In June, I reported on my quest for more details regarding the New Living Translation – Catholic Edition(NLT-CE) and the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition (ESV-CE). The press releases for both translations stated that a team of scholars reviewed the bible text and made revisions.  I’m very interested to know what verses they revised and how extensive the revisions were.

From my perspective, these Catholic editions have great potential as a meeting point between Catholics and other denominations. After all, the ESV and NLT are two of the most widely used translations among American protestants. But as long as the revisions remain unidentified and unreported, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over them. Which verses were changed? If I quote a verse from the NLT-CE, will someone with an NLT bible have the same language?

I’m frustrated by the lack of transparency. ATC Publishers assured me that they plan to release full documentation of all changes in the future, but they have no set timetable for doing so. In the meantime, I decided to reach out to the copyright holders of the NLT (Tyndale House Publishers) and the ESV (Crossway) to seek more information. Since they gave permission to publish these Catholic editions, perhaps they have details on the changes. Both publishers allowed me to share their responses on the blog.

I was excited to receive the following response from Tyndale:

The changes suggested by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India were reviewed by Tyndale and incorporated into the 2015 edition of the translation for all Bibles, Catholic and Protestant. Going forward any NLT with a copyright of 2015 incorporates these changes. We were very pleased with the suggestions made by the Conference and felt the suggested changes made the NLT better.

This is joyous news! It means that the NLT is now in a similar category to the NRSV: the only difference between Catholic and protestant versions are the deuterocanonical books. The translation is identical! 

Crossway offered less information. It sounds as though they do not have a list of changes, and they were less involved in the review process:

Two years ago, Crossway was approached by Roman Catholic leadership in India about adopting the ESV into Catholic church life and liturgy. After careful consideration, we were glad to license the ESV for publication by an Indian publishing house, supplying Bible readers in this part of the world with a sound translation. Though it is not our calling to publish resources for the Catholic church, we are grateful for this opportunity to support their desire to provide an essentially literal and academically current translation of the Bible. We remain as committed as ever to publishing gospel-centered resources in the historic stream of the Reformation.

This response does not bode well for anyone hoping to see the ESV-CE published in the United States. Crossway appears resistant to publishing materials for a Catholic audience. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that they will license the ESV-CE to another publisher for printing. 

In summary, we are still in the dark about the exact changes that the teams of scholars recommended, but in the case of the NLT, we now know that the Catholic edition is identical to the protestant edition (except for the extra deuterocanonical books). Knowing that, I am satisfied with not having a list of changes. But the ESV-CE remains uncertain. 

12 thoughts on “Tracking Down the Revisions in the NLT-CE and the ESV-CE”

  1. Crossway is an anti-Catholic publisher, so there was never any possibility that they would publish a Catholic Edition themselves, eventually, I expect they will license the Catholic Edition to other publishers, the license will probably go to Oxford University Press, who published the ‘with Apocrypha’ edition of the ESV in 2008.

  2. I’m really excited to hear that the NLT and NLT:CE are apparently identical as of 2015. That’s really cool to know, especially as I’ve been relying on the NLT:CE as my daily reader for the last few months now. I have to say, the more I learn about the NLT:CE, the more I’m impressed by it!

    It’s disappointing to hear such cool response from Crossway though. And it makes me wonder. I know I’ve heard that their willing to license the ESV:CE to an American publisher at some point, but such a response makes me wonder how serious they even are at pursuing even that modest goal. It’s one thing to say you’re willing to license your translation to an American publisher, perhaps to even consider it a viable possibility in theory, its quiet another to actually do it. The conspiracy theorist in me even begins to wonder what conditions ATC had to agree to, to even publish in India. I know from Tim’s old blog that I’m not the only one who had trouble trying to get a copy shipped to me. I tried at least 4 different times, each in a different way, and none of those attempts ever netted me a ESV:CE. Might ATC be hesitant to sell to American customers due to some unspoken agreement with Crossway? I know it sounds crazy, but that process was frustrating enough to drive me to some fairly irrational speculation.

    All that said, I think Tyndale has handled this whole episode way more graciously, I think we should all go and buy copies of the NLT:CE as a way of thanks ;-p

    1. I’m sorry your comment didn’t appear for a few days, Ronny. For some reason, the system flagged your comment as spam, so I didn’t see it right away.

      I agree with you about Tyndale. Their response was very gracious and appreciative for the work that the Indian bishops did. I’m so encouraged to see that.

  3. Marc,

    Another excellent post, thanks for all the effort.

    I concur with your assessment of Crossway. I get a very cold feeling from them:

    Not only are they not transparant about the changes they have made to the RSV in developing the ESV, they keep making changes. It’s as if they rushed the ESV into print as a work in progress and keep making changes as suggestions come in. I would term this reactionary rathar than responsible publishing. In today’s digital age, the effort to list their changes on their web site must be less than one one week for one technical person.

    Second, I find their sourcing and marketing troubling. The ESV large print journaling bible I bought from Christain Books retails for $55 and is printed in China. The CB price was $37. So with Crossway the customer is getting the lowest cost manufacturing for a premium price. As a point of comparison, the NABRE I bought from the USCCB was $23, bonded leather, 9 or 10 point print, and printed in Michigan ! Crossway is gouging.

    Another comparison: just received the New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV in genuine leather printed by Jongbloed in the Neatherlands for $63 from CB. Packed with info and a great value.

    There are uneasy feelings about Ignatious and their RSV-2CE posted on the web, as they also have not listed their changes. I, however, have a much better feeling towards them. They print in Christian countries, do not continually change their text, and are working on a stellar study bible. Just wish their pace was a little faster.

    Rant over,

    Mark

  4. I’ve always thought there was something unprofessional about the Crossway constantly sneaks out new editions of the ESV without fanfare, constantly making little changes, as if it is a text in constant flux that will never be fixed. The ESV was first published in 2001, then it received minor updates in 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2016. The 2016 edition was originally billed as the ‘final’ text, but they got a lot of beef for that, so they reversed the decision within a week.

    It is common for new translations to undergo minor revisions, but eventually, they should reach a final form that won’t change for some time. The New American Standard was released in 1971 and underwent minor revisions in 1972. 1973, and 1975, but then they released an edition in 1977, that remained unchanged until 1995, and the 1995 edition is still the current version, at least until the next update which is supposed to be released in 2019 or 2020.

    The New Translation was published in 1996, but then underwent revisions in 2004, 2007 and now 2015. The NIV underwent several rounds of revision from 1978, but then by 1984, they reached a fixed text that remained unchanged until 2011.

    The ESV has been out for 17 years and still has not been published in a single definitive, fixed text. This is an unusually long period for a Bible translation to be in a state of flux.

    Crossway wants the ESV to be used in church (and it is used officially by the Evangelical Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) but surely making constant changes to the text makes it much harder for a church to decide to adopt the text, after all, what do you do if in the same congregation, there are people who have 2001, 2004,2007, 2011 and 2016 editions? When read aloud, these people are going to notice the differences, and it makes it difficult for everyone to follow along when the text isn’t consistent.

  5. BC,

    I couldn’t agree more. After a look at the Crossway web site they seem to be taking the approach of high volume. They are offering the ESV in every edition and covering imaginable (other than printed in USA). My take is that they are trying to be all things for all evangelicals. They downplay their ties to the RSV, and here seem paranoid that ‘bible verse’ critics will give them a bad reputation on some small point. Thus the constant changes as issues come up.

    Another part of keeping on the evangelical’s good side is staying away from anything Catholic. Their choice, free country. Luckily I have free choice too, so RSV-2CE for me, although I have high expectations of the NABRE New New Testament.

    Mark

  6. Actually. I don’t think the reason for the constant changes is hypersensitivity, I think it’s simple incompetence.

    Remember the origins of the ESV. In 1996, the International Bible Society published a controversial new revision of the NIV called the ‘New International Version Inclusive Language Edition’, this edition was so controversial that IBS canceled their plan to publish it in the United States. The publication of the NIV Inclusive Language Edition has proved to be a watershed event in recent history, as it has led many evangelicals to abandon the NIV and seek a different translation.

    Among the denominations that dropped the NIV from their list of approved translations are the Evangelical Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptists responded by first attempting to buy the rights to the NASB from the Lockman Foundation, and then when negotiations for that fell through, they decided to publish their own translation which became known as the Holman Christian Standard Version.

    In 1999, a group of evangelicals led by James Dobson held a meeting in Colorado Springs where they agreed to a set of principles that became known as the ‘Colorado Springs Guidelines’ governing the use of inclusive language in Bible translations. At this meeting, it was decided that they would sponsor a new translation according to those guidelines. Since they didn’t want to a new translation from scratch, they decided to negotiate with the National Council of Churches for the right to publish a modest revision of the Revised Standard Version for evangelical use.

    This was something that some evangelicals had wanted for years. There was a vocal wing of the evangelical movement which, in the 1970’s, had asked for an RSV ‘evangelical edition’ similar to the Catholic Edition that had already been published. At the time, the NCC said ‘no’. There was always a certain degree of resentment about this, that the NCC would allow the RSV to be modified for Catholic use, but not for evangelical use.

    Anyway, in 1999, they asked again for permission to revise the RSV, and they were probably surprised that this time the answer was ‘yes’. Why the answer was different in 1999 I don’t know, if I had to guess, I would say that the NCC was probably desperate for cash.

    Anyway, they got the permission in 1999, and the ESV was published in 2001. Given the quick turnaround, it’s clear that all they really did was go through the RSV and change a few words in every verse to eliminate archaisms and the liberal bias that evangelicals have always complained about in the RSV, rather than doing a full re-translation. According to some analysts, the text of the ESV and the RSV agree at least 94% of the time. When reading the ESV, it is usually very easy to tell when a change was made, usually, what happens is that the text reads very smoothly, and then suddenly, it seems a little clunky. The clunky part is where they changed it.

    But when they did this modest revision, they did it very poorly the first time, for example, one of the things they wanted to do was completely eliminated the archaic word ‘unto’ and replace it with the more modern ‘onto’. The first time around, they didn’t get rid of all the ‘unto’s, there are still hundreds of them scattered throughout the text. So one of the things that they have been doing with their constant revisions is to finally get rid of all the ‘unto’s. Yes, the changes that they made in 2004,2007 and 2011 generally are that kind of trivial, stylistic change, stuff that they should have gotten the first time, but inexplicably missed. That’s just sloppy editing.

  7. Marc,

    It’s really difficult to purchase NLT-CE and ESV-CE from ATC Bookstore India. I don’t know how can we buy them. I know the publisher in America still sells NLT-CE now but I think the ATC publisher of NLT-CEs are looking better than the American publisher one so. It’s good that we Catholics have added NLT-CE and ESV-CE to our English language Catholic translations. But I’m still wary of NLT-CE and ESV-CE cos of their evangelical/Calvinistic bias grafted into that translations. I will not buy NLT-CE and ESV-CE. I prefer CTS New Catholic Bible that is Jerusalem Bible with Grail Psalters and NABRE. I’m waiting for Revised New Jerusalem Bible when it comes out next year I will buy it. And I will buy NABRE 2025 deffo. Jerusalem Bible is my favourite Bible translation, it’s what I’m growing up with n hearing of the Biblical passage readings from my Mass every week.

    Brother in Christ

    James

    1. I honestly do not understand the claim of a ‘Calvinist bias’ in the ESV. I’ve seen many people claim this, but I have never seen anyone provide something that I would regard as proof of the assertion. Crossway is definitely a Calvinist publisher, but that’s not the same thing.

      To be honest, I’m also not entirely sure that many of the people who use the term ‘Calvinist’ actually know what that word means. Most people seem to use it to mean ‘someone who holds strict determinist views of salvation’, and yet the Calvinist view of predestination is not really all that different from the Catholic view, and Calvinism is a much broader tradition than just that one issue anyway.

      Can you point to a particular instance in the ESV where it adopts a strictly Calvinist of any verse?

      In the same way, some people accuse the Christian Standard Version of being a ‘Baptist Bible’ and yet, I’ve never noticed anything in it that would reflect an obvious bias, for example, it doesn’t translate ‘baptism’ as ‘immersion’ for example, even though they could make a decent philological case for doing so.

      1. I’m not saying all Evangelicals and Calvinists are anti-Catholic people. But all their tracts, books, websites etc are anti-Catholic. I just don’t trust Evangelical n Calvinist translators. Well, the ESV is just an evangelical revision of the RSV. There are some biblical verses in the ESV I just don’t agreed with like 1 Tim 3:15, John 20:23, John 6: 54-58

        On 1 Tim 3:15 ESV

        “15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

        “a” pillar? I know there are no definite or indefinite articles in the Greek original. If there’s no definite or indefinite article in the Greek then it should be “which is the church of the living God, pillar and buttress of the truth” without having “the” or “a” in it. As Jonny of catholicbiblestudent.com have explained about it on the comment which I asked him a quiz I thought it was a good argument n helpful. But I’m still not convinced yet. So all Protestant translations like KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NLT etc have the pillar but only ESV and YLT have a pillar. For me, I just feel like ESV translators won’t admit that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth so they translated it as a pillar which shows their biases.

        On John 20:21-23 ESV

        21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

        “if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” is not right it should be ” if you retain from any, it is retained ”

        Let’s compare it to RSVCE, NRSV n NABRE

        On John 20:21-23 RSVCE

        21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

        On John 20:21-23 NRSV

        21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

        On John 20:21-23 NABRE

        21 [n][Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 [o]And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,“Receive the holy Spirit. 23 [p]Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

        Withhold? I’m not sure about it I think maybe there is shown their biases again?

        On John 6: 54-58 ESV

        54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

        Feeds on, feeds on, feeds on should be eats me, eats me.

        Let’s compare it to RSVCE, NRSV n NABRE

        On John 6: 54-58 RSVCE

        54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.

        On John 6:54-58 NRSV

        54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

        On John 6: 54-58 NABRE

        54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

        I’m not saying ESV is a bad translation I think it’s a very good translation n I think in some areas it’s better than RSVCE. So the biblical verses from above I just showed u that’s why I don’t trust the Evangelical n Calvinist translators who translated ESV. I don’t know which ESV-CE is based on ESV 2016 or 2011 or 2007 or 2001 edition? If it’s based on ESV 2016 edition then it’s not worth cos they have changed n added 52 words into 29 verses in ESV. For example, on Gen 3:16

        ” Your desire shall be contrary to[f] your husband,
            but he shall rule over you.”

        That’s wrong. The “contrary to” is not in the Hebrew originals. It should be
        “yet your desire shall be for your husband,
            and he shall rule over you.”

        So I’m still wary of ESV-CE

        Brother in Christ

        James

        1. A slight evangelical bias, perhaps, but not a ‘Calvinist’ one. And it is an extremely mild bias compared to the NIV.

          Regarding the translation of John 20:23, the NASB and the CSB have ‘whoever sins you forgive, they will have already been forgiven etc’

          Also, in Matthew 16, ‘whatever you bind on Earth will have already been bound in heaven’…

          These renderings are excessively literal, but I’ve spoken with some Catholic theologians who are extremely knowledgeable about the Greek and who say that even these renderings ‘will have already been forgiven, will have already been bound’ pose no obstacle to the Catholic doctrine of the papacy or of confession at all, even though I’m sure these versions rendered these verses this way for the express purpose of trying to make the sacrament of confession and papal authority impossible.

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