Support the Café

Search our Site

The Common English Bible and Anglican scholarship

The Common English Bible and Anglican scholarship


The hardest problems in biblical translation aren’t about the English, they’re about the Greek or the Hebrew, according to one Episcopalian involved in production of the new Common English Bible.

Firstly, said the Rev. Dr. William F. Brosend II, translators have to agree on which Hebrew or Greek text to use, and even after that choice is made, questions arise because scholars disagree on some of the words in those manuscripts.

“That’s probably where most conversation happens, not which English word to use,” Brosend said of translation work in a recent interview.

Brosend, associate professor of homiletics at the University of the South’s School of Theology, was one of 17 Anglicans and Episcopalians, among 120 scholars drawn from 24 denominations, involved in the project. More than 500 readers in 77 groups later field-tested their work. Two of those groups were led by Episcopalians. The complete list of translators and group leaders with their denominational affiliations is here.

The 4-year, $3.5 million project was run by the Common English Bible Committee, whose goal was to create what it calls a “denomination-neutral” Bible. The translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The committee is an alliance of five publishers that serve the general market, as well as the publishing arms of the Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press), the Presbyterian Church (Westminster John Knox Press), the Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc.), the United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press) and the United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press), according to a press release.

And, because of the technology available today, nearly all of the translators’ work was done virtually.

“I never went to a meeting,” Brosend said. “It was all done using [Microsoft] Word and a heavy-duty lot of ‘track changes’ so that in the passing back and forth, by the time we were looking at being ready to sign off on our work, there was more on the side in the track changes [area] than there was in the text.”

Translators worked in small teams on individual books of the Bible. Brosend was paired with Duane F. Watson of the Malone University Department of Theology and Emerson Powery of Messiah College ( to translate Jude and 2 Peter. They were assigned those epistles based on the fact that they have done work on those books in the past, he said.

While Brosend said that translators have most of their conversations about which Hebrew and Greek words to translate, he said that there are times when they have to decide how to translate those words into English.

New Testament-only print editions of the Common English Bible were released a year ago. The complete translation debuted online and on 20 digital platforms in June. Paperback formats became available in mid-July. The entire translation is now in its third printing. Six other editions, including one with the Apocrypha became available in August.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I wish that the Church would authorize us to read THE MESSAGE at Morning Prayer.

Jere Ownby

Christopher Evans

Paul himself engages in wrestling with the Scriptures within the context of a community–and he was not unopposed. Changes in interpretation do come and they happen as a community. Besides, when we move to quickly overrule we may miss layers of meaning and other possible interpretations.

As to another version, we need one of modern English with the poetry of the Authorized Version and the Coverdale Psalter. The NRSV is not a liturgical translation in the same way imho.

Clint Davis

It’s not the Canon per se that I have a problem with, it’s the way Christian teachers approach the Scriptures that is problematic for me. Derek and Rod’s remarks that allow room for disagreement with the Biblical authors are much more sensible to me than any idea of biblical inerrancy or what have you. Paul is one of our most important teachers and figures but he’s not God. He’s an excellent place to begin discussion but he’s not the last word. Reasons to overrule his ideas might have to be glaringly obvious, but they can still be overruled. Etc. Etc. Why doesn’t anyone have the guts to stand up for this approach to the scriptures?

E Sinkula

I couldn’t have said it better myself Judith…..

Judith Davis

The NRSV is an excellent translation of the Bible and doesn not seem to have a denominational bent. The CEV does not improve it and gives a 21st century interpretation in some passages (like the ones on sexuality) that is just incorrect and not credible to the first century.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café