On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

New “liberal” Bible translation substitutes “the Human One” for King James Version’s “Son of Man”

Five shrinking denominations generally regarded as “liberal” now have their own translation of the Bible.

“There are a number of translations available for conservative churches,” spokesman Paul Franklyn told the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. Now, the liberal churches have theirs, the Common English Bible. Its translation from the original ancient texts was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which, according to the Common English Bible website “allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials.”

The Common English Bible Committee, according to the website, “meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press); Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Westminster John Knox Press); Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc); United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press); and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press).


Declining in membership, the five denominations have lost about 5 million members since 1960, according to the website Today the Disciples of Christ total about 786,000 members, down from 1.2 million in 1960. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has 3.2 million members, down from 4.1 in 1960. The Episcopal Church has 2.3 million, down from 3.2. The United Church of Christ has 1.2 million, down from 2 million. The United Methodist Church has 8.2 million members, down from 10.7 members in 1960.

In comparison, the Southern Baptists total 16.2 million members, up from 9.7 members in 1960. The Roman Catholic Church claims 62.4 million members, up from 41.6 million.

Franklyn said the new translation’s backers are hoping it will “make the Bible understandable and attractive to as many people as possible. To that end, the new edition of the CEB has made several ‘bold’ translation choices, including changing Jesus’ ‘Son of Man’ title to ‘the Human One.'”


The new translation is arriving from the printers this week and will be rolling into stores in August, said Franklyn.

The publishers gathered over 100 biblical scholars from across two dozen denominations and from various ethnic backgrounds to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts into plain English. The publishers also field tested the new edition among 500 readers from more than six dozen groups.

Some other changes include swapping out the words “alien” or “foreigner,” used by some translations for passages such as Leviticus 19:33-34. Instead, the Common English Bible uses the term “immigrant.”

The translation is also gender-inclusive, so Matthew 5:21-22 now warns, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment.” Older translations did not include “or sister.”


The Lord’s prayer now omits the King James Version’s “hallowed be thy name,” substituting “uphold the holiness of your name,” which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but sounds more modern.

The Common English Bible also uses contractions, removing “it is” and substituting “it’s” instead.

The new translation cost about $3.5 million and four years to complete.

It is already available in digital format on a number of Bible applications and software.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment LutheranChik

    But “the Human One” is the connotation of “Son of Man” — and a phrase more readily understandable to contemporary readers.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Henrietta22

    What is “liberal” about better comprehension? Is it better to be conservative and vague about a subject? Is logic and commonsense also “liberal”?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Puzzled

    A strange characterization of the Common English Bible, this painting the project as “liberal.” Did you even look at the editorial committee? Did you look at the translators? Strange reporting.

  • fausto

    Um, the colloquial Hebrew term “Son of Man” meant something like “regular guy” in modern English. “Human One” isn’t a bad translation. If you’re going to report on a new translation that includes unfamiliar turns of phrase, you should at least report on the principles the translators used to choose these phrases. It seems like biased reporting to report on a new translation by broadly characterizing its sponsoring denominations as ‘liberal’ and devoting most of your lede to how fast they are ‘shrinking’, while omitting any serious exploration of the translation committee’s presumably non-denominational, non-political, and non-doctrinal policies and choices. If the committee was influenced by doctrinal, political, or denominational considerations, as you seem to want your readers to conclude, you don’t say how.

  • Chris Miller

    I realize that I am REALLY late commenting on this post. I just found it while doing some research on the Common English Bible.

    This is a horridly written article. The author did not do much research and has an obvious bias. Not what I would consider quality reporting, no matter what the subject matter.

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