Category Archives: ESV Catholic Edition

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 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.

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 ESV Catholic Edition Bibles: Leather, Hardback, Paperback

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

All of these ESV Catholic Edition Bibles are available at CatholicBible.org and at Catholic.Market

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.

Here’s a photo of a bunch of the new Bibles piled up on my desk:

Interviews on ESV-CE and Catholic Answers, links

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):

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!

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.