Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading the Common English Bible

In 2011 we observed the 400th anniversary of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible.  The KJV reigned supreme for more than 300 years, with true challengers emerging only in the mid-20th century, as new understandings of translation theory and new textual discoveries began to make themselves felt.  There are a few folks left that not only prize the KJV, but hold tightly to its authoritative status.  It's as if good old King James I was God incarnate.  But even most conservative Christians today embrace modern translations.

It's possible that we've reached the point of translation saturation, but new translations continue to emerge, giving the reader of Scripture more and more choices.  For the past twenty years or so, I've been using the New Revised Standard Version.  It is a well-attested scholarly translation that takes into consideration contemporary concerns about gender inclusion.  It retains a strong sense of formality that resonates well when read publicly, but the success of the New International Version has pointed to the need for a translation that is even more contemporary in its feel, while being more reflective of the ethos of the Mainline Protestant community.  It is good to remember that theology does influence translation!

For this reason the publication of the Common English Bible is a welcome addition.  It is accessible while seeking to steer close to the original texts.  I have been using the New Testament for more than a year, and more recently had the opportunity to start using the Old Testament.  I'm not a biblical scholar in the professional sense, so those more adept with the languages can offer their own assessment, but I find this to be a most excellent text.  

From the website we learn that the purpose of this Translation is as follows:

The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It is a bold new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  
A key goal of the translation team was to make the Bible accessible to a broad range of people; it’s written at a comfortable level for over half of all English readers. As the translators did their work, reading specialists working with seventy-seven reading groups from more than a dozen denominations review the texts to ensure a smooth and natural reading experience. Easy readability can enhance church worship and participation, and personal Bible study. It also encourages children and youth to discover the Bible for themselves, perhaps for the very first time. 
The translators and the team of readers that offered response to the translation before publication straddles a cross-section of denominational traditions.  This cross-section is seen in the publishers that cooperated in its production:   

The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press); Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Westminster John Knox Press); Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc); United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press); and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press). Abingdon Press is the sales distribution partner for the CEB.
As part of an ongoing CEB Blog Tour, of which I've been a participant, the publishers of the Common English Bible have empowered bloggers to offer a free Bible to readers.  I've been remiss in making the offer of late, so if you're interested -- give your name in the comments and I'll be in touch and we can pass on the information to the CEB folks!

You can, of course, get a copy from Amazon as well -- just follow this link:  
CEB Common English Thinline Bible Bonded EcoLeather Burgundy

7 comments:

Gary said...

Steering "close" to the original texts would not cut it with King James. He insisted on the most accurate translation possible, and he got it. I suppose his tranlators were in fear for their lives if they did not do a professional job.

The King James Version is the most accurate of all the english language translations. It has stood the test of time, and most importantly, has been blessed by God. None of the other english translations can make that claim. Well, I guess they could make it, but they would be wrong.

By the way, most heretics and infidels prefer a translation other than the KJV.

David said...

"and most importantly, has been blessed by God. None of the other English translations can make that claim."

What date did this happen? It should be a holy day second only to Christmas and Easter.

The church is a whore,
but she's my mother. SA

John said...

Gary,

Now you are being ridiculous. Even the folks responsible for the KJV would agree that it is less than accurate and so they came out with the New KJV. Better, but still far the most literal translation out there.

But I see that it makes you happy and speaks to your heart. So use it and be pleased that God has made it available to you.

I never enjoyed Shakespearean English so it says nothing to me.

Gary said...

John,

The KJV says nothing to you? Yes, I already knew that.

John said...

Gary,

And what do the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament say to you?

Robert Cornwall said...

I'll just step in here for a moment to remind the conversants that the KJV was authorized by the King, not God. It was the product of a translation team composed of Episcopal and Puritan scholars, with the hope that there might be unanimity in England. Yes, there was politics involved.

The Episcopals preferred the Bishop's Bible, which had notes and renderings that supported their position. The Puritans liked the Geneva Bible, which had Calvinist notes that the King didn't like.

The King authorized the new translation to get the Puritans off his back -- they were hoping their new Presbyterian King would embrace their Presbyterian ways. The King, however, detested the Presbyterians and thought that having bishops supported his understanding of divine right rule of kings!

It was, however, a great accomplishment -- for the early 17th century, but this is now the 21st century.

Brian Morse said...

I use this translation daily. It is becoming my favorite.