Note: I apologize for my failure to use up-to-date lingo in this essay. Other more up-to-date words would probably be more in conformity with modern lingo, but I do not watch sitcoms, Entertainment Tonight, or listen to Top 40 radio, so I am ignorant of what they are. Please be patient with me. Also, if any of the vocabulary that I have used in this essay is too hard to understand, I will be happy to provide definitions upon request. I shouldn’t have used any big words, but I did.

Matthew 16:4
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.”

This could certainly be a confusing passage for the modern Christian who requires an up-to-date Bible in a language that he can understand. The problem here might not be immediately apparent to the old-fashioned Christian who is not hip to how the cool folks talk, but the problem is with the word “wicked,” which means good or cool to the hipster. How can someone who is in vogue with the most recent trends possibly be expected to understand this verse and the other 452 occurrences of the word when he thinks that wicked means good. He is likely to get the idea that this quote is a reference to a good and adulterous generation. This would, of course, pair adultery up with goodness. You can – I hope — see the problems that this might cause, especially considering the amount of adultery found in modern churches and television ministries. The NIV uses the word 421 times, so they too fail to deal with this archaic word properly.

Another word that has an archaic meaning in both the KJV and the NIV (as well as probably every other modern version) is the word “bad,” which the in crowd all know means good. Look at Matthew 13:47-48 for instance.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”

How is the modern hipster who must, of course, go along with whatever is fashionable among the heathen, or suffer the indignation of not being hip, going to understand that it was the things that were caught in the net that were not good that were thrown away instead of the good things, since bad means good?

It is even more confusing in verses like Matthew 22:10 where both bad and good appear as a set: “So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.” Likewise Genesis 24:50 could be very confusing: “Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the LORD: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.”

Those of us who are still old-fashioned, especially old hymn singing fundies and legalists, might pick the subtleties of this verse up right away, but can we really expect the young hip, hat-on-backwards, pants half-on, tongue-pierced, green-haired white boy dressed like an LA Crip drug dealer or circus sideshow star to understand that these two words are intended as opposites in these passages? He might scratch his head for hours trying to figure out what “cannot speak unto thee good or good could mean. Wicked actually usually means exceptionally good, so perhaps he would interpret it as really good or just good.

You might wonder what we are supposed to do about this. Unfortunately, I’m only a square. I’m so square in fact that I don’t even know what the hipster terminology is for square these days. I’m so unfashionably out of it that I use to terms like hipster to describe those who are not out of it. I don’t even know who is the latest idol to whom the modern Christian youth bow down to today or what clothing company billboard apparel is in at the moment. I’m so square that I even dress modestly, expect my wife to do the same, and often even wear a tie. I even wear a narrow tie most of the time. I’ve never been a free billboard for Nike or Tommy Hilfiger, and I’ve never even babbled into a cellphone clipped to my ear while walking about town. I even use turn signals when I turn or change lanes. If I were to try to come up with something that would fit the language of modern youth in order to bring them into the church with a Bible that they can understand, I might come up with something like replacing wicked with grody, and bad with nasty, but I’d bet that the hip crowd no longer uses these words. Of course, a word that refers to excrement could also be used or one could simply say it sucks wherever wicked or bad appear. I know to what the latter refers, but I do hear young hipster Christians use the term quite frequently, and have even seen it on Christian tee-shirts. I’ve heard it from church stages. It is likely to be well received. Swear words are quite common among modern hipster Christians, but it might still meet with some resistance (give it another few years). Another possible solution, and one that would probably meet with far more approval might be to drop both words from the Bible entirely. Other words that cause confusion could be dropped as well.

I’m sure that none of my lexicographical suggestions are very good, because I’m completely out of it (I don’t even have a navel earring or nose-pin). I’m not a with it media-designed young modern church hipster. What we need is a new committee made up entirely of young Christian hipsters from an ecumenical selection of contemporary churches who understand the latest worldly slang and worldly fashion statements so that they can iron out such semantic challenges. This way we can have a truly modern version that will not be a hindrance to modern church-goers. There is no reason for any of these members to know any Greek or Hebrew. There are hundreds of versions out there. They simply need to mix them up in any way that doesn’t violate any publisher’s copyright and insert new hip words. It is equally unnecessary for all of them to be Christians, or even to believe in God. There is room for everyone in the modern big tent that is the contemporary church, and none of the other modern version committees included doctrine or belief in God as part of their criteria either.

An even better idea is to make this modern hipster version in the form of a text file that can be plugged into an i-pod or cell phone. That way every two or three days, when there is a shift in whatever is hip and fashionable, the vocabulary can be updated to conform to that day’s trends, and it can be done automatically, even without the owner being aware that it is being updated (history is altered within hours by the networks and no one notices; why would it matter if the Bible is altered in the same manner?). This might also be useful for helping maintain that the version conforms to current intelligence levels. As the downhill slide in the intelligence of Americans continues to accelerate it becomes increasing necessary that Bible versions keep pace in order to maintain church membership. Eventually only pictures will be required, but until then we have a duty to keep the crowds coming with a text version that fits their mentalities.

Final Thought: If my series title were to be removed from this essay, I have no doubt that it would be taken very seriously.

John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.