Professor Leland Ryken slights the Common English Bible

In a recent Christianity Today article on the Common English Bible, Leland Ryken, literature professor at Wheaton College and a member of the translation oversight committee of the English Standard Version, labels the CEB’s title as “ironic” and then adds,

“With the proliferation of Bibles, the public has become confused.  There’s no longer a genuine search to find an authentic Bible.”  read entire article…

To be honest, Leland Ryken is one of the last guys I want to hear or read on how to find an “authentic Bible.”

At any rate, Professor Ryken’s bias has become legendary.

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17 Responses to Professor Leland Ryken slights the Common English Bible

  1. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    Ryken’s biases aside, I wish he had said “an authoritative Bible” instead of “authentic”…

  2. John says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Leland Ryken came out against all translations of the Bible and instead supported only original language ones. After all, if you were serious about studying the Bible, you would learn the language and culture of the originals and not rely on the crutch of a translation. People like me, however, have to use translations written in a language I do understand, like the TNIV and HCSB, translated by knowledgeable people who have a high view of God’s Word.

  3. ScottL says:

    Is the CEB just in NT right now, or the whole Bible?

  4. amy says:

    Only the Common English Bible New Testament has been published. (Check the website: The full bible (with apocrypha) will be out Fall 2011. For a limited time, the Kindle version of the CEB is free:

  5. I just read Ryken’s full article, and he has his point. It has gotten a bit redundant with so many translations, and let’s be honest, it really is about money also. We should note that the RCC does not seem to have this problem, nor the E. Orthodox. Is part of this one of the flaws of Protesantism, everyman is his church, and so many “churches”?

  6. T.C. R says:

    Fr. Robert,

    I don’t know if I’m ever going to buy an HCSB Study Bible.

    Ryken is an literature professor, not an expert in matters of Bible translations.

    If we’re engaging in redundancy with an influx of new Bible translations just about every year, then what of the ESV? What say prof Ryken?

  7. TC,

    My opinion of course. Age before beauty! lol

  8. Theophrastus says:

    I’m sorry, but I do not consider Ryken a very good literature professor. In fact, I know of no major literature professor who takes Ryken seriously.

    If you want a serious view from literature professors on reading the Bible, I would recommend looking at the works of Robert Alter (who himself has translated parts of the Bible) or Frank Kermode. Some particular books I would highly, highly recommend are:

    The Art of Biblical Narrative

    The Literary guide to the Bible

    I cannot recommend these two volumes highly enough. They are both widely used as textbooks.

  9. T.C. R says:

    Fr. Robert,

    You got me! 🙂


    Never knew that about Ryken. Yes, I’ve been aware of Alter’s work for sometime now. In fact, I’ve read portion of hi translation on the Psalms.

  10. Gary Simmons says:

    Ryken being dissatisfied with a translation? That shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

    Personally, I do like the ESV Literary Study Bible, which is the only ESV I’ll probably ever buy. It’s an ESV text without section divisions/headings, but major sections (usually chapter by chapter) have excerpts from Ryken’s Bible Handbook — a book on reading the Bible as literature.

    Personally, I think I should have purchased the Bible Handbook on its own. Would’ve cost only half as much. But from what I’ve read of it, I do find some insights in Ryken’s work. That’s not to say I always agree with him on literature — and I certainly don’t agree with his translation mentality. Not his field at all.

    TC: I just bought a copy of Alter’s translation of the Psalms. I’m up to about 40, and I’ve got mixed feelings. Much like with Ryken, there’s some insight and then there’s some questionable things, both in the translation and in the footnotes.

  11. T.C. R says:


    Ryken’s I’ve found Ryken’s Read the Bible as Literature helpful.

    I believe I’ve read Psalm 23 in Alter’s translation.

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