"A colloquial translation with a Southern accent"

also known as
The Cotton Patch Version of the New Testament


The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John

Clarence Jordan


            [PUBLISHER S NOTE: At the time of his death, in October, 1969, Clarence Jordan had completed translating, and had polished for publication, the Gospel of Matthew, and the first eight chapters of the Gospel of John. That manuscript was on his desk when he died. But the Introduction for it had not yet been written. In the Introductions to his two previous volumes, however, he had explained his purposes in making these "cotton patch" translations, described some of the difficulties he had faced in doing this work, and had stated his hopes of what the reader would find in these colloquial versions of the familiar New Testament passages. It is our belief that the following paragraphs, taken from these two previous Introductions, will provide the new reader with the background he needs for appreciating Clarence Jordan and his work.]

            The purpose of the "cotton patch" approach to the scriptures is to help the modern reader have the same sense of participation in them which the early Christians must have had. This approach is explained in detail in the first volume of this series— The Cotton Patch Version of Paul s Epistles. By stripping away the fancy language, the artificial piety, and the barriers of time and distance, this version puts Jesus and his people in the midst of our modern world, living where we live, talking as we talk, working, hurting, praying, bleeding, dying, conquering, alongside the rest of us. It seeks to restore the original feeling and excitement of the fast-breaking news—good news—rather than musty history.

            To be sure, this is a risky undertaking. For one thing, it simply can't be done with absolute accuracy. Matching present-day people, groups and settings with their biblical counterparts involves a good bit of guesswork and subjective interpretation, mingled with the best knowledge one has of both the modern and ancient situation. For example, I have paired the Pharisees with church members, and the scribes with theologians and seminary professors. This may pinch, and may well be challenged. In fact, I gladly yield to those who may do a better job of matching.

            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 Lu 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.

            But admitting the risks, perhaps the rewards will more than offset them. Possibly the wind of Pentecost will blow through our houses, and its fire enkindle our hearts. Maybe Jesus, the great interpreter of the scriptures, will join us and enlighten us on our journey from Atlanta to Austell even as he did the two disciples on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He may let us sit at his feet and wash them with our tears. Perhaps he ll startle us with his parables and powerful sermons, and sting us with his honest rebukes. He may come alive. And we too.

Koinonia Farm
Americus, Georgia
Clarence L. Jordan

Read  Matthew ....and..... John (Clarence finished only through chapter 8)

©1970 by Florence Jordan. Used by permission of Koinonia Partners

return to Cotton Patch Version main page