Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Anyone who thinks that the Bible is nice might like to read it in the Contemporary English Version.

Because that way their bubble won't get burst.

Really, parts of this read like the history of God's relationship with his people while wearing mittens.

However that's not a criticism. In fact, I'm quite relieved that Genesis 38:9 hasn't been translated literally into contemporary English:

"Onan knew the child would not be his, and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant."

Well, we really don't need to hear how he achieved that result, do we?

Similarly, here's Saul telling David what he has to do in order to win the hand in marriage of his beloved Michal:

"All you have to do is to bring back proof that you have killed a hundred Philistines!"

- 1 Samuel 18:25b (CEV)

Hmm, proof eh? Well, that shouldn't be too difficult. I mean all he really needs is a witness with a tick-sheet, right?

Yes, in places this seems to be the Bible that you can give to your kids. In this version, even a guy with a name like Evil-Merodach comes across as fairly friendly.

Evil-Merodach was kind

- 2 Kings 25:28a (CEV)


If it sounds like parts of this have been somewhat toned down, you're right. For not only does the CEV come with rounded corners, but it also holds your hand and treats you like you're reading the Bible for the first time. The result, for me, is comments that really illuminate matters. By diligently checking out the footnotes and endnotes, I learnt tons!

He also said that David would rule both Israel and Judah, all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. [a]

a. from. . . south: Hebrew "from Dan to Beersheba." This was one way of describing all of the Israelite land, from north to south.

- 2 Samuel 3:10b (CEV)

Oh. Okay. Thanks!

Even the town of Libnah [a] rebelled at that time.

a. Even the town of Libnah: This was a town on the border between Philistia and Judah, which means that Jehoram was facing rebellion on two sides of his kingdom.

- 2 Kings 8:22b (CEV)

Great - got it!

They kept up the attack until there was nothing to eat in the city. In fact, a donkey's head cost about two pounds of silver, and a small bowl of pigeon droppings [a] cost about two ounces of silver.

a. pigeon droppings: This may have been used for food or to burn for fuel. It also may have been a popular name for roasted beans or the shells of certain seeds.

- 2 Kings 6:25 (CEV)

Awww! Yep, the kids'll definitely go for that!

Perhaps inevitably however, all this education does run the risk of crossing the line into aloofness:

Adonijah himself was afraid of what Solomon might do to him, so he ran to the sacred tent and grabbed hold of the corners of the altar for protection. [a]

a. the corners. . . for protection: The four corners of some ancient altars looked like animal horns. Since the entire altar was sacred, anyone holding on to its corners was supposed to be safe from being killed.

- 1 Kings 1:50 (CEV)

Shyuh right, glad we don't share a faith with those bozos. Savages.

In fact, in several footnotes the CEV even goes so far as to assume that this is your first-time at life.

We attack our enemies
like swarms of locusts; [a] we take everything
that belongs to them.

a. locusts: Insects like grasshoppers that travel in swarms and cause great damage to crops.

- Isaiah 33:4 (CEV)

Uh, did I reach for a Bible and accidentally pick up a dictionary?

Each column had been twenty-seven feet tall with a bronze cap four and a half feet high. These caps were decorated with bronze designs--some of them like chains and others like pomegranates. [a]

a. pomegranates: A bright red fruit that looks like an apple.

- 2 Kings 25:17 (CEV)

Uh, did I reach for a dictionary and accidentally pick up a flash card?

Even if your olive trees grow everywhere in your country, the olives will fall off before they are ready, and there won't be enough olive oil for combing your hair.*

*28.40 olive oil…hair: Olive oil was used for combing the hair.

- Deuteronomy 28:40 (CEV)

Well that might just explain why they're COMBING THEIR HAIR with it then!!!

Basically, the ubiquity of these footnotes can be either a blessing or a curse. For although many of them are enlighteningly useful, if you're like me and insist upon reading them all, and also looking up all the cross-references, it is possible to get sucked in in a similar way to how your computer can crash.

For example, 1 Chronicles 26:28 briefly refers down to an innocent footnote about Ner, ending with the bracketed advice to "see 9.39". However 9.39 comes with a footnote about Eshbaal, which simply reads "See the note at 8.33." That reads:

Eshbaal: Also called "Ishbosheth" (see 2 Samuel 2.8 and the note there).

2 Samuel 2:8 then has two footnotes, referring to three verses. One of these is the aforementioned 1 Chronicles 8:33 again, while the other two are 1 Samuel 14:50 and 1 Samuel 14:49. Oh that's convenient - these two verses are consecutive, even if they have been transposed. Good job I'm not obsessive about reading these in the order they're given to me. Anyway, that passage then has the following footnote:

14.49-51 Ishvi: Also known as Eshbaal (see 1 Chronicles 8.33; 9:39) and Ishbosheth (see 2 Samuel 2.8-13, 3.8-15; 4.5-12).

The two from 1 Chronicles we've already done, however the three from 2 Samuel are two new ones, plus 2.8 again but this time together with the following five verses.

The first of these contains seven footnotes, the first two of which we’ve already covered, the next two of which contain information without cross-references, and the third of which actually refers back to the first two again. The last one contains no references either, leaving just the penultimate footnote which contains the new locations of 1 Chronicles 2.12-17 and 2 Samuel 17.25.

The first of these contains no footnotes, but the second contains two with three references. The first of these is 1 Chronicles 2.12-17 again, but the second and third are the brand new 2 Samuel 10:1-3 and 2 Samuel 12.26-31.

Mercifully, in this instance, this is where the trail unexpectedly goes cold. However while reading through this translation I have had a number of such adventures that have ended with my literally running out of fingers to stick in all the pages. Thank God the above example didn't involve any endnotes, with which this translation is similarly saturated.

However if the CEV didn't already have enough reasons for taking forever to be read, where the commentaries dry up, all that extra information just gets stuffed into the main text instead. Take a deep breath and then try to read all of this single verse of 2 Chronicles 23:13:

There she saw Joash standing by one of the columns near the entrance, which was the usual place for the king. The commanders and the trumpet players were standing next to him, and the musicians were playing instruments and leading the people as they celebrated and blew trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes in anger and shouted, "You betrayed me, you traitors!"

(gasp) Y'see, this verse is what I would call a paragraph.

Anyway, if that didn't empty your lungs, now try taking a deeper breath and reading this single sentence: (you might find it enhances the experience to first pop on a CD by Michael Nyman)

These soldiers, who were always prepared for battle, included: 6,800 from Judah, who were armed with shields and spears; 7,100 from Simeon; 4,600 from Levi, including Jehoiada, who was a leader from Aaron's descendants, and his 3,700 men, as well as Zadok, who was a brave soldier, and 22 of his relatives, who were also officers; 3,000 from Benjamin, because this was Saul's own tribe and most of the men had remained loyal to him; 20,800 from Ephraim, who were not only brave, but also famous in their clans; 18,000 from West Manasseh, who had been chosen to help make David king; 200 leaders from Issachar, along with troops under their command--these leaders knew the right time to do what needed to be done; 50,000 from Zebulun, who were not only loyal, but also trained to use any weapon; 1,000 officers from Naphtali and 37,000 soldiers armed with shields and spears; 28,600 from Dan; 40,000 from Asher; and 120,000 from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh, who were armed with all kinds of weapons.

- 1 Chronicles 12:23b-37 (CEV)

Don't even get me started on 2 Samuel's account of the 29-37ish warriors, who barely get a single punctuation mark between them!

Hmm, so I'm apprehensive about some of the CEV's brevity, but then I'm also apprehensive about some of its long-windedness. Which am I more apprehensive about? There's only one way to find out. Fiiight!

Jahaziel, a Levite from the Asaph clan.[a]

a. Jahaziel, a Levite from the Asaph clan: Hebrew "Jahaziel son of Zechariah son of Benaiah son of Jeiel son of Mattaniah, who was a Levite from the Asaph clan."

- 2 Chronicles 20:14b (CEV)

Welcome back to part two.

Maybe all the work that went into this translation was literally exhaustive. It would explain its occasional off-handedness and arguable lack of grammar:

Benaiah did things like that; he was just as brave as the Three Warriors, even though he never became one of them. And he was certainly as famous as the rest of the Thirty Warriors. So David made him the leader of his own bodyguard.

- 1 Chronicles 11:24-25 (CEV)

Yeah. I guess. Whatever.

Which brings us onto this week's Exciting Bible Passage Heading Of The Week.

However, lest I sound as though I dislike the CEV, the truth is that I think it's great. I reckon it's the most readable Biblical prose that I've come across, unhampered by either the God's Word's verbosity or The Message's funkiness.

And the constant throughout is that it's also very clear. Not just in its simplicity, but also in its conveyance of ideas.

His children and relatives will be supported by him, like pans hanging from a peg on the wall. That peg is fastened firmly now, but someday it will be shaken loose and fall down. Then everything that was hanging on it will be destroyed. This is what the LORD All-Powerful has promised.

- Isaiah 22:24-25 (CEV)

Those prophets refuse to be honest. They tell my people there will be peace, even though there's no peace to be found. They are like workers who think they can fix a shaky wall by covering it with paint. But when I send rainstorms, hailstones, and strong winds, the wall will surely collapse. People will then ask the workers why the paint didn't hold it up.

- Ezekiel 13:10-12 (CEV)

I am God Most High!
The only sacrifice I want
Is for you to be thankful
And to keep your word.

- Psalm 50:14 (CEV)

It's CEVsy! Goodnight!

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