Common English Bible, Thinline Edition: Review

Cometh the hour hence, when grammar is out the door and sacred scripture is behind it.

with apocryphaAs you can see I’m the worst photographer in the Church. But that’s not my job: my task is to review this fine piece of Scripture. This Common English Bible includes what most Protestants refer to as the apocrypha, but we truly know that it’s the collection of the 7 missing books they’re missing from their canon, which we Catholics, Orthodox, and even Anglicans use. Also included are the other few books that the Orthodox use, but we Catholics don’t. On the cover in silver metallic print is “Holy Bible” and as you can see, on the binding, the same.

I was sent the thinline version, and I really love the size and the way it fits in your hand or lays flat out on your desk.

ribbonA black ribbon is included to hold your spot, not unlike one finds in the Sunday Missals of old and new. It was a regular old ribbon, nothing good nor bad about it. It was a nice, sturdy ribbon.

The typeface was the first thing I noticed upon opening the book. Do you see how bony it looks? It’s not a bad font, but I don’t think it’s a good font to print a book that might be read daily or devotionally. It felt like every word was a logo in it’s own right, and there was too much white space on the page to focus in on. However, they did look nice in the footnotes.

text sampleThe negative Nellie in me didn’t like the italic version of the sans-serif font used as titles in each passage.

I took the book and bent it over, I curled the leather cover pages and they all returned to normal without any problems. I’m not sure what kind of leather it is, but the lower back right corner says “DecoTone.” That might be synthetic. The paper is standard bible-paper, thin and easy to tear apart. The maps in the back are well done by National Geographic.

obligatory flex testThe Thinline Common English Bible also passed the obligatory flex-test that I’ve seen at Bible Design Blog and the Catholic Bibles Blog. You can see a bit of the silvery gilt edges, but here’s a better picture.

Shine edgeCan you see it? Nah? Yah? I loved it. It wasn’t that cheap silver that sometimes sticks together and tears the page when you turn it. It was a nice, polished, metallic silver that hasn’t worn out yet after all this time. This is truly the evangelists bible, style-wise. I can see it being carried around for ten years without any visible defects, but that only speaks of it’s durability. Now onto the translation itself.

As it says on the tin, the CEB has been “field tested by 77 reading groups in 13 denominations.” I don’t know how to react to that honestly, I just wish they’d said which “denominations” were included. It also says “118 leading biblical scholars from 22 denominations” referring to those who translated and compiled it. I’m not a theologian, and I’m not a biblical scholar, but I still can’t understand how “leading biblical scholars” can translate “goodness and mercy” as “goodness and faithful love” in the twenty-second (or twenty-third) Psalm. There is a great difference between mercy and faithful love. If you should give me the opportunity, as I sit here now looking through the book of psalms I’ve noticed something I didn’t before that’s actually quite interesting. Some psalms include Hebrew lettering next to each verse. I don’t know what this means or what’s the purpose? Would anyone know?

The Apocrypha section is divided thrice:

  1. Books included in Roman Catholic, Greek, and Slavonic Bibles
  2. Books included in Greek and Slavonic Bibles
  3. Books included in Appendix to Greek Bible

I like that. It’s cool.

“Bel and the Dragon” is translated as “Bel and the Snake” and is included as a separate chapter, rather than part of the Book of Daniel.

Psalm 151 is listed in three different versions: Hebrew, Hebrew and Syrian, and in Greek.

There seems to be a complete avoidance of any traditional, ecclesiastical or traditional “church language” words. In Matthew 3, instead of “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at Hand”, the CEB reads “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of Heaven!”

That was strange to me, but it does relate. In 1 Corinthians, upon “Partaking of the Supper Unworthily” as the NRSV says, the CEB uses the term “inappriately.”

Also compared to the NRSV, is the wording used in 1 Corinthians 6:9. The CEB reads:

Don’t you know that people who are unjust won’t inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

Unjust. For comparison, let’s look at another translation, not a Catholic one, the English Standard Bible

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Unjust is unforgiving, and being unforgiving is indeed unrighteous, but I’m getting picky. I don’t think, as an amateur bible reader, that “unjust” conveys the proper message because I would interpret it as if I could commit all those offences, but as long as I was just (fair, forgiving, loving) then I would inherit the kingdom of God. It’s just awkward wording.

Luke 1:28 uses “highly favoured” instead of “full of grace”, which isn’t uncommon, and “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me as you have said” replaces “And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” which isn’t uncommon or wrong, I just thought you’d like to see. Personally, and I’m biased, I don’t like the wording.

Other chapters read like storybooks, which I think is the intent of the CEB: to provide a clear, fresh, smooth, beautifully flowing piece of scripture that has “uncommon relevance” (as the back of the box it came in says).

This version of the Bible is titled as a translation, and although I’ve been using that word throughout the review, I would beg to differ if it’s actually a translation at all. It reads like, looks like, and sounds like a paraphrase. A paraphrased bible into modern language; making it sound like it happened last week on Eastenders. I noticed something that a similar review noted:

The Common English Bible often broadens the meaning of the text to fit a contemporary context, even when the contemporary context is quite different from the biblical context. Here’s a somewhat lengthy example.

In the ancient world, there was no way to know that a man could be sterile. If a woman was barren, they always assumed that it was the woman who had the problem. The ancient world was filled with fertility cults. (The cult of Artemis in Ephesus mentioned in Acts 19 is one of them.) Their temples were filled with priests and priestesses who had sex with the worshippers as a religious rite. A barren woman might go to the fertility cult’s temple, have sex with a male prostitute-priest, and give birth to a child because her husband was sterile, but the priest was not. That appeared to be a miracle and it appeared to validate the cult. People were also in the habit of using the fertility cults for recreation, and since pagan religions did not teach any kind of morality, no one saw a problem with that.

Christianity and Judaism were the only religions in the ancient world that combined spirituality and morality, but because Jews and Christians were a small minority, they didn’t have much impact on society other than to intrigue intellectuals with this idea.

Because Corinth was on an isthmus and had two ports, one on either side of the city, people of all ethnicities passed through, so Corinth was up to the ears in pagan temples to various gods. A major problem of the ancient church was getting catechumens to understand the novel idea of combining morality and religion and to stop using the “services” of the pagan temples. This problem was particularly acute in Corinth. This is the topic of 1 Corinthians 6. The Greek text of 1 Corinthians 6:16 uses the word “πορνη,” which the Septuagint uses for a pagan prostitute-priest. Since the ancient church used the Septuagint as its Old Testament and had problems stemming from cult prostitutes, πορνη most likely had the same meaning in the New Testament and the first-century church. (See the review of the Orthodox Study Bible for a discussion about the Septuagint.) Why would there be prostitutes of the modern type, when it was easy enough to get a job at a pagan temple? The New Revised Standard Version and other responsible translations broaden the meaning of “πορνη” a little and render it in English as “prostitute” because it is a one-word translation and because it is possible that “πορνη” had acquired a broader meaning by that time. Using the word “prostitute” does not undermine Bible instructors who want to teach their class about the religious environment that surrounded the Corinthian church and the religious temptations that beset its members.

I’d recommend you read that review in full, because although it lacks the eye candy, it’s a fine review.

Final Verdict

  • Is this a good version to use for the lectionary at Mass? Certainly not, especially because it’s not approved.
  • Would I use this in private devotion? No
  • Am I being overly picky? Not when it comes to distorted doctrine
  • I’d like to see the Douay-Rheims or Knox or NAB in the same physical format that this is in. It’s a lovely book to hold in your hands, and I love the silver gilt edges.
  • I wouldn’t recommend the CEB to someone looking for a new Bible, because I’m afraid they’d come away with the wrong idea.
  • Who is the target audience for the CEB? I think it’s low-Church Anglicans and evangelical Christians in my opinion.
  • 4/10 stars. 2 stars for the physical book, it’s soft cover and leather, and the ribbon. 1 star for it’s good passages, 1 other star for the maps in the back provided by National Geographic. I was disappointed because I was expecting something more regal, more liturgical.


The prose, I suppose

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake. Amen.

The above prayer comes from the Book of Common Prayer’s Compline service. Please don’t gasp that I’m quoting the Book of Common Prayer, but give me a minute to explain.

Falling asleep some nights proves itself no easier than swimming from Dublin to Norway. It takes the matchless prose such as above to get me over the torrential winds that anxiety sometimes is. However, that causes me to think: it’s not the prose, it’s the prayer. God has heard my cry, and he has come to my aid. O Lord, make haste to help me! Thy goodness like the sweet honey, and Thy mercy deeper than any ocean.

Some nights I’ll put on a tape of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to listen to his speeches and homilies. I understand my faith much more because of those half-hour “episodes.” I’m reminded of his description of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The Venerable Archbishop asked if we could go and create our mother, wouldn’t we make her as flawless and as perfect as any mother is? Wouldn’t we make her the most beautiful lady on earth? Such was God’s mother: for He came down to Earth through the spotless vessel that is the Blessed Mother. The sinless, immaculate Virgin he created, for he loved her before all Creation was made. Our Lady was in His design and plan since the beginning, and that is her vital role in the mystery of Salvation.

That’s a good and comforting thought.  If the younger generations today could receive a good catechism, a good lesson in religion, a lot of the anxieties and crosses that younger people bear today would become a much lighter load.

Now to conclude, let’s end with the scripture translation that I will review come noon. The Common English Bible sums up John 16, one of it’s more better translated spots:

 Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


Don’t sleep around

In a few short days, I’ll have for you, my dear devoted readers, a review of the newly translated “Common English Bible.”

I say new, and I use the term broadly. In the world of biblical translations, two-to-three year old is as new as it gets. I must say. I’ve had it for a while, so it’s been there on the shelf staring at me this past year and a half, maybe two. I can’t remember when I got it exactly, but I know it wasn’t long after it came out so between you and me it could be longer than two years. I’m not good with dates, darling.

See, the problem is that I feel bad making my first review (of which there’ll be quite a few) of something I’m not particularly fond of. I don’t mean the Bible of course, I mean this specific translation. You might’ve read a few things hither and tither about it, or maybe you’re one of those blessed few whose priest or vicar decided to use it during their homily. Within, the good name of inclusivity is well guarded. Should one depart from the casuistry of inclusive language, one might find himself amongst the many martyrs of good scholarship. The CEB’s translations committee certainly kept this in mind, as they prayerfully decided to translate “Son of Man” as “The Human One.”

The Common English Bible is a foretaste of heavenly manna. St Paul’s condemnations of sexual immorality are phrased as “No way!”, “sleep around” and you’ll be no way’ed back to Leviticus!

I shouldn’t spoil it for you, and if I did I must apologise: I’m truly sorry. Otherwise, the CEB was well put together physically. It was thin, light, extremely flexible. I could see Jehovah’s Witnessing this door-to-door.

If I’m to be frank, and not to spoil my horrible review (that most likely will be up tomorrow), what I took away from the CEB was as follows:

  • it’d be a good audio-book for children, should the inclusive language be removed
  • there are some serious doctrinal errors in the translation of certain passages
  • when reading this, you feel as if it happened last week on Eastenders because of the language used in certain chapters and verses.
  • it wouldn’t be horrible if there was a version that used UK/Eire/Nfld&Lbdr/Aus/NZ/Can/regular English (honour, saviour).
  • the Psalms aren’t that bad

But more on all that tomarrah. In the meantime, you should pop on over here and play until you get the answer you really really think you should. Trust me, I spent a good hour at it and I finally got Mozart

Religious Opinion

Last night I was graced with the presence of some of the most highly renowned 17-16 year old intellectuals on the island. My good friend and myself were camping with them, and when got everything around the fire so we could roast a decent marshmallow without cremation, the religious opinions broke out: peacefully, but in the way that the lark in the morning sweeps up the worm by surprise.

Of course this little gathering was not unlike the congregation of the finest educated minds at a pub near the finest and superior universities, so they thought, and their speech was that of foreign “grandiosity” (if I could use that instead of pretentious).

It’s hard for me to, in all honesty, take them seriously when they get at it because there’s just so much hot air that a boiler would push itself off the stove in embarrassment. It didn’t get steamy, but I found it a great insight, on my part, into the mind of he that aligneth himself not. Religion is useless, harmful, a dangerous corruption of civilisation. The very civilisation that is threatened by our religiosity, is one that was built and reared on the rock that is faith in Christ.

As it goes now, Christ is endangering the common good of the common man, in his common home and his common thought. I feel bad and angry at myself because I didn’t speak up. I couldn’t honestly take what they were saying, as something they were serious about. I had a hard time trying to understand if they were joking, or saying it just to see if I’d react? I wasn’t sure. I don’t really care, in all honesty, because you’ve got to base your reactions upon the character of each person. We all want an honest conversation, and we all know we’re right. Don’t go clawing and screaming at someone as if they were a wooden head with a mouth.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Gospel of St Matthew 5:44

If our aim is to be Christlike in all our actions, then who can we look to but Christ himself? He is our Master and our King. To imitate him is the greatest of all struggles because we have that pride and self-righteous idea that we are somehow better than all that breathes and God only knows how many days I’ve woken up with that attitude: Huff-puff, I know better, no one is greater than me. These are the days I need a good friend with a good rugby ball to smack me over the head. To match the logician, we’ve got to use our God-given logic. Pray, pray, pray. There’s no greater thing than prayer. This is more of a reminder to myself I’d say, than to back up what I’m saying.

When a friend upsets us, forgive him, but help correct him as well. Don’t get defensive. Say that “you understand why he thinks that because it’s certainly what it looks like, however, consider this (fill in the blank).” If I was a devout soul, I would frequent the sacraments much more than I do now. I’d say many more Rosaries than I do now. I’d walk the way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, much more than just at the beginning of Lent. Our good behaviour, our manners and inner peace depends on the faith we have and in our willingness to cooperate in divine providence and in God’s will. I’m ashamed at how many times I’ve sat by and let those who are genuinely ignorant of the truth in the Church because all they’ve been exposed to is the media’s perception and outlook, and let them criticise what they don’t really understand. Just the same can be said about me, when I sit and type a criticism of those who believe what they do. I certainly don’t know what they’ve been exposed to on television, the internet, radio, in school; and that is why our prayers make all the difference.

The world is unkind to any Christian. We have no spiritual weaponry ready at hand, but if we frequently met Christ at the fortress of forgiveness, the door to the confessional, and we poured our hearts out knowing that there is a forgiving and loving God always at our side, if we received Him in the Holy Eucharist, and adored His very flesh with a devout and pious spirit? Our words would flow as smooth as honey, sweet as the dew, never without the guidance of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Our heart would achieve it’s peace, and the burden of our cross would be as if the wood hollowed out. 

O Christian Soul, hold onto Holy Mother Church, and make use of her great traditions. Earth will survive us, I’m sure.

Sacramental Truth

Sometimes it’s just bloody hard to find the time to sit down and write something. The past little while I’ve been struggling with writers bloc AND the inability to find time.

This weekend, I’ll be providing organ accompaniment at my own parish and another in the next town over, who needs a fill-in for a few weekends. Then in two weeks, I’ve got an Anglican wedding to play at and the couple hasn’t decided on what anthems or hymns they require. I might just pick it out for them and tell them they did it and told me last month.

I’ll just say a few words on a short liturgical note, and then I’ll be off again but back tomorrow. My parish priest has begun to knit-pick at the missal, carefully changing any word he deems unfit or incomprehensible such as “disciple” or “consubstantial” or “Jesus” and replacing it with “friends” or “the same as” or “Marjory” in like manner. I’m not a theologian, but I’m almost sure that one isn’t supposed to change the prescribed formula of the Holy Sacrifice that is the Mass. It’s not Cranmer’s short services, or Wesley’s revival hour. The Church has given us, in great beauty, Her rites and traditions quite liberally for our use, according to how they are instructed to be used. If the words of consecration were up to the priest’s discretion, then I highly doubt there’d be a valid Mass said within the walls of my Church until the Lord himself comes and swoops up the man in entirety.

I guess that I have no right to say what a priest should do, but the layman has a right to access the sacraments and to be fed on the truths of Heavenly glory. That isn’t possible when Fr Paul wants to call the Precious Blood “holy wine” for fear he should act as a Catholic, denying the Blessed Virgin her full glory when he refuses to allow Her hymns during a Lady Day Mass, and refusing to hear confessions. This reminds me so, so much, the need to pray for the presbyters, but also the sisters and brothers, nuns and monks, contemplatives, active, etc who are the fuel and the keepers of our great tradition. May God Bless each and every one of them in abundance, and may every stray sheep come into the arms of that blessed and divine Shepherd that is Christ himself.

It isn’t fair to say that one is a bad priest when a man is genuinely called to the priesthood. But, like the beginnings of the Aryan heresy, sometimes not only priests but bishops as well can fall to a greator error, a confusing theology, an inaccurate ideology, straight into heresy, and so on. We mustn’t stand and point that “AH YOU APOSTATE” finger. Effective action equals effective change. Perhaps why I’m so shocked by Fr’s actions is because I’m not used to it. Before, the priests I’ve known were reverent and holy. They handled the Sacred Mysteries with care, and they always had those words to lift you up when you were struggling with this and that. We aren’t perfect, we are sinners, that’s why we need the sacraments.  God knows how many times I’ve lied and deceived, cursed and swore. We’ve all done it, but we’re all forgiven if we do the proper penitence to express that we are sorry, that we understand the gravity of our sins.

So seek confession. Regularly. Spill out your soul to Christ, being represented by the man in his stole next to the screen. Listen so carefully to what your confessor tells you, because through the priest the Holy Ghost speaks as a mouthpiece. Listen to him. Write it down if need be. Do your penance, and say the Rosary to our Blessed Mother. We aren’t alone on this earth. We’ve got allies in high places.

God Bless.

The Darkest Nights

In some cases, anxiety can lead (in some people) to depression or to a depressive state, whether that’s temporary or something that lasts a great deal of time. I have fallen several times into that great Hell which is depression, and have had a my fair share of doubt and despair. I’m certain that one of God’s more heavier crosses are those of the afflicted mind.

Since I was my youngest, I’ve had a nervous disposition. When I first began socialising around my friends I developed a tough shell, quite hard to break and as a matter of fact only one person really did manage to break through and see the contents of this emotional egg.

Tonight, this past week, or rather this past month, has been one of the most dismal and heartbreaking chapters I’ve had to deal with. It’s amazing how I can get through the death of those people who raised me, taught me and fed me on the bread of Heavenly truth, without any tears shed. I knew they had not died, but were in Heaven now, having their eternal reward.

Yet any set-back or sudden change can drag me into a river of constant sorrow. I don’t know what the best way to deal with things are. I know that, God, in his infinite wisdom will never give me something that I cannot handle. I know that He alone can see all aspects and sides of a human story. But why is it that I cannot discern for myself when to go north and when to go south?

We’ve been given a rock to guide us and to cling to, and we have been given the Blessed Mother who brings us the Saviour of this fallen world. The saints are there to be our comfort and our aid, the angels to guide us along the paths of life. We’ve got all this, yet I feel so alone and without comfort. I’ve heard of the dark night of the soul but is that exactly what this is?

Whatever the case may be, I’ll keep my prayers to a maximum and I’ll be trying to keep my head up, waiting for this to pass as all things must.