An Uncommon Approach with the Common English Bible

In  a move that reflects the sign of the times (and the digitizing of all things in print)  my friends at Abingdon have now sent me the following press release. See what you think.



Contact: Diane Morrow or 800.927.1517

Complete Common English Bible Released Digitally Before Print

NASHVILLE, TN (June 15, 2011) – In a nod to the revolutionary changes occurring in publishing, the new complete Common English Bible (@CommonEngBible – is now debuting in 20 digital platforms, almost two months before print editions will be available in stores. It’s currently online at along with a search widget users can download to their blogs and websites (

The eBook reader editions of the Common English Bible are Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Nook, Sony, ChristianBook, Kobo, OverDrive, Blio, Copia, Lightning Source, and YouVersion. The introductory suggested retail price of eBook versions is $5.95 and will increase to the regular suggested retail price of $9.95 September 1. Also available as part of Bible reference suites for Windows and Apple operating systems are Olivetree, Logos, BibleWorks, and Accordance Software. The new translation will also be searchable through Bible Gateway ( and Bible Study Tools (

This is the first time the Common English Bible is available in its complete form including the Old Testament, and available with the Apocrypha. The New Testament was released August 2010.

“The Common English Bible is a brand-new, bold translation designed to meet the needs of people in all stages of their spiritual journey and study,” says Paul Franklyn, associate publisher for the Common English Bible. “We’re excited to make this translation available as soon as possible through the Internet and other digital resources.”

The Common English Bible is unlike any other translation. It’s uncommon in that it’s the newest translation by the largest number of biblical scholars & church leaders in words 21st century readers use every day, aligning academic rigor with modern understandability, proven through extensive field-testing with, and acting on feedback from, hundreds of readers. The new Common English Bible is the only translation to combine and balance highly respected ecumenical biblical scholarship necessary for serious study with responsiveness to 21st century clear communication requirements for comprehensive clarity. It was approved in May by Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, for official use in biblical studies courses.

“The Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: men working with women; scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals, many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a translation that unites rather than divides, with the ultimate goal of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world,” says Franklyn.

Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from faith traditions 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. They translated the Bible into English directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.

Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups’ responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 600 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition.

The digital revolution is accelerating changes in language and its everyday usage. The new Common English Bible is written in contemporary idiom at the same reading level as the newspaper USA TODAY—using language that’s comfortable and accessible for today’s English readers. This new translation strives to make Bible reading more clear and compelling for individuals, groups, and corporate worship services.

The Common English Bible is an inclusive translation, using male and female pronouns where appropriate to indicate the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text when referring to general human beings. Pronouns for God, Lord, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit are translated as he, his, or him.

Another unique feature of the Common English Bible is the inclusion of exclusive, detailed color maps from National Geographic, well known for its vibrant and accurate map making. The Common English Bible is also the only translation to extensively use contractions where the text warrants an engaging conversational style (not used in divine or poetic discourse).

Visit to see comparison translations, learn about the translators, get free downloads, and more.

The Common English Bible is a denomination-neutral Bible sponsored by the Common English Bible Committee, an alliance of five publishers that serve the general market, as well as the Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press), Presbyterian Church (Westminster John Knox Press), Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc.), United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press), and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press).

To schedule an interview with Paul Franklyn, please contact Diane Morrow, or 800.927.1517.

Kingsman– The Secret Service
Finding Jesus– Review of Part One
Forward Thinking on ‘Reading Backwards’–The Interview Part Six
Forward Thinking about “Reading Backwards’ Conclusions
  • Eric J. Sawyer

    I didn’t think the motivational video was that convincing. The loss of appetite for Bible reading (study?) is placed above thirst and hunger for God (Word of God) and blame is laid upon the older versions, translations which have already been replaced with easy-reads (ie. Message) and good word-for-word study Bibles. (ie. NIV, ESV, NASB etcetera).
    I’m sure it’s another fine attempt at a good read, but it’s buying into the idea that if the Bible is readable it’ll be read. Perhaps I’m just being a grouch, if so ignore my comment, please.

  • Eric J. Sawyer

    btw. I think the widget idea is totally cool. (or, ‘hot’!)

  • bryant

    It, CEB was not exactly what I presupposed it to be. At first reading, as I do with all translation, I go for the jugular, i.e. Genesis 1, John 3:16. Interesting enough the spirit of God hovering over the waters in the creation account in Genesis 1:2 is missing, how strange for a Trinitarian view of God to be missing. No matter how reader friendly you make the scripture’s, leaving out the true revelations of God’s of mysteries. Is to say the least astonishing

  • David Weinschrott

    A quick review of bible version ads in any biblical oriented publication (Christianity Today, Biblical Archeology Review) yields a host of “products” claiming to be (a) more readable (b) and more accurate. There always be a tension between these two poles in any translation project be it from Greek to English, or to Spanish etc. There are a host of versions on the market now that position themselves somewhere on the continuum between (a) and (b). It is hard for me to fathom that there is some still to be found “definitive” or “unique” combination that fills an unmet gap.

    So my guess as to why these attempts keep proliferating is that it must be easier to produce a new translation through electronic editing technology and there must be a supposed significant market to sell to. It is always important for new versions to get endorsements from supposedly reliable sources to make the case that somehow a new significantly unique version is still possible.

    Not sure it matters at all since the primary interpreter is in our hearts and minds – the one who will guide us into all truth. The important step is whether we live out what’s on the page – no matter what version we are being instructed from.

  • Eric J. Sawyer

    Mmm, byrant. ‘God’s wind’ instead of the traditional rendering “Spirit of God” – I wonder why they did that? It seems like it’s a modification of the NSRV, which reads:

    ‘In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.’
    Genesis 1:1-2 NSRV

    Also note, that the NET Bible retains the traditional rendering of “Spirit of God” and the ESV renders is as follows:

    ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’
    Genesis 1:1-2 ESV

    According to the NET Bible notes, it seems that the ESV and NIV are closest to the Hebrew.

    ‘ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’
    Genesis 1:1-2 NIV

    Not being a scholar, I am sure one of the learned folks who attend Ben’s blogs, will fill in the gaps. ;)

    I’m a fan of the Message *blush*, and am not sure what to make of the following:

    ‘First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.’
    Genesis 1:1-2 MSG

    It’s all very blurry at the moment. ;)

  • Andrew Patrick

    In a move that reflects the sign of the times (and the digitizing of all things in print) my friends at Abingdon have now sent me the following press release. See what you think.

    OK, since we have been asked what we think…

    I just ran this translation through a quick test, looking up the first ten passages that came to mind through the online look-up function at by choosing Passage Lookup under the Explore Option.

    At first I was trying to look up single verses, but the interface seemed to automatically display more context. Since this showed more material, wider sections were able to be evaluated. I realize that other people might choose to test other locations, but the the passages that I looked up included:

    1. Isaiah 14:3-22
    2. Ezekiel 28:11-19
    3. Luke 23:32-43
    4. 1 John 3:3-21
    5. Acts 12:1-24
    6. 1 John 5:6-12
    7. 2 Chronicles 2:2-10
    8. Job 40:15-24
    9. 1 Timothy 3:14-16
    10. Philippians 2:2-11

    Before going any further, let me emphasize that I chose these specific tests before “opening: this particular translation. To avoid weighting the results one way or the other, I did not discard any passage from my test after it was checked. Hopefully this won’t be too long for a blog post.

    1. Isaiah 14:3-22 … FAILS

    The CEB has taken to translating the Hebrew “sheol” as “the underworld” and “rapha” as “ghosts.” The resulting scene has changed from the judgment of one who was cast down from heaven before raised kings in the judgment, but the resulting translation portrays ghosts in a gruesome underworld. The resurrection has been completely erased.

    This ghostly underworld that this translation creates even conflicts with its own rendering of Ecclesiastes 9:5 CEB “Because the living know that they shall die. But the dead know nothing at all.”

    Additionally, the recognized “Lucifer” of Isaiah 14:12 has been rendered as “morning star.” The CEB footnote reports that the underlying Hebrew heylel is uncertain, so one must question why, out of all names that it could choose, why would it identify the subject as the “morning star?”

    The “morning star” is the name of Christ, and there is no precedent for rendering this Hebrew “heylel” as a morning star even in the generic sense. Job 38:7 is an example of how “morning stars” is represented in Hebrew, and it uses entirely different words. They would have done better to have made up an entirely new word or name, rather than to have blasphemously exchanged Satan for Christ.

    2. Ezekiel 28:11-19 … PASSES

    This is a second detailed prophecy describing the eventual fate of the devil, that he who was cast down shall be brought before kings, consumed by fire, and reduced to dust to ashes, becoming nothing (or no more.)

    I have observed many popular translations perform a subtle alteration on the verb tenses so that the passage becomes a nonsensical explanation of how this being that it addresses has already been consumed and become no more, yet still exists. It seems the the CEB did not fall into this error.

    3. Luke 23:32-43 … FAILS

    The specific verse of Luke 23:43 reports Jesus promising the thief beside him “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” This translation would render Christ a liar. Peter reports that his soul was in hell (Acts 2:29), Jesus himself told Mary on the first day of the week that he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17), and Paul tells us that Jesus first descended into the earth before he ascended (Ephesians 4:8-9).

    The translations of the Protestant Reformation simply read “Verily I say unto you, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” When “to day” modifies “shalt” it speaks of the date of the promising, not the fulfillment of the promise itself (compare Genesis 2:17, 1 Samuel 18:21, 1 Kings 2:37, and 1 King 2:42.) Christ was speaking in the form of a royal decree, when the date of the proclamation is most important, not the fulfillment thereof.

    There is no contextual reason to justify the CEB translation of this passage, especially considering the context of the request was “when you come into your kingdom.” Christ has not yet come into his kingdom, and paradise cannot be hell.

    4. 1 John 3:3-21 … FAILS

    The familiar passage of John 3:16 now contains contradiction, reading “… he gave his only Son” instead of his “he gave his only begotten Son.” Here the translation contradicts itself, i.e. Romans 8:14 CEB “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters.”

    Additionally, verse 18 also contains contradiction in Christ’s speech, reporting “Whoever believes in him isn’t judged” which would contradict its own translation of Matthew 12:36-37 CEB “I tell you that people will have to answer on Judgment Day for every useless word they speak. By your words you will be either judged innocent or condemned as guilty.”

    Even its own translation of Daniel 7:22 CEB “Then judgment was given in favor of the holy ones…” reports that judgment will be rendered to the saints. The saints are also judged. Regardless of their reasons, that wasn’t a good translation of the passage of John 3:18.

    5. Acts 12:1-24 … FAILS

    The CEB has translated this passage with a contradiction on the scale of mathematical impossibility. It reports that Peter was taken and jailed during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, but that Herod was planning to keep him there until after the Passover.

    Any bible translator with a minimum of Old Testament knowledge should recognize that by definition, the Passover occurs before the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The Passover is one day long, and the Festival of Unleavened Bread is seven days long. Even an exhaustive study of the Passover and Unleavened Bread reveals that the Passover is never used to refer to the period of eight days.

    The Greek “pascha” has a Chaldean origin, and typically would have been used to refer to the the pagan festivals of that time period for the fertility goddess (commonly known as Easter.) Although the New Testament has otherwise borrowed this word for the Hebrew Passover because it otherwise lacked Greek wording, all of these other instances can be justified by context.

    I realize that many people don’t like to recognize that Easter has a pagan origin, but that does not justify inserting a contradiction of mathematical impossibility into the text. Bible translators should to be competent enough to recognize the difference between Easter and Passover.

    6. 1 John 5:6-12 … FAILS

    Verse seven contains only four words … “The three are testifying –” revealing what can only be interpreted as shoddy scholarship in the realm of manuscript evidence.

    There are only two extant readings available for this passage from the Greek text. One of these readings is a minority reading that has wide support from the surviving Latin, is plainly quoted by the ancient Fathers in sources that are far older than any surviving manuscript, and agrees internally with the context of the rest of the passage. The other Greek reading is far more common, but contains grievous grammatical error indicating that something used to be there at one time.

    Why the translators choose the flawed grammatical reading we cannot say, but clearly they cannot be translating a representation of the original text, nor can their decision have been based upon judging the “earliest and most reliable” evidence.

    7. 2 Chronicles 2:2-10 … FAILS

    The problems with this passage arise from a willingness to abandon the Hebrew text, substituting their own words without any reliance upon the original language. Especially considering the CEB translation of 1 John 5:6-8 (above) this seems entirely inconsistent.

    For example, it says in verse 2 that “Ahaziah was 22 years old” … but admits in the footnote that the Hebrew text actually reads 42 instead of 22. It attempts to justify its change with the Greek LXX but this witness is notorious for self-contradiction and bears marks of tampering in other instances as well.

    The translators have also taken other liberties with the text, reporting Athaliah as the “granddaughter” of Omri (instead of the daughter) and Ahaziah as the “grandson” of Jehoshaphat, instead of his son. They would have done better simply translating the Hebrew text instead presuming to add to it.

    8. Job 40:15-24 … PASSES

    This is the passage where God speaks to Job and begins to describe his creation, even “Behemoth whom I made along with you…” (Job 40:15 CEV).

    My criteria in this passage was Behemoth himself. Was his description consistent? I have seen other translations that changed the description of its tail to be like a “twig” instead of the massive cedar. This is not a “small” detail because it makes the difference between a generically large beast and a dinosaur. This passage opposes general evolution theory (placing man and dinosaur as contemporaries made together in creation) and thus it has sometimes suffered for this sake.

    The CEB tells us in verse 17, “He stiffens his tail like a cedar” which properly conveys the meaning of sheer mass and power. Whatever its exact species, it’s still the same beast.

    9. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 … FAILS

    This test was very simple. There are three extant readings for this passage. Over ninety-nine percent of them read “God was manifest in the flesh” and is well supported by the quotations of the early Fathers. The remaining two readings split the remaining percentage between them. This is an example where manuscript evidence is clearly overwhelming.

    The CEB seems to have chosen a minority reading of minority readings, removing “God” from the passage and substituting “he” in its place, reducing this strong passage of the divinity of Christ as God himself to “he was revealed as a human.”

    Unitarian doctrine must insist that the original text could not have read “God was manifest in the flesh” or “God was revealed as a human.” But from the angle of manuscript evidence, this choice of translation is completely unjustified.

    10. Philippians 2:2-11 … FAILS

    I was searching this passage for its overall meaning, but I judged it on two separate phrases of the overall context.

    First, in verse 6 the CEB says that “he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit” whereas the gospels themselves tell us that he did exploit equality with God. The Jews themselves recognized that he did take privilege that made himself equal with God. He changed water to wine at his mother’s request, commanded the elements, forgave sins, and declared that he had life in himself just as the Father had life in himself, and that he would raise himself from the dead (John 2:19).

    Second, in verse 7 the CEB says that “But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave.” The word “slave” is entirely inappropriate, even false. A slave serves because he has no other choice because he is not free. Jesus said that he laid his life down willingly, and when he washed his disciples feet he did so because he chose to do so, not out of compulsion. “Slave” is not an appropriate English translation.

    * Summary of Results *

    At least by the results of my specific test, the CEB only passed 2 out of 10 questions, scoring an an abysmal twenty percent (20%). That’s 80% wrong, not 80% right! Its errors seemed to range from seeming bias (Immortal Soul, Eternal Conscious Torment, Unitarian) to presumption and ignorance (lack of contextual knowledge, poor manuscript evidence, or no manuscript evidence.)

    I could have created a larger set of sample tests or chosen more technical examples, but this was sufficient for my purposes. The scripture shouldn’t have any instances of error or mistranslation, let alone examples as obvious as these.

    Although I was pleasantly surprised that it preserved the sense of Ezekiel 28, overall it didn’t t seem that different from many other translations that I have already seen.

  • Andrew Patrick

    Just to clear up any potential confusion, I was looking at John 3:3-21 in my test number 4, not 1 John 3:3-21. My initial list apparently succumbed to “scribal error” which was then ironically copied from above to avoid typographical error. The internal text of the review correctly references the gospel of John, not his first epistle.

  • Eric Sawyer

    The audio is interesting. :)
    I especially enjoyed listening to 1 Corinthians 13.
    Ben, do you think it’s worthy of a read?


  • http://patristicsinmotion Tony

    In regards to the test performed above:

    Luke 23:32-43 … FAILS

    You do realize that nearly all modern translations translate it the same way “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”

    This reflects a very literal word for word translation of the text in question.

    sēmeron (Today) esē (you will be) met’ (with) emou (me) en (in) tō paradeisō (the paradise).

    I see the dissonance that you are getting at but the text doesn’t suggest anything besides what it says, that the Thief would be with Jesus in Paradise that very day, and to do some sort of adjectival gymnastics is unjustified and does violence to the text.

  • toddh

    I didn’t look up any of the translations, but I like the way this version is engaging all of the different technological avenues to access scripture. I think that’s smart and would imagine future translations following this route as well. However, price is always one of the problems. I found some translation for my Kindle for free, so why would I want to pay $5.95 or more for this one? I do like how they have already got it out in the different electronic Bible apps, and $5.95 is pretty reasonable on those.