So far, it can’t be said that the reviews are positive. Doug Chaplin (seconded in many instances by Stephen Carlson) notes a number of infelicities. T. C. Robinson notes that “conservative evangelicals are not going to like it too much. Why? Certain terms are ‘sacred.’” I would go further. Anyone at all attached to the vocabulary of the Christian faith as currently used in English-language communities of faith is not going to like it in key passages. Insofar as this translation is adopted by “mainstream Christians” (a pompous reference to Christians in Protestant denominations like the one I serve in, the United Methodist Church - *now omitted* - see comments below), it will ghettoize them from apparently non-mainstream Christians like Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and Pentecostals who, last time I checked, still use words like “repent,” “blasphemy,” and “Son of Man.”
CEB, to judge from the Gospel of Matthew sampler, is going to contain too many neologisms. “Human One” for the traditional “Son of Man” has been noted as jarring or the like by Esteban Vazquez and a number of other commentators (go here; though Wayne Leman seems to like it). If it is the case – and I think it is - that phrases like “the abomination of desolation” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” count as technical terms or language in code, one cannot easily dispense with them any more than one can dispense with “Christ” and “John the Baptist,” both of which CEB mercifully keeps.
CEB 24:15 the disgusting and destructive thing for the traditional “abomination of desolation” is in fact too colloquial. CEB 24:30 the Human One coming in the heavenly clouds has no chance of “working” unless the occurrences of “Son of Man” wherever found in Daniel are rendered concordantly – which I don’t think is possible.
CEB seems destined to repeat NRSV’s lamentable tendency to translate phrases one way in the text Jesus is quoting, and a different way, but without justification, when Jesus quotes it (Daniel 7:13 a human being coming with the clouds of heaven = Matthew 24:30 the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven; Daniel 9:27 an abomination that desolates = Matthew 24:15 the desolating sacrilege).
More pedestrian CEB neologisms include phrases like “children of snakes.” This is an example of 5th grade level explanatory Biblish. Google “children of snakes” if you don’t believe me. A snake’s young are not normally called “children” in English. In any case, a reference to underage snakes is not the point of the Greek phrase. Furthermore, CEB Matthew 23:33 You snakes! You children of snakes! is not just odd; it’s weak compared to the traditional “You serpents, you brood of vipers!” “You serpents, you brood of vipers!” or very strong language like it, is necessary in Matthew 23:33, unless the desire is to have a kinder, gentler Jesus, regardless of how the gospel of Matthew presents him.
Another example: CEB Matt 12:27: if I throw out demons by Beelzebul, then by whom do your people throw out demons? But do people throw out demons in English? This, it seems to me, is another neologism. In English, we cast out demons, or drive them out.
To be sure, CEB avoids traditional language with the result that certain passages come alive whereas they could otherwise sound trite. For example, John the Baptist does not say, “Repent,” but “Change your hearts and lives” (Matt 3:2). The advantage of CEB's translation is that it makes sense on the fly. But it will be impossible to translate the Old Testament background texts which form the basis of John’s appeal in concordant fashion. In the process, CEB will obscure the coherence of the biblical narrative. This is a common defect of Bible versions on the “free” side of the translation continuum.
Similarly, it is not “an evil and adulterous generation” that asks for a sign, but an evil and faithless generation in CEB (Matt 12:39). That destroys the connection with the Old Testament subtext (Hosea; Ezekiel; and so on). At the very least, it takes the sexual innuendo out of it, what you do, I guess, when teaching the faith to people who on other days of the week watch “Desperate Housewives.”
Blasphemy against the Spirit” becomes insulting the Spirit (Matt 12:31). But insulting is too weak. I admit there is a part of me, the teacher in me, not the poet, that wants to get rid of the word blasphemy. The dilemma is this: once you get what the word means – slander of the vilest sort – blasphemy becomes the best of all possible translations. It is however always helpful to explain that Matthew 12:31 means to say that slander of every kind is forgivable, but not slander against the Spirit, which is what people do when they attribute the Spirit’s work to the devil.
Joel Hoffman questions whether CEB keeps its promise to dumb down the language of the source text where necessary to bring it to a 5th to 7th grade level, in the case of magi in Matthew 2:2, 7. Of course, there are those of us who will stay away from CEB like the plague precisely because of that fateful promise, even if, mercifully, CEB has the good sense to retain magi – a technical term if there ever was one, with just the right overtones of magic and the occult in English - where we expect to find it.