Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Review: Christian Community Bible

Timothy has asked me to give a guest review of the CCB for the Catholic Bibles blog. I will be reviewing my copy of the CCB, which is from the 17th edition, printed in approximately in 1996. I am very fond of the CCB, and hope that my review can be a good introduction for those who haven’t used it before.
The Catholic Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition (CCB) is a dynamic-equivalence translation from the Philippines. The CCB is something of a family of translations started by Fr. Bernardo Hurault for the people of the Third World. Much like la Bible de Jérusalem inspired the creation of the Jerusalem Bible, the CCB was born in Spanish as la Biblia Latinoaméricana. Currently there are similar translations into French, Chinese, Tagalog, Ilonggo, Cebuano (three languages spoken in the Philippines), and Bahasa (a language spoken in Indonesia and Malaysia). The English edition was first published around 1985.
Stylistic Points/Word Choice
The CCB translates the tetragrammaton as “Yahweh” consistently throughout the Old Testament, and seems to be mildly influenced by inclusive language. Paul writes to his “brothers and sisters”, but the first psalm is clearly about a man:
1 Blessed is the one
who does not go where the wicked gather,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit where the scoffers sit!
2 Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord
and meditates day and night
on his commandments.
3 He is like a tree beside a brook
producing its fruit in due season,
its leaves never withering.
Everything he does is a success.

Following the Septuagint, the CCB has “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14.
The CCB mostly follows a two-column format for the Old Testament and a one column format in the New Testament, though this is not done mechanically. Canticles in the Old Testament take the entire page and historical narrative in the New Testament (especially in Acts) is shown in two columns. I’ve only found a few pages in my edition without cross-references, and even a page or two where the cross-references were so many that they didn’t fit in the space provided at the bottom of the page. Additionally, the font size for important verses is bigger than the font size for less important verses, visually emphasizing those verses.
One of the things that I think that makes the CCB stand out is its footnotes and introductory essays. Each book begins with a topical discussion as well as the book’s relevance to modern life. Similarly footnotes both explain the text and reflect on the contemporary issues. Here is an excerpt from the footnote from Revelations chapter 18:
The great Babylon is of all times and is recognized in every power which pretends to give people a total solution to their problems while enclosing them in their net. We are leaving a century where many have identified it according to their personal point of view, be it international capitalism, or materialist socialism. It would be false to think that only one of these systems served the plans of the devil: the master of this world respects no frontiers and plays equally well on both sides. Atheist governments persecute the Church but very often the Church confronts violent or subtle persecution from the liberal classes or from dictatorships that pretend to be attached to Christian principles. A Church in which the best “good news” is for the poor will necessarily be persecuted by systems that produce millions of margina­lized people.
Here is the whole book of Revelations from the CCB’s website. If you’re looking for wishy-washy notes, look elsewhere! This pastoral approach (the CCB is called the “Catholic Pastoral Edition”, after all) can cause some of the notes to seem dated, though this can be exaggerated. The Cold War may be over, but life issues, the influence of the media on society, and social justice are just as important now as then. For example, the note to chapter 18 goes on to condemn what we now know as the dictatorship of relativism.
Reorganized Canon
The CCB has somewhat reorganized the order of the books of the Old Testament. The introduction to my edition says they did this to divide the canon into groups of “Law”, “History”, and “Writings” similar to how they are grouped in the Masoretic Text. In practice this means that the CCB’s Old Testament is ordered following Jewish tradition. The CCB’s Wikipedia page has a helpful table that explains how this compares to the Catholic canon and the Jewish canon. Additionally, some verses and chapters (most notably in Esther) are reordered. This basically means that if you’re coming to this book familiar with other Bibles you’ll need to use the index to find your way around the Old Testament. This also causes problems going the other way, since anyone who’s only read the CCB will be totally lost in every other Bible. I still can’t find Psalms in the NAB, for instance (though from its reputation this may be for the best).
Odds and Ends
In addition to the text and notes the CCB has a list of the morning and evening psalmody of the four-week psalter (without antiphons). It also has a topical index in the front helping readers locate specific verses that discuss various Catholic doctrines, and a section that lines up the stories of the synoptic gospels. My edition of the CCB also has helpful aids on the side that show where each book is clearly marked. I’m not sure what these are called exactly, but they are very helpful when I’m looking for a particular passage (most dictionaries have these, for similar reasons). I assume this was put in so that the reader can find the books of the Old Testament easily, since they aren’t where they’re “supposed” to be. The CCB also has artwork that goes with each book, often depicting modern takes on each book’s theme. The picture that goes with Joshua has an African man walking into a city, and the First Letter of Saint Peter has a portrait of John Paul II looking pensively at the reader.
One thing I do not like about the CCB is how it translates the Beatitudes. The CCB uses “fortunate” where more traditional translations use “blessed”. Also, in the CCB Jesus starts many of his sentences with “Truly, I say to you…”, instead of the NAB’s “Amen, I say to you…”. Both are relatively minor points, but which some people might be sensitive to. Additionally the CCB doesn’t have a list of the readings from the lectionary.
Overall I am very happy with my edition of the CCB, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new translation for personal study!
Many thanks to reader Francesco for this fine review of the CCB. I feel like I have never really done the CCB justice on this blog, so I was very excited that Francesco agreed to put together this review.


Matt said...

I've looked at some of the text online for the CCB and it looks pretty decent. The notes look more faithful than the NAB.

But I seem to remember there are some oddly anti-Catholic book introductions. I remember reading something like "The Church used to be bad and do things like..." or something to that effect.

I wonder if anyone has encountered this?

Diakonos said...

Great job! You really hit the nail on the head in describing this version.

As noted in previous post, I have been using CCB:CPE since 2003 and its my preferred (but not exclusive)daily Bible. I have to check to be sure (don't have it with me) but I think my edition does have a lectionary reading guide.

Matt: just going from memory I can recall places in the notes where the human failings of Church leadership or membership are referred to, but then...that's the truth. Church history clearly shows times when "the Church was bad" meaning its earthly leaders and members. But it's not one-sided. I also recall many referrals to saints and the good works of the Church.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a separate CCB but I do own the Oxford Comparative New Testament and find the CCB a very clear translation. Sounds like I am missing alot by not having all the notes, etc. May have to consider ordering this edition. Thanks for a very informative review. Sharon

Timothy said...

I also like the rendering in Luke 1:28: "Rejoice, full of Grace".

Diakonos said...

Good luck finding a CCB:CPE at a decent price. Their website is in the Phillipines and/or Macao *I believe)and those are the best prices. BUT what I have found is to locate a parish or shrine staffed by the Claretian Fathers (they sponsor this version it seems) and they always have CCB:CPEs ate great prices. Often the OLD prices from when they first stocked the Bibles. Anyone living in southern CA - go to San Gabriel Mission Bookshop they were having a discount special on a few CCBs there last month.

Dave Awbrey said...

I gave this bible away because the notes are blasphemous and heretical in places. In Genesis chapter 12, I believe, and in some of the Psalms, the notes refer to God as "she" and "her", in places. I called the publisher to see if this was some kind of error and I was told this was done intentionally, it was not a mistake. Do yourself a favor and get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

I have found the notes a bit suspect, like part of the note on James 5:13 -"The Elders are those in charge of Christian communities. They were lay people but had been charged with the direction of the community, the celebration of Baptism, Presiding at the Eucharist..."

That seems to suggest that lay people could preside at Mass in the early Church.

Anonymous said...

Timothy & Others:

It sounds like some of the notes in this edition may indeed be suspect? -- In regard to two other editions, is the Catholic Scripture
Study Bible ready to ship in a few days and is the NABRE finally done?

Timothy said...


The NABRE does not yet have a publication date, perhaps first half of 2011. There are some issues of dispute between the USCCB and CBA currently, which may need to be resolved before the NABRE is published. So still waiting.....and waiting...... and waiting....

As for the study Bible from Saint Benedict Press, I don't have a precise date yet by it should be any day. Keep checking their website.

Francesco said...

I don't think it says anything quite that negative, though I do recall discussions (as Diakonos said) about historical events. I don't think I've read anything I'd consider Anti-Catholic, however.

I'm not sure where the notes say things like that, but you are correct that the CCB discusses God in feminine terms towards the end of the Old Testament. I think in Proverbs there are verses about "Holy Wisdom", which is discussed in feminine terms. Moreover there is the "Shekhinah", which doesn't appear in the Bible but which gets mentioned in the notes. I'd have to check, but I think that Isaiah also writes about God in feminine terms occasionally. This does not mean that the CCB is saying that God is a woman, however.

Anon 2:31pm
Yes, I was slightly bothered by that as well. Romans also ends with mention of a deaconess, without any explanation in the notes.

Diakonos said...

In my edition (34th, c. 2003) there is indeed a very nice "Biblical Readings in the Mass" section at the endof the Bible (pp. 537-548)which begins with a pie chart of the litrugical year, has a table of moveable liturgical days, and then gives the citations for Sunday AND Daily Mass readings.

There is reference in notes to the femminine side of God (so to speak) but never saying God is a woman. The notes can be a mixed bag here or there yet still much better (IMHO) than most of the NAB and most of the time they far outstrip the NAB and NJB in their Catholicity. Notes on Marian and Petrine passges are pretty thorough and good.

Interestingly the definition for ELDERS in the "Brief Lexicon" in the back of the Bible gives a solid definition of Elders and nothing like what is mentioned in James 5:16.

Dave Awbrey said...

Check the notes in ch. 12 of Genisis I believe, since I no longer have this Bible, and see if the notes do not refer to God as "she". Again, I called the publisher about this and he made no attempt to deny this and said it was not a mistake. This edition was probably about 2005 or 2006. Also, in Psalms some of the notes refer to God in the feminine, not Wisdom personified.

Francesco said...

Hi Dave,

I've read the notes to Genesis Ch. 12 and I can't see where God is referred to as a woman. I'm not sure if I can post the whole chapter's notes in a comment for copyright reasons, but you can find all the notes to Genesis in the following link:

Reading over the note to Ch. 12 they use the male pronoun for God:

"God is testing us, he knocks on our hearts to see what the echo will be: will we be able to let go of our own wisdom and enter into his plan?"

I don't have the version you did, but mine doesn't have what you're discussing.

Diakonos: does your copy use feminine terms for God for Chapter 12?


Diakonos said...

Am at work and don;t have the CCB with me...will check and get back to you. BTW if in the notes (which are an editor's or scholar's fallible contribution no matter what version or edition of the Bible) God is a times referred to as she, I don't see the problem. We know that the Trinity is neither male nor female and that only the incarnate Word is male in his humanity. If the Scriptures at times describe God and divine actions/attitubutes as feminine, can't an editor or scholar do so as well?

Dave Awbrey said...

If you like it go for it. I prefer more traditional renderings for God. Our Lord calls God His Father, not mother. It is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit in Catholic Tradition. It seems a dangerous and questionable trend to render otherwise. Your edition must be an older one. I fear it is a good old fashioned case of PC at work there. Let every man be convinced in his own mind.

Dave Awbrey said...

Check the online version. In the section entitlrd "The Three Sayings of God", before ch. 12, it explicitly refers to God as "she". This is in the Book of Genisis. You can suit yourself, but as an orthodox(small o) Catholic I have no use for this. Fifty years ago this would not have been acceptable, but nowadays about anything goes. I just want people who may buy this Bible to be fully informed. Then let them decide.

Dave Awbrey said...

P.S. The heading before Psalm 6 refers to the Psalmist as "she",. While not on the same level as refering to God as "she", I still think this to be a very novel perspective. I do not ever remember the proposition advanced that any of the proposed Psalmists were female. While this may not be completely verifiable one way or another, I do believe it bespeaks a discernable slant in the translation. I believe it is the better part of valor to shun anything that smacks of heterodoxy.

Francesco said...


I don't know. Non-traditional things like that give me goosebumps. What's wrong with "He"?


You are correct. I have to retract my statement earlier, since that section does talk about God as if He were a she. It's seems to be written in quite a different voice from the rest of the commentary in the CCB, which is likely why I didn't remember reading it.

It is a good idea to get as much information out in the open as possible. I still like the CCB, and I would recommend it to others. I'll just have to add this to my list of issues I have with it.

Diakonos said...

Francesco: Nothing wrong with "He" and I prefer it. But God is Spirit and when using human experiences to describe his action and interaction with us sometimes the feminine is more appropriate. Using these kind of analogies doesn't genderize God. He is far above that.

When you think about it even 'Father' is an analogy as is 'Son'. For to us this Father/Son relationship means there has been a conception of one from the other, and thus the Father is greater than the Son in pre-existence. Yet we KNOW that's not true but we still continue to use 'Father' for its many other meanings in relation to the Trinity. I can't think of the source(s) know but I seem to recall some mystics or theologians of sound doctrine speaking of the Holy Spirit in more feminine terms and analogies.

I also agree with your insight into the CCB notes. I sometimes get the idea that different books had commentary written by very different people (as is common in many Stusy Bibles). I also agree that I still prefer the CCB:CPE and even with all this in mind I still find the docrtinal notes to be more Catholic and faithful than the NAB and NJB. I think only the Ignatius Study Bible has more Catholic-friendly notes.

Diakonos said...

Francesco: I did nto see any reference to God in the feminine in Gen 12, but I did read it at the end of a very long day.

Dave: I did see one reference to God in one sentence out of the 2 page/13 paragraph long "Three Sayings of God". But the context of it makes me think that the author is attmepting to relate God's Self and Action to all humans and in this context I see nothing problematic. In this same essay the author constantly refers to God as "he" and even at least once as "Father". So I think we have to look at the whole and take things in context. If we hold that an orthodox Catholc may never ever refer to God's Self or Action in a feminine light or as an analogy of feminine attributes then I think we need to go beack through some of the great spiritual writers of Christianity and rethink the soundness of their doctrine.

Francesco said...

Dave & Diakonos:

The plot thickens! I checked my copy at home and the two instances of feminine references (in the "Three Sayings" essay and in the prologue to Psalm 6) are not present. There must have been some evolution in the notes in the decade between when I received my copy and when you did.

the "Three Sayings" essay says that creation was God's way of expressing "himself" (not Godself) and that "God calls whom he wants and gives to one person what he does not give to another." The online text uses feminine pronouns in that sentence.

Psalm 6 says that it's "the prayer of a sick person. When he asks to be freed of his sickness he reaffirms his unshaken trust and his will to have nothing to do with evil." Again, the 17th edition uses masculine pronouns where later editions use feminine ones.

This raises a few interesting questions! I wonder how else my edition of the CCB is different from the ones you had? Also, how significant do editorial changes have to be before they affect the validity of an imprimatur? I know that the changes to the RSV-CE to create the RSV-2CE were not deemed great enough to merit a new imprimatur, so there has to be some wiggle room. Still, I think this is materially different from changing "cup" to "chalice".

Anonymous said...


I,m using the 37th ed (2005) of the CCB-CPE and Psalm 6 uses 'She' and 'Her'

If you would like me to look up any other passages I'll do so.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation from reading all the posts! Would a change in publishers or a printing from a different country mean a change in the notes? Sharon

Diakonos said...

Well, the plot does thicken. I was wondering that exact thing myself (evolution of notes) as I was searching the text. When I get home I will check and see what date for imprimatur is on my 2003 edition.

Sharon: I would guess a change in publisher could affect the notes because the Claretians (who publish the CCB) are well known as a more progressive or liberal group, at least here in the USA. They publish "U.S. Catholic" magazine which I wouldn't even use to line my bird cage. However, I do know that the theological bent of an international religious congregation like the Claretians can and does differ among their provinces. For example, the U.S. province of the Daughters of St. Paul (publishers, too) has been known as the more traditional segment of the community. They were still in trad habits while their Canadian sisters were in secular clothing and selling more liberal theological works in their stores. But the US Daughters "evolved" too and while still in (modernized semi-secular looking) habits here in CA they often sponsor speakers who are questionable.

Anonymous said...

I have the 9th ed (2000) Tagalog Version of the CCB-CPE. The notes for the Psalm 6 and the "The 3 Sayings of God" essay in Genesis is not an issue.

English: "When (she) asks to be freed of (her) sickness ..."

Tagalog: "Sa paghiling (niyang) lumaya (siya) sa kanyang Karamdaman ..."


English: "God calls whom (she) wants ..."

Tagalog: "Tinatawag ng Diyos and sinumang mapusuan (niya) ..."


niya\siya - is gender less.

I guess Tagalog handles inclusive language a little different than english.

Diakonos said...

Anonymous: this raises another thing I forgot to mention. I have often had the idea that perhaps the translation of the text is the problem into English. Or if the translator is perhaps someone for whom English is not the primary language.

Francesco said...


Thanks for the comparison to the Tagalog! Each language's grammar is different, and they can make things that are clear in one language ambiguous in another. I'm reminded of a story I read in a book by James Baker (US Secretary of State from 1989-1993) that negotiations with the Russia and Germany where about to collapse because of some pronouns in the English version of an agreement, but that everything was papered over because the Russian language didn't have those pronouns!


I don't think that's what happened. The older editions (for instance, my 17th) used "he" and "himself", while the newer editions use "she" and "Godself". The translation into English already happened, but then the translation was revised.

Anonymous said...

Like most people in this blog I have several english translations of the bible. The CCB-CPE intrigued me because of the notes as mentioned in the review. But, do I really need another english translation. I already have a dynamic-equivalence bible. Fortunately, I can read Tagalog so I bought the Tagalog version of the CCB-CPE. I'm gald to know that the Tagalog version may have been spared the problems of the more recent editions of the English CCB-CPE.


Tim B. said...

I ordered the CCB after reading this review from the Amazon link posted above.

The CCB that I received is NOT burgundy in color but is instead dark green. It also says "1st Edition" on the title page and the copyright is from 1998.

This was purchased brand new from Amazon and not a marketplace seller.

Timothy said...

Wow! Thirty comments on the CCB. Very interesting....

Diakonos said...

Timothy - it is very interesting but it reflects the CCB IMHO. It is a mixed bag. So many of the notes and articles are so spot-on and then there are the lesser-than components. But even with these in mind it remains a favorite of mine and I always find inspiration for Christian living in its pages. I think if we gave the NAB or the NOAB or the NISB the scrutiny we have given the CCB we would come up with various unacceptable notes and theologies here-and-there in those versions/editions as well.

Testigo de He Man said...

Hi, I have the "Biblia Latinoamericana", (Latin American Bible) in early 80's this traduction was revised because his particular point of view about the social equality.
The argentinian bishops says this bible recognize the "Teología de la Liberación" (Liberation's Tehology).

In other order, the language in this traduction it's easy and friendly.

Read on line:

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

I personally would like to thank everyone for using the Christian Community Bible. I hope more and more people will read the CCB... Francesco had a very beautiful review about the CCB, thank you so much...

Currently, the Claretian Publications' website in the Philippines is undergoing some "renovations". But you can still check the website or you can email us at

Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

The CCB was first published in the 80’s; bearing the Imprimatur of Cirilo R. Almario Jr. and a Nihil Obstat by Efren Rivera OP (latter editions simply carry the Imprimatur of the CBCP). With every edition, there are changes to the notes or text or to the additional materials included (eg. pictures, lectionary, lexicon, etc.).
The earlier editions (such as the 8th edition) don’t have inclusive language while the latter (such as the 17th) has. One can look at Psalm 1 where the earlier has "Blessed is the man" while the latter has "...the one". Another obvious difference is at the introduction to the gospels where the earlier ones includes a section about the 'Q' source while this is completely absent from the latter ones. Also check the commentaries for the first 3 chapters of Genesis as there are notable changes.
From my observation (as I have both), the notes of earlier editions has a tinge of liberation theology while the latter has feminist influence. The changes or additions to the notes or text are a mixed bag; some are improvements while others are definitely not, from an orthodox standpoint.
This is a far better version than the NAB. If you are thinking of purchasing one, try getting one of the earlier editions if possible.

Caine said...

Just checked the 2013 update at and it looks like the female pronouns were taken out of the "Three Words of God" Section, though "Godself" is still there. just as an update.

Tarik McRae said...

Blessed day. While reading your commentary on Matthew 9:38 in the bible, you state that Mary " ... is the finest symbol ... " (1403, "Christian Community Bible") of the " joyful and humble way of believing and doing the will of the Father" (1403, "Christian Community Bible"). Isn't Jesus the finest example of this?

Tarik McRae said...

Blessed day. While reading your commentary on Matthew 9:38 in the bible, you state that Mary " ... is the finest symbol ... " (1403, "Christian Community Bible") of the " joyful and humble way of believing and doing the will of the Father" (1403, "Christian Community Bible"). Isn't Jesus the finest example of this

Anonymous said...

Good day. While reading the commentary on Exodus 20, and more specifically Exodus 20:4; I came across the statement on page " ... we serve Mary by being an imitation of Christ". However according to the KJV "Thou shall worship the lord they God, and him only shall thou serve", not Mary. In addition, the commentary goes on to say "We do not expect from her anything but what the father himself decides to give us through her mediation". On the contrary scripture (KJV) says in Hebrews 9:15 that Jesus Christ " ... is the mediator of the new testament ... ".

Francesco said...

Tarik (and Anon if you're not Tarik):

Your disagreements with statements in CCB about Mary and your reliance on the KJV translation indicate that you may not be Catholic. Welcome! Grace and peace to you!

It's generally considered bad form to necro a thread that's been dead for years and was started close to a decade ago. Thread-jacking (e.g. trying to turn a review about a Catholic bible into a debate about Marian beliefs) is also not the best thing to do online. Perhaps you might find the answers you're looking for elsewhere?