Seeking to bring the Bible to those who don't usually read it, London teacher Mike Coles has translated some of the best-known biblical tales into the colourful language of east London for the first time. And he's got the Church of England's blessing for his endeavour.
The book went on sale on Wednesday at an exhibition of Christian resources at Esher, west of London.
"I hope that my book, which is based on material compiled for my pupils, will enable people of all ages to enjoy reading Bible stories in a very down-to-earth way," said Coles, head of religious education at Sir John Cass Church of England high school in Stepney, east London.
"I also hope that it will help God's word reach out to those who wouldn't normally read the Bible at all because they see it as outdated or dull," he said.
To translate the fishes-and-loaves example: a Jim Skinner is dinner, Uncle Fred is bread and Lillian Gish is, naturally enough, fish. Geezer is Cockney for a man, or a person. In the biblical account, Christ miraculously feeds thousands with just a little bread and a few fishes.
Coles' book includes a verse-by-verse translation of St. Mark's Gospel and nine stories from the Old Testament, such as the tale of Noah - who built a "bloomin' massive nanny" (shorthand for nanny goat, or boat) and David, who killed that "massive geezer" Goliath with a slingshot.
The story of creation is titled, "Would You Adam and Eve (believe) It?" and Abraham takes his son Isaac up the "Jack and Jill" (hill) when God insists that the boy be sacrificed.
In a foreword to the book, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey applauded it for "taking the Bible out of the formal church setting, and putting it back into the marketplace, into the streets where it originally took place.
"This version puts energy and passion back into the stories," he added. "If it manages to get people reading the Bible, who would not normally do so, then it has achieved an invaluable work."
Coles said that he fell in love with Cockney rhyming slang when he moved to east London 15 years ago. When he started using it in lessons, he found that his pupils responded well, and the idea of a Bible story book was born.
Coles said he has had a handful of letters from traditionalists "who think the King James Version is the only proper one, but when I write back to explain, they usually understand." "This is not a replacement (to other versions), it's just an alternative," he said.
The book is being sold at mainstream and Christian bookstores in Britain, and has already sold 5,000 copies at 5.99 pounds ($8.50) each.
On the Net: Bible Reading Fellowship