The Golden Thread: The promise of universal salvation throughout the Jewish bible (Bronx Streets Translation)

“God says: I’m gonna have mercy on whoever I’m gonna have mercy on. And I’m gonna have compassion on whoever I’m gonna have compassion on.” (Exodus 33:19)

“God got mad mercy. Mad grace too. She don’t get pissed off much. Her love stretches down through the years. She lets people off the hook pretty easy.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

“God is one merciful dude. He won’t kick you to da curb. Won’t mess you up. Won’t off you neither.” (Deuteronomy 4:31)

“We all gonna die. We be like water spilled on the sidewalk. Can’t scoop that shit up. But God ain’t gonna take you out. He’ll come up with a plan so that even thugs and gangstas won’t be banished from his hood forever.” (2 Samuel 14:14)

“On this here hill, God’s gonna have a major throw-down, with lots of free food, and top-shelf drinks. Everybody gonna be there.” (Isaiah 25:6)

“Can mamas forget their babies? Can mamas stop caring about their own kids? Well, says God, they may forget, but I won’t be forgetting you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

“As I live and breathe, says God, I get no pleasure from the demise of thugs and gangstas. I’d prefer they get straight, and have a life.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

“As a mama has compassion for her babies, so God has compassion for those who respect the Eternal.” (Psalms 103:13)

“God’s good to everybody. Her compassion reaches everyone, and everything she done made.” (Psalms 145:9)

“Poor folk and fat cats have this is common: God gave all of them working eyeballs to see with.” (Proverbs 29:13)

“Is there any limit to the numbers in God’s posse? Where does God’s light not shine?” (Job 25:3)

“God’s love just don’t quit. Her mercy ain’t got no end to it.” (Lamentations 3:22)

“God ain’t gonna be rejecting nobody. God’s into compassion, into love. She don’t wanna lay no trips on no one. She don’t wanna give no one no grief.” (Lamentations 3:31-33)

“God ain’t gonna stay all pissed off. He loves letting folks off the hook. He gonna show compassion. He’ll kick our bad behavior’s ass, and throw our rap sheets into the East River.” (Micah 7:18-19)

Comments (11)

  1. Tim B


    Exodus 34:7 “7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear `the guilty’, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.”

    I guess I could keep going…I’d start by using a translation that’s not idiotic. I find this site just so hard to deal with because, believe it or not, I often agree with the concepts and thoughts shared here. But the way the arguments are laid out are just infuriatingly insane.

  2. Tim B

    my apologies. My wife said I can’t call this translation “idiotic” because even idiots need the Gospel. I agree. Continue on with the barely literate, 3rd grade reading level poor translation of one of the greatest written works of mankind. I’m here to be an ally.

  3. CharlieK

    Tim B: Congrats on marrying well. Sounds like your wife is a sensitive and compassionate woman.

    You quote the portion of Exodus that says children and grandchildren will be punished for the sins of their parents and grandparents. I have a question for you: Do you really believe that? Is that how you see God operating? If so, how do you sleep at night. Aren’t afraid you might be one of those children who will be punished, unfairly, for sins committed by someone else in your family tree? Or that your descendants might get punished for your sins?

    Let’s get real. God is either all-merciful or all-judgmental. There’s no middle ground. God can’t be mostly merciful but a little into judgment. Nor can God be mainly into judgment but willing to extend a little mercy. The Divine Judgment Paradigm and the Divine Mercy Paradigm are mutually exclusive.

    So you must choose, which one you gonna believe. The fundamentalist wing of American christianity (which includes large sectors of the Mennonite church) have bought into the Judgmental God. So, according to them, the majority of God’s creatures are going to burn eternally.

    On the other hand, there are those who’ve come to realize that God is not, and never has been, in the rejection business, and that eventually God will draw all creatures together under Her protective wings. This comforting perspective makes it a lot easier to sleep at night.

    So then, how do we read the bible? It’s simple. Anything that reinforces the mercy, compassion and love of God is worthy of taking to heart. And anything that describes a vengeful, jealous, vindictive God can be easily dismissed. Makes bible interpretation something even a child can do. In fact when most children read the bible they intuitively know which parts give faulty descriptions of God – those parts where God does bad things, things he tells us humans not to do.

    As for my Bronx translation: How many bible translations are out there? A hundred, two hundred? I don’t know. It seems like there’s a translation for every possible constituency group. But I’ve never seen one for inner-city youth, in language they could relate to. And why shouldn’t they have such a thing? It’s a little insulting for you to describe it as third-grade level. This was not aimed at people with an elementary-school vocabulary. It’s written in street slang, that attempts to make the bible sound the way kids would speak it themselves. Thereby making it more accessible than if they were handed the NRSV or the NIV or, heaven forbid, the KJV (which I find totally incomprehensible).

    I’m sorry you don’t like the BST. It’s just a little experiment on my part. Of course I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for people who inhabit a world that apparently is foreign to you, and that would make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you could work on that. Since the kingdom of heaven is going to be inhabited by lots of slang-speaking street people.

  4. Tim B

    Charlie, I didn’t quote Exodus 34:7, you did. I merely finished the verse you conveniently left out to prove your point. I just think that if you’re going to use the Bible to make some point, perhaps you should choose portions that don’t say the exact the opposite of what you mean.

    I don’t know what you mean by God is either all merciful or all judgmental. What is mercy? What is judgment? By who’s definitions are we applying those definitions? God sits in the seat of Judgment and He alone is Judge. The whole story of the Bible seems to sit on that principal. It’s about the perfect creation of man, the fall, faith, the law, and redemption. I don’t know how you can get around that. Your idea that mercy and judgement are mutually exclusive just isn’t true. True, the Church has done a piss poor job of explaining anything remotely important so what else should I expect? I mean, I go to churches where high schoolers can’t find the book of Matthew after spending their whole lives in the church, so no wonder I find myself constantly battling Biblical illiterates. It’s simply not their fault. I shouldn’t get mad at them, but I do.

    Your Bronx translation is really bad. That world isn’t foreign to me, I spent my childhood growing up in South Baltimore and the last few years living in NE Baltimore. You can read about it sometime.

    No, I dislike your Bronx translation because illiteracy isn’t something to be proud of. Because Ebonics keeps those who speak it from getting any sort of job where speaking with customers might be remotely important. Because language and IQ are directly correlated, and someone’s mastery of language allows them to process thought. Legitimizing stupidity isn’t compassionate or anti-racist. In fact, I can think of few things more racist.

  5. CharlieK

    Tim, I read half a dozen of your posts. A very interesting body of work. As a fellow urban person, I’m surprised you aren’t more sympathetic to the use of street slang.

    Listen, people talk this way. (Though I believe the term “ebonics” has fallen out of fashion.) And usage determines correctness. English changes over time based, not on what experts or books say, but on what everyday people say. The “proper English” you and I speak today was the slang of a century ago. The English your great-grandchildren are going to speak would hurt your ears.

    But tomorrow’s English, as much as it bothers you, will be based on the slang spoken in today’s urban neighborhoods. It’s an insult to call people whose use of language differs from yours stupid. (And I’ll agree to not call you a racist if you’ll show me the same respect.)

    Let me ask you a question: Is it more important for a young person to know where in the bible to find the book of Matthew, or to know the contents of Matthew?

    As for my understanding of how God works, it’s true, I didn’t learn much in 17 years of growing up in the Mennonite church and 4 years as an EMC bible major. Wasn’t till I chucked all that and used the brain God gave me to reason things out that I came to where I am now. Just like with the English language, usage determines correctness. My personal theology is usage-based, I don’t rely on experts or books.

    Let’s face it: there are as many different versions of religious truth as there are people who’ve lived. God has to respect an honest seeker, even if their version of truth is a little off. At the same time, there are those who don’t seek, because the brain chemistry they were born with doesn’t incline them to do so. God has to respect them too, because God created them.

    There will be no final separating of the sheep and the goats, no matter how much the early church leaders wanted it to be true, when they commissioned the writing of the gospels decades after Jesus’s death. When Jesus said that whores and IRS agents are at the head of the line to enter the kingdom of heaven, I believe he was saying: Everyone gettin’ in! That’s my slangy usage-based theology in a nutshell.

  6. Tim B

    As a fellow urban person I am far from sympathetic to street slang. I have no doubt that the majority of people who use it don’t have a reading level past the fifth grade. Stupidity and willful ignorance do not deserve appreciation. In Baltimore, where I’m from but no longer live, over a 1/3 of the population is illiterate. So, yeah, the Bronx Streets Translation sounds dumb…because it is. I wouldn’t get financial advice from someone who lives in a single-wide.

    Is it more important for a person to know the contents of Matthew or its location? Honestly, I don’t know how you could know the former without the latter. One needs to find his shoes before he can put them on.

    I’m sorry you didn’t learn much in Sunday School or college. I don’t find this surprising in the least. For the last several years I have been very vocal about my dissatisfaction with youth programs in church. It amazes me how the church can have a child for 18 years and that youth can come out of church without a basic understanding of the faith at all. They know Jonah, Noah, David and Goliath, Zaccheaus, Daniel, and little else. They have no idea how different parts of the Bible interact with each-other. They have no clue that Psalm 22 exists, they can’t tell you why Abraham sacrificing Isaac is important, or during what Jewish holiday Jesus was hung on the cross or the significance there-of. These things seem basic to me but the church doesn’t teach them. Sadly, the church is one of the last places to go if you wish to grow spiritually in the Christian faith.

    I appreciate your urge to use the brain God gave you. However, when we use our brains without the Gospel it is no longer God we worship, but ourselves. As Karl Barth said “God is not ‘man’ said in a loud voice.”

    God may very well save everyone. I don’t believe that will be true, but I do pray that it is. I seriously and honestly pray that I am wrong on this issue but I do not possess the keys to the Kingdom. However, your case, as you’ve framed it, is weak. Sadly, I could make your point better than you have here, and I don’t even believe it. You’ve used a horrible non-translation of slang you wrote yourself, in a dialect you likely don’t speak, using texts that really don’t support your case. And I find that just really infuriating. My pet peeve with the Bible, and Tim N can vouch for me on this one, is when people use it to justify whatever they want. If you’re going to do that, at least pretend to understand the text.

  7. Charlie Kraybill

    I think I may have memorized the books of the bible in order when I was a kid. But like so much useless information I learned in church, it got burned up in a blue haze from a hash pipe during my twenties. I still consult my bible regularly, in search of one prooftext or another. And I have no idea where Habakkuk falls in relation to Amos or Jethro. So I do the only sensible thing, and flip through the pages till I espy the text I be looking for. I don’t think there’s any great virtue in knowing precisely where a book is located, as long as my methodology for finding it works.

    I appreciate that Barth quote. I’m going to start using it, to reinforce my contention that the doctrine of the trinity is a church-created myth. And that Rabbi Jesus was 100% human, because there can be no such thing as a god-man. Thanks. And wow. Talk about synchronicity … my flip-through technique just took me to a verse in Numbers which explicitly says God ain’t a human being, nor a mortal (23:19). I suppose that’s why christians can never get Jews to accept Jesus’s divinity.

    You’re right, I don’t speak the “Bronx Streets” dialect, personally. But I do hear it every day as I’m walking to and from work in my neighborhood (near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo, not far from my where I spent part of my childhood, Kingsbridge Heights). I enjoy hearing the little juvenile delinquents, rapscallions, knuckleheads, and other riff-raff on my block as they curse and scream at each other (the girls as well as the boys) in the mornings and the evenings. Music to my ears. But that’s just me.

    Hey, I’m fascinated by your statement that you could make my case for universal salvation better than I have, without even believing it yourself. May I take you up on that? I am quite serious. I swear, I am not yanking your chain. I would love to hear you make an argument in favor of universal salvation, with the understanding that it will not be your real view.

  8. Tim B

    I see you have issues with the trinity. You are not the only one. It is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Isaac and the Christ have a lot in common and will help us understand the trinity. I could delve into that for hours.

    If you’re interested in universal salvation, and I believe there is a case to be made (though I believe it to be incorrect), we could talk. However, if I were to make the case, I wouldn’t do it here, in the comments section of YAR.

  9. CharlieK

    Tim, I did a little googling around and realized I’m not the first to have the idea of rendering bible verses into street slang.

    Back in 2003 “The Street Bible” by Rob Lacey was published by Zondervan(!). Before that, someone named P.K. McCary wrote the Black Bible Chronicles (published by the African-American Family Press in 1993). Both books are listed and reviewed on Amazon. I wonder if you’d be willing take a look at those Amazon pages and let me know if your analysis of them is as harsh as your analysis of my Bronx Streets version.

    There’s also an Aussie Bible, written in Australian slang (published by the Bible Society of New South Wales in 2003) that was a best seller Down Under. I also found reference to a slang translation of the bible put out by the Christian Surfers International.

    Can I get you to agree, at least, that most of the books in the bible, in their original language, were written in the style of speech as it was spoken by common people?

    Can I also get you to agree that all the main translations used in churches were prepared by scholars who went to pains to smooth out the English and make it sound uniformly proper throughout the old and new testaments, even though the language of the texts they were translating from were widely divergent in their level of sophistication?

    From what I understand, scholars did not hesitate to fill in missing words and correct grammar when they felt the original text was just too choppy and awkward. Speaking for myself, I prefer my bible choppy and awkward (as long as it’s accurate).

  10. CharlieK

    Oh, and Tim, if you’re uncomfortable making the universal salvation case in these here comments, feel free to email me at Or you could come over to the Marginal Mennonite Society facebook page, and engage myself and others on this and other topics. Thanks. –Charlie Kraybill

  11. Tim B

    I’ve spent the better portion of the last week wondering if, how, and where should I argue in favor of universal salvation. I have come to the conclusion that you and I differ greatly on what the Bible is and means. I don’t think I want to make such a claim to support what you already believe without the orthodoxy to properly understand it. It just seems like something that I would consider spiritually dangerous to someone without proper grounding in the faith. I could be wrong, and I reserve the right to be so, it’s just something I don’t think I’d do in this company. Perhaps if I knew you better or we had a chance to sit down and talk.

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