aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Lost in translation

I received a copy of the new Common English Bible in the mail today. The translation is sponsored by an interdenominational group of publishers (Presbyterian, Episcopalian, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, and UCC). I filled out a survey on translations earlier, and this is my Thank You for cooperating.

I receive new translations warily. Trying to be "fresh" is often a short cut to weirdness. So, what's in this new CEB?

1) The style is filled with contractions, which makes the prose very clunky. "Let's go right now to Bethlehem and see what's happened," say the shepherds in Luke 2:15.

2) A quick read of familiar passages reveals some questionable translations. Luke 2:7 reads, "She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom."
a) Keeping the baby "snug" is not the point; "swaddling" is a cultural practice that performs the same function as diapers.

b) "Guestroom" is a possible translation, but not particularly appropriate in context. The word means "inn, lodging, guestroom." But "guestroom" in our culture implies somebody's spare bedroom. This is a distraction from the meaning; if Mary and Joseph were in a private home, their friends and family would undoubtedly have made room for them indoors.

c) V. 21 reads, "when eight days had passed, Jesus' parents circumcised him and gave him the name Jesus." Once again, this is grammatically possible in English, but misleading. I doubt that Joseph himself performed the bris, which this construction can imply. The Greek is something like "had him circumcised."

3) My favorite gripe about "fresh" translations is the screwy habit of translating weights and measures in Revelation into supposed equivalents. ". . . blood came out of the winepress as high as the horses' bridles for almost two hundred miles" is NOT equivalent to "one thousand six hundred stadia," the meaning of which is 4 x 4 x 100, or "everywhere." Likewise, "two hundred million" ≠ "twice ten thousand times ten thousand," with all that 2 x a myriad x a myriad implies. The walls of the New Jerusalem are NOT "two hundred sixteen feet thick," but 144 (12 x 12) cubits according the measure of a person/angel.

4) The version isn't too heavy-handed, so far as I can see, regarding "inclusive language." But it's still full of subjects and verbs that don't agree, which means, ultimately, that the translation lacks dignity.

So, as a study Bible it rates a C-.
As a preaching Bible, I'd give it a C (not much better).
As a Bible for personal reading and content mastery, it probably rates a C+.
Overall: solidly mediocre, and not worth the effort and expense of publishing it; nevertheless, it will be relentlessly promoted by Cokesbury, et. al.

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