What is The Casual English Bible?
The Casual English Bible (TCEB) is an easy-reading paraphrase of the Bible.
It’s written especially for people who don’t read the Bible.
“Folks who don’t read the Bible need a Bible they can read” isn’t just a cute tag line. It guides the translation away from churchy and scholarly words that are familiar and endearing to longtime Christians but make no sense to Bible newcomers.
We want to give people who are curious about Christianity a Bible they can understand the first time they lay eyes on it.
Who wrote the paraphrase
It’s not written. It’s being written. It’s still in beta form, not yet professionally proofed or edited. It’s a work in progress, with the first draft of the New Testament, Genesis, and several other Old Testament books ready for the next stage: a second review by the writer, before going to proofreaders and editors.
The writer is Stephen M. Miller. He’s an award-winning, bestselling Christian author of easy-reading books about the Bible and Christianity.
He has been paraphrasing Bible scholars into everyday English for 40 years. His Bible background books have sold about two million copies.
Miller has a bachelor’s degree in news journalism and a seminary degree in biblical studies and religious education. For his bio and list of books and related awards, click the link to the About page.
Why another Bible version?
Jonathan Peterson of Bible Gateway asked Miller, in an interview, why he was creating another Bible paraphrase, as if we need one more.
Here’s part of Miller’s reply.
“I nibbled my way into this project, perhaps the same way a lamb nibbles its way into trouble.
This paraphrasing I’m doing started out as my own private devotional and Bible study. Whenever I’d come to a Bible passage that strikes me one way or another—as funny, or poignant, or surprising—I’d take a longer look at it and then put it in my own words.
I start by reading it in an interlinear, comparing the original words to the English words. I look up alternate meanings of the more important words. I also look at how other folks translated or paraphrased the words. And I read what some commentators have to say about the tough parts.
It’s all little more than Bible study…
I wasn’t going to do anything publicly with this idea until I got knee-deep into writing A Visual Walk Through Genesis. That’s when it occurred to me that the paraphrase could help prompt some discussion in Bible study groups that might want to use that book as a resource.
In marketing terms, my paraphrase of Genesis became a value-added feature.”
By the time Miller finished paraphrasing Genesis, he had fallen in love with the work. So, he kept at it. He says he loves having the Bible in the easy-reading style of writing he has used throughout his career.
He posted his work online as a beta edition, realizing someday it needs carefully proofed and edited. But not today. Soon, though.
What’s the theological bent of this paraphrase
Try to find one.
The goal is impartiality and truth. TCEB tries to let the Bible say whatever it wants to say, but in casual English.
Sometimes Catholics will be delighted about what they read, as it relates to their distinctive teachings. Sometimes it’ll be the Baptists. And the Pentecostals. The Bible is that diverse. And TCEB doesn’t try to soften statements that some find uncomfortable.
For instance, many Protestants say the bread and juice of communion are symbolic, though Catholics generally say otherwise, that it’s the real deal. So, some Protestants might find this quote of Jesus a tad unsettling:
“If you eat from my body and drink my blood, you’ll live forever…My body is real food to eat. My blood is a real drink. Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood becomes part of me.” (John 6:54-56)
Miller is a Protestant. But he says he’s letting the Bible say whatever it wants to say.
When there’s controversy and disagreement among scholars, there will always be footnotes. TCEB uses them to present various views objectively, along with other background material.
Here’s a clue for gauging theological bent and editorializing. If you can tell what the writer believes about a controversial subject he or she is presenting in an objective way, it’s not objective.
If it helps in trying to sleuth a bent, Miller spent his early childhood in the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church and most of the rest of his life in the Church of the Nazarene. He has been a Methodist for the past decade.
That said, he works hard at bending where the Bible writers bend and nowhere else.
Bible writers are theologically scattered, which is why we have so many denominations. A group of souls will latch onto one oblique Bible statement and grow a denomination around it. Another group will latch onto something else, and head off in another direction. They end up with distinctive teachings:
- You have to take communion.
- You have to get baptized.
- You have to pray the sinners prayer with a King James Bible.
- You have to become a pacifist.
- You have to stop saying “have to.”
There’s Bible behind each of those, except the King James Bible requirement. TCEB lets the Bible talk. as long as it talks in casual English.
What’s the process?
Miller doesn’t read Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Old Testament and the New Testament. But he can follow along in an interlinear and in Hebrew/English and Greek/English Bibles.
That’s where the process starts.
From there it goes to researching verse-by-verse Bible commentaries and the work of scholars who translated and paraphrased the Bible into its many versions.
The difference between Bible versions is sometimes barely noticeable. Other times the comparison is barely recognizable. The original meaning in Greek or Hebrew is sometimes that clear and sometimes that fuzzed up.
TCEB’s typical approach to a fuzzy passage is to make an educated guess and then add a footnote that essentially says, “Folks, this is a guess. Here are other possible interpretations.”
What’s wrong with other Bible versions
As with much of everything else wrong about this world: Humans, for one.
Language, for another.
Humans do the work of translation, but they’re only human.
They’re trying to catch a river and nail it to a book. That’s what language is: liquid.
What’s current today, is downstream tomorrow, carried away by the current. A word can praise you one day and wish you dead the next. Same word. Maybe a different you.
Someone should always be working on the next Bible translation or paraphrase.
If we want to keep the Bible relevant to every culture in every language in every generation and subset of a generation (go Boomers), Christians will always be working on the next Bible version – whether it’s a paraphrase for Bible newcomers or a literal translation that’s one verb and two nouns above an interlinear.
How many Bible versions is enough?
There’s never enough. Not as long as there are people who have no idea who Jesus is.