Author Archives: catholicbiblestudent

The Quest of the King in the Wisdom of Solomon

My new article, “The Quest of the King in the Wisdom of Solomon,” was just published in the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, Volume 31, issue 1. I presented an early version of this paper at the 2020 SBL Annual Meeting.

If you want to know what is all about, here is the abstract of the paper:

Historians largely agree that Hellenistic kingship was founded, not primarily on heredity, but on military achievement (MacDonald, 2015). The right to rule was thus militarily meritocratic, but philosophically unsteady, so kings felt the need to propagandize by commissioning writings peri basileias. Diogenes Laertius gives evidence that this type of kingship literature was widely produced in this era, though only fragments of these texts survive. The tracts attributed to Ecphantus, Diotogenes, and Sthenidas, along with the Letter of Aristeas, reveal that Hellenistic kingship was supported by a mythos that viewed obtaining kingship as a kind of moral achievement. The king’s virtues are emphasized as godlike and worthy of imitation by his subjects, as he embodies the law in his person. The Wisdom of Solomon reworks this kingship tradition by “democratizing” kingship (Newman, 2004) to all to call his readers to imitate Solomon’s choice of wisdom over folly. Solomon’s search for and embrace of wisdom (7:7; 8:2) takes the place of militaristic emphases and establishes a universalizable pattern for the moral quest of the individual. Wisdom domesticates a Hellenistic pattern of seeking wisdom and thus achieving kingly rule, which eventually allows one to be a benefactor of others. Wisdom is beneficent (7:23) and, rather than becoming a god, the wise Solomon benefits others with his wise and just rule (Wis 8:10–15; 9:12). Even the wise Israelites become benefactors to others (19:14). Thus, the quest of the king for wisdom follows a familiar outline of the journey of a king from obscurity, to conquest, to rule, to beneficence.

If you are interested in reading the whole thing, here is the permanent link to it: https://doi.org/10.1177/09518207211032890

 

My New Talk on Leviticus

The Book of Leviticus has always puzzled Bible readers. We come looking for inspiration, prayer and hope amid the challenges of life in the Valley of Tears, but instead we find rules about sacrifices, priestly garb, foods to avoid, skin diseases and other topics that seem like mere relics from the ancient past. Yet Leviticus is not just about rules and ritual purity. It is about the holiness of God. It shows us how holy He is and how he calls each one of us to be holy. In fact, to me, Leviticus is the Old Testament version of “the universal call to holiness” famously proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council. In fact, that’s exactly it: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 ESV). God is holy, that is, “set apart” from us. He’s different, other, separate from our sinfulness and selfishness. He wants us to leave behind the petty desires of the world and become truly holy like Him.

If you want to learn more about Leviticus, check out my new Lighthouse Talk on mp3 and CD from the Augustine Institute: “Leviticus Explained”. I hope you enjoy it!

New Short Course On Wisdom Literature

Today, the Augustine Institute released my new short course on Wisdom Literature. In it, I teach 30 minute video sessions on Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon. This non-credit video course is available as a standalone for $59 and also as part of the monthly short course subscription of $23/month.

The course is available here: https://courses.augustineinstitute.org/courses/wisdom-literature

The short course program from the Augustine Institute is an easy way to encounter new ideas very quickly. The courses vary in length, but tend to consist of six or more 30-minute video lectures, accompanied by quizzes, links and other material. Right now, we have about twenty courses available and we add a new one every month.

It’s worth mentioning that I also teach the first course in the Short Course curriculum, “The Story of the Old Testament.” You can find that one here: https://courses.augustineinstitute.org/courses/old-testament

I hope you have a chance to check out these courses and the others. I hope that you’ll enjoy them! If you have suggestions for future short courses I should teach, put them in the comments on this post.

Recent Interviews

While I might not have been blogging much the past few weeks, I have been very busy with interviews. Here are all the links:

March 2: Polycarp’s Paradigm

February 28: Catholic Review Radio from Archdiocese of Baltimore

 

February 15

Formed Now: A Bible Study on the Luminous Mysteries – Institution of the Eucharist

January 23: Outside the Walls with T.L. Putnam

January 18: How they Love Mary with Fr. Edward Looney

January 14: The Good Book Club on Spirit Catholic Radio in Omaha, NE

 

January 6
I appeared on the Cordial Catholic, hosted by K. Albert Little. 

ESV Catholic Edition Bible Now Available on Verbum

I just bought it myself! While the Augustine Institute released the original American edition of the ESV Catholic Edition Bible back in December 2019 under the title, “The Augustine Bible,” no digital edition has been available until now. This week, with the launch of Logos/Verbum 9, the Faithlife company has put out the first digital edition of the ESV Catholic Edition Bible. It will now become my “top Bible” in my prioritization of resources in the Verbum platform.

What is Verbum?

While I love BibleWorks and have been using it for almost fifteen years, this small company shut down a couple summers ago. I hope that one day BibleWorks will return bigger and better! But until the theology of resurrection applies to software, there are two other options for Catholic Bible Students: Accordance and Verbum. Since these programs are big and expensive digital libraries, you have to make a choice early on. Accordance used to be only for Mac users, but now has a PC version, but I’ve never used it. Verbum is the Catholic version of the widely-used Logos Bible Software program. This program has been around for decades and has the biggest digital library of any Bible software. It includes everything from Bible commentaries, Church Fathers, dictionaries, encyclopedias, original language search, papal documents, theology books and on and on. I use it every day and believe that software of this caliber has become indispensable for biblical scholarship.

What to do with the ESV Catholic Edition in Verbum?

I’m so happy that they were able to put the ESV Catholic Edition into production so quickly. Now you can search the text, copy the text, look for details in the text and examine it statistically. I know I’ll be diving in to the deuterocanon, getting stats and publishing them here. But I’ll be so happy to finally use the ESV-CE text as my base text in the electronic format. I can’t quite believe this day has arrived!

Where to Get It

If you want to pick up a digital copy for yourself, it’s only $9.99 right now which is half of what a paperback print Bible costs. Here’s the link: https://verbum.com/product/192293/the-augustine-bible

If you aren’t ready to take the Verbum plunge yet, that’s not a problem, you can get a free basic version of the software to run the translation here: https://verbum.com/product/168882/verbum-8-basic

What is the Difference Between the RSV-2CE and the ESV Catholic Edition? Statistics Included

 

When I tell people about the new ESV Catholic Edition Bible, many of them ask me how it is different from the RSV-2CE. Now, that might leave you scratching your head thinking, “I’ve heard of the RSV and even the NRSV, but what is the RSV-2CE?” So just a bit of backstory before we get to the statistical comparison of the ESV-CE and the RSV-2CE…but here’s a sneak peak at the results:

Backstory

The RSV, which is a revision of the so-called “Standard Version,” aka ASV, came out as New Testament only in 1946 and in full in 1952. But not exactly. That is, the 1952 version only included the books in the Hebrew Bible, not the books in the deuterocanon. It was a Protestant edition, but even so, the translators kept working and released “The Apocrypha” in 1957, which included the deuterocanon. Fair enough, but Lutherans and Anglicans use the deuterocanon, so it was still a Protestant translation until 1965-66 when the “RSV Catholic Edition” was approved in England and released.

If I haven’t lost you yet, at the same time that the Catholic Edition was getting approved, the RSV Protestant Edition New Testament was undergoing a revision and that revised Protestant-only RSV NT, the RPRSVNT for short (just kidding), came out in 1971. The translation committee started moving toward a revision of the Old Testament, but that project never materialized. Instead, the Committee turned its attention to the NRSV, which took the place of the RSV in 1990. However, a lot people were not very happy with the NRSV, which is a story for another time. They kept reading their RSV Bibles.

 

The ESV and the RSV-2CE

Yet even those Bible readers who loved the RSV felt like it needed a touch-up. Two different groups, one Protestant and one Catholic, went back to the RSV to revise it again, but in a different way than the NRSV. Crossway Books, a Protestant publisher, started first in 1999 and completed their revision in 2001—that’s what we now know as the ESV. Ignatius Press, a Catholic publisher, started soon after and published the RSV-2CE in 2006. Now, of course my readers will know, the ESV-CE exists as of 2018. So, how are these two different revisions of the RSV different from one another?

 

A Personal Note

It is important to say that though I find myself wrapped up in the publication and promotion of the ESV-CE, I like the RSV-CE and the RSV-2CE as well. In fact, my own writing has appeared and will continue to appear along with the RSV-2CE in publications like the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and the Augustine Institute’s Bible-in-a-Year. I really just want people to read, study and pray the Bible, regardless of whatever translation or language they are reading it in.

 

First, the Similarities

  1. Both the RSV-2CE and ESV-CE have all the books of the Bible including the deuterocanon.
  2. Both the RSV-2CE and ESV-CE are revisions of the RSV Bible.
  3. Both the RSV-2CE and the ESV-CE eliminate archaic language that was included in the RSV: thou, thee, didst, hast, etc.

 

Second, the Differences

  1. They have different base texts for the New Testament: The RSV-2CE, being a revision of the 1965-66 RSV-CE, starts with the 1946 RSV New Testament with the few dozen minor modifications made by the Catholic translators (listed in the back of the RSV-CE). The ESV-CE, because it started as a Protestant revision of the Protestant RSV, drew on the 1971 RSV New Testament, not the 1946 New Testament. The ESV-CE thus has one additional layer of updates in the New Testament.
  2. The RSV-2CE is minor revision, while the ESV-CE is a major revision. Maybe one way to put it is the RSV-2CE is still the RSV. The number of changes is very small and the scope of changes is modest. A large number of the RSV-2CE changes involve updating language to get rid of “thees” and “thous.”
  3. The ESV-CE is based on updated text-critical information both in the Old and New Testaments, whereas the RSV represents the state of the field in the 1940s and ’50s. Two facts illustrate the point:
    1. The RSV used the 17th edition of the Nestle-Aland critical edition of the Greek New Testament, while the ESV used the 27th Text-critical knowledge of the text of the NT has improved considerably since the 1940s.
    2. The RSV-2CE of Tobit relies on the 1957 RSV Apocrypha translation, which was based on the shorter Greek text of Tobit (Greek I represented in Vaticanus and Alexandrinus), while all modern translations of Tobit, like the ESV-CE, rely on the longer Greek text (Greek II represented by Sinaiticus). Greek II is about 1700 words longer than Greek I and it serves as the basis for the Nova Vulgata rendition of Tobit in Latin. Greek II is also confirmed as the best text of Tobit by the 1995 publication of long fragments of Tobit from the Dead Sea Scrolls in Hebrew and Aramaic by Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ.

Statistics, Please!

Ok, now the fun part. To illustrate that the ESV-CE is a major revision and the RSV-2CE is a minor revision, one only needs a computer. Rather than reading through the entire Bible and hand-counting every single change, I decided to let the robots do the hard work. But how? By using a little-known idea from computer science called “Levenshtein Distance,” which quantifies “the number of deletions, insertions, or substitutions required” to change one string of text into another string of text.

 

Methodology

Using the “Bible Text Only” copy tool in Verbum (aka Logos) Bible Software which excludes verse numbers, headings, footnotes and other non-Bible text, I compared the RSV-CE text of every book of the Bible to the RSV-2CE and to the ESV-CE to calculate the Levenshtein Distance as a discreet number, using the calculator at PlanetCalc. Then dividing the Levenshtein Distance by the total number of characters in the RSV-CE text, I was able to arrive at a percentage difference between the RSV-CE and the RSV-2CE, and also the percentage difference between the RSV-CE and the ESV-CE. (Yes, this took a long time and a huge spreadsheet!)

For example, using the super-short Obadiah, we find 3,221 characters in the RSV-CE. The RSV-2CE Levenshtein Distance for Obadiah is only 10, so we have a 0.31% difference. Whereas, the ESV-CE Levenshtein Distance for Obadiah is 405, revealing a 12.57% difference—a far more substantial revision. What I will list in the following tables is the percentage difference from the RSV-CE for every book of the Bible both in the RSV-2CE and in the ESV-CE and the Levenshtein distance for every book of the Bible, comparing both translations.  Before we get there, another example might help.

 

Example: Deuteronomy

Here’s the data for Deuteronomy:

  • RSV-CE Bible text characters: 141,082
    • RSV-2CE Bible text characters: 141,025
    • RSV-2CE Levenshtein Distance from RSV-CE: 654
    • ESV Bible text characters: 140,039
    • ESV Levenshtein Distance from RSV-CE: 10,883

To get percentages, we use Levenshtein Distance divided by RSV-CE characters:

Deuteronomy:

RSV-2CE ESV
Levenshtein Distance: 654 Difference:

0.46%

10,883

Difference:

7.71%

RSV-CE characters: 141,082

141,082

 

This example illustrates how the ESV is a major revision of the RSV, while the RSV-2CE is a minor revision. The ESV has more than sixteen times as many changes as the RSV-2CE in Deuteronomy.

 

Results: Old Testament, New Testament and Whole Bible in tables and charts

Old Testament:

RSV-2CE ESV
Levenshtein Distance 25,875 Difference:

0.88%

215,657

Difference:

7.33%

RSV-CE characters 2,940,837

2,940,837

 

New Testament:

RSV-2CE ESV
Levenshtein Distance 5,399 Difference:

0.60%

78,915

Difference:

8.78%

RSV-CE characters 898,327

898,327

Whole Bible*

RSV-2CE ESV
Levenshtein Distance 31,274 Difference:

0.81%

294,572

Difference:

7.67%

RSV-CE characters 3,839,164

3,839,164

*It is worth noting that I’m working from what’s available in the software, and right now that is the ESV-2016, not the current ESV-CE, so my calculations do not yet include the deuterocanonical books (or Esther and Daniel), nor the very few changes have been made between the Protestant and Catholic versions of the ESV.

Overall, we see that the ESV has nine-and-a-half times more changes than the RSV-2CE.

 

Results: Book by Book

I’m including four charts comparing the RSV-2CE and the ESV:

  1. Chart A: Levenshtein Distance from RSVCE Old Testament
  2. Chart B: Percentage of Revision from RSVCE Old Testament
  3. Chart C: Levenshtein Distance from RSVCE New Testament
  4. Chart D: Percentage of Revision from RSVCE Old Testament


Observations

  • In every book, ESV has substantially more revision than the RSV-2CE.
  • RSV-2CE has the most revision in prayer-heavy texts (Psalms, Nehemiah, Habbakuk), where the RSV had lots of things like “thou hast” and “thou didst.” The RSV-2CE seems to focus on eliminating archaic vocabulary.
  • In certain short books, the RSV-2CE has no revision (Philemon, 2 John).
  • Ezekiel is a stand-out example of the contrast, where RSV-2CE changes only 467 characters, whereas ESV changes 15,380 (about 33 times more revision!).
  • The ESV revises more in the NT (8.78%) than in the OT (7.33%), but the RSV-2CE revises more in the OT (0.88%) than in the NT (0.60%).
  • The Book of Psalms has the most revisions in both, but that is expected since it is the longest book.

Overall, I hope that this post illustrates the value of the ESV-CE as a more substantial revision of the respected RSV-CE than its close cousin, the RSV-2CE.

Interview on ESV Catholic Edition Bible

On Friday, I was interviewed by John Burger at Aleteia about the new ESV Catholic Edition Bible. (It’s one of those interviews where they transcribe what you say, so I apologize for any grammatical errors other weird inaccuracies). However, I think it gets the message across. Here’s an excerpt:

The English Standard Version-Catholic Edition pursues a word-for-word translation philosophy. It calls itself an essentially literal translation. The goal is to be as transparent as possible to the original text, while still producing good, solid elegant English in the translation. It’s not the same as reading an interlinear [which has the original language and English side by side], but it’s not pursuing a more loose translation style, often referred to as thought-for-thought style translation or dynamic equivalent. It’s really trying to stick to a word-for-word approach.

You can read the whole interview on their site here:
https://aleteia.org/2020/10/03/new-bible-translation-promises-greater-accuracy/

New CD/mp3 Talk on the Dark Passages of Scripture

I’m excited to announce that my talk on the Dark Passages of Scripture was just put out by the Augustine Institute as the CD-of-the-month. Of course, you can download it as an mp3 as well. Not the cheeriest picture, I realize–but I guess it gets the point across!

This talk is based on my book, Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture (OSV). I deal with some of the tough stuff in Sacred Scripture. Passages in the Old Testament can be frightening or strange, certainly difficult to read. I tried to shed some light in the dark corners of the Bible to reveal how to understand the balance of God’s justice and his mercy. I deal with questions about the Canaanite conquest, innocent suffering, hell, and ultimately the Cross. I hope you find it helpful and enjoyable. If you take a listen, I’d love to hear from you if you want to leave a comment on this post.