I recently received a copy of the complete Common English Bible (CEB), a recently “fresh” translation of the Bible completed by a large team of translators from a large number of denominations. (Read through to the end if you’d like a copy, since the publishers have offered to give out a copy to people reading this blog.)
I first heard of the CEB because one of my seminary professors, Joel B. Green, served as the New Testament Editor for the translation team. I was lucky enough to have taken a number of classes from Joel during my time at Fuller, and I learned a tremendous amount from him as a scholar, teacher, preacher, and (for me, most importantly) good reader of the Scriptures. So I was curious about the Bible translation he devoted much time to over the past years.
Anyways, as I was paging through and reading the CEB, I started thinking about how unusual it is for most people to use more than one translation of the Bible in their regular engagement with the Scriptures. I most often flip between TNIV and NIV (2011), with an occasional different translation thrown in every now and again. After some time spent thinking about this, I wonder if people in our churches would be better readers of Scripture (and, thereby, maybe a healthier church community?) if we spent more time reading different translations of the Bible. (This is working off the assumption that people in our community actually read the Bible, which is probably not the case for many or most people in your church..but that’s for a different post.)
Here’s FOUR reasons you should try a new Bible translation:
1. Your translation is neither inspired or inerrant.
Watch me now. I believe that the Bible is inspired (depending on your exact definition of inerrancy, I may or may not agree with your use of that specific word, but inspired we can probably agree on). I also believe that the Bible is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character. So the Bible is inspired (and depending on how you look at it, or define the term, inerrant or infallible), but your specific translation of choice is not the definitive dividing line between inspired and not-inspired.
The Church has not always had the benefit of your NIV (1984, 2005 or 2011!), your ESV, or your NRSV. But the Church has always inspired Scriptures. So branch out from your version, because it’s not the only game in town.
2. God can (and will) speak to you through another translation.
The Scriptures are one of the ways God has chosen to communicate to creation. We are privileged to have translations available in many, many languages and dialects around the world. God speaks to people through the diversity of translations across languages and cultures, just as God spoke to people through a diversity of translations across time.
Have a bit of faith that God can speak to you through a translation you’re not used to, because people on different continents, just like our grandparents and ancestors in different times, heard the voice of God through a variety of translations. Trust that the God who spoke through different translations still speaks through different translations.
3. You are probably too comfortable with your Bible.
Common and familiar language can be comforting. But it can also be cozy. Coziness does not tend to foster challenge and growth. Something hearing unfamiliar words will make you pause or resist or scream!
You’re probably not used to opening to the first pages of your Bible and reading “when God began to create the heavens and the earth” (CEB). It sounds a bit different than “In the beginning, God created” (NIV).
Is there a difference there? Is God continuing to create new life and stir up new things, or is God’s creative work solely a piece of ancient history – a thing of the past?
Reading a new translation and hearing words you’re not used to can jar you into asking questions about yourself, about God, and about our world, and those questions can lead to growth and life.
4. You probably read the Bible your church reads (and your church is not fully representative of the Church).
Nothing against your church, but it is not the Church. No matter what you think or what they teach.
God is doing good and beautiful work outside the walls of your building, outside the border of your city or state or nation – even in California!
Reading a new translation gives us an eye towards our brothers and sisters in the global church, or sometimes just the church next door to yours (you know the one, the one that’s too conservative or too liberal). God might be doing something in their midst based on their experience reading the Bible, and you might find that God’s goodness and sovereignty extend a bit beyond the comfort zone of your own church’s walls.
Thoughts? Do you read one translation or many? Would you encourage people you know to read one translation or many?
If you’d like a softcover copy of the CEB, leave a comment and interact with some part of this post below. One random commenter (or one sole commenter) will get a copy sent to them (you’ll need to send me your address if you are selected).
Note: A copy of the CEB was sent to me by the publishers, and they are stirring up thoughts in my mind about the Bible, the Scriptures, the sacred text, the inspired word of God, etc. and I am posting those thoughts here.