CIU professor contributes to major denominational project

September 23, 2019

By Bob Holmes

Columbia International University Professor Dr. John Crutchfield calls it “an act of worship to God and an act of love for His people.”

Crutchfield, the CIU Middle Eastern Studies program director and a professor of Bible, is one of a committee of three Hebrew scholars and a liturgist who revised the Coverdale Psalter of 1537 for inclusion in the new Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of 2019. 

The new BCP is the standard prayer book for the Anglican Church in North America. The last revision of Coverdale's Psalter included renowned Anglican authors T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis on the committee.

The mandate from the College of Bishops was to modernize the language and verify the accuracy of the original Coverdale Psalter, while preserving as much as possible the majesty and beauty of Coverdale's original translation. 

Crutchfield says he has never worked harder on a scholarly project since his doctoral dissertation.

“The project demanded the best of my academic training,” Crutchfield said. “The Hebrew poetry of the Psalms can be very tough, and we as a committee needed to bring all of our scholarship to bear on understanding clearly what the inspired poet was writing.”

Crutchfield noted a collegial tone among the committee as they worked on the project.

“There were no big egos in the room, no infighting, no defensive turf-wars or anything of that nature,” Crutchfield said. “Just other scholars, gathered around the Hebrew text, wrestling with how to best render that text into beautiful English. That is a wonderful thing!”

The completed prayer book was presented to Archbishop Foley Beach at the Provincial Assembly in June. As part of that event, Crutchfield and the rest of the committee conducted a workshop explaining the history, scope, and method of their work. But those who worked on the project are officially anonymous. 

“The longer I worked on this project, the more important this anonymity became for me, Crutchfield said. “This is not a personal publishing achievement. My name will never be officially attached to it or appear in the BCP as a member of the committee. This anonymity freed us to view our work together as an act of worship to God and an act of love for His people. Our scholarly effort was serving the Church, not the Academy. And to me, that is a beautiful thing.”

The Revised Coverdale Psalter is now available for purchase as part of the new BCP from Anglican Liturgy Press.   

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