Friday, June 24, 2011

Common English Bible Compared

The Common English Bible newsletter came out yesterday with the below comparison. I added the NAB.

(Reader Victor alerted me to the fact that you can get the Kindle version of the CEB w/ Apocrypha now. Thank you Victor.)

Common English Bible Acts 4:32-33
32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all.

New American Bible
32 The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.
New International Version (2011) Acts 4:32-33
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Acts 4:32-33
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
King James Version (KJV) Acts 4:32-33
32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.  33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all


Leonardo said...


for me, the one which is easier to understand is the NRSV, especially verse 33, maybe because the use of the apostles "gave their testimony", rather than "continued to bear powerful witness", or "continued to testify".

Anonymous said...

Is it safe to assume that giving testimony is one of the biblish terms (such as "son of man") which the CEB avoids as a matter of principle - or would this be simply modification for variety?

Of the versions quoted above, I most appreciate the NRSV. In additions to Leonard's comment, I am of the ilk who thinks "mind" is an inadequate translation of ~psyche.


Diakonos said...

I find the CEB to be more banal that the Good News Translation. The CEB (like the translations of the liturgy from ICEL which will soon be left behind)) leave me feeling like I have somehow been short-changed. They leave me asking "Isn't there something more?"

Anonymous said...

The reading from the NRSV prove the point home mopre than the other translations.

rolf said...

Here is the Revised English Bible (REB) for a little contrast;

'The whole company of believers was united in heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own; everything was held in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and all were held in high esteem.'

Anonymous said...

They all relay the same message. Not sure why anyone would waste time debating one vs the other...please explain?

CD-Host said...

rolf --

I agree with you on the REB. A truly excellent bible that is under appreciated.

I understand the need for something more dynamic which is liberal. I understand the need for something easy to read. But easy to read and relatively liberal is covered by CEV. Or a revision of the NLT.

Timothy said...


I agree with you. I am still trying to see where the CEB fits. It's dynamic and liberal, so is the intent then to have their own NIV-type basically?

CD-Host said...

I suspect that's the idea. The NIV has been a huge seller for 2 decades and right now is back to the top slot. I'm just not sure the CEB is the right book. I hope it is mainline churches need a good everyday reading bible. They have an excellent formal translation in the NRSV but nothing much beyond that.

But, when the NIV came out it was the conservative alternative to the NEB. It was much more formal than the GNB or the TLB. And it was much more conservative. The NIV filled a vital niche. It was vastly more accurate than any conservative bible in common language so people using the ASV or KJV could move off. It was conservative enough that people who were upset with the liberality of the RSV liked it. Then of course the study notes and commentary were all done from a "non-denominational protestant" (i.e. arminian baptist) perspective.

If the mainline denominations build an entire infrastructure around the CEB then it may very well turn into a success. If they don't it will just be something not too much different than the CEV fighting for the same small market niche.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, as a former mainliner, I don't think there are enough Liberal mainliners left to support an "entire infrastructure" for any translation. The only reason the NRSV is still going is because of support from the academic and Catholic communities. If it were up to the vanishing mainliners such as I use to be, the NRSV would be dead already.

I think the CEB is ultimately after the same niche as the TEV/GNB, which over time has proved to be a fairly small niche.

Fortunately for the translators, in today's market the CEB will not need to be a runaway success for it to remain in publication.


Anonymous said...

As an observation, I find it interesting that the more successful Dynamic translations have undergone subsequent revisions which made them more literal, not more dynamic. In particular the NABRE is vastly less Dynamic than the 1970 NAB and the TNIV and NIV 2010 are both more literal than the 1985 original. The already literal RSV was made more literal by the wildly successful ESV as well as the RSV-2CE. Even the NLT saw a significant correction in the literal direction with the NLTse. The Good News Bible changed its name to Good News Translation in order to give the appearance of being more literal than it is. Finally, my personal favorite reading Bible is the REB, a more literal reworking of the NEB.

The CEB is entering a market that appears to want Bibles more literal than Dynamic.

However, the Message is still on the top ten sellers list, so anything is possible!


Theophrastus said...

The full CEB is not even in print yet. As I recall, the study version of the CEB is not expected to be out until 2013. I very much doubt that any of the commenters above have read it cover-to-cover yet.

Very few of the current bestselling Bibles were bestsellers in the first year of their releases. (As an example example,it took the KJV about 50 years for it to become the dominant English Bible.)

And a Bible's sales rank and mindshare is not determined by those who don't like it -- it is determined by those who buy it and read it. I'm pretty sure each of us has some translation we particularly dislike which is in the top 10 best selling translations -- but our dislike (even our collective dislike) doesn't stop a disliked translation from having healthy sales.

It seems that rumors of the CEB's death are exaggerated. At the very least, we should actually read it (and not just brief excerpts) before pronouncing a death sentence.

CD-Host said...

Brad --

You can look at the pew numbers, the mainline churches have more members than evangelicals. They are growing as a percentage of the eligious, gaining members from evangelicals slightly faster than they are losing them to evangelicals, and gaining from Catholics at a blistering pace. They are losing rapidly to the No-religion (atheist, agnostic, none don't know, don't care) group but more slowly than either Catholics or evangelicals.
I did a post on inflows and outflows a couple years back.

Yes they can easily support multiple infrastructures. The mainline churches had 2 bad generations where they went from a huge lead to just being a big group. That's over.

1 New International Version mediating
2 New living Translation dynamic
3 King James Version formal
4 New King James Version formal
5 English Standard Version formal
6 Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish) formal
7 Holman Christian Standard Bible mediating
8 The Message Eugene Peterson, paraphrase
9 New International Readers Version loose dynamic
10 New American Standard Bible formal

seems to me the market is supporting a pretty broad range on the formal dynamic spectrum. Main thing I see is a very heavy evangelical protestant bias.

Theophrastus said...

CD-Host -- Your ranking appears to be from the CBA bestseller list. Since that is an association of mostly Evangelical Protestant booksellers, it is hardly surprising that the resulting list shows a "heavy [E]vangelical [P]rotestant bias."

Since the NAB is exclusively used in the Catholic (American) English liturgy, it is probably the mostly widely heard Bible week after-week. But since the NAB is not likely to be stocked by most CBA members, it will never appear on that bestseller list.

More important, it does not show the actual influence of various translations. Just because a Bible is purchased, it does not mean it is read or understood. I suspect that although the NIV supposedly dwarfs the NRSV in sales, the NRSV is read about as often or more often than the NIV.

Anonymous said...

CD Host,

According to the National Council of Churches, which compiles reporting from the denominations:

"The 78th annual edition of the Yearbook also reports a continuing decline in membership of virtually all mainline denominations.* And the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second largest denomination and long a reliable generator of church growth, reported a decline in membership for the second year in a row, down 0.24 percent to 16,266,920.

The Catholic Church, the nation's largest at more than 68 million members, also reported a slight membership loss in 2009 but rebounded this year with a robust growth of 1.49 percent.

The Latter-day Saints grew 1.71 percent to 5,873,408 members and the Assemblies of God grew 1.27 percent to 2,863,265 members, according to figures reported in the 2010 Yearbook.

Other churches that continued to post membership gains in 2010 are Jehovah's Witnesses, up 2 percent to 1,092,169 members, and Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), up 1.76 percent to 1,053,642 members.

Churches reporting the highest membership losses are the Presbyterian Church (USA), down 3.28 percent to 2,941,412; American Baptist Churches in the USA, down 2 percent to 1,358,351; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, down 1.92 percent to 4,709,956 members."
end quote

Please note that the SBC, not a mainline church, is almost as large as the seven mainline churches combined. Add the rest of the Evangelical denominations and Evangelicals dwarf the Mainliners.

*Four of seven mainline denominations declined, the other three did not report data. My former denomination lost almost 3% for the year and around 11% for the past decade.

My point is that this continued decline makes it difficult to raise the amount of support necessary to adequately promote a new translation, while also offering a small and shrinking market for the end product.

CD-Host said...

Theo --

Agree on both the source of the list and the reason for the bias. But.. remember the point was originally about formal vs. dynamic and I'd assume that the CEB is probably representative of that broader preference among most Christians. I'd love to have better statistics than CEB for these discussions.

And a Bible's sales rank and mindshare is not determined by those who don't like it -- it is determined by those who buy it and read it.

I'd agree with you on sales rank, not so much on mindshare. I think mindshare even within groups that use a text is highly dependent on how well respected that text is outside of their group.

For example the Jehovah's Witnesses have been using a bible for a 1/2 century that the broader Christian community completely rejects. That diminishes mind share even with the Jehovah's Witnesses, they understand they are using a denominational translation. It prevents them from using other materials and ultimately it can lead to bleeding of members. What is noticeable is that uou don't have the kind of naiveté you frequently find with Protestants in conflating the English with the original texts. Average protestants frequently don't know there are different ways of translating the texts that have theological importance, Jehovah's Witnesses do.

More important, it does not show the actual influence of various translations. Just because a Bible is purchased, it does not mean it is read or understood. I suspect that although the NIV supposedly dwarfs the NRSV in sales, the NRSV is read about as often or more often than the NIV.

I'm not sure I follow. What are you basing that on?

CD-Host said...

Anonymous --

Church membership numbers are almost worthless. Churches vary far too much in how they count membership and what membership means. Many churches don't have memberships and simply rank attendance. Particularly if we are going to compare Catholics, where membership comes from infant baptism to groups that require active attendance.

SBC for example that you mentioned counts many people multiple times. Unless someone goes through the letter of transfer process quite frequently when they move they end up on two different church rolls. Also when people change churches it is not uncommonly between two SBC churches and again on both church rolls. The SBC itself generally assumes it is over-counting around 2.7 to 1.

A reasonable measure that is consistent across religions is self identification.

Theophrastus said...

Anonymous: there are problems with the way that membership data are collected with several denominations. In particular, the Southern Baptist Convention has long been accused of rather severely inflating its membership numbers by (a) failing to purge its rolls of inactive members; and (b) failing to purge its rolls of churches which had affiliated with mainline denominations (such as the American Baptist Convention).

Perhaps a more valid way to get membership data is to act individuals themselves -- which is what the Pew Forum did. They found SBC affiliation to be 6.7% of the US population, while Mainline Protestant Church affiliation was 18.1%. (Altogether, the Pew Survey found Evangelicals at 26.3%, Mainlines at 18.1%, Historically Black Churches at 6.9%, and Catholics at 23.9%.)

Further, I am not sure that I believe the basic thesis behind the argument: that the market for Bible translations is determined by denomination. It seems to me that the CEB may be of interest to some members of all four major groups: Evangelicals, Mainline, Historically Black, and Catholic. (For example, here we are discussing this translation on a Catholic blog site.) Only a few groups (such as the Mormons or J-Witnesses) mandate a particular translation as an approved translation.

I know many members (from a variety of denominations) who enjoy being able to compare different Bibles. For example, I know many Protestants who own Catholic and Jewish Bibles (and similarly, many Catholics who own some Protestant and Jewish Bibles). There are even "parallel Bibles" published that allow a reader to compare 4-8 translations simultaneously.

In any case, this is all somewhat premature speculation; a lot depends on how well the CEB is marketed and on the quality of supporting materials that emerge in the next five years.

Speaking for myself, I am looking forward to reading the CEB when it comes out in print in early Fall; I found in several places that it had interesting interpretations of the NT books, and I am looking forward to reading the OT. I am especially looking forward to the study Bible due out in 2013; I suspect that work may defend some of the unusual interpretations that appear in the CEB.