crucifixion or lynching? a random quote from clarence l. jordan.

I periodically pull a random book from the shelves here at the library where I serve as a librarian and include a quote for discussion.  Today’s is a doozy.

Clarence Jordan was the controversial author the Cotton Patch “translation” of portions of the New Testament.  They are known for their colloquialisms and often shockingly worded interpretations of the biblical text. For example,  In the introduction to his Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, which was written from his communal Koinonia Farm in Georgia just prior to his death, he said this:

Likewise, there just isn’t any word in our vocabulary which adequately translates the Greek word for “crucifixion.” Our crosses are so shined, so polished, so respectable that to be impaled on one of them would seem to be a blessed experience.  We have thus emptied the term “crucifixion” of its original content of terrific emotion, of violence, of indignity and stigma, of defeat. I have translated it as “lynching,” well aware that this is not technically correct. Jesus was officially tried and legally condemned, elements generally lacking in a lynching. But having observed the operation of Southern “justice,” and at times having been its victim, I can testify that more people have been lynched “by judicial action” than by unofficial ropes. Pilate at least had the courage and the honesty publicly to wash his hands and disavow all legal responsibility. “See to it yourselves,” he told the mob. And they did. They crucified him in Judea and they strung him up in Georgia, with a noose tied to a pine tree.” — Clarence L. Jordan, The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John (New York: Association Press, 1970) 10-11.

Race was a constant theme for him. He renamed Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as “Letter to the Christians in Birmingham,” in which he “translated” 2:11-13 as:

So then, always remember that previously you Negroes, who sometimes are even called “niggers” by thoughtless white church members, were at one time outside the Christian fellowship, denied your rights as fellow believers, and treated as though the gospel didn’t apply to you, hopeless and God-forsaken in the eyes of the world. Now, however, because of Christ’s supreme sacrifice, you who once were so segregated are warmly welcomed into the Christian fellowship.

Say what you will about him and his translations, but the guy had a way with words.  But is he right?  Your thoughts?

One Comment Add yours

  1. The Kidd says:

    I think he has done what I do when I am reading the Word and want to think about it in my terms. I engage my surroundings when I read the Word, or at least I try to so I think this is what this man has done. He has saught to make it applicable to his fellow man. Some might argue you can not do as this man has done and bring the Cross to modern day but I agree with him. We have made the cross shiny. People wear it around their necks as a piece of jewelry with no regard to the meaning of “taking up your cross.” We as Americans have no gruesome connect with “the cross” like the people did in the day of the Roman torture/death. Needless to say I think we have to be careful with the liberties we take with the Word and make sure we understand it with the intent of the Lord, with that said I give props to the man for making an effort to bring the Word to the slaves of the South, and for shocking the heck out of the white Church goers.

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