And lo, it came to pass that the Bible was shortened

The 100-Minute Bible was launched yesterday - a radical repackaging of the original Christian message for a modern audience without the time or inclination to digest the good book in full.

Faced with declining numbers of people with any apparent knowledge of the Bible, Len Budd, a publisher and a Christian in Canterbury, Kent, decided on a new approach.

And, conscious of how archaic the language often seemed, he thought that telling 50 of its most important stories in about two minutes apiece would produce a volume that could be easily read by those daunted by the full Bible.

"If we manage to help the man in the street better answer pub- quiz questions about the Bible then we've achieved what we set out to do," he said. "If they then go on and read the full version so much the better. If they come to some kind of faith, it's a bonus. It's an educational project rather than an evangelical one. We're not tub-thumpers."

The work was carried out by a retired vicar, the Rev Michael Hinton, who lives near Dover. It took him about two years to sift through four versions of the Bible supplemented by his own knowledge of the Greek language.

About half of the volume is the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the rest taken from the Old and the New Testaments.

"It was possible with a bit of pushing and shoving. There were some pretty drastic decisions," he said. He lamented not being able to include the Book of Ruth, which was "a really important theological lesson" in highlighting that David, "the seminal king of the Jews," was not 100 per cent Jewish.

"I think there will be those who say there is no substitute for the Bible and that is true. But there's a place for something that will encourage people to read the Bible," he said.

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