Monday, October 29, 2012

Common English Bible: My New Favourite Translation

I am very tempted to acquire a printed copy of the Common English Bible to use in the classroom, because--based on my limited sampling--it is fresh, interesting, and seems often to go its own way. Take Acts 11:20, for instance: The CEB is the only translation ever (?) that says that in Antioch, the Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene broke new ground when they "began to proclaim the the good news about the Lord Jesus also to Jews who spoke Greek."

The NLT, by contrast, says they "began preaching to the Gentiles."

Behind these two opposing translations is a choice between the Greek words "Hellenist" and "Hellene." Most Greek manuscripts, including codex Vaticanus, opt for Hellenist. A few manuscripts offer the easier--and therefore less likely--"Hellene" or "Greek." In modern translations,  the NIV, NET, NAB and RSV choose "Greek," no doubt because it fits the context better (v. 19). The NLT equates Greek with Gentile.

The ESV, NRSV adopt "Hellenist", which is preferred by standard modern editions of the Greek New Testament. However, the ESV, at least, explains in a footnote that they take Hellenist to mean "Greek-speaking non-Jews." The problem is that in the two other instances where Luke uses the word, Hellenist clearly denotes Greek-speaking Jews, as the ESV note explains (see Acts 6:1; 9:29).

The CEB may be wrong here, but at least it is consistent--and thought-provoking!


Paul D. said...

I've encountered one or two head-scratchers in the CEB, but generally, I find that it has no problem eschewing traditional translations or theologically-biased translations in preference for what the text actually means.

For example, it is the only English translation published since the rise of Jerry Falwell's moral majority to translate Exodus 21:22‑23 as referring to miscarriage, which is (as I understand it) what the Hebrew actually says, and what every single translation ever published before 1979 had.

Anyway, this is the main translation I use, particularly as it also includes the Deuterocanon. OliveTree offers it for the iPad, which is convenient.

Sidney W said...


The United Bible Society Translator's Handbook offers this reason for non-Jews:

"It is perhaps worthy of note that the message preached to the Gentiles is about the Lord Jesus (rather than “about Jesus the Messiah”). This would have had much more meaning and much more effect in the Gentile environment than the message for Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.".

However, the same amount of commentaries defend the Assimilated Jews rendering. They were not seen as pure.