An Uncommon Bible

Guideposts' Executive Editor shares how he came to view a new modern version of the Good Book as his "go-to" translation.

By Rick Hamlin, New York, New York

As appeared in

I can still see Mrs. Clarke’s Bible. Passages circled or underlined, colored pen filling the margins, pages dog-eared. Mrs. Clarke, my fifth- and sixth-grade Sunday school teacher, would read to us from it every week, then look up and exclaim, “Children, these are words to live by.”

She had a big project for us. She was making a film of the Bible–the whole thing, soup to nuts, Genesis to Revelation. We’d go off to the park with a trunk-load of costumes, get decked out and stage a biblical scene. She’d talk to us from behind her Super 8 camera, giving directions, repeating words of memorized Scripture.

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With a natural dramatic bent and a willingness to wear a fake beard, I played Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac. My buddy Brian, aka Isaac, was splayed on a rock. I stood over him, knife in hand.

“Okay, Abraham,” Mrs. Clarke said, “you’re about to take his life when you hear God calling out, ‘Abraham, do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him.’” I put on a beatific expression and lowered my knife. The just-in-the-nick-of-time ram was later spliced in.

I have never seen the final cut of Mrs. Clarke’s epic film, encompassing decades of students, and don’t know if she ever got to Revelation, but her message was clear.

Just reading the Bible was not enough. We needed to inhabit the characters, understand their quandaries, feel their faith. That was how we’d see the way God spoke through the pages and worked in people’s lives.

Since then, I’ve owned more than one Bible, but none of mine looked like Mrs. Clarke’s. For years I bounced around between different translations, using one with my Sunday school students, one at the office (with multiple translations) and a King James version of the New Testament and Psalms that I read on my subway commute.

Then, three years ago, I picked up a copy of the newly published Common English Bible, “a fresh translation to touch the heart and mind,” as it says. I figured it’d be good for my reference shelf. But it quickly became my go-to version–at work, at home, on the subway.

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Something about the natural, unforced language made me highlight and underline like Mrs. Clarke.

If I turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans now I find pen marking passages like: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up” (15:2) or “Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying” (12:15). Doesn’t that seem like good advice?

I even found myself e-mailing a passage to a friend–“If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging” (12:8)–adding, “That’s who you are, pal, an encourager.” Words I hope he took to heart.

Guideposts once told a story about American POWs in North Vietnam and how they had survived years of imprisonment by sharing Scripture. They whispered passages to each other and wrote down verses on scraps of toilet paper that they left between loose bricks.

They had no Bibles; the words were whatever they could remember. Mrs. Clarke would have understood. God’s Word is not something that only exists in the pages of a book. It exists in us. It comes alive as we live it, use it, share it.

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Your Comments (9)

I am very interested in this "new bible". Is it ready for purchase? If so, how do I order it and what is the cost?

It's available through our online shop, Michele: http://www.shopguideposts.org/dailylifebible

No matter the translation God's word will never return void! I love these articles they are faith building and encouraging! Thank you, blessings in His name!

I LOVE THESE SHORT STORIES OF HOW PEOPLE HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY SOMETHING THAT IS LIKE A SLAP UP SIDE OF THE HEAD AND THEY REALIZE IT WAS GOD. A FRIEND SENDS ME MANY OF THE ANGELS STORIES. YOURS IS A VARIED PUBLISHING CO. WITH SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE, BUT ALWAYS POINTING TO GOD'S WORK AND MIRACLES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BRIGHTENING MY DAY.
IN HIS LOVE,
CAROL MAYO

Mr. Hamlin - Thank you for sharing this memory. Teachers never know what kind of impact they have on their students. I also had a teacher who so lovingly touched me as a teacher. Mrs. Dezell was my second grade teacher in the 1940's. Then teachers could have Bibles in the classroom. Mrs. Dezell always kept her Bible on the left corner of her desk and would sometimes refer to Bible stories. However, it was her reverence for the Bible has always been a part of my life. If any student would lay papers on her Bible, she would always tell us, "no dear, we never put anything on top of the Bible. You will not find any item ever put on my Bibles. Then my two daughters also followed this practice and now my two grandsons also keep the Bible in a proper place. My youngest grandson recently took a napkin off a Bible on an end table by a guest in my home. Perhaps it is not a "big deal" as the teens say today, but it really is to us. Thank you Mrs. Dezell for being my role model!

Please mail me this Bible and I will donate $100. I realize you won't have it for some time. R L Cobb 11549 22nd Rd Holton KS 66436

Hello Ronald. We're always grateful for donations, but the Daily Life Bible, Guideposts' version of the Common English Bible that Rick writes about, is available in our online store for considerably less than $100. You'll find it here: http://www.shopguideposts.org/the-daily-life-bible.html

Should you also wish to donate to Guideposts' outreach efforts, you may do so at: http://www.guidepostsfoundation.org.

The CEB is available on Amazon.com

All of these articles tell you if your troubled or worried let God's word see you through