I always hope against hope. I always hope that when the UMC tries to do something they’ll do it right. I should have known that they wouldn’t when I saw who else was sponsoring the Common English Bible – Presbyterian (USA), Episcopalian, Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ. I mean, these churches are the most liberal among liberals.
My first clue was their trumpeting of their translation, normally rendered as “Son of Man”, as “the Human One”. Well, I didn’t like it, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t like it for various reasons. But I decided for the time being to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if I couldn’t “get used to it”. I discovered that yes, maybe, I could get used to it. But there are too many reservations on my part and from other people as well concerning that rendering for me to go along with it. Not the least of these is the idea that it simply smacks of their liberal agenda, i.e., it’s inclusive. It doesn’t limit the Christ to male; it could be either male or female. And that makes the liberals feel so-o-o-o good. But it’s not the least bit accurate.
If you’ve read what the CEB people linked to on my blog, how I said that I liked how the CEB hadn’t “dumbed down” the scriptures but had instead used a more educated level of English-well, know this: that was based on my reading of Matthew and Genesis, the two free downloads they had at the time, and both narrative books. In my further reading in the New Testament, I have discovered that in the epistles the English has been drastically dumbed down. Paul’s long, flowing, complex sentences have been chopped up into short, herky-jerky disconnected sentences. It’s the same kind of thing that drives me crazy when I read the epistles in the NLT. It’s like the translators decided they have to translate the epistles into a third-grade reading level. Nobody writes that way who has graduated from high school or college – or at least they shouldn’t still be at that level!
I’ve also read that the reason it’s taken such a short amount of time to get the CEB translated is because they are using their theology to short-cut some of the translation process. That explains why this translation makes many of the same choices that were made in the NRSV, choices that simply serve to advance a liberal agenda. I mean, if one is presented with three choices to render a translation, one makes perfect sense in the context and fits the words perfectly that are being translated; one is so-so, and the third is hardly worth considering, in most cases these translators choose the third option. Unfortunately, though both the CEB and NRSV suffer from this same malady, the NRSV is by far superior to the CEB.
I would imagine I will continue to read my free CEB New Testament for a little while, until I have read it all or until I can no longer stomach it. I have to have read enough to be able to tell people whether or not they should choose it, and why or why not. As for my own preferences, I have read enough now to know I want nothing to do with this new translation. To me it’s not even a second-tier translation. I’m not even going to look at it after I’m done with it. There is nothing about it that should make anybody choose it over the NRSV, to say nothing of the better “evangelical” translations like the ESV, NASB, NIV/TNIV, and even the NLT.
I won’t use it and I won’t recommend it.
(I say that with a heavy heart.)