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Open Theology

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The Human One? A Controversial CEB Translation Choice

Cynthia Long Westfall
Published Online: 2016-10-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0068


The choice of the editors of the Common English Bible (CEB) to translate Greek, Aramaic and English phrases as either “The Human One” or “the human being” has been controversial. However, it renders the “literal” meaning of a stock idiom that was in use both in the Aramaic of Jesus’ day and in the Hebrew and Aramaic language in the OT. For those who are not taught the literal meaning of the idiom, the traditional literalistic word-for-word translation of ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου as “the Son of Man” is either meaningless or misleading both in terms of Christology and for following the narrative of the Gospels. An accurate translation of the sense of the Aramaic and Hebrew idiom was virtually a necessary choice for semantic accuracy, and reflects the CEB’s purpose and translation theory. It is also a missional choice to render the Word of God in a way that is understood in the target audience’s language. However, the majority of the public that purchases Bibles has religious and theological commitments and tends to expect or even demand specific theological vocabulary and technical terms that are part of a specialized religious register, even though it is misunderstood. Therefore, the CEB engages in “norm-breaking” by attempting to choose vocabulary from registers that are currently in use in the English language in comparable contexts as those that are represented in the source text.

Keywords: Bible translation; Common English Bible; the Human One; the Son of Man; formal equivalence; dynamic equivalence; functional equivalence; Skopos theory


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About the article

Received: 2016-07-06

Accepted: 2016-09-30

Published Online: 2016-10-06

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0068.

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©2016 Cynthia Long Westfall. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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