Common English Bible
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27. Common English Bible

Easily Understood Phrases

Speaking into an EarOur Bible version choice 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 completed 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 It was written in "everyday language" in that difficult and technical words have been replaced by easily understood phrases so that people from all walks of life could readily know what it said.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 talked to a group of theological students, then the New International Version would be more appropriate. It is probably most faithful to its Common Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic sources than the Common English Bible. The NEB 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 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 ordinary man and woman's street vocabulary. 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 ordinary people's Bible language.✞

Meaningful Language

BeggarsExpressive 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 a functional language. Like all other effective communication, the evangelism message comprises three elements, a source, a message, and a receiver. Communication often breaks down when the source's statement 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 reasonably 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 union member, read a popular tabloid newspaper, and brought 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 uses typically. For example, Mercedes knows what a "debenture" and a "lien" are from his business world experience. Chevette understands about "steam traps," "studs," and "dues." On the other hand, Trike doesn't know any words except the basic ones like, "don't touch!" - "come along this minute!" and "No!" However, Trike's range is growing week by week and will probably reach his parents.


Speaker at PodiumThe vocabulary range understood by most adults contains "Common Language Words." Both Mercedes and Chevette understand all the commonly used language words. Boilermakers, bakers, homemakers, and windsurfers have a unique 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 our hearers readily understood the terms we use. 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 we need to explain it immediately when we use an unfamiliar one.

"Common English Bible"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2021

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