When I say “a Bible,” I mean your go-to Bible. With that in view, let me suggest five factors you need to consider as you choose a new bread-and-butter English Bible.
1. Your primary Bible should be the product of a committee. There are some fine one-person translations and paraphrases on the market. I enjoy N.T. Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament and Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Such renderings have their place. However, no one person can begin to equal the knowledge and skills of a team of linguists, translators, etc. “Two heads are better than one.” And for an everyday Bible that will be the one from which you do most of your study, you’ll want to be surrounded by all the wise counsel possible.
2. Your Bible should aim for the twin goals of accuracy and readability. Many translations lean hard one way or the other and for good reason: this is a tough balancing act. Still, expect your Bible’s translation team to walk the highwire and avoid falling off to the left into inaccuracy or off to the right into obscurity.
3. The committee responsible for your Bible should come from different places on the theological and denominational grid. Let no one tell you otherwise: translation involves interpretation. Different people see things different ways for they look at things from different perspectives. If you want a Bible that simply underscores your current theological take on things, I’m sure there’s one out there for you. But if you want to do to more than just hear and tow the party line, you need a Bible that cuts across denominational lines.
4. Your Bible should be the product of serious, proven, current scholarship. If you were buying tools, money was no object, and you had your choice of Sears good, better, or best, which would you select? It’s obvious, right? What about speakers? Someone who might know what they’re talking about, someone who is truly knowledgeable, or one of the most knowledgeable leaders in their field? Clearly. Now if you must make a choice between good scholarship, better scholarship, or the very best of Biblical scholarship in a Bible translation, which will you choose? I thought so.
5. Your Bible should boldly value meaningful translation over marketing advantage. Some translations do a fine job of translating a great portion of the Biblical text, but are reluctant to revisit the wording of some of the best known Scripture passages, word, or phrases. This is often not the fault or even the desire of the version’s translation team, but is the result of the expectations connected with marketing and the parameters set by the publisher. Don’t be naive. Do your homework.
Now I can name a number of Bibles that meet three or even four of those criteria; however, precious few can meet all five. The fifth criteria – boldly value meaningful translation over marketing advantage – is the hurdle a number of contenders can’t clear. But the Common English Bible (CEB) not only meets all of these criteria, but clears the hurdles with plenty of room to spare. Go through them with me and see for yourself.
1. “Your Bible should be the product of a committee.” The CEB is the result of a collaboration of 120 academic scholars and editors, 77 reading group leaders, and more than 500 average readers from around the world. Or as Paul Franklyn, associate publisher for the Common English Bible put it: “When we say ‘built on common ground,’ we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world; in essence, helping Bible readers live on common ground.”
2. “Your Bible should aim for the twin goals of accuracy and readability.” While the reading level of the CEB is comparable to the newspaper USA TODAY it also works hard to capture even the most subtle of nuances in meaning. Being a very recent production, the CEB also has the advantage of not being burdened with words that have changed their meaning over time, fallen into disuse or simply sound dated.
3. “The committee responsible for your Bible should come from different places on the theological and denominational grid.” The CEB is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others. Or let me just spell it out: Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical, Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, and more.
4. “Your Bible must be the product of serious, proven, current scholarship.” Merely peruse the translation team of the Common English Bible and you can’t help but be struck with the sheer quantity of members who are outstanding Biblical scholars in their field of expertise. Take for example James Charlesworth, John J. Collins, Raymond Collins, James L. Crenshaw, Peter Davids, David A. deSilva, and Beverly Gaventa. Need more? Consider John Goldingay, Joel B. Green, Richard Hayes, Craig Koester, Tremper Longman, and J. Clinton McCann. Or how about Patrick Miller, Pheme Perkins, Charles Wanamaker, or Walter Wilson? Many of them would be considered by their peers as simply “the best of the best.” The Common English Bible may be easy to read, but it is certainly not the result of slap-dash, simple-minded work.
5. “Your Bible should boldly value meaningful translation over marketing advantage.” Some publishers have ceased production of certain translations or have “backed off” of fresh renderings of specific passages and have stayed with outdated renderings that do not do the most justice to the Biblical text in order to attempt to maintain market share. This is appalling, but it shouldn’t be surprising. That’s another reason I like the Common English Bible. Take for example it’s decision to use the phrase “The Human One” in place of the well known phrase “the Son of Man.” It’s accurate, clear … and gutsy. I like that. Do your homework and be careful in making a choice as to your go-to Bible translation. I’ve selected the Common English Bible. I say “Go and do likewise.”
Question: What are some of the main things you look for when you shop for a new workhorse Bible?