Making Bible More Accessible to Modern Readers

We didn’t know Jesus being called the “Son of Man” was so confusing. But the publishers of the Common English Bible translation want to clear up anything and everything that can confuse those inclined to dive into the Bible, so “Son of Man” now reads “the Human One.” Not exactly poetic, but arguably modern.

In an effort not only to make the Bible more accessible to modern readers, but also to appease both conservative and liberal denominations, the multi-denomination publishers of the new Bible translation—the Common English Bible Committee, an alliance of five publishers—out digitally now and in print in the next few weeks didn’t just toss together a few new catchy phrases, though. They took the task seriously.

With more than 200 biblical scholars and church leaders representing more than 20 denominations, the committee translated straight from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts, says associate publisher Paul Franklyn. When field-testing showed passages appeared confusing, project staff worked in modern phrasing. USA Today notes the committee was made up of “a coalition of Protestant denominational publishing houses owned by the United Methodist Church, one of the nation’s largest denominations, and the Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.”

Along with switching out Jesus’ well-known descriptor, the new $3.5 million Bible translation that took four years to complete, also tossed out “alien” and “foreigner” in places (read Exodus 22:21) in lieu of “immigrant”; shifts toward a more gender-neutral approach (“brother or sister” versus just “brother” when Jesus teaches to “warn,” not “rebuke” in Luke 17:3-4); adds in plenty of contractions; uses words such as “insulted” instead of “defiled” (1 Samuel 17:45); and eases up the language of the Lord’s Prayer (found in Matthew 6:9-13) by switching out “hallowed be thy name” for “uphold the holiness of your name,” among other shifts.

To help catch a few eyes along the way, the CEB includes maps from National Geographic. There must be some proven science showing everyone loves a great map.

All the academic work has the Christian community talking (and reading), as the Fuller Theological Seminary in May made the new translation required reading for its students. New copies of the paperback edition will come out in August.

While the vocabulary may deviate slightly, the meaning coming from the Son of Man or the Human One remains the same. Ultimately, it’s all still the Bible.

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