Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012, 8:10 am

Examining new Bible's DNA

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By Leon Lagerstam,

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Photo: Todd Mizener
The Rev. Dr. Donald Jackson, of Riverside Methodist Church in Moline, is using a new Bible translation called the Common English Bible. Rev. Jackson has been reading, using and preaching from it, and gives it high marks.
MOLINE -- Don't expect many ''cannots,'' references to the ''Son of Man,'' or mentions of ''God's seed'' in the pages of the new Common English Bible translation.

Contractions get to go forth, and multiply. Jesus gets called ''the Human one.'' And ''God's DNA,'' not ''seed'' is what remains in His people who don't practice sin, according to a translated 1st John 3:9 verse.

The DNA reference was named by the Rev. Brant Clements as the strangest he found from reading the newest of multiple translations.

Rev. Clements participates in the Greek New Testament reading group called Ekklesia that meets at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday at Augustana College.

''I usually get the door prize for being the one coming from the farthest away,'' he said.

Rev. Clements is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Nachusa, Ill. He's also been in a group of more than 150 international religious leaders participating in a Common English Bible blog tour.

He has read the new translation's entire New Testament, apocrypha and portions of the Old Testament, and called it a ''good solid translation.''

''I think this translation should be acceptable to Christians of any ilk,'' Rev. Clements said. ''I don't think it reflects doctrine of any single group, but tries to translate the texts according to their meaning, instead of reading doctrine into them.''

The new translation was created in four years by a collaboration of 120 Bible scholars and editors representing 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European and Latino countries.

It also was ''field tested'' by more than 500 ''average readers from around the world,'' in 77 reading groups, according to Christian Newswire and the websites.

The new Bible has developed a large following on multiple websites, has been on bestseller lists since being released in December, and was voted as one of last year's ''top religion stories'' by national journalist panels.

''Probably the big story about the Common English Bible is how well it has been marketed,'' Rev. Clements said.

For example, the United Methodist Church's Publishing House, one of its five publishers, helped the Illinois Great Rivers Conference buy copies at significantly reduced costs in order to give each of its pastors and lay leaders a copy of the new translation, according to the conference's website,

The Rev. Dr. Donald Jackson, senior pastor at Riverside Methodist Church in Moline, beat them to the punch, however.

''I already had a copy I was using Sunday mornings,'' he said. ''I enjoy reading it and I enjoy preaching from it. It's a no-nonsense Bible. And it's an easy read.''

Some people are nervous, though, ''that this translation is a dumbing down of Scripture,'' said the Rev. Peter W. Marty, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Davenport.

''After all, CEB editors aimed for a seventh-grade overall reading level -- what USA Today represents through its writing style,'' he said. ''This doesn't trouble me if it brings more people into Scripture. Simpler speech and clearer language need not cheapen the message or its authenticity.

''We're also pretty certain that much of the language used in biblical times would have been colloquial speech, or the language of every day street life, so why not have another translation that brings that home?'' he said.

Contractions, for example, don't bother Rev. Marty, ''since we use them in our everyday speech.''

Referring to Jesus as ''the human one'' actually ''brings out the meaning from its original context,'' Rev. Clements said.

According to Rev. Marty, a better question may be: ''is there a niche for it in a crowded marketplace of Bible translations?'

''Probably so, though I wonder if there isn't growing confusion, and some frustration, among people just trying to figure out which Bible to purchase in the first place, from the warehouse of possibilities,'' he said. ''All some people want is a good Bible that is accurate and readable. Many wonder, is this it?''

''I have a friend who said there are more than 500 English translations of the Bible, so did we strictly need another one, probably not,'' Rev. Clements said. ''But I always welcome another translation and I like to compare them. I use and read 30 different Bibles regularly.''

Rev. Jackson also regularly uses multiple translations, something he believes his parishioners know and are comfortable with, he said.

He also doesn't believe a Bible is ever finished completely. ''I think it's still being written every day, and that God continues to reveal to us who He is. I thank God that the Bible's not complete and that He hasn't completely bound it.''

Also endless are the quibbles any translation generates, Rev. Clements said. ''No translation would be perfect, but the CEB is as good as most and better than many.''

''And when you really think about it,'' Rev. Jackson said, ''every Bible's been a translation.''

Sample differences

Genesis 1:1-2

Common English Bible

When God began to create the heavens and the earth — the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God's wind swept over the waters.

New Revised Standard Version

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.

New International Version

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.

Romans 12:2

Common English Bible

Don't be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God's will is -- what is good and pleasing and mature.

New Revised Standard Version

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God -- what is good and acceptable and perfect.

New International Version

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will.