I hope you enjoy this little interview with me about “Where Did the Bible Come From?” by Chris Stefanick. It is part of The Search series. It is for a general audience, so expect very introductory material. They did a great job with the lighting and audio here.
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
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:
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
- Both the RSV-2CE and ESV-CE have all the books of the Bible including the deuterocanon.
- Both the RSV-2CE and ESV-CE are revisions of the RSV Bible.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
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
*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:
- Chart A: Levenshtein Distance from RSVCE Old Testament
- Chart B: Percentage of Revision from RSVCE Old Testament
- Chart C: Levenshtein Distance from RSVCE New Testament
- Chart D: Percentage of Revision from RSVCE Old Testament
- 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 lost 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.
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:
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.
This new video about the ESV Catholic Edition was just released:
As you can see in the video, a bunch of new ESV Catholic Edition Bibles are available now:
- Bonded Leather in Black, Mahogany, Navy and Burgundy with gold edges and ribbon bookmarks
- Hardback in Gray and Navy with ribbon bookmarks
- Paperback in several different covers
It is so encouraging to see this project come together and to see how nicely these volumes came out. I’m just happy to have been a part of it. I think Catholic Bible Students will be very pleased with these.
Today, in a surprise move, Pope Francis issued a new Apostolic Letter about St. Jerome (c. 345-420), whose feast day is today, September 30th. Today marks the 1600th anniversary of his death. The letter is entitled Scripturae sacrae affectus, “Devotion to Sacred Scripture.” Here is a brief summary of the letter:
- Jerome had a “living and tender love” for Scripture as a “scholar, translator and exegete.” He was committed to ardent, even impetuous, defense of Christian doctrine, but was also a great ascetic, hermit and “sensitive spiritual guide.”
- While originally a great student and lover of classical Latin literature—“an insatiable reader of the Latin classics”—he thought of Scripture as “uncouth and ungrammatical.” However, he eventually experienced a profound conversion and devoted the rest of his life to the study of Scripture for “the greater service of God and the ecclesial community.”
- His spiritual journey followed a winding course from rhetoric study in Rome to the life of a monk in Gaul, to the deserts of Syria as a hermit and then back to Rome as a priest, and finally to Bethlehem as a lifelong pilgrim.
- In the desert, he encountered God and engaged in “contemplation, interior trials and spiritual combat.”
- He was characterized by a “stubborn will to learn” and became an “exegete, teacher and spiritual guide,” motivated to defend the faith and Scripture.
- Pope Francis puts it beautifully: “Jerome saw his studies not as a pleasant pastime and an end unto itself, but rather as a spiritual exercise and a means of drawing closer to God.”
- He provides some wonderful quotes from Jerome:
- “I have the habit of asking questions.”
- “The Bible was written by the People of God for the People of God.”
- Jerome thinks of himself as “an ancient mariner, the survivor of several shipwrecks, attempting to teach a young sailor.”
- “Read the Scriptures constantly; never let the sacred volume fall from your hand.”
- Jerome’s life was characterized by two major dimensions:
- “An absolute and austere consecration to God”
- “A commitment to diligent study”
- He is a model for monks and for scholars, inspired by the prophets of old from whom he “drew the inner fire that became a vehement and explosive word, necessary for expressing the burning zeal of one who serve the cause of God.”
- Jerome’s zeal for Scripture was matched by his obedience to the Church and his commitment to communion with Peter’s successor, the Pope.
- He was renown for his competence in biblical languages, careful analysis of the manuscripts, and his knowledge of the history of interpretation.
- Pope Francis insists that every theology faculty should teach the interpretation of Scripture and that every Catholic family should read Scripture prayerfully, inspired by the Pope’s new “Sunday of the Word of God.”
- He lauds Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of Sacred Scripture as a bridge-building gift to the Latin Church, which should encourage modern translators of Scripture.
- The Pope says “For him, study was not limited to the years of his youthful training, but a continual commitment, a daily priority.”
The Letter is a beautiful summation of Jerome’s life and work, a call to love what he loved—namely Sacred Scripture. It is a clarion call to prayerful and diligent reading and study of the Bible for all Christians. What a great tribute to the great Doctor of the Church! Happy Feast Day, St. Jerome!
I just wanted to give you a few links here on a few recent things I’ve been involved with:
First, I did a Q&A Interview over at the Catholic Bible Talk blog about the ESV Catholic Edition. Here’s an excerpt:
A: The Translation Oversight Committee of the ESV has been very attentive to scholars’ and leaders’ concerns and suggestions, issuing a few lists of changes over the years since the first publication of the ESV in 2001. As long as Crossway continues to gather this committee, there is always the possibility for minor tweaks to the text. I would imagine the primary area where Catholic input would improve the translation is in the deuterocanonical books. I think it is important that the ESV text be regarded as stable, so I do not think we’ll see a major revision, but minor corrections and improvements. I think Catholics and Protestants will be pleasantly surprised by the common ground they share when they study this translation together.
Second, I appeared on Catholic Answers radio show a couple weeks ago:
Third, I’ve also appeared on the Formed Now! show at the Augustine Institute a few times recently (sorry! paywall):
- St. Teresa of Calcutta (September 4, 2020)
- 15 Years of the Augustine Institute
- Jesus and the Psalms (July 7, 2020)
- The ESV Translation (May 20, 2020)
- The Story of the Old Testament (June 25, 2020)
Fourth, I put together a Short Course on the Old Testament, which is housed in the Augustine Institute Short Course platform. The link to my particular course is here: https://courses.augustineinstitute.org/courses/old-testament
Fifth, I have had a few posts go up at Faith and Culture, the Augustine Institute’s journal:
It looks like I’ve been busier than I thought I was. I have a lot of other things cooking right now, but nothing ready to serve up just yet. I hope to have some more things to share with you in the not-too-distant future. Until then, happy Bible reading!
This is my third and last installment of Summer Scripture lectures I was originally slated to deliver at the Institute for Pastoral Leadership at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL. They have been holding a Summer Scripture Conference for decades and I’m sad that we weren’t able to come together this summer because of the pandemic. But thanks to IPL and my home institution, the Augustine Institute, for teaming up to support this short series.
This lecture dives into the Book of Psalms to show how the canonical shape of this premiere collection of sacred song from ancient Israel has a messianic orientation. David, to whom the bulk of the Psalter is attributed, forms the heart and soul of the collection and the five-book structure comes to us in a highly “Davidic” mode. To pray the psalms is to pray like David. Since Jesus presents himself as the “New David,” then to pray the psalms is to pray like Christ. I hope you enjoy this presentation!
Thanks, again, to the IPL and to the Augustine Institute for making this series possible!
During these strange times, priests are getting creative. My pastor, Fr. Brian Larkin, brought me in to the rectory for a video interview on his YouTube channel. Check it out: