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What is the Common English Bible (CEB)?

Common English Bible, CEB audio

Common English Bible – History
The Common English Bible is a new Bible translation, not a revision or update of an existing translation. Work on the CEB began in late 2008 and was completed in 2011. Most editions of the Common English Bible also include the 14 non-canonical books of the Apocrypha. The goal of its publisher, the Christian Resources Development Corporation (CRDC), was two-fold: to ensure a smooth and natural reading experience for everyone, including young people, and to write at a level comfortable for over half of all English readers; thus, the name Common English Bible.

According to its preface, the Common English Bible was produced out of a “concern for accuracy and accessibility in one translation that the typical reader or worshiper would be able to understand.” The Common English Bible was sponsored by several denominational publishers, including Chalice Press (Disciples of Christ), Westminster John Knox Press (Presbyterian Church, USA), Church Publishing, Inc. (Episcopal Church), Pilgrim Press (United Church of Christ), and Abingdon Press (United Methodist Church). The CRDC utilized the work of over 117 Bible scholars from 22 different faiths. The CEB was field-tested in 13 different denominations.

Common English Bible – Translation Method
The publishers of the Common English Bible purport using a balance of dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence translation principles in order to reflect the best in accuracy to the original texts as well as ease of readability. Their goal was to produce a Bible that was written at a seventh-grade reading level—the same as that of the USA Today newspaper.

The translators used the popular Nestle-Arland Greek New Testament as a basis for the CEB New Testament. For the Old Testament, they used the various editions of the Masoretic text, as well as the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartgensia, the Biblia Hebraica Quinta, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint.

Common English Bible – Pros and Cons
One of the chief aims of the CEB is to use more natural wording as compared to traditional biblical terminology. In many ways, the CEB has achieved that goal, but some renderings can be problematic. A good example is the term “Son of Man.” Here is the New International Version’s translation of Ezekiel 2:1:

“He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you’” (Ezekiel 2:1, NIV).

The Common English Bible renders the same verse this way:

“The voice said to me: ‘Human one, stand on your feet, and I’ll speak to you’” (Ezekiel 2:1, CEB).

In the New Testament, where Jesus calls Himself “the Son Man,” the Common English Version still renders it as “the Human One” (e.g., Matthew 8:20). This is unfortunate, since, as a title, “Human One” does not carry the same weight as “Son of Man.”

Also of concern is the CEB’s use of gender-neutral pronouns. This is especially troubling in passages such as 1 Timothy 3, which details the requirements for church leaders.

In the New King James Version, 1 Timothy 3:1 says this:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”

Whereas the Common English Bible says this:
“This saying is reliable: if anyone has a goal to be a supervisor in the church, they want a good thing.”

The CEB then proceeds to the reference to “the husband of one wife” (verse 2) to “faithful to their spouse,” and so on through the passage. In this way, the CEB clearly makes allowances for women pastors, altering the literal wording of the text.

Some may find the bold terminology of the CEB to be a little too graphic for reading out loud or from the pulpit. A good example is found in Ezekiel 23:20:

“She lusted after their male consorts, whose sexual organs were like those of donkeys, and whose ejaculation was like that of horses” (CEB).

Common English Bible – Sample verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “‘I assure you,’ Jesus replied, ‘before Abraham was, I Am.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.”

Titus 2:13 – “At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”

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What is the Common English Bible (CEB)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022