Last year I was asked to read several passages of Scripture for a church event. I was given the passages in print, and it took me a while to figure out the Bible translation in use. I finally figured out it was CEB, the Common English Bible. The reason I kept “hunting” to figure out the translation was that I immediately noticed that a word was “wrong” – translated differently than I’d ever seen it in other versions. It stood out to me at once.
Other versions use the word “worship” while CEB changed it to “honor.” There is a difference between honoring someone and worshiping them. I wondered how the The Message (a paraphrase that can at times lack nuance because it is a paraphrase) handled this passage, and it made it clear that it was worship.
Perhaps I am making a big ado about nothing, as it may be more accurate that the people in question in the passage were honoring or paying homage to Jesus. Yet, isn’t it interesting that the vast majority of translations use the word worship? (You’ve probably guessed the passage I am referencing is from Matthew 2.)
However, it is more than just this passage. I found a thoughtful review of the CEB (linked below) and appreciated the diplomacy. It provides a balanced perspective. It concludes: “So what results from all this is a translation of highs and lows: sometimes it is really, really good, and sometimes it is really, really bad.”
I am not going to be a CEB “hater” but if someone asks me for translation recommendations I’d suggest multiple other translations before the CEB. Especially with all the good translations available today, why choose one that is questionable or has some “really bad”?
My two favorite Bible versions are NKJV and NIV. And I like the NET Bible for its translation notes and explanations – using it often for reference and study, but not for Bible reading.
So here is that review of the CEB:
The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Common English Bible
The examples given of Mark 10:45 and Genesis 15:6 are particularly troubling to me. And I am somehow not surprised to learn that this version was commissioned by liberal mainline Protestants, who can have questionable Christology, at least in their leadership. Of interest, I am reading a book at present entitled: Biblical Reasoning: Christological and Trinitarian Rules for Exegesis.
Here is an excerpt from the “Concluding remarks” of the CEB review:
“Many more examples, both good and bad, could be given. Overall, I detect in the CEB not simply an eagerness but really an over-eagerness to toss out traditional renderings in favor of virtually anything. Sometimes as I have said, the traditional rendering desperately needs to be revisited (Hebrews 12:2). Sometimes there is a legitimate debate over the traditional rendering, but the traditional rendering is not clearly wrong (Romans 3:22…), so the CEB’s choice of a non-traditional rendering is fine but not necessarily better. But sometimes a traditional rendering is tossed out in favor of something clearly inferior. So what results from all this is a translation of highs and lows: sometimes it is really, really good, and sometimes it is really, really bad. I cannot help but feel that this eagerness is driven by a mainline Protestant desire to distance itself theologically from their conservative evangelical brethren. It is largely American mainline Protestant denominations that commissioned the CEB (The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the United Church of Christ)…”
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Well done. I too had many problems with CEB along them same lines. Your focus on critical translation issues is not based on “like” but sound theological and exegetical concerns. Thank you.
Appreciate your comment exegete77! I am reassured to know that others have problems with it too.