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The Bible in Cockney

Well Bits of It Anyway

by Mike Coles

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Book Review

A rookery nook that puts the Bible into rhyming slang? That's The Bible in Cockney by Mike Coles. I've heard of speaking in tongues, but rabbit and porking in Cockney? It can't be Irish stew... It is. Mike Coles is head of Religious Education at a secondary school in London. When he moved there 15 years ago, he fell in love with rhyming slang and spiced up his lessons by rewriting parts of the Bible, like a missionary of yore, in the native lingo. The saucepans (saucepan lids = kids) apparently loved it. Here, he retells nine stories from the Old Testament, and translates Mark's Gospel verse by verse. He ends with the Lord's Prayer ("the prayer that Jesus taught 'is chinas") which could leave traditionalists writhing in their pews: "You're the Boss, God, and will be for ever, innit?" As the Archbishop of Canterbury suggests in his foreword, Coles takes the Bible "out of the formal church setting and puts it back into the marketplace, into the streets, where it originally took place." And he is right: beyond being fun, this book recaptures the colloquial nature of the exchanges between Jesus and his disciples, and unleashes some of the power of the oral tradition through which many Old Testament passages were originally passed on. Readers will either love it or hate it; it takes lemon and lime even to adjust to the headings (such as "Jesus heals some geezer" and "Jesus ain't dead no more") - but this is much more than a novelty project. Go on, I dare you - take a butcher's hook. "Crikey! This is a bloomin' good bible!" wrote one reader from London; "T'is top of me list! If yer wanna find out wot 'appens when "God is not 'appy" or what geezer slayed Goliath, turn ta this smashin' edition of tha holy text! Mike Coles is a top bloke fer writin' this! I love it! MWAH!"

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