Changes in the new Common English Bible start on Page One.
Instead of the familiar "In the beginning," the book of Genesis starts with, "When God began to create the heavens and the earth."
Other changes include calling Jesus "the Human One" instead of the more familiar "Son of Man."
And while older translations tell believers in Exodus not to mistreat aliens or foreigners, the new Bible reads, "Don't mistreat or oppress an immigrant, because you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt."
Translators hope the changes will make the Bible more understandable and will appeal to Bible readers across denominational lines. The new translation was produced by five denominational publishing houses, including Nashville-based Abingdon Press, owned by the United Methodist Church. The project cost about $3.5 million and took four years to complete.
Digital versions of the new Bible are available for Kindle, Nook and other electronic devices. Bible websites including youversion.com and Biblegateway.com also have the complete translation. Paperback editions are on sale now, with more editions coming out in August.
The Common English Bible stands in contrast to more conservative translations, such as the New International Version and the English Standard Version, said Paul Franklyn, associate publisher of the Common English Bible.
"There are a number of translations available for conservative churches," Franklyn said. "This is trying to make a bridge between conservatives, moderates and liberals."
Sarah Wilke, world editor and publisher of Nashville-based Upper Room Ministries, had downloaded the new translation and likes what she sees so far.
"My first pass is positive," she said. "I think it will make the Scriptures more accessible. The hope is that people will be drawn to seek a deep relationship with the word through study."
Franklyn said translators tried to make their work as inclusive and diverse as possible. Most previous English translations have been done mostly by white men. With the Common English Bible, about a third of translators were women and about15 percent of translators were people of color.
Once translators finished their work, they sent it to reading groups from a range of denominations for feedback.
Cathy Hoop, director of children's ministries at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, said her youth group enjoyed the chance to shape the translation. She gained a new appreciation for the challenge that translators face.
"It's a curious thing to try and translate the Bible again and make it readable," she said.
Hoop's sister, Lib Caldwell, was the readability editor for the Bible.
Caldwell, the Harold Blake Walker Professor of Pastoral Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, said having volunteer reading groups was key to the project. Translators and volunteers learned in the process.
To make the Bible more understandable, translators tried to use short sentences and often shorter words where possible.
"This is the first Bible to use contractions," Caldwell said. "If you read a Bible before this, you won't find contractions."
The Common English Bible also features inclusive language, such as "they" instead of "he." God remains a He because that's how the Bible's writers view God. Using any other pronoun for God would change the meaning of the text. "You would end up digging all kinds of holes from a cultural context," Franklyn said. "You would not have a Bible."
So far, he said, reaction to the new Bible has been positive.
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