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New Bible aims for broader appeal

By Bob Smietana

The Tennessean

Published: Friday, July 15 2011 4:59 p.m. MDT

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.

The first printing of the Common English Bible was for 70,000 copies. A second print run is already in the works.

"The bigger question is, how widely will it be received in the church?" he said. "That's the gamble."

The Lord's Prayer in Common English Bible

Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it's done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don't lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Other verses

Matthew 20:27-28

King James version

"... And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Common English Bible

"Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave — just as the Human One didn't come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people."

John 3:16

King James version

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Common English Bible

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won't perish but will have eternal life."

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