Common English Bible sets record January 7, 2012January 7, 2012 http://oregonfaithreport.com/2011/12/common-english-bible-sets-record/ Share this:FacebookTwitterLike this:Like Loading... Related Published by Wayne Leman Linguist, Bible translation consultant, grandpa (of 16), sometimes a poet, incurable punster. View all posts by Wayne Leman
23 thoughts on “Common English Bible sets record”
That’s great to hear! Nice to see a mainline translation doing well. I know they are planning a CEB Study Bible for 2013. As I’ve commented before, a see translations intended for church usage as part of an entire product line / brand and the brand supporting materials are ultimately IMHO more important for the end user than minor issues of the translation itself.
I’ve been reading the blog reviews on the CEB. There is a bit of general nit picking and an overall semi favorable impression. Given how politicized bible translation is, the fact that this bible is not adored by some and despised by others means that it accomplished its primary goal, a non controversial easy to read bible for pew use in mainline congregations.
Glad to see the public appreciates how hard it was to hit the middle like that.
I was really hoping I would be happy with the CEB, but I keep coming across odd translations reflecting presuppositions rather than the text. (I know, all translation is interpretation but still…)
The latest one I came across is Acts 3.26 which the NRSV rather literally translates, “When God raised up his servant,he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
The CEB renders with, “After God raised his servant, he sent him to you first–to bless you by enabling each of you to turn from your evil ways.”
That last clause is plain wrong. Instead of God turning humans from their evil ways, now it’s just that God enables humans to turn themselves from their evil ways.
Louw and Nida say that the word means “cause to turn”. If that’s right, translating at simply “turn” misses a nuance. (I will say that this isn’t so clear from TDNT.) Using “enable” instead of “cause” reflects the understanding that people’s own will is involved as well. Perhaps that reflects an anti-Calvinist approach, but really, even Calvinists believe that our will is involved as well, enabled by God.
Where would the translation fall on the spectrum of formal equivalent vs. dynamic equivalence?
Where would the translation fall on the spectrum of formal equivalent vs. dynamic equivalence?
The CEB is what some call a mediating translation, somewhere in the middle of the formal to dynamic equivalence spectrum. The CEB is more formal than NLT. It might be tad bit more dynamic than the NIV. The NIV, NET, and CEB are quite close on the spectrum. So is the ISV which has not yet been fully published and marketed.
Looking at CD-Hosts comment, is this Bible not meant for more widespread use across a number of denominations not just mainline churches? “Accuracy” is a difficult term to define but any thoughts as to how it compares to other popular translations like the NIV, ESV, HCSB, etc.?
I’m sure that everyone involved with the CEB would be delighted if it gets used outside mainline churches.
As for accuracy, my own opinion is that it is difficult to find widespread accuracy problems with any English version that has been made by a team of good Bible scholars. That would include the CEB.
In my opinion the biggest difference among English Bible versions made by competent Bible scholars is the quality of English they contain.
The biggest challenge for accuracy is that with a modern-language translation you typically have to decide on a meaning to translate. WIth a more traditional translation you can leave things vague. But there are lots of cases where the actual meaning is arguable, so you’re opening yourself up for disagreements. The danger is particularly great if you’re trying to capture nuances of the Greek, and if you start from scratch with no relation to another translation. And I’d argue that a translation like CEB, which is trying to be close to formal equivalent, is more likely to create objections than one that is by its nature more free.
In principle I like the idea of something that is both fairly close to formal equivalent, but also very clear. I think the CEB does this well. Of the truly modern-language translations I know, it’s the closest to formal equivalent. (I think NIV is a bit of a compromise between modern and traditional language.) But for the reasons just mentioned it’s going to have a longer than usual list of translations people object to, even people who don’t have any ideological problems with the translators’ orientation.
Here are things I’ve noticed so far:
* Acts 3:26, as noted above. Since Louw and Nida have a similar definition, I assume they’re trying to capture a nuance of the Greek that no one else sees.
* Is 7:14 uses “young woman”. I agree with translating OT passages according to the OT context. That doesn’t mean I think Matthew made a mistake.
* 1 TIm 2:11 ff uses “wife”. I think you can argue for this. It has the advantage of being consistent with Paul’s attitudes in the undisputed letters. With the traditional translation I’m nearly 100% sure Paul didn’t actually write it, but this sounds like something he might have said. The big question is whether it’s likely that he would change from women to wife from one verse to the next. It does change from plural to singular, if that makes a difference. At least it marks some kind of difference.
* 1 Cor 6:9: “both participants in same-sex intercourse” This seems to be the NT Wright translation, corrected so it doesn’t use the anachronistic term “homosexual”. (The issue being that Paul would have been talking about same-gender sex, not orientation.)
* 1 Cor 14:34: ” the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. ” This seems consistent with what I assume Paul meant: that there was an issue of women making noise. Saying “women shouldn’t talk during the service” is different in English than saying “women shouldn’t speak in the service.”
There are good arguments for all of these, but I’m not sure anyone is likely to agree with all of them. However conservatives are likely to object to more of them than I would. I’m continuing to dabble, but I’m seriously considering changing to the CEB as my primary translation. Still waiting for Logos to support it.
The other thing people are likely to complain about is use of phrases rather than individual words for several key technical terms. The ones I’ve noticed are “change your hearts and minds” for “repent” and “accept as righteous” for “justify”. I believe these are correct, and furthermore than in modern English repent and justify don’t have quite the right meaning. But for a study Bible there are advantages to picking an English word, even if it’s not perfect, and using it as a technical term. Among other things I makes use of a concordance or search tool easier. However if they use the phrase consistently it might still work. “Human one” is probably the most jarring, although again I think it captures the original meaning better than “son of man,” which almost all non-scholars misunderstand as referring to Jesus’ humanity while “son of God” refers to his divinity.
The list of publishers involved is:
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)
Of course they would be thrilled when other groups pick it up. But this is a mainline translation.
As far as accuracy relative to the NIV, ESV, HCSB. Well it would be hard to be less accurate than the ESV. I picked an objective standard of translational accuracy involving 10 NT passages each one complex in a different way link. The CEB does well, not exceptional but good especially considering the reading level.
Does anyone know if there are plans for an Anglicized CEB? I quite like what I’ve read. Most Americanisms I can cope with, but I have a problem with Exodus 5:17:
Pharaoh replied, “You are lazy bums, nothing but lazy bums. That’s why you say, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to the LORD.’
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “bum” as British informal – a person’s buttocks or anus. The American meaning is now generally known, but is not commonly used by British speakers
Does anyone know if there are plans for an Anglicized CEB?
I don’t know, David, but I will try to find out.
I understand the problem you have with “lazy bums”. On this side of the Atlantic we have the same problem when English Bible versions refer to “ass” or “asses”. We shouldn’t have to teach Bible readers a new or old meaning for a word when the most salient meaning those readers get with that word has a problem for them.
I don’t know, David, but I will try to find out.
Interestingly, although in official British English “ass” doesn’t have the American meaning, it is commonly pronounced and spelled that way in many regions of the UK. When I was at Sunday school, readings about someone sitting on their donkey from the KJV certainly caused some giggles amongst the children.
In my non-rhotic dialect of British English there is a distinction between “ass” = “donkey”, with a short “a”, and “arse” = “bottom”, which rhymes with “pass” with a long “a”. But the two “a” sounds merge in some northern English dialects, and some of those are also non-rhotic meaning that “ass” and “arse” are homonyms. Apparently “arse” was the original spelling which became “ass” in American English. The word play goes back at least to Shakespeare, when Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream was transformed into an ass/donkey.
The publisher is trying to interest a British publisher in producing and marketing an Anglicized edition of the Common English Bible. However, publishing in the UK is even more depressed than in the USA due to technology, piracy, economic recession, and denominational decline. We would like to distribute a distinct edition in the UK, and we have had two discussions to no avail, so the plan is not yet clear. Suggestions or leads are welcome.
The publisher is trying to interest a British publisher in producing and marketing an Anglicized edition of the Common English Bible. However…
Thanks for your reply Paul, I’m sorry to hear that you have not had any success in finding a British publisher. The British and Foreign Bible Society produced Anglicized editions of both the GNB and CEV, but I think the Bible Societies already owned the copyright for both.
I don’t think that an Anglicized edition is essential for the British market. Most British readers are used to American spellings and in fairly formal English there are few grammatical or vocabulary differences that really cause problems. Although the (Anglicized) NIV is by far the most popular modern version used in the UK, the non-Anglicized NASB, NKJV & NLT are also widely used.
Maybe translators of the Bible into English should also take into consideration how words or expressions are also understood within the wider English speaking community. Although the OECD now classifies word “bum” as informal English, I suspect that some would still find it somewhat obscene, especially in the Bible. A word like “slacker”, which is used in the translation of the Exodus passage in John Goldingay’s “For Everyone” commentary series, would probably satisfy all English speakers.
Is the choice of “the human being” a little strange in Hebrews 2:7 especially since “them” is used right above it in the same verse? It seems that it is switching the focus from the plural “them” to a singular “human being”. NIV 2011 uses the word “them” twice.
Am also wondering about the translation of Genesis 3:15 “They will strike your head” rather than “He will strike your head”. Anyone with any thoughts on this or the other verses in Hebrews mentioned above?
It would be really nice to have notes that explain why they did what they did. I’ll take a stab at Heb 2:7. They’re committed to a gender-neutral translation, and thus can’t use “him,” even though the original is singular. They have used plurals for some of it, but may be reluctant to use it for that phrase because the author is pretty clearly thinking of Christ. NRSV leaves the whole thing plural, but that obscures the Messianc reference.
The question is why not do the whole thing as “the human being.” If I can read their minds, I’ll suggest that Ps 8 is generic, speaking of mankind as a whole, but the author of Heb reads it Messianically, without however necessarily completely abandoning the sense that it’s also commenting on the position of mankind in generic.
My mind-reading claims that the citation in Heb 2:7 does include the generic statement of mankind as a whole being having everything under their control, but also includes a Messianc reference. This works better with the generic singular, since it’s ambiguous enough to carry both meanings. But they can’t use that, and even if they did, the ambiguity might not be clear. So they use plural, but change to the singular for the one phrase that has the clearest messianic meaning.
The resulting translation is clumsy, but may still be more accurate than NRSV, because it gives the sense that both a general reference to mankind and a specific one is intended. The Messianic reference is even clearer because of their normal use of “the Human One.”
But I have no idea whether I’ve explain their intention or not.
Thanks Charles for the attempted explanation. I agree that is sounds rather clumsy. You have any thoughts about the passage in Genesis?
I think the mind-reading is a bit more certain on this passage. The reference is to all offspring of Adam and Eve. I don’t know Hebrew, but the brief definitions I see imply that the word translated “he” is generic in gender. Translating “they” is one of the most common ways to get a generic pronoun. It seems particularly appropriate here, where “offspring” pretty clearly implies more than one person.
The difficulty with this translation is that it makes it harder to justify the Christian view that this refers to Jesus. But the CEB translates OT passages according to the original context, and not any Christian uses.
Amen! to the possibility of an anglicized version of the CEB!
Steve L, Australia