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You are the voice. We are the echo.
The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo

Gospel according to slang

Will Gen Z see the truth of the gospel?

“Father, into your dms I slide my spirit.”

This is how “The Gospel by Gen Z” renders Christ’s famous last words on the cross as found in Luke 23:46. It uses the colloquial abbreviation for “direct messages” in place of “hands.”

As a collection of 50 stories from the four Gospels retold using modern Gen Z slang, this book continues the trend of popularizing the Bible for younger audiences. 

But this humorous trend has serious implications for biblical truth.

“I make no guarantee that my translation is accurate,” the translator said in the book’s preface. “Please consult your own trusted theologians and have them verify the veracity of this book to your own satisfaction.”

With such a warning given by the author themselves, it is important to be cautious and prayerful about how we integrate the Bible into our culture.

Linda Taylor, assistant professor of professional writing, has 30 years of experience in Christian publishing, including Bible versions such as the Life Application Study Bible. She worked with all the notes and ancillary material to match each version.

“It depends on the motivation of the people behind it and how seriously they take being correct to the truth of the story,” she said.

She emphasized biblical accuracy, highlighting a children’s book that had Jesus telling John the Baptist he had come to the Jordan River to have John wash away his sins — a blatant contradiction of Matthew 3:13-17.

Another important consideration when integrating Scripture into Gen Z slang is to understand the difference between a paraphrase and a translation. 

“A translation attempts to tell the reader what the original text says; a paraphrase attempts to tell the reader what the passage means,” Taylor said. “Therefore, a paraphrase is more of a commentary on the text than it is an accurate rendering of what the text actually says.”

To this end, “The Gospel by Gen Z” functions as a translation by providing a substantial word-for-word glossary in the back of the book. Phrases such as “spill the tea” (meaning “reveal information”) and “trust the algorithm” (meaning “have faith”) are liberally defined.

In the context of Bible translation, the concept of dynamic equivalence comes into play. This approach seeks to make the text understandable, going for more thought-for-thought instead of a literal meaning.

Phil Collins, department chair and professor of Christian ministries and director of the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, said no translation can be word-for-word due to the grammar and mechanics of each language. However, he said that dynamic equivalence operates on a spectrum of literality and readability.

“Another word for dynamic equivalence translations, if it keeps going, is a paraphrase,” Collins said.

When used wisely, the Gen Z Bible can lead people closer to Christ who otherwise wouldn’t be interested.

Jenny Collins, associate professor of intercultural studies, said that people feel affirmed in their culture whenever they receive a Bible they can read.

“People will say, ‘The God of the Bible speaks my language?’” Jenny Collins said.

She also added that paraphrases or translations such as the Gen Z Bible help her contemplate Scripture in fresh ways.

The effectiveness of the Gen Z Bible lies in its potential for positive influence, however silly that influence appears to some.

As we ponder the nature of God’s word, let us all trust the algorithm as we seek to bring God’s love to a world desperately in need.