Because I work as a church secretary, I was able to obtain a review copy of the New Testament in the Common English Bible Translation (CEB). My first question was: Why would we need a new translation of the Bible? There are so many good versions available that I wouldn’t think another was necessary.
The publishers answered this question on their website, and added some reassuring information as well. “For many, reading the Bible and then truly grasping what it means can be a challenge. Yet the Bible is meant for everyone. The Common English Bible is… in a language that readers naturally (use to) speak and communicate.”
The CEB purports to be a translation, “written at a comfortable level for over half of all English readers.” (This, apparently, is a 5th to 7th grade level.) While I agree that the Bible should be available in a version the general public can read and understand, I am concerned that the translation does not forfeit the meaning of the original words. After all, there is enough confusion over Bible verses without adding new wrinkles!
To avoid this problem, the CEB was produced by a team of 117 scholars from 22 different faith traditions and cultural backgrounds. Ten of these were editors who took great care to protect the integrity of the original while making the new version extremely readable. Mainstream churches like The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ were represented, as were some lesser-known denominations. So far, the work has taken 2 years, and the fully completed version will not be available till 2011.
I have been reading through the CEB New Testament carefully. I found the cover attractive, and the format easy to read-even for my 60 something eyes. Excellent maps of Bible lands, produced by the National Geographic Society, are included at the back, and there is a brief page with definitions at the front
The passages I have read to date have had a good flow and were easy to understand. I really like the use of contractions, as that is a natural part of my speech pattern. Some more familiar passages, like the Luke 2 description of Jesus’ birth, didn’t really impress me, but overall I liked the translation. I didn’t find any glaring theological errors in the passages I read, and I could see myself using this version, in conjunction with others, as part of my Bible study preparations.
How would it be most useful for Bible study? Here is a good example from 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
The New International Version, another modern translation, uses these words: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
The same passage in the CEB is worded: “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character,”
I find the CEB version to be a bit more comprehensive and understandable than the NIV. The flow is good and preferable to the older, more traditional versions like the New American Standard, which is translated: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,”
However, several other modern translations add more dimension to the verse, and help me get a better picture of what the writer was trying to convey. For example, the New International Readers Version is worded: “God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right.”
The Message translates it: “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.”
By comparing and contrasting all these versions of the same verse, I would conclude that the Common English Bible translation is helpful, well-translated to modern English usage and would be another good tool for study and teaching Bible truth. I like it, and I’m in favor of any Bible my grandchildren can read and understand.
This is, of course, just my opinion. You can make your own decision regarding the Common English Bible by following the CEB link below. The website has a search feature to find specific passages and verses, and also offers free downloads of several whole books, and selected audio files.
If you would like your own paperback copy of the CEB New Testament, it is available on Amazon for $5 plus shipping. Even better, check out this link for a $2.73 (plus shipping) version.
The Holy Bible in these versions: The New International Version, New American Standard, New International Readers Version, The Message