regarded as a valid way of translating into our culture. Sometimes it is argued that the culture in which the scriptures were written was male-dominated and that this should be reflected in translation. We are among those who would reply that the ministry of Jesus included a revolt against bad aspects of his culture. His radical inclusion of women among his disciples has been obscured by successive generations of male domination in the Church and the translation of the scriptures since the earliest days has reflected this bias.
We seek to include the experience of the feminine in our understanding of God. That aspect of God theologically understood as the "First Person" receives no sexual bias at all. "Father" is translated as "the Loving God." The "Second Person," Jesus, is male, and although maleness is part of his humanity, it is secondary to it. So titles of Jesus lose their exclusive masculine sense. The cryptic term "Son of Man" becomes "the Complete Person." "Son of God" is translated "God's Likeness." "The Third Person" is regarded as feminine. The Hebrew word for "spirit" (ruach) is feminine. The pigeon, the symbol of the Spirit at the dipping of Jesus is also feminine in Greek (peristera). It may be argued that feminine, masculine and neuter categorization of nouns in a language do not necessarily denote anything other than a kind of convenience. To classify a pen as feminine means nothing in particular. However when a word like "spirit," carrying with it the idea of personality and creativity is classified alongside other words, which are also words for persons, such as woman and mother, it is reasonable to suppose that the choice of classification is significant in terms of sexual understanding.
Other radical departures reflect the need to demythologize in order to translate adequately into our own culture. "Kingdom of God" thus becomes "God's New World," "Eternal Life" — "Life to the full," "Salvation" — "Healing" or "Completeness," "Heaven" — "The world beyond time and space" and so on.
ONE was largely responsible for introducing the concept of inclusive language to these islands in its pamphlet Bad Language in Church (1981) amidst some scorn. Our position is now accepted by all but the most change-resistant. We hope the Good As New translation will prove a fitting outcome of that first stand.
It is important to realize that the Good As New translation is unique as a community translation in which all interested Christians, not only members of ONE, have been invited to take part, whether assisting in first drafting, amending, revising the language, offering helpful suggestions, or simply pointing out howlers. The project was the brainchild of Michael (Meic) Phillips who also provided the first draft of James, and it was he who encouraged me to set aside other tasks in order to undertake the bulk of the work. I joyfully acknowledge the debt I owe to a small number of people whose contributions have provided some of the most inspired and sparkling touches to the translation, or who have painstakingly revised the text.
Jesus, God's Chosen, has an impressive pedigree. His ancestors include Abraham, (2-16) Isaac, Jacob, Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar; Rahab (the Caananite prostitute), Ruth and Boat, King David and Bathsheba (the wife David stole from Uriah), King Solomon, and many other kings, priests and leaders. Jesus came from this line through Joseph, husband of Mary. They were the parents of Jesus, God's Chosen. (17) In all there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the time of the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to Jesus.
(18) This is how Jesus, God's Chosen, was born. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph. She was pregnant before they were married. This was the work of God's Spirit. (19) Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man. He did not want to expose Mary to a public scandal, so he thought to break off the engagement without making any fuss. (20) When he had almost made up his mind to do this, he had a message from God in a dream.
"Joseph, remember you're a descendant of David. There's no need to have any worries about marrying Mary. This baby has been planned by God's Spirit. (21) It's going to be a boy and you must call him Jesus. He will be a healer and cure people of their wrongdoing."
(22) The birth of Jesus reminds us of words spoken by one of God's speakers in times past:
(23) "A young woman will become pregnant and give birth to a son. He will be the sign that God is with us."
(24) When Joseph woke up, he took God's advice and got married to Mary that very day. (25) They didn't have sex until the baby boy was born. Joseph called him Jesus.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great. Some members of an eastern religion who studied the stars travelled to Jerusalem. (2) They asked, "Where's the new baby who will lead God's people when he grows up? We've seen a new star which tells us he's been born. We want to pay our respects to him. " (3) This news put Herod into a state of panic which frightened the people of Jerusalem. (4) Herod called together the religious leaders and the experts in the old books and asked them where God's Chosen was likely to be born. They turned his attention to Bethlehem, quoting words from one of God's speakers:
(6) "Bethlehem, there's no reason for you to think you are not important. You are going to be the birthplace of someone who will lead my people like a shepherd."
(7) Herod had a private meeting with the star-gazers, and found out from them the precise time the star appeared. (8) Then he gave them directions for Bethlehem and said, "Do your best to find the little boy. I would like to pay him my respects too." (9) When they had heard what Herod had to say, they continued their journey. They spotted the new star again. It seemed to move on in front of them and then hover over the house where the boy lived. (10) They got very excited by this. (11) They went inside the house and met him and his mother and expressed their pleasure at the honour they felt. They took out from their luggage the presents they had brought with them including money, medicine and perfume. (12) They had a hunch it would be a mistake to go back to Herod, so they took a different route back home.
(13) When the star-gazers had gone, someone sent by God came to Joseph during the night with the message, "You had better get your wife and little boy out of Bethlehem right away. Egypt would be the best place to make for. Don't come back until I get word to you that it's safe. Herod is sending out a search party. He's bent on murder! " (14) So Joseph that very night fled with his family as refugees to Egypt. (15) They lived there until Herod's death. This calls to mind God's words in the old books, "I brought my people out of Egypt."
(16) When Herod realised the star-gazers had given him the slip, he went berserk. He sent his soldiers to kill the children in Bethlehem and the villages nearby who were two years old and younger. He used the information he had from the star-gazers to work out about how old the child would be. (17) The people of Bethlehem experienced what Jeremy had spoken about in years gone by.
(18) In ancient Ram a noise is heard,
Wailing, loud and wild;
Rachel has lost her little ones
And will not be consoled."
(19) After Herod had died, Joseph had another message from God. (20) "It's safe now for you to go back to your own land. Those who wanted to kill your little boy have died." (21) So Joseph took his family back to Palestine. (22) But when he found out that Herod's son, Archie, had succeeded his father as ruler in the south of the country, Joseph was afraid to go back to Bethlehem. He was guided instead to Galilee in the north. (23) The family set up home in the town of Nazareth. That's why Jesus is sometimes called "The Nazarene".
It was the time when John the Dipper started speaking in the desert. (2) "Change your ways", John shouted. "God's New World will be here any day now!" (3) Isaiah, one of God's speakers, talked about John the Dipper. He said,
"Listen for the 'Voice' in the desert, shouting, "Repair the road for God; straighten out the bends!"
(4) John had a simple lifestyle, wearing only a camel skin with a leather belt and eating carob nuts and tree sap. (5) People from the south of the country and the city of Jerusalem were attracted by the message and responded by admitting their faults and being dipped by John in the river Jordan.
(7) But when John saw many from the strict set and their rivals from the wealthy free and easy set coming to be dipped, he said, "You poisonous snakes! I see you're wriggling out of the cornfield now harvesting is about to start!" (8) Let's see some change in your behaviour! (9) Don't rely on the fact that Abraham is your ancestor to save you from trouble. God can make new children for Abraham out of people you've no more regard for than these stones! (10) The chopper is ready; it will strike at the very roots of your religion and society. Every institution which has outlived its usefulness will be pulled down and disposed of, like rotten wood on a bonfire. (11) I'm dipping you in the water, inviting you to change. But someone is coming more able than me. I'm not fit to carry his sandals. He will drench you with God's Spirit and that will be like fire. (12) When corn has been harvested the grain has to be separated from the useless husks. That's going to happen to you. The one who is coming will do the job thoroughly. He'll store the grain in his barn and the rubbish left over he'll put on the fire until it's burnt to nothing.
(13) Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to see John. He asked to be dipped by him. (14) John tried to put him off. He said, "It doesn't make sense. You should be dipping me!" (15) But Jesus said, "Please do it! It's best we stick to the rules for the time being." So John gave way.
(16) After Jesus had been dipped in the river and was climbing up the bank, there was a sudden gap in the clouds and he experienced the coming of God's Spirit. She was like a pigeon flying down and perching on him. A voice from overhead was heard to say, "This is the one I love and I'm delighted with him."
Jesus felt he needed to spend some time in the desert to be clear in his mind which direction his life should take. (2) He went without food for about six weeks. By then he was near to starvation. (3) The thought came to him, "If I am God's Chosen One, all I need to do is to order these stones to become bread." Then he remembered some words from the old books, "People cannot live just on bread. They need God's words as well." (5) Then he had another idea. He saw in his mind's eye the temple in Jerusalem. (6) "Perhaps if I were to jump off the highest point I could prove I come from God? It should work like the song,
"God has friends who only wait
To lift you when you fall;
Soft your feet will touch the ground
Without a scratch at all."
(7) But then Jesus thought again of some other words from the old books, "You must not push God too far." (8) Then his mind formed another picture. This time he seemed to be looking down from a very high mountain on all the countries of the world. (9) Jesus thought, "All this could easily be mine. All I have to do is to be cunning and gain the support of the right people." Jesus quickly dismissed these ideas. He thought "These are the ways of evil. The old books tell us the only one we should try to please is God.
(11) Then Jesus felt at peace. Some of God's helpers arrived to look after him.
(12) News came to Jesus that John the Dipper had been put in prison. So Jesus went back to Galilee. (13) He left his home in Nazareth and took up lodgings in Capernaum-on-Sea, close to the border with Syria. It's as if the words of Isaiah, one of God's speakers in days gone by, were coming true.
"Country of the northern tribes,
En route for the Sea,
Astride the Jordan river,
Though you sat in darkness,
Great is now your light;
God will change death's shadows
Into dawning bright."
(17) It was then Jesus started to say to people, "Turn your backs on wrongdoing. The New World is on its way!"
(18) One day Jesus was walking along the edge of Lake Galilee. He saw two brothers, Simon (nicknamed Rocky) and Andrew, casting a net into the sea. They ran a fishing business. (19) Jesus called out to them, "How would you like to be my friends and fish for people?" (20) They left their nets and went with Jesus straightaway. (21) A little further on he saw another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee's sons. They were with Zebedee in the boat, mending their nets. At once, they said goodbye to their father and became friends of Jesus.
(23) Jesus went on a tour of Galilee, teaching in the places of worship and telling everyone the good news about the New World. He cured all kinds of illnesses among the people he met. (24) He became famous in Syria and people from that country brought their sick people across the border to him. He cured people with infections, muscle pains, mental disorders and those who had lost the use of their limbs. (25) Great crowds of people flocked to him from every part of Palestine, north, south, east and west.
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