The new Common English Bible (CEB) is said to be “relevant, readable, and reliable.” From the back cover of the paperback New Testament I received last week (though you can also find this info online at commonenglishbible.com), this new translation was worked on by “115 leading biblical scholars from 22 denominations,” and was “field tested by 77 reading specialists in 13 denominations.” All of this with the intent to produce a text that is

easier to read and understand. 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 a brand new translation of the Bible in a language that readers naturally speak and communicate—a common language.

Here’s a little test for you. There isn’t necessarily a right answer. Just be honest. Go with your gut.

I’ll list several translations of a passage. The CEB will be one of them. As you read these translations, answer these questions: (1) Which is the CEB translation?; and (2) Which is the most comfortable, readable English version?

First passage, Mark i.21-22:

  • (A) Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum, and every Sabbath day he went into the synagogue and taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority––quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
  • (B) Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts.
  • (C) They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
  • (D) Then they went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people there were amazed by his teaching, because he taught them like one who had authority, not like the experts in the law.

So, think about it for a minute. Read them over again. Then, answer. Which of these four is the CEB? And, then, which of these three do you think is most comfortable, most readable, in English? I only picked four, and there are many more English translations out there. So I’m not asking for the most readable of all translations out there . . . just these four.

Is there any of these four that you think read poorly for an English translation?

Here’s another passage to look at: John vi.32.

  • (A) Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
  • (B) Jesus said, “I assure you, Moses didn’t give them bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven.
  • (C) Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”
  • (D) Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread.

Again, run through the same questions. Take a minute.

Do you have your answers?

Whether you do or not, you’re probably ready to move on and find out which was which. Well, here you go.
Mark i.21-22:

  • (A) Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum, and every Sabbath day he went into the synagogue and taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority––quite unlike the teachers of religious law. New Living Translation (NLT)
  • (B) Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. Common English Bible (CEB)
  • (C) They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • (D) Then they went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people there were amazed by his teaching, because he taught them like one who had authority, not like the experts in the law. New English Translation (NET)

John vi.32.

  • (A) Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. New King James Version (NKJV)
  • (B) Jesus said, “I assure you, Moses didn’t give them bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. New Living Translation (NLT)
  • (C) Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Common English Bible (CEB)
  • (D) Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Message (MSG)

So. How’d you do? Or, I guess, more relevant to this post, did your guess of which one was the CEB match up with your idea of which one presented the more readable, comfortable English?
I must say, though this is early in my readings of this translation, I have not been all that impressed. In fact, I’ve struggled to see the translation as very easy to read for us English folk. It staggers, stutters, and feels choppy at times. It fortunately seems to avoid the theo-technical terms like justification, but then unfortunately turns repent into “Change your hearts and lives” (see Mk. i.4, Ac. ii.38).

There’s still more reading to do. Honestly, I’d much rather the great minds and hearts behind these English translations turn to help the more than 2,000 languages out there that don’t have a word of the Scriptures in their heart language yet. For us English reading folk, the NLT, NET, NASB, and NRSV are plenty good enough. The New Living Translation and New English Translation are my top choices.

Have you read the Common English Bible yet? What are your thoughts? What translations do you prefer? Why?