CEB Study Bible (Updated) Review

CEB Study Bible (Updated) Review

The CEB Study Bible is as interesting as it is inconspicuous. Its cover is not loud or busy; it looks like it belongs on the shelf in your pastor’s library. We will get into the translation in a few minutes, but first, I want to point out a few things that stand out to my eyes.

  1. The CEB Study Bible is very similar in size and weight to the CSB Study Bible from Holman Bible Publishers as well as the Thompson Chain Reference, just slightly larger than the MacArthur Study Bible and slightly smaller than the ESV Study Bible. Why does that matter? Well, size affects portability, which can impact use. Given that it is not as heavy as some of my other study Bibles, portability should not pose a problem.
  2. The font size is 8-point. While this is not my first choice in a font size, it is quite readable. Besides that, with the amount of content that is on each page, a larger font would make this Bible too cumbersome to take with you.
  3. This is a full color Bible, including the charts and illustrations. Aside from making it easier to see, it also makes the CEB Study Bible more fun to engage.
  4. In the front there is a list of abbreviations and textual resources including Greek Manuscripts that were used. I do not think I have ever seen that before and I have to say that I like that feature. When you decide on a translation for personal use, you want to be sure that you are using the best manuscripts available, which certainly looks to be the case here.

If I only knew those four facts, I would certainly be curious enough to pick up a copy to investigate. However, as with every study Bible, there is much more to discuss.

Let’s start with the translation:

CEB is a Dynamic Equivalence/Thought-for-thought/meaning based translation.

From the Common English Bible Website

“What is the CEB?

The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It is a bold new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

A key goal of the translation team was to make the Bible accessible to a broad range of people; it’s written at a comfortable level for over half of all English readers. As the translators did their work, reading specialists working with seventy-seven reading groups from more than a dozen denominations review the texts to ensure a smooth and natural reading experience. Easy readability can enhance church worship and participation, and personal Bible study. It also encourages children and youth to discover the Bible for themselves, perhaps for the very first time.”

There is one glaring issue that I want to deal with. The CEB translates bar-enos/ben-adam as the “Human One.” When I originally reviewed the CEB Study Bible, I did not call attention to this and that was a mistake. Jesus used the term, Son of Man in reference to Himself and a look at the usage is clearly messianic in nature. I will not go so far as to call the translation a blasphemy (because I do not know what is in the heart of the translators) but I will say that it is troublesome at the least and an attack on the deity of Christ at the worst.

Who Sponsored the Common English Bible?

The Common English Bible is a distinct new imprint and brand for Bibles and reference products about the Bible. The translators and editors that worked on the Bible are from various denominations and locations around the world. Publishing and marketing offices are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The CEB translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: 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). Abingdon Press is the sales distribution partner for the CEB.”

Abigdon Press features the NRSV and NIV in the translation comparisons on the CEB website which leads me to believe that CEB is probably meant to be more ecumenical as opposed to more conservative (NASB would be the conservative example). The notes feel somewhat similar to the New Interpreters Study Bible, not a surprise since both are published by Abingdon Press, but we will get more into that later.

The Johannine Comma is not in this translation and the ending of Mark is marked off as is the first part of John Chapter 8. Let’s look at a couple verses. We will compare with NRSV, NIV, and NASB. (the first two are provided by the publisher. The third is mine.

The Model Prayer

CEB

Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

NIV

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

NRSV

Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

NASB

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Matthew 10:23

Common English Bible (CEB)

Whenever they harass you in one city, escape to the next, because I assure that you will not go through all the cities of Israel before the Human One comes.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

New International Version (NIV)

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

New American Standard Version

23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

            As I referenced earlier, I am totally annoyed at the choice of “the Human One” instead of the “Son of Man” The Son of Man, in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, is an eschatological term and denotes the Messiah in His role as Divine King and Judge in the end times. (I will get into more detail on the Son of Man in another article.) I am saddened by the fact that this translation choice was used as opposed to Son of Man.

Romans 3:22-24

Common English Bible (CEB)

God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace, because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ* for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

New International Version (NIV)

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

New American Standard

22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

More comparisons can be found at commonenglishbible.com and you can compare to your favorite translation at biblegateway.com

Helps

I don’t normally comment on perceived bias, but in this case it seems almost unavoidable. Looking at the denominational list of the translators and contributors, I would have to suggest that there will probably be a liberal bias in the notes. In an effort to show as much grace as possible, I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I would like to believe that the notes would be simple ecumenical, but the presence of the “progressive (read-ultra liberal)” United Church of Christ suggests otherwise.

To my surprise, there is a tremendous amount of content provided in terms of the helps.

  • There are approximately 10,000-15,000 notes (a definite number was not provided for me)
  • 21 Maps are provided in conjunction with National Geographic.
  • There is a picture that is relevant to each book of the Bible included in the introduction. This is a very nice feature to help you visualize the environment.
  • There are approximately 200 charts, graphs, illustrations and pictures and 300 sidebar articles to help you did deeper into the message of scripture. These sidebars are actually my favorite feature. During the time I have been using this Bible, I have encountered a few points that I did not know before and that IS the key with a Study Bible; it has to help you understand the Bible more than you did when you sat down to read it.
  • At the end of the Bible text, there are several articles on the unity of the Bible and some helps for studying the Bible. IF you have never attempted study before, you will find them a great stepping stone. After 20 years, I have my own methods I follow.
  • References (around 50,000-70,000) are in the side column alongside the text.

I am frequently asked, “Matt, as a very conservative Baptist, why do you fool around with these ‘ecumenical’ study Bibles?” I use “ecumenical” resources alongside conservative resources because I tend to find more offered in the way of textual criticism as well as historical background information in the helps. Some of the reading guides and study aids also tend to be very helpful.

I do need to caution you, though, that I do not recommend that you use any ecumenical resources unless you are very solid in your theology.

Text & Paper

We are presented with a black letter text (you want this in a study bible so that when you make markings in a different color they will stick out.) As I said earlier I make it a (7 or) 8-point font, small but still readable.

The paper is creamy white and fairly opaque. While there is not a ton of room for writing, you should be able to make your notations and other markings with minimal trouble. Ghosting is minimal and I commend Abingdon Press for this, especially since there is nothing more annoying than ghosting when you are trying to study.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I can only give the CEB Study Bible a 7.5 and this is solely based on a few translation choices with which I have major problems.

 

More Photos

 

 

 

The CEB Study Bible is as interesting as it is inconspicuous. Its cover is not loud or busy; it looks like it belongs on the shelf in your pastor’s library. We will get into the translation in a few minutes, but first, I want to point out a few things that stand out to my eyes.

 

  1. The CEB Study Bible is very similar in size and weight to the CSB Study Bible from Holman Bible Publishers as well as the Thompson Chain Reference, just slightly larger than the MacArthur Study Bible and slightly smaller than the ESV Study Bible. Why does that matter? Well, size affects portability, which can impact use. Given that it is not as heavy as some of my other study Bibles, portability should not pose a problem.
  2. The font size is 8-point. While this is not my first choice in a font size, it is quite readable. Besides that, with the amount of content that is on each page, a larger font would make this Bible too cumbersome to take with you.
  3. This is a full color Bible, including the charts and illustrations. Aside from making it easier to see, it also makes the CEB Study Bible more fun to engage.
  4. In the front there is a list of abbreviations and textual resources including Greek Manuscripts that were used. I do not think I have ever seen that before and I have to say that I like that feature. When you decide on a translation for personal use, you want to be sure that you are using the best manuscripts available, which certainly looks to be the case here.

 

If I only knew those four facts, I would certainly be curious enough to pick up a copy to investigate. However, as with every study Bible, there is much more to discuss.

 

Let’s start with the translation:

 

CEB is a Dynamic Equivalence/Thought-for-thought/meaning based translation.

 

From the Common English Bible Website

 

“What is the CEB?

The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It is a bold new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 

A key goal of the translation team was to make the Bible accessible to a broad range of people; it’s written at a comfortable level for over half of all English readers. As the translators did their work, reading specialists working with seventy-seven reading groups from more than a dozen denominations review the texts to ensure a smooth and natural reading experience. Easy readability can enhance church worship and participation, and personal Bible study. It also encourages children and youth to discover the Bible for themselves, perhaps for the very first time.”

 

There is one glaring issue that I want to deal with. The CEB translates bar-enos/ben-adam as the “Human One.” When I originally reviewed the CEB Study Bible, I did not call attention to this and that was a mistake. Jesus used the term, Son of Man in reference to Himself and a look at the usage is clearly messianic in nature. I will not go so far as to call the translation a blasphemy (because I do not know what is in the heart of the translators) but I will say that it is troublesome at the least and an attack on the deity of Christ at the worst.

 

Who Sponsored the Common English Bible?

The Common English Bible is a distinct new imprint and brand for Bibles and reference products about the Bible. The translators and editors that worked on the Bible are from various denominations and locations around the world. Publishing and marketing offices are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The CEB translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: 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). Abingdon Press is the sales distribution partner for the CEB.”

 

Abigdon Press features the NRSV and NIV in the translation comparisons on the CEB website which leads me to believe that CEB is probably meant to be more ecumenical as opposed to more conservative (NASB would be the conservative example). The notes feel somewhat similar to the New Interpreters Study Bible, not a surprise since both are published by Abingdon Press, but we will get more into that later.

 

The Johannine Comma is not in this translation and the ending of Mark is marked off as is the first part of John Chapter 8. Let’s look at a couple verses. We will compare with NRSV, NIV, and NASB. (the first two are provided by the publisher. The third is mine.

 

The Model Prayer

CEB

Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

 

NIV

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

NRSV

Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

 

NASB

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

 

Matthew 10:23

Common English Bible (CEB)

Whenever they harass you in one city, escape to the next, because I assure that you will not go through all the cities of Israel before the Human One comes.

 

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

 

New International Version (NIV)

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

 

New American Standard Version

23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

 

            As I referenced earlier, I am totally annoyed at the choice of “the Human One” instead of the “Son of Man” The Son of Man, in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, is an eschatological term and denotes the Messiah in His role as Divine King and Judge in the end times. (I will get into more detail on the Son of Man in another article.) I am saddened by the fact that this translation choice was used as opposed to Son of Man.

 

 

Romans 3:22-24

Common English Bible (CEB)

God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace, because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.

 

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

But now, irrespective of law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ* for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

 

New International Version (NIV)

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

 

New American Standard

22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

 

More comparisons can be found at commonenglishbible.com and you can compare to your favorite translation at biblegateway.com

 

Helps

 

I don’t normally comment on perceived bias, but in this case it seems almost unavoidable. Looking at the denominational list of the translators and contributors, I would have to suggest that there will probably be a liberal bias in the notes. In an effort to show as much grace as possible, I try to give the benefit of the doubt. I would like to believe that the notes would be simple ecumenical, but the presence of the “progressive (read-ultra liberal)” United Church of Christ suggests otherwise.

 

To my surprise, there is a tremendous amount of content provided in terms of the helps.

 

 

  • There are approximately 10,000-15,000 notes (a definite number was not provided for me)

 

  • 21 Maps are provided in conjunction with National Geographic.

 

  • There is a picture that is relevant to each book of the Bible included in the introduction. This is a very nice feature to help you visualize the environment.

 

  • There are approximately 200 charts, graphs, illustrations and pictures and 300 sidebar articles to help you did deeper into the message of scripture. These sidebars are actually my favorite feature. During the time I have been using this Bible, I have encountered a few points that I did not know before and that IS the key with a Study Bible; it has to help you understand the Bible more than you did when you sat down to read it.

 

  • At the end of the Bible text, there are several articles on the unity of the Bible and some helps for studying the Bible. IF you have never attempted study before, you will find them a great stepping stone. After 20 years, I have my own methods I follow.

 

  • References (around 50,000-70,000) are in the side column alongside the text.

 

I am frequently asked, “Matt, as a very conservative Baptist, why do you fool around with these ‘ecumenical’ study Bibles?” I use “ecumenical” resources alongside conservative resources because I tend to find more offered in the way of textual criticism as well as historical background information in the helps. Some of the reading guides and study aids also tend to be very helpful.

 

I do need to caution you, though, that I do not recommend that you use any ecumenical resources unless you are very solid in your theology.

 

Text & Paper

We are presented with a black letter text (you want this in a study bible so that when you make markings in a different color they will stick out.) As I said earlier I make it a (7 or) 8-point font, small but still readable.

 

The paper is creamy white and fairly opaque. While there is not a ton of room for writing, you should be able to make your notations and other markings with minimal trouble. Ghosting is minimal and I commend Abingdon Press for this, especially since there is nothing more annoying than ghosting when you are trying to study.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Overall, I can only give the CEB Study Bible a 7.5 and this is solely based on a few translation choices with which I have major problems.

 

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