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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 biblegateway.com 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 et.al 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.