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Common English Bible Replaces TNIV at Seminary

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  • fuller seminary
    (Photo: Fuller Theological Seminary)
    Fuller Theological Seminary is a multi-denominational, evangelical seminary located in Pasadena, Calif. The school announced this year that it will be adopting the Common English Bible as a translation for use in biblical studies courses for its more than 4,000 students.
By Katherine T. Phan, Christian Post Reporter
May 10, 2011|9:21 am

In the wake of the death of the TNIV, a premier evangelical seminary has adopted a brand new Bible translation, called the Common English Bible, to take its place.

Fuller Theological Seminary approved the Common English Bible for official school use in April following news that Zondervan's updated New International Version will replace any prior renditions of the translation, including the 2005 Today's New International Version.

One of the major draws for the CEB was its gender-inclusive language, according to members of the Bible translation committee at Fuller.

"We wanted something that was an academically excellent translation from Greek and Hebrew, and one that reflected our strong position regarding women in leadership," Dr. Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament Interpretation and one of the committee members for Bible translations at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., told The Christian Post.

Green served as New Testament editor for the CEB but said it was another committee member, J. R. Daniel Kirk, assistant professor of New Testament at Fuller, that recommended the CEB. Although he heard the updated NIV also aimed at being gender inclusive, Green said he hasn't been able to review a hardcopy yet.

The CEB will join the TNIV or the NRSV (New Revised Standard Edition) as approved Bible translations for Biblical studies courses at Fuller.

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CEB Difference

One advantage of the CEB over the NRSV is that it is written at a lower level of English, making it more accessible to wider audiences, said Green. The professor said he used the NRSV to teach a Bible class in Lexington, Ky., before but some of his pupils felt the translation was "out of reach" and more of an "academic Bible."

Whereas the NRSV is written at the 11th grade level, the CEB is written at the seventh or eighth grade reading level, which is the English level of most newspapers.

"It doesn't mean that it's dumb-downed; it's just the way that people comprehend sentences," Brandi Lewis, marketing manager of the CEB, commented to The Christian Post.

The CEB was sponsored by a committee of denominational publishers with representatives from Disciples of Christ, the Episcopal Church of America, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the United Church of Christ, and the United Method Church. In total, translators from 22 denominations worked on the translation.

The uniqueness of the CEB over its competitors, the NIV for one, is the collaboration between biblical scholarship and everyday readers to ensure the translation sounded natural when read aloud, said Lewis. Scholars and translators worked alongside readability editors who in turn gathered feedback from reading groups.

Lewis also highlighted that the CEB translation team included women. Another distinctive is that unlike other translations that are simply revised or updated, the Common English Bible is completely new, reflecting modern generational language from the past 20-30 years.

For example, CEB has more contractions, making sentences easier to read and closer to the language that people speak today.

"It's something fresh," said Lewis.

Shocking Changes

As with any new Bible translation, the Common English Bible has its fair share of criticism.

One of the big shockers is that the CEB translation ditched the common title to Jesus as the "Son of Man" and instead calls him the "the Human One" where the Greek text reads ho huios tou anthrōpou.

"It will strike a number of readers as surprising," admitted Green. "We think it's a better choice than 'Son of Man.' It's not like that phrase communicates well to modern people anyway."

Paul Franklyn, associate publisher for the Common English Bible, explained the decision to use "Human One" over "Son of Man" in a blog post, saying the Greek phraseology which uses "a son of x" to refer to one who has the character of "x."

For example, Apostle Paul's reference to a sorcerer as “a son of the devil" in in Acts 13:10 "is not a reference to the sorcerer’s actual ancestry, but serves to identify his character. He is devilish – or, more simply in English, 'a devil,'" wrote Franklyn.

"In short, 'Human' or 'Human One' both represents accurately the Aramaic and Greek idioms and reflects common English usage."

Franklyn also noted that references to Jesus as “the Human One” refer back to Daniel 7:13, where Daniel “saw one like a human being."

Readers of the CEB might also find the revision of the Beatitudes recorded in Sermon on the Mount a bit jarring since the phrase "Blessed are" is now replaced with "Happy are."

"Happy are people who are downcast, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs," reads the first beatitude according to the CEB text.

Some bloggers have argued that the term "happy" emphasizes too much on human pleasure or human emotion compared to "blessed" which focuses on something of heaven or of God.

Green disagreed, saying the term "happy" communicates well the Greek word markarios into modern English.

"We don't regard happy as too superficial," he said. "The way that happy is being looked at in American English has to do with human flourishing, community commitment."

Crowded Market

The Common English Bible is expected to debut its paperback edition in July and hardcover in August to a crowded Bible market.

As highly reported in the news, Bible publishing giant Zondervan released an update to its popular NIV translation in March. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-company rolled out nearly 200 SKUS in the first round with plans to unveil more related products in the coming fall.

The CEB will publish a Catholic edition but even that will face competition from the standard Roman Catholic Bible, The New American Bible Revised Edition, which entered public markets on Ash Wednesday.

As of July 2010, CEB has sold and given 200,000 copies of its New Testament version and samplers based on the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew.

Lewis said she is just focused on getting a copy of the CEB in people's hands since most people like it once they have a chance to read through it.

"I've only heard positive things except for the 'Human One,'" she said.

Fuller is the first seminary to green light the CEB but Lewis is hoping others will soon follow suit once the full version is available.

"We don't expect them to change their favorite translation but if they need something that their students can better understand," she said.

 

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