Clarity and accuracy in translation are helpful

Over the years I have done a very bad thing in the eyes of scholars. I have drifted more toward translations that work to make the text more readable. For ESV, NASB, NRSV, and RSV lovers… I am a heretic. For KJV only people, I’ve been apostate for years.

I still use “word for word” translations, but for preaching and group study, I look more toward less formal and more readable. I still want “accurate.” But in translation, that is simply a moving target. I just don’t want someone who is fairly new in the faith to try to have to “translate” an English word or phrase!

In my Lenten reading this morning, there is this verse in Gen. 42:

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” (ESV)

The “nakedness of the land?” What? They came to hit the strip clubs?

One great function of BibleGateway is the parallel translation feature. I put three translation options HERE.

The beauty of several translations is realizing we can have accuracy AND clarity. It’s not always “word for word,” but it WILL communicate the truth of the passage.

Common English Study Bible

Cokesbury had a huge sale last week and it included the Common English Study Bible. I was able to obtain this translation when it first came out through the generosity of the publisher, and I’ve found it to be a refreshing translation. It certainly has its “quirks,” but for common reading (and for me it’s so helpful in reading the Deuterocanonical books) it’s a nice translation. I have found myself using the CEB and NIV together the past year or so.

The Study Bible is a nice addition. I would compare it to the NIV Study Bible in purpose. It helps the reader read the Bible. I find the ESV Study Bible gets into some depth that stretches into study and theology. To this point (and it’s early for me) the CEB Study Bible has put together a tool to help the common believer simply read better.

I purchased the hardcover edition with the Apocrypha, so let me start out by saying this thing isn’t going into my briefcase! This picture has my first copy of the Common English Bible (with Apocrypha) on top of the CEB Study Bible. To put it bluntly… this thing is HUGE.



The type font is not too small. There is color everywhere. Pictures are not overwhelming, but useful.






The sidebars offer very helpful insights into definitions or cultural issues or textual issues of the particular passage.



The maps are beautiful.



Typically I am more of a fan of a plain text Bible, so I am grateful I have a black letter CEB with Apocrypha. But this study Bible, I think, is very helpful for those wanting just some basic insights into what is going on in the passage.

While this translation, like very translation these days, will fall victim to labeling (too “Reform,” too “Conservative,” too “liberal”) I think, as a “conservative” Christian, this translation is extremely helpful in reading the text well. I also think this study Bible will be helpful to open up passages a little more clearly, in the vein of the NIV Study Bible.


The CEB Study Bible

Since the arrival of the Common English Bible, I have been intrigued by the simple approach to translation. It is designed to make the Bible clear.

For lifelong Christians, that isn’t easy. I have trouble still with calling Jesus “the Human One,” and calling the ark a box.

But where I see how the CEB excels is in the Apocrypha. I’m not familiar with the Apocrypha, so reading the CEB helps me flow in the text much easier than the NRSV. It’s actually a pleasure reading the Apocrypha with the CEB.

The CEB Study Bible is now out and I’ve had a copy of the Gospel of Mark for awhile. The sample CEB Study Bible reveals a simple study Bible. The notes are very simple. They do not try to push “doctrine.” They try to reveal clarity. There are sidebars in the main text that explore a subject a bit more deeply.

This isn’t the ESV Study Bible, to be sure. It’s not trying to overwhelm you with notes. It’s trying to get the reader a bit more engaged in the text.

The approach to Scripture is revealed in an intro article by Joel Green. It’s called “The Authority of Scripture,” and I thought it was well done.

Here is part of the last paragraph (using 2 Tim. 3:16-16 for the base):

This text is helpful for anyone thinking about scripture’s authority, for two reasons. First, it reminds us of the claim of our faith, that scripture has its origins in the aims and voice of God… Scripture beats witness to God because God enables speech about God and God’s activity in the world. Second, it reminds us of the purpose or direction of scripture’s authority. The role of scripture isn’t to teach us lessons about history, medicine, archaeology, architecture, science, geography, and so on… Instead, engagement with scripture should produce this: “that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.” We exhibit our best beliefs about the Bible not so much by what we say about the Bible but through scripture-shaped hearts and lives.

This is a Bible that might be considered as a good alternative to the NIV Study Bible.

I will still utilize the NIV far more, but the CEB continues to impress me with their aim in getting people INTO the Scriptures.


The Common English Bible — A Year Later

Last Advent season I was part of the blogger series for the Common English Bible. They extended their blogging series through Lent, then to Pentecost, so I spent many months using the Common English Bible along with the NIV2011 in my teaching and preaching.

Once the blogging event was over last spring, I still found myself drawn to the Common English Bible. While my main teaching and preaching continued to be from the NIV, I would always refer to the Common English Bible for a fresh look. The more I kept using the Bible, the more I have grown to really admire this translation. It is completely “modern,” in that the vernacular will wear out in about ten years or less. It means fresh updates frequently. That’s one downside.

I’m still getting through that “Human One” vs. the “Son of Man” thing. That’s another downside.

But this translation is really a decent read for me. I rarely trip up over words if I read it publicly. The reading is very smooth. Also, I am desiring more and more to have access to the Deuterocanonical Books, and my edition of the CEB in print and on my Olive Tree Reader has that. While I don’t access those books often, I want to have them available. Reading the Deuterocanonical Books in the CEB is refreshing.

I think this is a good translation to give to people who can’t slog through a King James like experience. It is easier to get into the text, and that should be the point. It is a faithful translation, in my view, of Orthodox Christianity, and useful for study and reading.

Common English Bible and Romans 5:1

I have enjoyed our New Testament reading this summer in the Common English Bible. Yet, I still find a couple of awkward phrases. (Every translation provides that, however.)

Rom. 5:1 in the CEB is interesting:

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith,[a] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The footnote (a) then draws attention to the alternative translation of simply “faith.”

The NIV:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Essentially, it’s the same. The NIV uses “through faith,” and the question then is: whose faith. (And this is a great translation and theological debate as I see more and more thoughts drifting toward the faith of Christ.) Essentially, the CEB chose to add “our” faith.

“We have been declared righteous by faith” (NET Bible) still leaves us with the question of whose faith. The CEB supplied one answer. Others would disagree.

Common English Bible and the NIV — Long Term Strategies

I’ve probably shared this video before, but it deals with the CEB’s use of “Human One.”

As I continue to use both the CEB and the NIV, I continue to think about how fast we think we need to change up translations. One interview I heard with a CEB official was a bit disappointing, but it’s probably fact for our modern world. He said the CEB would probably be revised in 10 years just to keep up with language.

This brings up a question for long-term strategy and pastoring. I truly like both translations, but do I stay with the NIV as my main translation (and the one we use for public reading) because it may go longer without some revision? And, as one friend pointed out to me, does the somewhat familiar language of the NIV lend itself a bit better to public reading because the “churchy” language is familiar to us. It’s comfortable in a way that is probably good.

Just mulling over thoughts as I continue on my journey.

Can You Say THAT in the Bible?

Here’s a good verse in the Apocrypha, which is probably why it’s not in the Protestant Bible. 😉

People who are afraid to act 
are like clumps of cow manure; 
   those who pick it up 
   will shake off their hand. (Sirach 22:2, CEB)

A good mental picture that is hard to forget.

Learn to get moving! Don’t be caught in paralysis by analysis!

Is He Indignant or Moved by Compassion?

I am a confessed translation junkie. As I read the Common English Bible and the NIV, I come across different ways certain phrases are turned.

Mark 1:41 is a good example. The leper comes to Christ and says, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”

The response is so interesting.


41 Incensed,[a] Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.”


41 Jesus was indignant.[a] He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”


41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” (And no textual note. Probably because they know they are right.) Winking smile

The text note of the NET Bible indicates most manuscripts use the Greek word for “moved with compassion.”

Yet, some other texts would use the word for “indignation.” Those texts don’t seem to carry the “numbers” as the other manuscripts.

So… why did the CEB and the NIV go with a “minority” view on this point?

From Sorcerer to Magic Arts to Drug Users

The end of Revelation is one of my favorite places to camp. I honestly love the entire Book of Revelation if I can read through it without the voices in my head. (You know: Tim LaHaye, Jack VanImpe, Hal Lindsey, etc.)

In Rev. 22:15 I noticed different ways translations have tackled the Greek word pharmakos over the years. Last night I was reading the passage out of the Common English Bible, which is why I noticed.

In the ESV, which followed the King James, the word is “sorcerer.”

In the NIV it is “those who practice magic arts.”

In the CEB it is “the drug users and spell-casters.”

It is obviously a difficult word to translate, so newer translations are using phrases rather than trying to wrap it up in one word.

I think of the line out of the movie Super 8 where the kid is saying, “Drugs are bad. Very, very bad!” (You would have to know the scene for it to be funny, I guess.)

At any rate, yet another interesting phrase brought to you by the Common English Bible.

Where is God’s Chest?

3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the LORD’s temple, where God’s chest was. (1 Sam. 3:3, CEB)

It just begs a lot of questions… and images my mind shouldn’t conjure up when it comes to God.

I know “ark” may be archaic, but it HAS to be better than “chest.”