A Tale of Two Lies

Catholic theology has long grappled with the question of lying on the basis of a certain Scripture passage. In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh confronts two Hebrew midwives about why the Hebrew baby boys are still surviving even though he’s commanded that the midwives murder them as they are born (an ancient form of partial-birth abortion). The midwives dissimulate, explaining:

the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” (Exod 1:19 ESV-CE)

The Lord blesses the midwives for their fidelity (v. 20). This lie, or at least near-lie, that the midwives tell becomes a focal point for discussion on the prohibition of lying in the theological tradition. Of course, the Ten Commandments say, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod 20:16). Later on, the Book of Sirach will make the absolute prohibition on lying even more explicit: “Refuse to utter any lie” (Sir 7:13 ESV-CE).

Fr. Thomas Joseph White, in his Brazos commentary on Exodus states the problem: “Did the midwives lie to the Pharaoh, and if so, is it morally licit to lie in order to save innocent human life?” This ethical problem has been fodder for many a caffeine-fueled, heated theological debate, especially in the wake of the Holocaust. Fr. White relies on Augustine and Aquinas, adopting the view of an “exceptionless prohibition on lying,” but other ethicists, notably Janet Smith, take a different view.

 

Yet Another Lie

As a Catholic Bible Student, I find it interesting that the discussion centers on the lie of the Hebrew midwives (though Augustine also brings up Rahab’s lie [Josh 2:3-5]). Another example stands out to me as worthy of theological debate–that is the lie of Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah is told by the corrupt King Zedekiah to keep his mouth shut. The king wanted to know the real prophecy from the Lord about the fate of Jerusalem, but Jeremiah, fearing for his life, did not want to give bad news to the king so Zedekiah had to coax it out of him by promising him, “I will not put you to death” (Jer 38:16). Jeremiah then gives him the bad news of the coming destruction of the city.

Afterwards, Zedekiah threatens Jeremiah’s life, essentially telling him that if he spills the beans on this private conversation, he’ll be a dead man (Jer 38:24). Zedekiah even gives Jeremiah a line to use with the men who would be curious about his conversation with the king (v. 26). The line goes back to a previous conversation where Jeremiah had pleaded with the king to go home (37:20).

Sure enough, the expected thugs grab Jeremiah by the collar and threaten to kill him if he doesn’t tell them everything from his conversation with the king. Jeremiah dissimulates, offering them the fake line that Zedekiah had given him: “he answered as the king had instructed him.” In short, Jeremiah lies. The lie is not quite as “clean” as the midwives since it’s more of a half-truth. And we’re not told whether God approved of Jeremiah’s lie. However, it is another clear case where a biblical hero tells a lie without negative consequences. He seems to “get away” with the telling of a lie.

While Jeremiah 38:27 is not the focal point of the debate about lying, I did find that the Navarre Bible finds it worthy of an ethical comment:

The prophet’s response does not mean that he is deceiving them (they had no right to be party to Jeremiah’s conversation with the king) or that he fears them; we know that his courage was never in question. (Major Prophets, The Navarre Bible, 459.)

This is one way of skinning the cat. It lines up with the first edition of the Catechism, which insisted that “To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has a right to know the truth” (CCC 2483; 1st edition). The definitive Second Edition removes the line about having a “right.”

The Anchor Bible commentary pooh-poohs such ethical discussion: “The oft-discussed point whether Jeremiah is guilty here of telling an untruth is a bit sterile” (Lundbom, Jeremiah 37–52, vol. 21C, Anchor Yale Bible, 78). The ICC also tells us that “Some commentators (especially Duhm; also Cornill and Volz) have wrestled like moral philosophers with Jeremiah’s lie” (McKane, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Jeremiah, ICC [1986], 967). Maybe one of these days I’ll rustle up those older commentaries and put some of their moral philosophizing on display. I suppose it’s encouraging that at least someone has thought about whether Jeremiah was lying and if so what that means for us!

So there you have it, a Tale of Two Lies–the midwives and Jeremiah take center stage with Rahab playing a supporting role. Catholic ethicists have fought with each other over these questions and it’s nice to be able to point to another biblical example for analysis, dissection and debate.

June 21-26, 2020 – Summer Scripture Conference

I hope you can come!

I will be speaking at the long-standing annual Summer Scripture Conference, June 21-26, hosted by the Institute for Pastoral Leadership at University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago area. This conference has been offering a slate of Scripture scholars speaking to a popular audience for decades and I’m delighted to be one of the speakers this year. Over the course of the five-day conference, I’ll be sharing the stage with scholars I admire and respect:

I’m looking forward to my talks on June 23-24 on these topics:

  • The Headwaters of Christian Prayer: Messianic Hope in the Shape of the Psalter
    • In this talk, we’ll review some of the recent research on the canonical shape of the Book of Psalms and show how over time, as pre-Christian Jewish tradition received, read, prayed and handed on these sacred songs, they began to see them messianically. That is, the songs themselves, as prayed in that era, anticipate the coming of the Messiah, the new David, who will reign on the throne of his fore-father and usher in a time of restoration. The Psalms, of course, are at the heart of Christian prayer and I’ll try to show how this is no accident, but builds on the messianic shape and use of the Psalms.
  • The Book of Wisdom as Model for Christian Reception of the Old Testament
    • Here, we will take a look at one of the most neglected books of the Old Testament. As I’ve noted here before, it has fewer commentaries written on it English than pretty much any other book of the Bible. Wisdom, though, as one of the very last books of the Old Testament penned, anticipates how the NT authors will read Scripture. It offers a unique combination of Jewish piety toward the Torah and Jewish appropriation of Greek philosophy that sets the stage for Christians reading the Old Testament in a Greco-Roman context.
  • Sirach 44–50 and Hebrews 11: The Hall of Heroes and the Cloud of Witnesses
    • Lastly, I will compare two hallowed texts that celebrate the heroes of the Old Testament. Hebrews 11 is well-known as the “Hall of Faith”, but it is anticipated by Sirach. Both texts retell the story of Israel through a list of characters, heroic figures. These celebrated persons exemplify the life of virtue, Torah-observance and faith, showing that a life of fidelity is possible even under difficult circumstances. Like the many lives of the saints volumes written later in Christian history, these texts hold up heroes for us to imitate.

These topics are close to my heart and I look forward to sharing with you about what I’ve found in these three rich Old Testament veins from the Psalms, Wisdom and Sirach.

This event is an awesome chance to dive deep into Scripture study with a wide range of teachers and topics. It is going to be an intense prayerful learning experience. Each day includes morning prayer, Mass and night prayer, along with meals together and an evening social. But the heart of the experience is the three to four daily lectures on biblical topics. You can read the whole event schedule here: https://usml.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020-Summer-Scripture-Event-Schedule.pdf

If you live in the Chicago area, this would be a great opportunity to take a few days off, grab your Bible and your notebook and join us for some great study. If you don’t live nearby, you can stay in the dormitories on the beautiful campus at a low cost. The full conference with all talks, all meals, and a private room for five nights is only $825. You can’t even get a hotel room, let alone all the meals(!) for that much in a lot of places. However, if that’s too much for you and you can’t take off a whole week, then you can drop in for a single speaker’s three talks for $200 or even just a single lecture for $60. If you want all the details, take a look at the registration form. And if you decide to come, you can register online.

All told, with fifteen talks by seven scholars, it stands to be a great experience and if you do come, I look forward to greeting you in person when you get there!

ESV Catholic Edition Lectionary Released in India

Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (apostolic nuncio), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão

Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro (apostolic nuncio), Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão (photo from daijiworld.com)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has just released a new Lectionary featuring the English Standard Version Catholic Editions (ESV-CE).

A few things to notice:

  • The new ESV Lectionary for India received Vatican confirmation on December 9, 2019 from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
  • It is mandated for India starting on Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020).
  • It uses the Grail Psalter for the psalms (not the ESV), presumably to match the usage of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The money quote comes from Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão:

  • “The publication of the new lectionary by the CCBI is a landmark in the history of the Church in our country, it is a valuable contribution of the Church in India to the Universal Church testifying to our biblical scholarship and liturgical competence.”

The full story here: https://www.daijiworld.com/news/newsDisplay.aspx?newsID=675520

It is also worth mentioning that the top sponsor of this big new lectionary project, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, was just re-elected today as the president of India’s bishop’s conference, largely so he can help with the implementation of the ESV Lectionary.

An Inside Look into the Work of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee

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:

Are Catholic Bible Translations Required to Work Directly From Biblical Languages?

In the promulgation of the new ESV-Catholic Edition, I’ve heard a lot of Internet chatter about various Bible versions in English. Many English-speakers have their favorite translation and will defend it to the hilt. I’d prefer everyone simply learn Greek and Hebrew, but since that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, we’re stuck with vernacular translations. Translation, by its nature is an imperfect science.

Read the Bible
Ok, wait–before going any further, I’ll just say that I’d much prefer that everyone simply read the Bible a lot in whatever translation they find useful! So if you like the RSVCE, the RSV2CE, the NABRE, the ESVCE, the Douay-Rheims, the JB, the NJB, the RNJB or whatever, keep on reading the Word of God and don’t give up. This book will transform your life. Translation concerns are secondary to the actual practice of reading the Bible.

Back in Time
It is too easy to over-simplify the history of the Bible in English with quick notes like, King James 1611 and Douay-Rheims 1610, but such notes are misleading. Bible translations are big, years-long processes involving lots of people and places. Over time, whether we like it or not, the editions actually printed vary and change whether on purpose or deliberately. The Douay-Rheims Bible, lauded by some as the best Catholic translation, started with a New Testament in 1582, and then an Old Testament in 1610, but it was later substantially revised by Bishop Richard Challoner in the 1700’s. It was translated from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome in the Clementine edition. Unexpectedly, Bishop Challoner was often revising the text of the Bible in order to conform to the King James Version familiar to all English-speakers. An American bishop, Francis P. Kenrick, launched his own revision of the Douay-Rheims in the 1850’s and its New Testament was published in 1862 shortly before his death. The American bishops debated making this version the new standard, but eventually the idea was abandoned. (See Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J., American Catholic Biblical Scholarship [San Francisco: Harper & Row 1989] 14-34).

The Origin of the Catholic Biblical Association
The need for a new Catholic Bible translation for the American Church was never abandoned. Indeed, it resurfaced in the 1930’s. Bishop Edwin Vincent O’Hara of Great Falls, MT organized an editorial board for a revision of the Challoner-Rheims edition, which invited all Catholic Scripture scholars to a meeting in New York for October 3, 1936 (Fogarty, 201). The meeting helped launch the Catholic Biblical Association, which produced a revision of the New Testament, published in 1941, the “Confraternity edition” (Fogarty, 206). Eventually, in light of Divino Afflante Spiritu and Dei Verbum, as I will explain below, the project of revising the Challoner-Rheims edition was abandoned and a completely new translation from the original languages was begun.

But what about the Vulgate?
The Vulgate, the Latin translation of St. Jerome, was preserved and printed in many editions. It really became its own textual stream in the tradition of biblical manuscripts, but was somewhat codified by the Sixto-Clementine Edition of 1592. It’s important to note that this edition replaced the 1590 Vulgata Sixtina hastily prepared by Pope Sixtus V, who was apparently still making changes after it went to press with his approval in the bull Aeternus Ille. This edition was forcefully recalled by Pope Clement VIII early in his papacy and replaced by the new Sixto-Clementine edition. If you seek out a Vulgate today, I’d recommend checking out the critical edition from the United Bible Societies. The official Sixto-Clementine Vulgate has been replaced by the Nova Vulgata (1979), which “is the point of reference as regards the delineation of the canonical text” (Liturgiam authenticam, sec. 37).

Translating to English from the Vulgate?
Most English-speaking Catholic authorities in the nineteenth century took it for granted that Catholic Bible translations into the vernacular be made from the Latin Vulgate. They were ignoring, perhaps, Bishop Challoner’s revisions of the Douay, which brought it more in line with the King James (translated from Greek and Hebrew). Even in 1859, a Catholic reviewer named Orestes Brownson would argue that “There is nothing in the decree of the Council of Trent, that requires our English translations to be made from the Vulgate…and a translation made directly from the original tongues into English will always be fresher, and represent the sense with its delicate shades, far better than a translation made from them through the Latin” (Brownson’s Quarterly Review; Fogarty, 22-23).  While Brownson might have been prescient, he was ahead of his time.
Later, in 1934, the Dutch bishops asked Rome about whether a translation from the original languages of Scripture, not the Vulgate, could be read in liturgy and the response from the Pontifical Biblical Commission (AAS 26, 1934, p. 315-warning! giant PDF!) was negative. Fogarty insists that this is “the first time” that the Vatican weighed in on the side of vernacular translations of the Vulgate over against translations from the original languages (p. 200). Whether he is right not, I’m not sure, but it would become a moot point in under ten years.

Pius XII and Original Languages — 1943-44
In 1943, Pope Pius XII would publish the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, (drafted by Augustine–later Cardinal–Bea) where he would encourage translations directly from the original languages with the following sentences:

22. Wherefore this authority of the Vulgate in matters of doctrine by no means prevents – nay rather today it almost demands – either the corroboration and confirmation of this same doctrine by the original texts or the having recourse on any and every occasion to the aid of these same texts, by which the correct meaning of the Sacred Letters is everywhere daily made more clear and evident. Nor is it forbidden by the decree of the Council of Trent to make translations into the vulgar tongue, even directly from the original texts themselves, for the use and benefit of the faithful and for the better understanding of the divine word, as We know to have been already done in a laudable manner in many countries with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority.

Just before this encyclical was released, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a clarification of its 1934 response cited above. This clarification (AAS 35, 1943, pp. 270-71–warning! giant PDF!) explicitly granted permission for biblical translations from the original languages. Taking its cue from this clarification from the Biblical Commission and from the new encyclical, the Catholic Biblical Association decided at its meeting in August 1944 at Notre Dame to abandon the project of revising the Challoner-Rheims edition and instead launched a new project to translate the whole Old Testament from the original Hebrew and Greek. This project would eventually become the New American Bible.

The CBA was additionally encouraged and congratulated on pursuing this project by the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Cicognani (his letter was published in  Catholic Biblical Quarterly 6 [October, 1944] 389-90: https://www.jstor.org/stable/43723781). The Archbishop lauds the CBA for its efforts, acknowledging that the association is “translating the Old Testament from the original languages into English” and that “This news is a source of great pleasure, since the deep learning which forms the background of their work, and their well-known devotion to the Holy See are already in themselves auguries of success in the monumental work to which they have so resolutely set themselves.” Later in the letter, he nods in the direction of Rome, showing his interpretation of Divino: “Conformably to the recommendations of His Holiness, the members of the Catholic Biblical Association are laudably engaged in translating the Old Testament from the original languages for the use of the laity.” Here we see that the Roman trend in the direction of the original languages is affirmed and made more explicit by the Archbishop.

Consilium 1964
This direction was affirmed, albeit softly, by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in its document, Inter Oecumenici (Sept 26, 1964), 40.a:

The basis of the translations is the Latin liturgical text. The version of the biblical passages should conform to the same Latin liturgical text. This does not, however, take away the right to revise that version, should it seem advisable, on the basis of the original text or of some clearer version.

This slim legal language emphasizes the importance of the Vulgate, but defers to the original languages for revision.

Dei Verbum 1965
The Second Vatican Council weighed in on the side of translating Scripture from the original languages:

“the Church by her authority and with maternal concern sees to it that suitable and correct translations are made into different languages, especially from the original texts of the sacred books” (Dei Verbum, sec. 22)

This statement by the Council affirms that the hierarchy was moving away from Vulgate-only translations toward focus on the original languages.

Liturgiam authenticam 2001
Pope St. John Paul II’s document, Liturgiam authenticam, will actually cite the 1964 law in extending the legal requirement to mandate that all biblical translations be made from the original languages, not from other translations.

Furthermore, it is not permissible that the translations be produced from other translations already made into other languages; rather, the new translations must be made directly from the original texts, namely the Latin, as regards the texts of ecclesiastical composition, or the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, as the case may be, as regards the texts of Sacred Scripture.

One might think that this instruction contradicts the very idea of JPII launching the Nova Vulgata in 1979, but the document anticipates such concerns, saying, “Furthermore, in the preparation of these translations for liturgical use, the Nova Vulgata Editio, promulgated by the Apostolic See, is normally to be consulted as an auxiliary tool, in a manner described elsewhere in this Instruction, in order to maintain the tradition of interpretation that is proper to the Latin Liturgy.” So the Nova Vulgata is normative for 1.) finding the canonical verses in the original language and for 2.) understanding the proper tradition of interpretation for the Latin Liturgy. However, it does not serve as the basis for the translations, but only as “an auxiliary tool.” Though it is true that Pope Francis issued a Motu proprio in 2017 which limits the application of Liturgiam authenticam, it seems to have little effect on the topic here.

Conclusions
The complex task of Bible translation cannot be distilled down to any one principle. Indeed, any good translator should have respect for all of the available textual traditions, whether Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac, or otherwise, and have a good sense for the strengths and weaknesses of each tradition. In previous eras, access to good instruction in the original languages was scare, but now much more common. Also, good manuscripts and critical editions were harder to come by, but now they can be readily had in libraries and on the Internet. Much of the text-critical work being done in older editions of the Vulgate has been transferred to the guild of text critical scholars of the Greek New Testament (one thinks immediately of the committee put together by Kurt Aland). The relative values of the Masoretic text and the Septuagint have not yet been fully ironed out and I imagine biblical scholars will be arguing about which should have priority until the sun sets on history. Yet from the above historical overview, we can see very clearly that the Catholic Church has been moving away from a Vulgate-only translation philosophy and toward a legal requirement that all biblical translations be made directly from the original languages. But again, whatever translation you are using: Read the Bible!

Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (50% off sale)

You might have heard of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, which finally has produced a complete set of New Testament commentaries. It clocks in at seventeen volumes–all written with a focus on detailed exegesis and an eye to theology and pastoral ministry. The volumes of this series, edited by Scripture scholars Dr. Mary Healy and Dr. Peter Williamson with associate editor Kevin Perotta, have been helpful to me and my students as they have been coming out these past 10-12 years. The first volume was Dr. Healy’s commentary on The Gospel of Mark (2008). The last one to be published was Nathan Eubank’s volume on First and Second Thessalonians (2019).

The full set of seventeen volumes is now available for a steep 50% discount at the publisher’s website: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/catholic-commentary-on-sacred-scripture-new-testament-set-9781540962225   This complete New Testament commentary, which is both scholarly and accessible, is being offered for $194.98 rather than it’s list price of $389.95. So if you’ve been looking to make an addition to your library that will help you read the New Testament with depth, now is the time to stock up. These books will serve as a helpful reference and reliable introduction to these texts for years to come.

Here’s a video the publisher put out to explain and promote the series:

Here is the full list of volumes and authors of the New Testament series:

  • The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri
  • The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy
  • The Gospel of Luke by Pablo T. Gadenz
  • The Gospel of John by Francis Martin and William M. Wright IV
  • Acts of the Apostles by William J. Kurz, S.J.
  • Romans by Scott W. Hahn
  • First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM
  • Second Corinthians by Thomas D. Stegman, S.J.
  • Galatians by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye and Peter S. Williamson
  • Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson
  • Philippians, Colossians, Philemon by Dennis Hamm, S.J.
  • First and Second Thessalonians by Nathan Eubank
  • First and Second Timothy, Titus by George T. Montague, SM
  • Hebrews by Mary Healy
  • James, First, Second and Third John by Kelly Anderson and Daniel Keating
  • First and Second Peter, Jude by Daniel Keating
  • Revelation by Peter S. Williamson

This sale launches on January 14th, but the set can be preordered today. My understanding is that this sale will only last for a limited time. Here is the link again if you want to check it out: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/catholic-commentary-on-sacred-scripture-new-testament-set-9781540962225

ESV Catholic Edition Bible Now Available in the United States!

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?

Fr. Legrand (photo from daijiworld.com)


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.

Indian Bishops with ESV (photo from daijiworld.com). Notice the founders of Crossway in the middle: Lane and Ebeth Dennis.

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.

Augustine Institute?
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/

 

Scripture as Food: Eating the Sacred Page

We have all heard that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut 8:3 ESV) But this principle is developed further by several texts in Scripture and by quite a few important biblical commentators. For example, we find Ezekiel eating a scroll of God’s words (Ezek 3:3) and again, we find John eating a scroll in Revelation 10:10.  Also, the prophet Amos famously says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land– not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amo 8:11 ESV) If we can have a famine of God’s word, then in some way, God’s word is food for us. It is a source of spiritual sustenance. But this idea grows even further.

For example, Pope Francis delivered a great St. Ephrem quote in his motu proprio today, about the great variety of ways of interpreting Scripture:

“Who is able to understand, Lord, all the richness of even one of your words? There is more that eludes us than what we can understand. We are like the thirsty drinking from a fountain. Your word has as many aspects as the perspectives of those who study it. The Lord has coloured his word with diverse beauties, so that those who study it can contemplate what stirs them. He has hidden in his word all treasures, so that each of us may find a richness in what he or she contemplates” (Commentary on the Diatessaron, 1, 18).

So, I suppose that St. Ephrem here focuses on thirst rather than hunger, but still, it’s the same idea. But wait, there’s more!

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, is talking about the “daily bread” we pray for and explains it like this:

“One may also see in this bread another twofold meaning, viz., Sacramental Bread and the Bread of the Word of God” (Source: Expositio in orationem dominicam)

Pope Benedict XVI, in his apostolic letter, Verbum Domini, points to the hunger and thirst we have for God’s word, relying on Amos:

May the Lord himself, as in the time of the prophet Amos, raise up in our midst a new hunger and thirst for the word of God (cf. Am 8:11). It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God’s grace, we ourselves have received. (sec. 91)

St. Maximus of Turin, in contemplating Jesus’ quotation of Deut 8:3 in Matthew says:

“So, whoever feeds on the word of Christ does not require earthly food, nor can one who feeds on the bread of the Savior desire the food of the world. The Lord has his own bread; indeed, the bread is the Savior himself.” (ACCS, NT Ia, p. 60)

St. Ambrose, in commenting on the manna in the wilderness tells us

“This is the heavenly food…And this is the Word of God which God has set in orderly array. By it the souls of the prudent are fed and delighted; it is clear and sweet, shining with the splendor of truth, and softening with the sweetness of virtue the souls of those who hear it.” (Ambrose of Milan, Saint Ambrose: Letters, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, trans. Mary Melchior Beyenka, vol. 26, The Fathers of the Church [Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1954], 117.)

St. Gregory the Great offers to parse the distinction between Scripture as food and Scripture as drink:

When the apostles see their souls starved of the food of truth, they nourish them with the banquet of God’s word. And so it is well said: to eat and drink with them, for Sacred Scripture is sometimes solid food for us, and sometimes drink. It is food in the more obscure passages, since it is broken into pieces when it is explained and swallowed after being chewed. It is drink in the more straightforward parts since it is absorbed just as it is found. (Robert Louis Wilken, Angela Russell Christman, and Michael J. Hollerich, eds., Isaiah, The Church’s Bible [Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2007], 444.)

Got that? The Scripture food when it is obscure and you have to chew it up before swallowing, but it is drink in the easy, straightforward passages that you only have drink down easily.

St. Jerome himself insists:

 “The flesh of the Lord is true food and his blood true drink; this is the true good that is reserved for us in this present life, to nourish ourselves with his flesh and drink his blood, not only in the Eucharist but also in reading sacred Scripture. Indeed, true food and true drink is the word of God which we derive from the Scriptures” (Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, III: PL 23, 1092A quoted in Verbum Domini, n. 191).

We see in all these comments a shared idea, a common thread: that Scripture is a form of spiritual sustenance akin to the Eucharist. When we read Scripture, we eat Scripture. Of course, we’re not talking about ripping the pages out of your Bible and cooking them up into a stew, but a spiritual eating in which your “soul is satisfied as with fat and rich food” (see Ps 63:5). We have a need–a hunger or a thirst–for God, for spiritual life, for communion. Scripture is given to us in order to satisfy that hunger. So, um, eat up! And Happy Feast of St. Jerome!