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December 21, 2011

Column #1,582

Common English Bible – Perfect Christmas Gift

By Mike McManus

            The Catholic Church was so opposed to Bibles that ordinary people could read, that in 1536 William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his English New Testament.

            It became the basis for the King James Version, published 400 years ago in 1611.  It was commissioned by King James I to be a collaboration of Anglican and Puritan scholars.  It did not stop their feuding, as hoped, but their work became the first authorized version of the Bible and its most widely published and beloved.

            Harold Bloom, an atheist, has just written a book about KJV which he said stands alone with Shakespeare, at the “sublime summit of literature.”

            However, language evolves, which has spurred a flood of newer translations, such as the Revised Standard Version (1946), the New International Version (1985), and in 2011, the Common English Bible.

            Compare these versions of Luke 2:7:

            “And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room at the inn.” (KJV)

            “…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” (NIV)

            “She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.” (CEB)

            Few use the phrase “swaddling clothes” today, nor would a mother think of wrapping her child in “cloths,” but she would wrap him “snugly.” 

            Reading a different translation offers opportunity for a new perspective.  It is easy to become dulled by the same familiar, well-worn words, and become immune to contemplating their meaning. Compare the opening words of the Bible of two translations:

            “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep.” (KJV)

            “When God began to create the heavens and the earth – the earth was without shape or form.  It was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters.” (CEB)

            Leviticus 19: 33-34 offers wisdom about immigration:  “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”  (KJV)

            “When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them.  Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens.  You must love them as yourself because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (CEB)

            Isn’t that more clear and compelling than anything all Republican candidates are saying?

            Here’s NIV’s opening words of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

            CEB is far more uplifting and clearer: “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.”

            You may not like CEB’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, but it prompts fresh thought:

“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 forgive those who have wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

            NIV’s version of Romans 12:2 is familiar: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

            CEB: “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is – what is good and pleasing and mature.”

            Once a decade I start reading a new translation, for fresh insight into God’s word. New language throws upon windows for fresh thought. It gives us a different lens to see how God reveals Himself. It forces us to listen and to think more deeply.


 Consider buying CEB for yourself or as the perfect Christmas gift for someone else

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