Common English Bible
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27. Common English Bible

Easily Understood Phrases

Speaking into an EarOur choice of Bible version should contain only words in common usage and no technical phrases if possible. The Common English Bible was a translation begun in late 2008 and was finished in 2011. It was written in "everyday language" in that difficult and technical words have been replaced by easily understood phrases so that people from all walks of life could readily know what it said. It was also limited in its vocabulary to approximately three to four hundred words. If we were talking to a group of theological students then the New International Version of the Bible would be more appropriate and probably more accurate to its Common Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic sources than the Common English Bible which may use a longer phrase to translate a single Hebrew or Greek word. But use that same version with a class of ten-year-olds and they would probably not even understand even a part of it. The question was, "How much does accuracy count if the hearer does not understand the message?" It impressed me that the New Testament was written not in Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, nor in Classical Greek, the tongue of high society, but in common or Koine Greek, the lingo of the ordinary man and woman in the street. Latin and Classical Greek had their place but when it came to communicating a message, the Early Church chose the crude common language, the "Koine" Greek, as the Bible language of the ordinary people.✞

Meaningful Language

BeggarsMeaningful language enables a person to understand familiar words and phrases we all know. The classic definition from D.T.Niles (1908-1970) of "evangelism" was, "One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread." However, many Christians today do not know the language of beggars. Whether we are using the right language or not in this TV age will largely determine our success or otherwise in evangelism. We must be sure that we are not giving answers to non-existent questions. What we need is an effective language. The evangelism message, like all other effective communication, is comprised of three elements, a source, a message, and a receiver. Communication often breaks down when the message from the source is not at a level the receiver can readily understand. Consider three people as distinguished by their means of transportation. The first was "Mercedes." He was fairly well off, had a good university education, read the business papers and carried a briefcase to work in the city. The second was "Chevette." He was a member of a union, read a popular tabloid newspaper and carried a lunch box to work in a petrochemical plant. The third was "Trike." He was five years old, in grade one and is led by the hand to school every day. What kind of language would be most easily understood by each of these receivers, do you think? Common language words and phrases help those who listen to understand what we are saying. Each of our three communicators Mercedes, Chevette, and Trike has a language bubble that contains the common language words and phrases each one is accustomed to using. Mercedes, for example, knows what a "debenture" and a "lien" mean from his experience in the business world. Chevette understands about "steam traps," "studs" and "dues." Trike, on the other hand, doesn't know many words at all yet except for the basic ones like, "don't touch!" - "come along this minute!" and "No!" - but nothing too complicated. However, Trike's range is growing week by week and will eventually probably reach that of his parents.


Speaker at PodiumThe vocabulary range understood by most adults contains "Common Language Words." All the common language words are understood by both Mercedes and Chevette. Boilermakers, bakers, housewives, and windsurfers have their special vocabulary but everyone has many words in common. Everybody has a different range of words depending upon his or her education, age, and experiences. The key to evangelism is to be sure that the words we use are readily understood by our hearers. That is not to say that we cannot use new words with children. We can and should try to extend their understanding of words but when we use an unfamiliar one we need to immediately explain it.

"Common English Bible"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2019

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