Dec
14
2011

First Thoughts on The Common English Bible

A couple of months ago I was asked to take part in a blog tour for The Common English Bible.  While I probably haven’t been the best blog tour participant (mainly because this is my first post on it), I have wanted to get a feel of this new translation before I shared my thoughts.  In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free copy of the CEB… and you can get one too, if you keep reading.

So after a month, what do I think about the CEB?  It feels… different.  The translation is very much in common English as it is written at a seventh grade level.  The dynamic equivalence translation principles used allow for a smooth flow and rhythm when reading it, and it has a very conversational tone to it. It feels like what I would envision The Message being, were it an actual translation, rather than a paraphrase.

In learning more about the CEB, I was interested in hearing what Dr. Paul Franklyn, the project director for the CEB, had to say in response to some commonly asked questions

Why do we need another Bible translation?
The Common English Bible is a non-polarizing Bible translation. It’s the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; teens working with retirees; men working with women; conservatives working with liberals; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a translation that unites rather than divides, with the ultimate goal of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world.

The Common English Bible is also needed today because the digital revolution is accelerating changes in the English language and its everyday usage and understandability. This translation is necessary to clearly communicate God’s Word because 9,000 new words & meaning revisions are added yearly to the English lexicon. The Common English Bible is today’s freshest translation and uses natural, 21st century English

Explain the translation process.

Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others. They translated the Bible into English directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.

Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups’ responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 600 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition.

Who Sponsored the Common English Bible?

The Common English Bible is a distinct new imprint and brand for Bibles and reference products about the Bible.  Publishing and marketing offices are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The CEB translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press); Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Westminster John Knox Press); Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc); United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press); and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press).

Reading the list of sponsors I was surprised by the number of mainline publishers involved in this project, so I asked Dr. Franklyn to speak a little to that, and to clarify how this translation differs from the NIV and ESV:

Translators came from the largest groups in the country, but the term “mainline” is inaccurate as a label because the translators often (more than half of the time) are evangelical regardless of denominational tradition.  They are Presbyterian (17), Episcopal (17), Methodist (17), Baptist (14), Christian Churches (7) Catholic (12), Lutheran (5) Nazarene (5), and Pentecostal (5).

The CEB is comparable in reading level to the NIV, but the CEB starts over fresh with Hebrew and Greek instead of trying to preserve the KJV vocabulary that is still very strong in the NIV and especially ESV.  The ESV is actually the RSV, which was translated by the so-called mainline denominations in 1951.

Our goal was builing common ground rather than choosing sides between denominational controversies.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am still getting a sense of how I feel about this translation.  I have enjoyed reading it during my devotional times, but find myself returning to my NIV, NASB, and occasionally ESV when I am doing my deeper study.

What is YOUR experience with the Common English Bible?

Want a copy of the CEB?  Leave a comment and share a tweet about this post.  I will select a random comment on Friday, December 16th at noon, eastern, to receive your very own copy!

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About the Author: Matt Steen

Over the last fifteen years I have been a Church Planter, Youth Pastor, Executive Pastor, and now I serve churches through coaching (churchsimple.net), providing online giving services (egiveusa.com), and through keeping them informed (ministrybriefing.tv). I love Jesus, my wife, the Redskins and Capitals and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ.

  • Davidlind

    Matt, this Bible translation sounds interesting. Do you think it would work better for those who have never heard or have trouble understanding? We work with chronically homeless people. They are still addicted to drugs and alcohol and can’t get into shelters. Could the language of this version possibly get through the haze and help us reach them?

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      Hi David!  Thanks for commenting!  I think that would be a great application for this bible… it is very readable.  The one caution I would give you is that it is enough of different translation that I have a tough time keeping up when someone is reading another version aloud.  

  • John Ridgway

    I hope it is going to be a an accurate translation unlike some others !

    I normally use the NRSV to study and the NLT for light reading

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      Hi John!  I like the idea the concept of making this a “common ground” translation… basically they are saying that this is not a translation with an agenda.  That said, sometimes that mindset can backfire and make for a weak translation.  I still need to soak on it some more, but I would think this is comparable to the NLT in many ways.

  • Rc0926

    Matt

    This version sounds very interesting to me and the “common ground” aspect that you speak of, but also is it too weak. Sometimes a “nationalized” version of anything, the Bible included, tends to lose some of its punch. I also wonder with all the different denamations consulted for this version, what was deamed not so important and left out.

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      This has been my biggest concern with the whole thing… and I haven’t had it long enough to form an opinion on that yet.

  • Michael Smith

    Although I am sure many will be able to use this translation with some profit, I find it interesting that another group is utilizing time, energy and resources to produce another English translation when there are so many already available.  Seems a better use of the resources would be to produce a translation in a language for a group who does not yet have the Bible!

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      You mean reach the lost?  That’s crazy talk!

  • JodiW

    When you say this version is very readable– does it seem over simplified? I tend to use my NIV and ESV for study but sometimes enjoy The Message for devotional purposes although I think it can be too ‘readable’

    Your thoughts?

    I saw the ads for this one but haven’t really even opened one yet

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      I go back and forth on this, Jodi.  On one hand it is definitely a translation, as opposed to a paraphrase, and carries with it a certain “weightiness” (does that make sense?).  

      That said, there is a lack of some of those “old time religion” words that I am used to.  That is something that I have truly struggled to get used to with it.  While the wording has allowed me to look at some things slightly differently (helpful!), I still miss some of my old wordings… Perhaps I am getting old?

      Does that help?

  • Josh cutkay

    I like this idea ! When I do read the bible I get caught up figuring out some words, and there is allot of words we don’t use these days. This makes it hard for me to have a mental screen play in my head as I’m reading ! That takes the JOY out of it for me !!!! 

  • Joe D

    Im quite intrigued about the CEB. I’ve seen it promoted lately and have wondered how it would read. I’m pretty picky when it comes to translations. I like to do personal reading, studying, and writing with the NASB, but typically switch to a more readable version when preaching or discussing scripture with others. If the CEB is as user friendly as it’s being promoted as, then it could be good for congregational reading/usage.

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      Joe, I am going to need your address to send you your copy (random.org loves you!).  

      To everyone else, I will be giving away at least one more copy in January…

  • Livnfree4him

    I teach a youth class and have students from 4th -8th grade. I would really like a translation that would get these children interested in reading their Bibles. From your research, would this be a translation you would recommend?

    • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

      When I was serving as a youth pastor I used to give the NLT out to my students because it was pretty readable, but it was easy to follow along if someone was reading the NIV aloud.  

      I think the differences are pretty significant between the NIV and CEB, so if you were going to use it, and only use the CEB, I think it would work well for you.

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  • Antione M

    Honestly I like the CEB version. My first readings of it came from Bible Gateway, and ever since then I’ve been hooked. I appreciate it because of how simple (clicks quicker) it makes things. I use it allot parallel to KJV version on Bible Gateway. My main purposes for getting a copy is to help me with my studies offline and to also help my brothers and sisters as well. I’m also intrigued with the further books (studies) after revelations, not for speculations but curiosities.