Monday, March 26, 2018

Guest Post: From Eugene P to the CEB

 Pocket-Zippered Eco-Leather CEB with my rosary by
FloraYoonJewelry in Seoul, S.Korea via Etsy
Thank you to my friend Owen for providing this reflective post about his journey to the CEB.  The origins of this post go back to a recent post I did on the CEB Study Bible.  

Inserting myself into the conversation with David and Timothy, (and what I am going to say is all old news for Tim as we've chatted loads) I am also very much in the space you mention, David, regarding both the Common English Bible and your approach in purpose with the bible. 

Your list for going forward/looking back later in life is spot on. I'm a few years off 60, well away from the 80 years old you mention looking forward-to/back-from but, time is moving faster even at my age and I can say with certainty that the things you mention as important are those that matter most and yes, few of the other things we may have once imagined as so vital to the Christian are of little important.

Per translations, variations, paraphrases et cetera and each in their many editions and iterations; I've read all the major ones both sides of the Tiber. I've read and studied them as a lay person, as an ordained minister, as a clergy-convert to Catholicism, as a ''once-again-theology-student'' in a formal setting, and finally as returned to "just" a lay person.  

For all the study and comparisons both in hallowed-halls and as lived-experience I am in a place where I seek to expend precious energy actually living the Word, to the best of my ability, enabled by grace overendless mop-head (a term of semi-endearment) styled pouring over minutia, nit picking and parsing, proof-texting and proving who is right or most right. God bless them for whom that is a helpful thing. Really, God bless'em good. If any of that equates with being a better disciple of Christ, a better fellow human, please have at it. It is no longer me if it ever really was me. Not a few of my comments in the archive of this blog I would presently find embarrassing were I to look them up - nothing bad per se, just wow, did I once think that way? I did.

In the late 90s, then as a Protestant minister, I was introduced to Eugene Peterson [EP] (regrettably not in person) and to his then portions of the bible as they were rolled out. It was beyond refreshing. Then in 2002 I bought my first complete The Message Bible [MSG]. Bam. Wow. Alive. Real poetry. Talk about your read-think-pray-live!

However, I was in circles where for many the MSG was in disfavour and in as much taken up with "the fear of man"---that people pleasing monster borne of valuing myself via the eyes of others rather than investing in enough silence to hear my own voice, an inner wisdom as well as to truly trust God in that inner voice---because of nonsense like that, I put that wonderful MSG bible away.

Still later, having taken the deep-dive risk of losing my livelihood in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church, I strove and I do mean strove to be whatever I thought others said was the best way to be Catholic. It was a genuine conversion quickly coloured by the expectations and opinions of others. In some respects I had merely changed silos and in regard to bible translations specifically I found the "dialogue" over right and wrong, good and bad, worthy and dross to be far more vitriolic. And once again I found EP and his MSG held in question by those whom I sought to emulate in the name of being a good Catholic. Sad, I know.

Later on still, with much personal work done and say, with accepted vocational changes, I happened on news of the release of The Message Catholic/Ecumenical [MSGCE] (I blame ;-) Tim and his blog for that news) and I picked up a copy and wondered why-the-blank I had let go of the MSG in those intervening years. Well, I knew why, as I've just said, it as more that I in letting go the nonsense I was amazed to have re-discovered such a helpful bible.

Personal growth, becoming more genuinely open, seeking God again in my own terms and with false affections fading, the timing was right. The MSG was a bible-balm.

Last year during Lent I decided one of the things I would "give up" was the endless bible translation version and edition comparison. The beginning of the end of premium and of perfect bible was at hand. I immersed myself into just one bible, reading only that one the whole of Lent. I chose the MSGCE. It was transformative. So much so that Lent ended and I continued on in the Message-only or very nearly only. Was I worried that it was a paraphrase? No. I have decades of formal and informal training behind me and I got loads of approved-translation NRSV in our Canadian liturgy and not unimportantly I was coming to a more deeply holistic understanding of being Catholic. That change has been, I pray, irreversible; what’s been seen cannot be unseen and never more did that old hymn resonate, “no turning back”.

Reading-thinking-praying-living the MSG was the best bible-experience I'd had to date with most genuine impact in my life; that’s 37 years of bible, reading, praying, preaching, teaching, attempts at living fully.

Unsurprisingly, I had no desire to move away from EP's MSGCE. I was invited to twice give a continuous-live-no-breaks-reading of the Gospel of Mark from the MSGCE in our parish. It was very favourably received.

So, right, I had no interest in getting another bible, another translation. Then, serendipity happened and along came the Common English Bible. Like this: I was listening to a recent podcast of a sermon by a local former-denominational-peer-minister acquaintance of mine as I was interested in the inner-city work his folks are engaged in and, what was that? That was the sound of a familiar passage in a translation I could identify and, as noted, I know pretty much all of them, pretty well. I replayed the portion of the podcast and wrote the words down, then plugged them into Google Search and ta-da!, there those words were on as some bible version I did not know at all. I read on, then on and on and then went looking for a good used copy on-line.

I did not think anything would move me from the MSGCE as my primary bible. But the CEB has done so (sorrEy, Tim!). Granted, the MSG is the only bible that has made me laugh out loud or hoot with enjoyment/surprise and I do still love it so. Meanwhile, the CEB has become my bible of prayer, of daily reading and reflection and when I choose so, of study. It is quickly becoming the one that comes to mind during the day in relation to this or that happening or thought. So yes, my primary translation is the CEB with the MSG as a beloved companion. 

It's like the CEB found me rather than the other way round. (As an aside, EP himself discourages one from reading his MSG as ones primary bible.)

Per the CEB:
- I appreciate its scholarship which is up to date and while no translation is wholly unaffected this one resonates.
- I appreciate its broad ecumenical translator base (more Catholics than the now Catholic-lauded ESV except perhaps the originally all-Catholic JB-family (?) ) and the inclusion of a greater proportion of woman in that mix (indeed, one third among the Catholics ).
- I appreciate that it is a wholly new translation, not a redo or a redo of a redo despite the claims of late of publishers of many a translation I need not name for readers of this blog.
- I highly value a number of perhaps at first jarring translation choices it makes. One reflection and with the publishers intentions considered these choices ring true and are refreshing as Christianity grows. (Yes, I am purposefully choosing to not note those citations because, as noted above, I'm no longer interested in debate and any reader here can or has found plenteous opinion expounding posts elsewhere.)
- I appreciate the CEB's conversational tone without its becoming colloquial and without the loss including classic-Judeo-Christian-historic connections and terms (a thing the good EP often avoids in the MSG. I understand his reasoning and have missed those helpful connections so for me, here is another plus in the CEB). 
- I value the CEBs non-sectarian tone both in the translation itself and in the notes of the Study edition.

It's readiness to make certain bold yet informed choices while still incorporating classic Christian-theological terms all in a manner that is eminently readable and listen-able is, I think, remarkable.

It surprised me how quickly I made the choice to read the CEB as primary (now, CEB plural as I confess have the hardback study with full Catholic and Eastern church "apocryphal" books and the pocket-zipper, though Protestant canon only). Tim jokingly predicted that outcome. Haven't bothered myself with comparing the CEB 2011 with later iterations. Was tempted to pine as of old once I knew there were those changes and even wrote the publisher to inquire after a comparison list but then ended up just as happy to have received no reply because for me, why loose the gained-ground of embracing a read-to-live what is to hand approach (I mean, really, how far off can the changes and corrections be)?  As it now turns out (see comments in the originating post) both editions I have are the most recent iterations of the translation). Good enough, very-good enough.

Once upon a time, a long, long time, I wanted the right bible, the right perfect bible, the right perfect premium bible. To use words such as obsession and addiction in that context are not a stretch. And now?

Read-to-really-live. That's how I see it. If that's this or that translation for you (the 'royal you' here :) ) please, please read-think-pray and live fully. Please, just go live it. But wait, is this or that translation officially approved? Please do read Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum

Well, didn't this comment become that post!

Thus endeth the Lesson. Or, perhaps, so Life begins.


Dave Garcia said...


Great post!!!

First I thank you for your kind words of support and agreement with my own personal views on this issue, life, and the CEB... and I in turn agree with you. :)

The CEB has been one of the most welcome changes of my entire Christian walk and life. I know that sounds awfully bold but nevertheless it’s true.

I won’t reiterate all the Bible-edition-version obsessiveness that you mentioned so nicely other than to say I too have long-suffered this malady! And for quite awhile, as many here know, the JB1966 has been my primary Bible. And perhaps in some ways it may still be (when I occasionally still yearn for more familiar phrases).

But for Lent I have been completely immersed in the CEB and find myself awakened through it over and over and over again. I find it to be a great “meeting place” of the more adventurous MSGCE and the more primary translations like the JB, NRSV, etc... for me the CEB is the best of all worlds.

Something I have humorously discovered along the way in all this Bible translation/edition obsession is this - how can such imperfect people such as us ever hope to discover a perfect bible?!? Perfection and imperfection cannot co-exist. Which I think is why we have such a hard time finding that ever-elusive “perfect bible”. And the CEB is no exception - it ain’t poyfect! But it IS “imperfectly perfect” FOR an imperfect person such as I. :)

I have my simple CEB decotone with “apocrypha” as my daily reader (by the way I LOVE the font in my decotone), and I have the hard cover Study Bible with “apocrypha” when I still desire to get into study a bit more. That’s really all I need anymore.

In 5 weeks the CEB has moved and transformed me more than 30 years of reading and agonizing over ever-revolving translations.

Isn’t that what’s it’s really all about?

Deacon Dave said...

OK… You are such a great writer and so enthusiastic about it that I hopped on over to Amazon and picked it up. I got the CEB Common English Thinline Bible with Apocrypha DecoTone Black, used/very good condition, $15. It should arrive just in time for Easter week. Thank you!

Dave Garcia said...

Deacon Dave that’s my personal edition. Great font, very portable and easy to handle, even the decotone cover feels nice. Enjoy your new CEB journey!

Jeff S. said...

The CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha Hardcover
Common English Bible / 2018 / Hardcover
Write a Review
This product will be released on 08/07/18

So how much different is this from

CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha - hardcover
Common English Bible / 2013 / Hardcover

Jeff S.

Deacon Dave said...

Good to know, Dave. Thanks! I am looking forward to receiving and using it. Great first name BTW :)

Ed Rio said...

Great post! I've recently gone back to reading The Catholic Living Bible, not caring what anyone else thinks of my choice. Since Mom passed away, that's the one that speaks to me and I understand.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Owen. Thank you for sharing. I am inspired. I can certainly relate to the obsession with finding that "perfect" translation and edition. I'd like to cease as well and just get on with the business of living the life.

Keith S.

Jeff S. said...

I emailed the CEB people from the form on their website about 15 minutes ago
and just got a response:

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your question. The new CEB Study Bibles available this August are only new cover designs. The interior is the same.
Thanks again,
The CEB Team

Dave Garcia said...

Ed... I didn’t know there was a catholic living bible... very interesting!!

Dave Garcia said...

Jeff no one seems to know the difference (if any, aside from the cover) yet...

Dave Garcia said...

Thanks Jeff! And there you have it!

T. said...

Couldn't agree with this post more! I rely upon my Catholic Study Bible (NABRE translation) for prepping all of my lessons because of the extensive notes and commentary, but, given the chance to read aloud to my Middle School class or Seniors group, MSGCE or CEBw/A versions are my weapons of choice. And, guess what? They either don't notice or don't care that the text doesn't sound like what they are used to because they are getting so much more out of it. Go figure, they can understand it because it applies to their lives more!

Ed Rio said...

Dave, Thankfully, yes, there is one! Before I was even in the RCIA, the Catholic Living Bible is the one I read. Before that, I thought the only translation available was the KJV. Imagine my relief when the nice lady at the Christian bookstore handed me one to read! No more thees, thous, hithers, thithers, and peradventures. :-)

Dave Garcia said...

Ed I’ll have to look into that! I always enjoyed the living bible. Would love to read the deuterocanonicals in that edition!

Dave Garcia said...

Ed .. and I actually love the KJV! Lol :)

Deacon Dave said...

Dave & Ed, it is my undertsanding that the New Living Translation - Catholic Edition (NLT-CE) is the most current version of what was once called the Catholic Living Bible.

Dave Garcia said...

Deacon Dave... yes the NLT was a 1996 revision of the 1971 Living Bible. But the NLT has gone through several revisions and is a much more accurate, if still looser, translation that really bears almost no resemblance to the 1971 Living Bible. Though I wouldn’t mind comparing TLB’s deuterocanonicals to the recent NLTCE to see how similar/different they are :)

Dave Garcia said...

Ed.. PPS... I actually have an old genuine leather KJV/LB parallel Bible from TBN :) it’s a big, wry large print bible. it just doesn’t have the deuterocanonicals :(

Anonymous said...

I must say that my favorite dynamic/functional equivalence translation remains the Good News Bible/Today's English Version. I've compared it to just about every translation out there, particularly others of the dynamic/functional equivalence persuasion, and to me it resonates more deeply than any other. It was the very first Bible I ever had (mid-70s CCD class), but even after earning advanced degrees and all that, I find it has aged very well. I think there’s a dignified naturalism about the language. Granted, it's not the most poetic translation, but it's straightforward and respectful of scripture.

So, in the spirit of Owen’s awesome post, if I had to choose one, I’d choose the simple yet beautiful GNB/TEV every time.

- Keith S.

Jeff S. said...

Additional information from Common English Bible:
Thanks for the question.
There is definitely and unequivocally no change in the interior.
I don’t know why ChristianBook Distributors has the wrong page count for the CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha. It is 2688 for the old cover and 2688 for the new cover. It is correct on Amazon, Cokesbury, and in our system.
Sorry for the confusion.

I had asked:
Hello again,
Thanks for answering so quickly!
So the number of pages is the same?
I've seen on the ChristianBook website that the 2013 ed. was 2432 pages
while the new 2018 ed. will be 2688 pages.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the rosary in the photo?

owen swain said...

David, I appreciate your comments and enthusiasm.

Deacon, you will now be the star of your diocese, or not ;-) Hope the CEB is a happy thing for you.

Ed, good man.

Keith S, thanks mate. Happy to have inspired.

Jeff S, you wrote CEB and got a response! If we weren't sill in Lent I'd shout the A word. Well done. I've written them three times and zero reply - even let them know about this post and, zippo. :D I'm using the comment form on the CEB website. Have you an email address?

T, I couldn't be happier than you couldn't agree more with the (my) post. Cheers.

Jeff S. said...

Owen Swain,
Here is the email address that they replied to me from after I initially
wrote them from their website comment form.

Common English Bible

And when I wrote back to that email address they replied to it.
I think all you need actually is

Hope this works for you.
Jeff S.

owen swain said...

Anon, if you look at the photo you will see the link for the rosary. Cheers.

Solitary Pilgrim said...

Deacon Dave.. how have you fared with your decotone CEB??