The United Methodist Church does not have an "official" version or translation of the Bible. Protestant denominations seldom designate a single Bible translation for use. United Methodists affirm the usefulness of a number of translations and paraphrases as being helpful for study, teaching, memorization and other purposes. Each version gained a slightly different light as it was translated or paraphrased from the original languages and manuscripts.
The Bible is somewhat like a library. It is actually a collection of 66 books – 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament – written over many centuries. They were eventually brought together to form the canon, the books that have been accepted as authoritative for the Christian faith and life since the fourth century of the Common Era (the years since Christ's birth).
Some Bibles also include the apocrypha (a collection of books written between the completion of the Old Testament and the birth of Christ). Some Christians consider it a part of the biblical canon but most Protestants do not, although many agree that it has value for readers.
When it comes to teaching resources published by The United Methodist Publishing House, the Common English Bible (CEB) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are the texts preferred by Discipleship Ministries for curriculum. Writers and editors for Cokesbury curriculum usually will cite the Common English Bible. Writers can quote from other versions when doing so strengthens the teaching resource.
The Common English Bible, one of the newest translations, was published in 2011 and is sponsored by five Protestant publishers, with primary leadership coming from the Publishing House.
Cokesbury offers a Bible Translation Guide that list the translation method and translators, date, reading level and the theological perspective of the translation.
Adapted from www.umc.org/what-we-believe and "A Divine Love Story" and "The Bible: From Age to Age the Same?" both from Interpreter, March-April 2015.
"To Be United Methodist" provides short answers to questions of United Methodist practice and identity. Submit a possible topic or question for a future column to [email protected].