Wednesday, March 14, 2018

First Look: CEB Study Bible w/Apocrypha

More and more I have felt the desire to explore translations that I had previously avoided.  One of those translations is the Common English Bible.  The CEB was produced under the sponsorship of a number of mainline Protestant denominations, most notably the Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church.  The scholars who worked on this translation included other Christian denominations, including a number of Roman Catholic biblical scholars.  

The CEB committee's stated goals were to "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."  All of these are very important goals which I think are so very necessary in the times we live in.  

Recently, I received a hardbound copy of the CEB Study Bible w/ Apocrypha to review.  I am really enjoying exploring this translation, since it is meant to read very differently than the more formal translations.  And I am not just looking at the standard go-to verses that we all typically look up first thing, instead I am trying to read much larger chunks of text.  I hope to report back to you on what I have discovered at a future date.  

The CEB Study Bible w/ Apocrypha is beautifully made.  Its presented in a single column format, with loads of cross-references.  In addition, there are full-color illustrations, photos, and a page-layout that makes it far more attractive than pretty much every Catholic Study Bible on the market.  (Yeah, no surprise there!)  The spine is sewn and there are no glossy inserts anywhere to be found.  

Here are some photos, which will give you a little flavor of what this study bible has to offer.

I want to thank the CEB folks for providing me a copy to review


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim. I’m very interested in your thoughts on the quality and style of the notes; are they historical, academic, Catholic-friendly, etc.?

I’m also interested in general translation philosophy and readability. Comparisons to other translations might be helpful.

While the NRSV is my overall preferred translation, I’m always interested in good study bibles of any translation.

Michael P.

Leighton said...


I found this edition, in new condition, at a used bookstore for a fraction of its retail price. It's a very attractive study Bible. I like the translation, too--- keeping in mind it's more of dynamic translation--- for the most part. There are some weird translation choices that made me scratch my head, the most glaring of which was its wording for 1 John 3:9: "Those born from God don't practice sin because God's DNA remains in them." Oh, wow. "DNA" for seed?

Anyway, I generally enjoy the translation, and this edition has some wonderful study aids, and though I've not used it extensively, I don't believe I've seen anything that goes against Catholic teaching. I'll be curious to see what you think of it. Known Catholic scholars such as Daniel Harrington, SJ, worked on the introductions and notes (see Tobit).

Overall, I really appreciate the color photos and study aids. It's very thorough. It would be nice to see some Catholic publishers step it up in this regard.

Timothy said...


I plan to when I get some time. I am sure some of my readers will be happy to provide some of the different translations of the CEB. One of my favorite is found in the picture, which is Psalm 65: "God of Zion, to you even silence is praise" which follows more closely the Hebrew. Few translations follow this rendering.

Timothy said...


Check out Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw my embryo,
and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
before any one of them had yet happened."

Timothy said...

Also, if you click the CEB "label" at the bottom of the post it will take you to older posts from this blog that have various verses from the CEB compared to other translations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim. In looking online for this edition, I found out that an updated CEB Study Bible is being released later this year.

Also, I found out their website,, has a number of verse comparisons to the NRSV and NIV and sample downloads.

Michael P.

wxmarc said...

I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this, Tim. I purchased a text copy of the CEB with Apocrypha last year, and it's a nice text to refer to. I don't know Hebrew or Greek, but I usually find that the CEB text is closer to the NRSV than to dynamic translations like the REB. Thus, I suspect that it is closer to formal equivalence than many people believe. On the other hand, it makes use of modern figures of speech in places I wouldn't expect. "God's DNA" is a good example. I ran into a different example two days ago in Mark 3:5-6:

"Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus"

Saying that the pharisees "got together" with Herod's supporters seemed more informal than I expected. Generally, that's the pattern I find with the CEB. It tilts toward more informal, conversational language, but when you actually set it next to other translations and compare them, the CEB looks more like the NRSV than a dynamic translation.

Where the CEB really shines, in my opinion, is the Psalms. In other translations, the Psalms often seem a little formal and aloof. In the CEB, the psalms are emotional, raw, and punchy. It's truly surprising to read the Psalms in the CEB. I was nearly brought to tears when I first read Psalm 22 in the CEB.

Christopher Buckley said...

Just one word:


[Which I support, but that will be the dividing line for many in this translation, like Yahweh is for me in the JB/NJB.]

Anonymous said...

Good point, Christopher. I'm not a huge fan of contractions in the Bible. I understand and like the use of everyday language; some of my favorites remain TEV/GNB and Phillips NT. But, contractions seem to cheapen scripture, especially when the language is clearly supposed to be heightened. If I'm not mistaken, TEV/GNB uses them sparingly, whereas CEB uses them throughout the OT and NT.

Theophrastus said...

Michael P. -- you wrote:

In looking online for this edition, I found out that an updated CEB Study Bible is being released later this year.

Can I please ask for a reference? I have not been able to find any suggestion to this effect.

Timothy said...

Maybe here:|1006038

Theophrastus said...

Thanks Timothy!

I wonder if that is a new edition or the same edition with a new cover. Amazon reports it has the same number of pages as the original edition, and the cover does not say "updated" or "second edition." Similarly, there is nothing in the description pointing to a new edition.

James Ignatius McAuley said...


I looked this over. It actually has ALL the Apocrypha, and not just what Roman Catholics consider apocrypha. Bel and the Snake? Interesting!

Regarding Psalm 65 and the Hebrew, I have to ask, which Hebrew? As usual I look to the father who commented on the psalms, Augustine, Cassiadorus, Eusebius, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Origen, Theodore of Mopseutia and Theodoret of Cyrus. But, we know that only Jerome, and Origen had knowledge of the Hebrew. Except there is nothing surviving from them on Psalm 65. Fortunately, Theodoret to Cyrus did have the Hebrew of the Hexapla available and he understood Syriac (a language closely related to Hebrew) and had a working knowledge of Hebrew. I see nothing in Theodoret's Commentary on Psalm 65 (64) to justify that CEB translation - and Theodoret is one to note in his commentary where the Septuagint diverges from the Hebrew. In fact, he starts of his commentary by noting what he finds to be an erroneous heading for Psalm 65 in the Septuagint, in light of his examination of the Hebrew text in the Hexapla.

I do not like the beginning of Genesis as found on their website. However, that section of Psalm 139 that you quote, Tim, is a far better translation than any I have seen.

Timothy said...

Yeah, I agree. It doesn’t look like there is much of a difference, besides the cover. We shall see.

Anonymous said...


Tim's cite to is where I saw it. On that site, it states that the current edition has 2432 pages and the one being released later this year has 2688 pages. Other than that, I have no other knowledge on this.

Michael P.

Theophrastus said...

Thanks Michael P.

Amazon says the current version has 2688 pages:

Looking at my personal copy (bought when it was released in 2013), I count:

Front matter 50 pages
OT 1550 pages
Apocrypha 448 pages
NT plus backmatter (not including maps) 640 pages

for a grand total of 2688 pages.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Theophrastus. It appears the website is inaccurate on the page count. I trust you, but not Amazon - they don’t always have the correct description for texts when there is more than one edition. I guess we’ll have to wait until this newer edition of the CEB Study Bible is released later this year to see what, if any, differences there are from the current edition.

Michael P.

David Garcia said...

Has anyone considered just going to the CEB website and emailing customer service to ask them details of the updated study Bible? I’ve emailed them in the past and they always respond.

Anonymous said...

David Garcia - I appreciate and respect your very practical suggestion. I’ll do that. If I get a response, I’ll report back.

Michael P.

owen swain said...

Excellent review. Glad I finally to you with my appreciation of this translation and of this particular edition. ;-) I love it in so many ways and all of it, "Human One" included. Am memorizing passages. Use it daily and picked up a wonderful travel edition which I am so glad to have to hand, right now, in what are proving to be very difficult days.

David Garcia said...

Owen I too love the CEB and have been a strong supporter since its release! Fresh is the best way to describe it for me. Just curious what travel edition you found?

owen swain said...

David, this link shows the edition I refer too.,9781609261016 I was fortunate to get mine via Abebooks, "Very Good" but really, Like-New unread, for 12.00 CAD so about three cents USD ;-)

David Garcia said...

Owen excellent thanks!!

I don’t know if everyone is aware but the CEB has been revised since its first releases/editions. The study Bible has the latest revisions but one has to be aware with the earlier ones.

Just check mark 1:16. If it has the typo of “fisherMAN” it’s the earlier edition. If it has “fisherMEN” it’s the revised edition.

I haven’t been able to find a list of all the revisions but I know they have been made.

Timothy said...


Perhaps you could share your thoughts on the CEB?

David Garcia said...

I am certainly not a “Bible reviewer” so I can’t dip into all the nuances that being a reviewer calls for. So all I can do is share what little I know and my heart. :)

I personally love the The Common English Bible. The CEB is a brand new translation (as opposed to a revised translation or a translation based on another version like the ESV or NKJV) that came out in 2011. So it’s refreshingly unfamiliar! It is probably the most ecumenical translation out there and comes, as we know, in a full, modern study Bible as well as quite a few different editions (many with or without the “apocrypha”).

There HAVE been revisions “somewhere” along the way but there doesn’t seem to be any documentation on it. So one has to be careful as to which edition they are reading when they buy the CEB.

I would say it falls along the lines of the most recent NLT revision but has some very interesting wordings and phrasings that shed some new light on older, familiar passages. It's new, fresh, thought provoking, enjoyable, and real.

Personally I’ve moved away from “studying” the Bible and now prefer to just read it for instruction in my faith, inspiration, and hopefully transformation. For me, the CEB offers this without going so far into paraphrase where I don’t feel like I’m reading the Bible anymore. I even used it for the OBOY challenge in 2015 and really looked forward to my daily readings as it offered me new eyes with which to see the scriptures. That alone made the CEB a worthwhile venture for me.

Timothy said...

Thanks for sharing. That is where I am at in many ways.

David Garcia said...

It’s interesting... I always think about “being 80 some day and looking back” and I keep coming back to the same things over and over again...

In those days I know will NOT be saying
- I should have argued more
- I should have wasted more time
- I should have been pettier
And on and on...

What I DO want to say is...
- I loved as much as I could
- I spent quality years with my family and loved ones
- I spent time in the Word and it carried me through life
- I was a faithful Catholic

I’m done poring over texts and analyzing every phrase and spending hours in concordances and all that. I just want to read the Word and be inspired. For hundreds of years there was no Bible as we know it now. There were letters and churches had a copy of this one or that one. I truly don’t think our faith was meant to be buried in a Bible. The Bible is one of many tools that helps us on our faith journey. But confession, the Mass, examination of conscience, prayer and other faith experiences are just as important for me. I need that balance.

I’ve spent too much time aching over the Bible and translations and bindings and personally I’m kind of done with all that.

I just want to live my faith the best I can, hopefully grow old, and look back and say I had a good life and spent my years well.

owen swain said...

David, yes, via some thread somewhere I became aware of the updates and corrections even since 2011; the downside of the upside of fast translation work, perhaps? It's not a thing for me :)

I can report the pocket-zipper has fishermEn at Mark 1:16.

P.S. Visited the publisher's website last month to ask if there is a list published online or anywhere of said changes and corrections. I've heard nothing back. I also wrote earlier with another question and heard nothing back. Also sent along a note more recently saying how and why I appreciate the translation and heard nothing back. Selah.

Michael Demers said...

Amen, David Garcia. What you said reminds me of John 5:39-40 (NRSV).

39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Anonymous said...

Did Anonymous 8:03 (or anyone else) ever hear back from the CEB people about what's new in the 2018 edition of the study bible?

Dave Garcia said...

Unfortunately no :( a few years ago they were much more responsive.. but the website is rarely ever updated anymore and I’ve sent several questions now without answer :(. It’s unfortunate too - the CEB is growing in interest for many of us and it would be nice to see it backed by a more robust team

Dan said...

Any word on the NABRE revision? Has the New Testament been redone yet?

Timothy said...

Still scheduled for 2025.