New Catholic ESV (English Standard Version)

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:

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:

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: 

3 thoughts on “New Catholic ESV (English Standard Version)

  1. Louise

    Interesting development. I was just yesterday, having downloaded from Universalis, the Jerusalem Bible rendering of Matthew 25:31-….., I noted the absence of the words “my brethren” following the words “the least of these”, and reflected upon its potentially ‘political overtones’ not to mention the doctrinal and ecclesiological repercussions. I then went to the Catena Aurea and found St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom’s commentary on the significance of the words “my brethren”, and that frankly was enough for me to consider a new App and question my Jerusalem Bible and its autors. I have my Douay, my much fingered RSV-Catholic edition, and the Knox, and I admit I will want to read quite a few reviews on the ESV before launching out on a further purchase. Thanks for writing it up.

  2. Rodger

    Do you have any idea what has become of this project? I appreciate your review of this edition, and I want one for myself. However, the link you’ve provided no longer works, and I can’t find any other place to try to order the ESVCE in the USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *