In September 1966, the American Bible Society (ABS) released Good News for Modern Man. Good News was the New Testament edition of the ABS’s “Today’s English Version” translation. I hope to write more about this Bible in the Fall, around the time of the 50th anniversary of its release. If you can’t wait until then, I encourage you to get a copy of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society and read what I wrote in chapter 23, “Good News.”
Good News was a cultural phenomenon. It was one of the most successful religious publications in American history. Today’s English Version was a translation designed for ordinary people. The translation theory behind the Bible was called “dynamic equivalence.” It was less a “word for word” approach to translation, and more of a “meaning for meaning” or “thought for thought” method. The result was a Bible translated into common language that all literate people–educated and uneducated–could understand.
The response to Good News was overwhelming. The ABS sold 5.5. million copies of the new translation in its first year. By May 1971 it blew past Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare (which had sold 25 million copies) as the best-selling paperback of all time.
While I was working on chapter 23 I wrote a couple of posts asking readers to share memories or stories about Good News for Modern Man. Dozens of readers responded and I used some of the responses in the book.
For example, when Rick sees the cover of Good News for Modern Man, he experiences a flood of wonderful memories. In the late 1960s he was a member of a middle-school church youth group in California singing “Jesus folk-rock” under the guidance of older high school students with acoustic guitars. Rick’s church “gave out copies of Good News like candy.” As youth group started each week, he and his friends would “crowd in on the floor and somebody would start tossing–literally tossing, the Testament and a brown Youth for Christ songbook” to everyone in attendance that night. Like typical adolescent boys, Rick and his friends would start getting rowdy, using the copies of Good News to beat one another over the head. Soon the youth pastor would manage to calm everyone down and the lesson would begin. As Rick looks back on his experience, he recalls that his favorite parts of Good News for Modern Man were the “simple line drawings” of Jesus that filled its pages. “That was my Jesus,” Rick said. “Our parents’ generation had that sort of whispy portrait of Jesus looking medicated,” he added, “but we had the Jesus depicted in Good News for Modern Man…my Jesus was more intriguing, sort-of-kindly and calm.”
And then there was Stan. He wasn’t alive when Good News for Modern Man was released in 1966, but he remembers that there was a copy of the paperback New Testament at his grandmother’s house. He was fascinated by the newspaper mastheads on the cover and as a native Georgian was thrilled that the Atlanta Journal had made the cut.
Or how about Gene? He was a graduate student at Cornell University in the late 1960s. He had fond memories of receiving boxes of Good News portions and handing them out as part of a student evangelistic campaign on campus.
Una read Good News for Modern Man in a class at her diocesan Catholic high school sometime in the mid-1970s.
In 1972, Tom was a charismatic Catholic participating in an ecumenical “Jesus People” prayer meeting with Protestant Pentecostals. When they weren’t laying on the ground speaking in tongues (which Tom described as a “joyous Babble in the Spirit”), they were playing “Bible roulette” with their copies of Good News for Modern Man. Someone would randomly read a passage aloud an one or two people in the group would comment on how the particular passage was “intended for me.”
Indeed, everyone seems to have a story or memory about this Bible.
Do you have a story about Good News for Modern Man? I would love to hear it.