Clarence Jordan brought the Scriptures to life with his Southern translations of the New Testament, his poignant sermons, and his inspired and insightful interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and what it means to Christians today.
Rich in humor and unsparing in their earthiness, Clarence’s translations and lectures “explode in our ears the mighty ideas which transformed the early disciples and enabled them to turn their world upside down.” (Dallas Lee, Introduction to The Cotton Patch Evidence)
In the Cotton Patch versions of the New Testament, Jesus was wrapped in a blanket and placed in an apple crate at his birth, lynched in Leesburg, Georgia and greets his disciples with a “Howdy” when he emerges from his tomb on Easter. From the introduction of the Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles, Clarence explains his motivation:
“Why a “cotton patch” version? While there have been many excellent translations of the Scriptures into modern English, they still have left us stranded in some faraway land in the long-distant past. We need to have the good news come to us not only in our own tongue but in our own time. We want to be participants in the faith, not merely spectators…So, the “cotton patch” version is an attempt to translate not only the words but the events. We change the setting from first century Palestine to twentieth-century America. We ask our brethren of long ago to cross the time-space barrier and talk to us not only in modern English but about modern problems, feelings, frustrations, hopes and assurances; to work beside us in our cotton patch or on our assembly line, so that the word becomes modern flesh. Then perhaps, we too will be able to joyfully tell of “that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes and have felt with our hands, about the word of life” (1 John 1:1)
“Another reason for a “cotton patch” version is that the Scriptures should be taken out of the classroom and stained-glass sanctuary and put out under God’s skies where people are toiling and crying and wondering, where the mighty events of the good news first happened and where alone they feel at home…
“Perhaps the main reason, though, is that the major portion of my life has been spent on a farm in southwest Georgia where I have struggled for a meaningful expression of my discipleship to Jesus Christ. With my companions along the dusty rows of cotton, corn and peanuts, the Word of Life has often come alive with encouragement, rebuke, correction and insight. I have witnessed the reenactment of one New Testament event after another until I can scarcely distinguish the original from its modern counterpart…”
Introduction to Cottonpatch:
Clarence Reads Matthew 27: