Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: CEB Women's Bible

A couple weeks ago, I was asking a group of [church-going] children what they knew about the Bible. Among other shared information, we tried to name some Bible characters. They quickly shouted out, "Jesus!... Moses!... Abraham!..." The oldest kid in the group is probably 8, so that was okay. I asked for the names of any women or girls in the Bible. Mary's name was speedily recalled and then there was a stall. My own son raised his hand and said, "I can't remember her name, but there was the girl in the garden who ate the apple." Great, our group could literally only name Mary and Eve. So, looks like my work is cut out for me. Good news: there's a Bible for that!

I recently received a copy of the CEB Women's Bible for free in exchange for a fair review. This Bible is in the Common English translation- hence, CEB. This is not my favorite translation. All translation is interpretation and all interpretation is political. So, accepting the CEB as a study bible was a stretch for me going in to this project. Not all pastors share this characteristic, many LOVE and endorse this translation of the Bible and find it to be as accurate and helpful as early translations.

It turns out that, translation notwithstanding, this is an excellent study Bible. Nearly all the chapters have summary introductions that could be used for the people who like a big picture view or as prayer prompts before or after devotions. The inserted commentaries on situations, circumstances, and people are very helpful. There is one on birth control near Genesis 38 and on one women and property at Joshua 17. There's celebration (Psalm 31), pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2), mercy (Romans 9), adolescence (1 Timothy 5)- plus ministry and widows (separately) in the same chapter.

These short explanations given insight not only to the time of the Bible's events or writing, but also for how the verses impact the life of the reader today. I enjoyed every one that I read and I think they are the best feature of this Bible.

My second favorite element of the CEB Women's Bible is that there is at least a sentence or two portrait of every single woman who appears in scripture. No matter whole small her role, how implied her presence, how unnamed she may have remained through the centuries- she or her group get recognition in this volume. Through recognition comes thankfulness and growth in understanding. I have been doing work in Daniel lately and, boom, there was the portrait in words on Belshazzar's mother (Dan. 5). She's actually critical in the story because she remembers Daniel and his skill, when others have forgotten him. Yet, she doesn't usually appear in the stories people tell off the top of their heads regarding the writing on the wall incident. Regular use of this Bible and encountering these portraits will help the reader become more familiar with all the women of scripture and, perhaps, more emboldened to speak up in times of trouble.

It is extremely exciting to flip through the front matter of the book and see how many women were involved in the creation of this volume. Lay women, professors, writers, and clergywomen all contributed their talents to the creation of this volume. I am of mixed emotions when I see this. I am so happy- nearly tearfully so- that these women were sought out and their vocations and talents used well for this book. At the same time, I hope that the work in and on this Bible will be noticed- especially in academic and professional religious circles. This amount of research, talent, and commitment deserves recognition beyond making a commercially viable devotional Bible (which is NOT nothing- far from it).

Despite my own reservations with the translation (which are NOT shared by all other pastors!!!), I believe that I will continue to use this Bible for personal devotional reading, along with others. I do say to people that the best kind of Bible to get is the kind you will actually read. This Bible is very readable and the portraits, summaries, maps, and drawings all serve the purpose of increasing knowledge and learning in faith. I recommend this Bible, particularly if you do not presently have a study Bible that you enjoy using. If you are the kind of person who is bothered by adjectives in the titles of Bibles, I still recommend this Bible and a roll of electrical or duct tape to cover the title (or use a Bible cover). Several people in my congregation do this and it seems to soothe their angst and help them to use the Bibles they find most accessible.

The stories of women in the Bible- known, forgotten, and unknown- deserve attention, scholarly time, and church/devotional study. This Bible accomplishes that task superbly. It does it so well in fact that I recommend considering one's own preferences or biases (translation, title, margin size) as adiaphora (or unimportant) relative to having a truly helpful and revolutionary study Bible that spotlights the work of women in history and the work of women today.



I received a free copy of the CEB Women's Bible from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You can get a FREE sample of Ephesians from this edition of the Bible here. Try it!

2 comments:

Martha Spong said...

Thank you for this honest assessment! I value your thoughts.

Teri Ott said...

Thank you for this review!