We are accustomed to a plethora of Bible translations and paraphrase renditions of Scripture being available. The Revised Standard Version (RSV), which many of us grew up with, caused a stir when it was released in the early 1950s, but, just a few years later, it was already ensconced in the pews. The release of countless other translations, paraphrases, and amplifications has continued ever since. Good News for Modern Man came out when I was in college. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) made its appearance when I was in seminary and is now the most common translation in use by my colleagues in ministry.
I am pleased to report that The Common English Bible New Testament seems to fulfill the promises you find in the tag lines on its cover. It provides “a fresh translation” which does seem very readable, yet does not insult the reader’s intelligence with over-simplification. An astounding 500 translators, readers, and editors from 22 faith traditions participated in the process, which will culminate with the release of the entire canon in 2011.
Unlike The Living Bible of the 1970s, this is a translation, not a paraphrase, and does not take a lot of liberties with the symbolic language of the ancients. Unlike The Message, another paraphrase that is very popular today, it provides the helpful traditional verse demarcation. In The Message, Eugene Petersen remained true to his purpose in producing a Scripture the masses could relate to, with contemporary tone, English idioms, and word flow, but it is not a translation. Here’s just one example:
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” Matthew 19:23-24, The Message
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” Matthew 19:23-24, Common English Bible.
Free downloads of various Old and New Testament passages are available at the CEB web site
and inexpensive paperback New Testaments are being featured by Cokesbury and other bookstores.
The Common English Bible New Testament renders some of our favorite verses nearly as we may have come to know them from the RSV or NRSV, yet seems a helpful tool for understanding more difficult passages. It also eliminates some of the run-on sentences to be found spanning several verses, by substituting shorter, but not overly simplistic, sentences such as “But you have paid attention to my teaching, conduct, purpose, faithfulness, patience, love, and endurance.” (2 Timothy 3:10)
In The Common English Bible, its contributors have achieved a balance of accuracy and readability in bringing this new translation to the public. It is a “relevant, readable, and reliable” addition to preparation for group and individual Bible study.
LEIGH B. GILLIS is associate executive presbyter for congregational vitality for Heartland Presbytery, Kansas City, Mo.