Plain-Talk Bible Debuts with Mainstream Backing

Article excerpt

The Common English Bible, the newest Bible on the block, is what the name suggests--a translation into commonly spoken English. It is not the first edition to move in that direction. But it's probably the first to use contractions so extensively--whether it's King David, Jesus or Paul speaking. Except when announcing the Ten Commandments, even God says "don't" in giving Moses added prohibitions for the Israelites.

This new Bible is not as wordy as others--about 30,000 fewer words--apparently because of its use of contractions and its attention to sentence length, among other factors.

Like other recent Bible versions, the CEB substitutes brothers and sisters for brethren, to mention one of the easiest steps toward inclusive language. But the CEB may not have to dodge the slings and arrows of biblical fundamentalists that greeted the evangelically aimed Today's New International Version in recent years. For one thing, the Common English Bible was endorsed in April for use at the eight-campus Fuller Theological Seminary along with the New Revised Standard Version and TNIV (expected to be replaced by a new NIV edition).

Fuller professor Joel B. Green is the New Testament editor for CEB, but he said it was cofaculty member Daniel Kirk, another CEB translator, who commended the new Bible to the seminary. Kirk said the translations are "academically excellent" and reflect "the reality that the communities for which the Bible was written consist of both men and women."

The CEB is clearly aimed at the broad middle of Protestantism. The Christian Resources Development Corporation, formed as a distinct corporation in Nashville by the United Methodist Publishing House, promotes the CEB as a "common ground" project. It used 120 translators from two dozen different denominations.

Recognizing that a gender-inclusive and innovative translation would be most welcome to mainline churches, publishers for five denominations in the National Council of Churches serve as CEB's "sponsors." Besides the Methodist-related Abingdon Press, the group includes the Presbyterians' Westminster John Knox Press, the Disciples of Christ's Chalice Press, the United Church of Christ's Pilgrim Press and the Episcopalians' Church Publishing, Inc.

Spokespersons for the Presbyterian, Disciples and UCC publishers said they have had little involvement in the CEB so far other than having translators from their denomination working on CEB editions. However, bishops, clergy and laity at the Episcopal General Convention next July in Indianapolis will receive CEBs in hopes that the new translation will be authorized for use in the denomination, according to Davis Perkins, who heads Church Publishing, Inc.

Involved in the CEB project from the start, Perkins said: "I have no doubt the CEB will find broad utility in the church and take its place alongside the NRSV as an esteemed translation that will enrich all dimensions of church life. …