Four hundred years after scholars poetically translated the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) into English in 1611, a team of 120 biblical scholars from 20 faith communities studied a wide range of sources to translate the Bible with accuracy, clarity, and easy comprehension for contemporary readers. Having met those goals in the Common English Bible, the CEB provides a good choice for new Christians of all ages, readers who speak English as a second language, and children ready to read the Bible rather than relying on Bible storybooks. In addition, the CEB provides an ecumenically-minded choice for churches ready to update or order pew Bibles since this translation has been approved for public reading during worship services in most church denominations.
As occurs with the original KJV, the CEB and The CEB Study Bible come with or without the Apocrypha. Although not secret or mythical as the word implies, the apocryphal books provide insights into biblical times such as the years between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (NT.) However, these books, which may or may not be included in the first testament, often confuse Bible buyers about which books are part of canonical scripture and which are not.
Since the answer depends on one’s denominational perspective or understanding of the biblical canon, The CEB Study Bible includes a section entitled “The Canons of Scripture” with five tables listing the books accepted by the Jewish canon, Protestant OT, Roman Catholic OT canon, Orthodox OT, and Anglican Apocrypha. All Christian denominations, however, accept the entire NT canon.
Finding areas of agreement aid an ecumenical scope. In The CEB Study Bible, for instance, study articles on “The Bible’s Unity” help us to see our unity too, whereas “How We Got The Bible” removes mystery and confusion by matter-of-factly explaining how and why the various canons came to the conclusions that they did. This is not for the purpose of argument, of course, nor to sway readers from one opinion to another but to help us to understand diverse perspectives among the peoples of God.
The CEB Study Bible contains additional articles, a concordance, and maps of key biblical locations, but a more distinctive feature is the use of sidebars throughout the text. To help readers find these brief but interesting discussions right away, the front matter of this edition includes a list of sidebar articles, grouped first by book and then alphabetically.
For example, the heading for “Exodus” lists the titles for each of the sidebars in that book with “The Reed Sea or the Red Sea?” found on page 99. Having heard it both ways, I turned to that discussion and read, “The Hebrew phrase yam sup means ‘Reed Sea’ and may best be understood as a general term for a body of water full of reeds or rushes rather than as a name for a specific lake or sea.” That phrase occurs 20 times in the Hebrew Bible, but that said, a Red Sea also exists further to the south.
For a NT example, the heading for Revelation shows a sidebar on “Symbolic Colors,” which depicts white as representing a victory, red as symbolizing bloodshed, pale green as signifying death, and purple as indicating royalty.
In addition to these sidebars, The CEB Study Bible occasionally includes photographs such as “The island called Patmos” at the introduction to Revelation. Each book begins similarly with an introductory page or two and continues the goal of clarification by adding explanatory footnotes to the bottom of almost every page.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.
The CEB Study Bible, hardcover
The CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha, hardcover
After posting this review, my husband gave me a CEB Study Bible in bonded leather - nice!