I found this amazing clip today. It offers an inside-the-room, fly-on-the-wall view of a debate among the translators of the ESV. In this video, they debate how to render Hebrew and Greek words indicating “slave” or “servant.” In particular, it shows them voting to approve the change from “slave” to “bondservant” in certain NT passages. The video features Translation Oversight Committee members Paul House, Wayne Grudem, Gordon Wenham, Peter Williams and Jack Collins. It gives a sense of the serious nature of the translation debates and the types of evidence members would marshal to support their arguments:
A little video I did introducing the English Standard Version (ESV), Catholic Edition Bible:
Last year, I wrote a post about the new English Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible (ESV-CE) published in India. This year, I have the great pleasure of announcing that this new translation is now available for purchase in the United States, thanks to the Augustine Institute! Yes, it is finally here.
You can buy the ESV-CE Bible here: https://catholic.store/the-augustine-bible/
The Protestant Backstory
The ESV translation first came out in 2001 from Crossway publishers as a Protestant Bible for the Protestant market. The translation was partially born from a late-1990’s controversy over the inclusive language edition of the New International Version Bible–the NIVI. Many Bible readers were unhappy with the translation choices of the NRSV and NIVI. A new translation was needed. Instead of revising one of those translations, Crossway chose to go back to the RSV and then work from there.
What about the RSV?
The Revised Standard Vervsion (the Standard Version is the King James) originally came out in 1950’s and was revised in the 1970’s and then replaced by the NRSV. Many Catholic have used the RSV Bible in two versions–the original RSV-Catholic Edition and the so-called RSV-2CE from Ignatius Press, which was developed in partnership with the Congregation for Divine Worship under the guidelines of Liturgiam authenticam. The RSV-2CE is the translation in the Catholic Bible Study App offered by a partnership of Ignatius and the Augustine Institute.
What is different about the ESV?
The ESV is then a revision of the RSV. The ESV has modified about 60,000 words from the RSV. So it is a “daughter translation,” if you will, not a completely new from-scratch translation, but this makes the ESV feel like an old friend and a new teacher at the same time. It sounds strangely familiar and yet new. It offloads the archaic terms like the “thees, thous and wherefores.” It relies on better analyses of the manuscript tradition. The King James was based on the old Textus receptus of Erasmus, while the ESV is based on the newest critical editions available. It actually restores some King James readings that are more accurate than the RSV: “For example, Isaiah 7:14 was changed back to say, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.’ Psalm 2:12 once again says, ‘Kiss the Son,’ and Psalm 45:6 is once again a Messianic prediction that says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever'” (Source: Wayne Grudem, “The Advantages of the English Standard Version (ESV) Translation” p. 3).
How did a Protestant Translation become Catholic?
The Bishops Conference of India needed a new English translation for the Lectionary and other liturgical purposes. Crossway worked out a deal with them, where a team of Catholic theologians and Scripture scholars headed up by Fr. Lucien Legrand, O.P. (now 93 years old!), would review the ESV translation carefully and make some emendations. The Catholic team did indeed review–and change–the text of the ESV in preparation for publication. The biggest change was the Book of Tobit, which had to be retranslated from scratch. The translation was reviewed in accord with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, then it was approved and granted the Impimatur by the whole Conference of Catholic Bishops of India and published in early 2018. It is available in India from the Asian Trading Corporation.
Speaking of Tobit, what about the deuterocanon?
The original 2001 ESV did not include the deuterocanonical books (the ones in Catholic, but not Protestant Bibles), but in 2010, ESV did a joint publication with Oxford University Press which did include the deuterocanon. This edition, entitled “The English Standard Version Bible with Apocrypha,” was only published once as far as I can tell, but it served as the basis for the ESV Catholic Edition rendering of the deuterocanonical books, except Tobit, as I mentioned above.
The Augustine Institute, where I teach as a professor of Sacred Scripture, though originally only a graduate school, has become something of a media and publication apostolate with our Formed.org video platform and our merger with Lighthouse Catholic Media. We struck up a conversation with Crossway about the ESV Catholic Edition a couple years ago. It became clear that Crossway, as a Protestant publisher, did not feel well-suited to serve the Catholic market and wanted a Catholic partner to promote the new translation. Earlier this year (2019), we reached an agreement and hurried to put out our first-ever Bible publication before the end of the year. (Well, our second if you count the “Bible in a Year” RSV-2CE to which I contributed.) We’ve dubbed it the “Augustine Bible” in honor of our patron.
A New Beginning
The first ESV Catholic Edition Bible available in the United States is now ready for order. It arrived in the Augustine Institute warehouse just a few days ago. This edition is really only the firstfruits of a huge new opportunity for Catholic Bible readers. Hopefully, the Augustine Institute will be releasing many different editions of this great translation over the coming years. I have enjoyed using the ESV for study and teaching for years and I hope that you enjoy the new ESV Catholic Edition as much as I have. So go ahead and order one and see what you think.
Here’s the link again: https://catholic.store/the-augustine-bible/
I got one! Yes, I think I might be the only Catholic in the United States to hold in my hands the new English Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible (ESVCE). Through my super-secret trading channels, I was able to secure one and now will offer a review and a backstory, just for you, my faithful reader. The Bible is printed on thin, high quality Bible paper in a very readable font. It feels just right in the hand—a bit smaller in form factor than your typical Bible with smallish print throughout. It contains a short Foreward, a Preface, a few grayscale maps and a chart of weights and measures. Thankfully, these materials explain the exact texts on which the translation was based.
Update 12/13/2019: ESV Catholic Edition Now Available in the United States!
A Breath of Fresh Air!
Finally, we Catholics get a new translation in clear English with serious attention to exact fidelity to the original text: the English Standard Version Catholic Edition, just released by the bishops of India. The same debate has been raging since the 1960’s in the English speaking world—on the relative merits of the New American Bible (1970), Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (1966) and the Jerusalem Bible (1966). While we have received welcome updates on these translates like the NAB revised New Testament (1984), the New Jerusalem Bible (1985), the NRSV Catholic Edition (1991), RSV-Second Catholic Edition (2006), and the updated Old Testament in the NAB Revised Edition (2011—notice the 27-year delay between revised NT and OT), this ESVCE is a truly new Bible translation for us. Though it takes its cues from the 1971 RSV, the ESV stands on its own with its own translation philosophy and its strong commitment to clear and meaningful English that stays truly faithful to the original languages. (I’m not even including the simplified or quasi-paraphrase translations like the Good News Bible.)
Students, Bishops and the old Douay-Rheims
Catholic students of the Bible (who both read and write this blog!) have been arguing for years round and round about whether the RSV or NAB is better. Not only that but bishops’ conferences in the English-speaking world have been going round and round about which translation to use at Mass. The old Douay-Rheims translation (and its “Confraternity edition” followups) was discarded as antiquated after the Second Vatican Council. Besides, the old D-R was based on the Vulgate and did not take the Greek and Hebrew witnesses seriously. But after discarding the Douay, bishops were left with a problem on their hands. Fortunately, for American Catholics, the U.S. bishops had commissioned the Catholic Biblical Association of America to produce a new translation back in 1943, after the publication of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu.
A Footnote from 1943
It’s an odd footnote to biblical history that the CBA had originally been commissioned to produce a new translation from the Latin Vulgate which was scrapped after Pope Pius XII encouraged recourse to the original languages (see paragraphs 14-16). The encyclical, which was drafted by biblical scholar Augustin Bea (later a cardinal), insisted that “we [ought] to explain the original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern” (§16). This one line, along with the developing knowledge of biblical languages promoted by the Pontifical Biblical Institute, was instrumental in getting Catholics off the couch and into Greek and Hebrew courses. It sidelined Vulgate-only translations and insisted on fidelity to the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) in new translations.
Back to the Bishops
The bishops, since 1943 (and with renewed zeal after the Council), have been casting about for good Bible translations. Other language communities have perhaps done a better job cooperating, but the English-speaking world has been characterized by fierce competition. In particular, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops actually owns the copyright to the New American Bible, so it is in their financial best interest to promote, and yes, to require, the use of the NAB/NABRE in liturgical settings. Though the USCCB does approve of other translations for non-liturgical use. The other English-speaking bishops (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India) have been none too thrilled about paying royalties to their brother prelates, so have normally opted for the Jerusalem Bible, but have also approved the New Jerusalem Bible, and the RSV. The Canadian bishops have adopted the NRSV as of 2008. The Antilles adopted the RSV-2CE for its lectionary. My sense is that many bishops’ conferences are none too thrilled with these options. The complaints, though often whispered, are easy to summarize:
- The Jerusalem Bible is too inexact, preferring dynamic equivalence over word-for-word translation. Same goes for its update, the NJB.
- The RSV is too old (from about 1950) with too many “thees” and “thous”.
- The NRSV has too much gender-inclusive language.
- Many complain about the NAB/RE, but frequently the complaints are directed at the New Testament footnotes in addition to the translation itself.
The ESVCE gives the bishops conferences a new option and indeed, several English-speaking bishops conferences have reached out to the Indian bishops to explore the possibility of using the new ESVCE lectionary in their countries.
ICEL, Liturgiam Authenticam, Vox Clara
To understand the backroom politicking at work, we must at least nod at some big decisions at the Vatican. After Vatican II, the English-speaking bishops set up the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to translate liturgical texts—including the Roman Missal, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Roman Martyrology and so forth. However, Bible translations, while often handled separately, had to be approved in the form of Lectionaries. In 2001, the Vatican issued a document entitled Liturgiam Authenticam which laid down rules for liturgical translations, which included Lectionaries. The Congregation for Divine Worship issued a new edition of the Latin missal in 2002,which served as the basis for the translation of the liturgy released in 2011. In order to implement Liturgiam Authenticam in the English-speaking world, the Vox Clara Commission was set up to oversee the work of ICEL (an angry history of it HERE). The Vox Clara Commission included some well known conservative churchmen (George, Pell, Olmstead). Notably, it also included Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who gave the imprimatur to the ESV-Catholic Edition and wrote the foreward. Recent news has seen Pope Francis moving to roll back a bit of the centralization of translation.
Back to Bible Students
Now, we Bible Students care little for the squabbles high prelates: How faithful is the actual translation? Here’s where we get into the weeds to compare actual texts. I’m going to use the NABRE, the RSV-CE and the ESVCE to show you what we have on our hands. I’ll just present a bunch of examples without comment in no particular order. You can judge for yourself:
|Prov 18:24||There are friends who bring ruin, but there are true friends more loyal than a brother.||There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.||A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.|
|Luke 1:28||And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”||And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”||And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O highly favored one, the Lord is with you!”|
|Eph 5:3||Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones,||But fornication [2CE: immorality]and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints.||But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.|
|Isa 9:6||For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. [v. 5]||For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”||For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.|
|Gen 1:1||In the beginning, when God created…||In the beginning God created||In the beginning, God created|
|Gen 1:2||and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters||The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters||The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.|
|Mark 10:9||Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.||What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.||What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
|Gen 18:11||and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods||it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women||The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.|
|Matt 5:28||But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.||But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.||But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
|Eph 5:19||singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,||singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart||singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
|Rom 9:5||…theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.||…to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, be blessed for ever. Amen.||To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.|
|Jer 20:7||You seduced me, LORD, and I let myself be seduced||O LORD, thou hast [2CE: you have] deceived me, and I was deceived;||O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived;|
|Sir 22:3||An undisciplined child is a disgrace to its father; if it be a daughter, she brings him to poverty.||It is a disgrace to be the father of an undisciplined son, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.||A father’s disgrace is in the birth of an undisciplined son, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.|
Obviously, I could go on listing examples forever, but here I will stop. The long and short of these examples is that the ESV preserves both accuracy and decorum with beautiful English in the King James tradition while updated with the most recent manuscript evidence.
Other Thoughts on the New ESV-Catholic Edition
It’s important to note that the ESV preserves the typical English verse numbering (along the lines of KJV, RSV, etc.) rather than reverting to the Hebrew numbering, which the NABRE tries to do. The Old Testament is translated from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Göttingen Septuagint. The New Testament is translated from the Novum Testamentum Graecae, Nestle-Aland, 28th Edition. Tobit is a textual anomaly, so they used “the longer Greek text (Sinaiticus) supplemented by the shorter Greek text (Vaticanus) and the Old Latin version at points where the longer text lacks some verses” (p. xvi.).
Team of Catholic Scholars
The ESV Catholic Edition, while it comes from the translation done by American Protestants, was reviewed by a panel of Catholic scholars before receiving approval from the Indian bishops. The names of those scholars who reviewed the text are listed in the Foreward:
- Rev. Dr. Lucien Legrand, MEP
- Rev. Dr. Assisi Saldanha, CSsR
- Rev. Dr. Govindu Rayanna
- Rev. Dr. A. Alfred Joseph
- Rev. Dr. David Stanly Kumar
- Sr. Dr. Prema Vakayil, CSST
- Rev. Dr. Shabu Joseph Thottumkal, SDB
- Rev. Dr. Stanislas Savarimuthu
The publication was made possible by a licensing agreement between Crossway and the Asian Trading Corporation. You can try ordering a copy of the ESVCE at the ATC website, but I didn’t have much luck. It has received official approval and Imprimatur from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
Pretty soon, when you attend Mass in India, you will hear the ESVCE being read from the pulpit. I think it won’t be long before the ESVCE shows up in the hands of many Catholic Bible Students who are gathering in church basements, Catholic schools, Newman Centers and coffee shops for a good old-fashioned Bible study. The translation is solid, new and refreshing. I will be digging into it for more insights over time. The ESVCE could be a close competitor with the RSVCE/2CE. It’s hard to say which will win out or if they will live a peaceful coexistence. Bravo to the Indian bishop and to Crossway for gifting us with a powerful ecumenical collaboration that produced such a great translation. I think this new translation will be a blessing to many, many English-speaking Catholics. Once it is available for sale in the U.S. (or wherever you are), I recommend adding a copy to your Bible shelf!
This is an exciting moment for me! Finally, at long last, a Catholic edition of the English Standard Version has been made available and received ecclesiastical approval in India.
The original ESV was published in 2001 as an alternative update to the RSV Bible, preserving the English Bible vocabulary inherited from the King James Version. The KJV was the original “Standard Version,” which was then updated by the “Revised Standard Version” and now the English Standard Version. It is a fascinating tale that the King James Version, which was published in a rivalry with Catholic scholars who put out the Douay-Rheims Bible about the same time, should now be brought into the Catholic realm. Of course, many Catholics use the RSV-Catholic Edition, but that translation was made around 1950 and does not take into account the last sixty-five years of scholarship. The RSV-CE has gone through updates like the NRSV-CE and the RSV-2CE, but the ESV represents a huge shift.
Now, it’s true that the ESV had translated the Deuterocanon–the books only in Catholic Bibles–but it had a relatively limited publication run under Oxford University Press. I snapped up a copy, but the text of these deuterocanonical books has not been widely available. I’ve been using the ESV regularly since 2005 and have really enjoyed the translation. It excels at literal word-for-word accuracy without becoming cumbrous and wooden like the NASB. Rather than revolutionizing biblical vocabulary (like the Jerusalem Bible, for example), it tries to preserve traditional and theological terms like “grace” and “righteousness”. These fidelities to the English Bible tradition make for a powerful read that connects “dots” in the mind more so than translation that try to be overly original. Yet the ESV was prepared by scholars who are up to date on the manuscript evidence and current exegetical debates. You can read the statement of their translation philosophy here: https://www.esv.org/translation/philosophy/
The Indian Bishops Conference plans to produce a new lectionary based on the ESV. In the interview video I’ve embedded above, they mention that they have heard interest expressed by bishops in England, New Zealand and Australia, who might opt to use the ESV-CE in their lectionaries. It would be very interesting indeed if the whole English-speaking world starts using the ESV-CE at Mass!
Soon, I think, the text of the ESV-CE will be available not only in India, but everywhere, including in the major Bible software programs like Logos/Verbum, Accordance and BibleWorks. If nothing else, it will be very nice for Catholics to have a new translation option for Bible reading and study. The publication is so new–just announced about ten days ago–that I can’t find a link yet to buy a copy, but I’ll post it here when I do find it. Happy Bible reading!
Here’s a link to an India news story about the release: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=495081
Update: It looks like you can buy the ESV-CE from an India website, but I don’t know about shipping to the US or elsewhere: http://www.atcbooks.in/