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What is the New English Bible (NEB)?

New English Bible, NEB audio

Published in 1970 by the Oxford University Press and the Cambridge University Press, the New English Bible (NEB) was a fresh translation of the Bible into modern English directly from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts (with some Latin in the Apocrypha). In 1935, near the time when the copyright to the English Revised Version —a late 19th-century British revision of the King James Version of 1611 —was due to expire, the Oxford University Press and the Cambridge University Press, who held the ERV copyright, began investigations to determine whether a modern revision of the ERV text was necessary. In May of 1946, it was determined that a new translation should be undertaken in order to produce a Bible with thoroughly "modern English." Work began soon thereafter, and the New Testament was published in 1961 with the whole Bible appearing in 1970. It was significantly revised and re-published in 1989 as the Revised English Bible.

New English Bible - Translation method
Three committees of translators and one committee of literary advisers were enlisted and charged with the task of producing the New English Bible. Each of the three translation committees was responsible for a different section of the Bible. For the Old Testament, the translators primarily made use of the Masoretic Text, also using the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Greek Septuagint, and other ancient manuscripts. For the New Testament, the NEB translators relied on a large body of texts including early Greek New Testament manuscripts, early translations rendered in other languages, and the quotations of early Christian writers and speakers. The form of translation of the NEB was according to the principle of dynamic equivalence—a thought-for-thought as opposed to word-for-word translation. The New English Bible was produced primarily by British and European scholarship for a British audience. However, directly following the Second World War, the English of Great Britain and Europe began to be influenced by foreign idiom, especially that of the Americans. For this reason, passages found in the NEB could be understood by a large body of English-speaking individuals.

New English Bible - Pros and Cons
The New English Bible never gained wide acceptance, either in the United Kingdom or the United States. While it is an adequate translation, there was nothing “special” about it that would attract people to use it as their primary Bible. The NEB chose in some places to move away from how a certain verse traditionally read, causing many people to reject it due to its lack of familiarity.

New English Bible - Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “WHEN ALL THINGS BEGAN, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said, 'In very truth I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am.'”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For it is by his grace you are saved, through trusting him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of.”

Titus 2:13 – “looking forward to the happy fulfilment of our hopes when the splendour of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus will appear.”

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What is the New English Bible (NEB)?
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This page last updated: February 3, 2022