One of my first entries for The Catholic Bibles Blog was titled “Catholic Bibles Stink!” It was not directed so much at the translations that were available at the time, but rather the overall lack of quality in the available editions and the absolute lack of any premium Catholic editions. The date of that blog post was September 14, 2008. Since the publication of that post (almost 14 years ago!), there have been some interesting developments. While the hoped for Catholic-specific premium bible still remains elusive, a number of truly fantastic editions that any Catholic could utilize have been published. The two most notable would be the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible w/Apocrypha (2018) and the Schuyler Quentel RSV w/ Apocrypha (2021). Both of them are truly fantastic editions, made with the utmost quality materials and containing useful content in a readable format. If you can get over the fact that they aren’t properly “Catholic Editions” then you can’t go wrong with either of these editions. I highly recommend both of them. And while there are some nice Catholic bibles out there, most notably from Baronius Press and Catholic Bible Press, they are not in the same league as the Cambridge and Schuyler. Not even close. But there is hope! I am excited to report that I would add another edition to this list. Cambridge’s ESV Diadem w/Apocrypha easily takes a seat at the table right alongside the Cambridge NRSV and the Schuyler RSV.
Although Oxford published the ESV w/Apocrypha in a hardcover edition right around the time I first wrote “Catholic Bibles Stink!”, I would never have guessed that there would be not only a fully Catholic edition of the ESV, but it would also be approved for liturgical use. In the USA, the ESV has the full support of the Augustine Institute, which has not only made it their bible of choice but also has published some nice editions already with the promise of more to come. In the UK, SPCK has their own line of editions, as Marc has been reviewing here. Cambridge will also be debuting a new line of ESVCEs this coming summer, most notably in their ESVCE Cornerstone edition. (Stay tuned for more information on those editions.) I ordered a copy of the hardbound edition of the ESV Diadem back in November, so when the premium editions became available I was excited to get my hands on one. What follows is a review of the red calfskin leather edition of the ESV Diadem w/Apocrypha. I won’t be spending any time looking at the translation itself (although I am happy to answer questions in the comments). I also plan on doing a comparison between the Diadem and Schuyler at some point in the future, but that will not be in this review.
The Diadem is a new mid-sized Bible that is meant to fill the gap between Cambridge’s smaller Pitt Minion and some of their larger ones. The page layout is exactly the same as the ESV Pitt Minion with the same pagination, but the overall size of the Diadem is 20% larger. It is meant to be both portable while also readable in any situation. I think we have all had compact Bible editions that were really great to carry around, but weren’t that easy to read over long periods of time. In the Diadem, Cambridge has succeeded in making this hybrid edition excel in both areas.
So, what do you get with this edition? Simply put, a bible with craftsmanship that is first rate and a text with plenteous references helps which make this an everyday, every situation bible that you can grow old with. This Diadem is printed and bound in The Netherlands by Royal Jongbloed. The size of this bible is roughly 6 ⅜ X 8 ⅞ with a thickness of just under 1 ½”. (To compare, It is slightly bigger than those old HarperOne NRSVCE Gift Bibles that came out ten or so years ago.) As you can see from the photos, I received the full red calfskin leather. (It also comes in black calfskin and calf split leather covers.) The calfskin is super soft while also being incredibly supple. I would say it is a tad bit softer than the Schuyler RSV in calfskin with more or less the same flexibility. With a weight of around 2.2 lbs., this bible is easy to hold and fits well in my hand for reading and teaching. The cover includes perimeter stitching (which I love!) as well as a liner that is edge-lined. Describing their edge-lined process, Cambridge notes that this sewn bible “is handmade in traditional edge-lined style, a craft process utilised to give both extra durability and strength to the binding and an aesthetically attractive suppleness to the cover–only binding by hand enables this effect to be achieved.” And it absolutely shows. It opens up perfectly flat immediately out of the box no matter which book you open it to. Three red satin ribbons are included which make a nice match to the color of the calfskin leather.
Opening up the bible you will find the 2016 text edition of the ESV along with the 2009 (2016) ESV Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals, which are placed between the Old and New Testaments. This is not the anglicized ESV, but the one that contains American spelling. The text is laid out in double-column, paragraph format with center column cross-references. The paper clocks in at 32 gsm which, combined with the line-matching and slightly cream look to the paper, makes ghosting not an issue at all. The 8.1 lexicon font is printed dark and consistent throughout. One unique feature (which I have never had in a bible I used) is the red-letter text for the words of Jesus. Some people like red-letter bibles while others do not. I am pretty undecided one way or the other. I can tell you that the red is dark and not distracting at all. It also matches really well with the cover material and the art-gilt (red under gold) page edges.
If this bible were only a premium reading bible that would be sufficient, however, what raises it to the next level is that it contains the reference materials that allow it to be used for study and teaching as well. First up, the center column references are considerable, even spilling over to the right side of each page under the textual notes on some pages. References that are for the left column are left-justified and placed at the top, while those for the right column are right-justified and placed towards the bottom. There is an explanation on how to use these references in the preface. Once you get used to the system, it is quite easy to navigate. After the preface, you will find a list of Old and New Testament (including the Hasmonean) rulers, hence this edition being called the Diadem. What follows is the obligatory table of weights and measures before the scriptural text begins.
Two other important features are included, starting with the concordance. It is an 89 page, three column per-page concordance which I have been told has more entries than the Pitt Minion. There are somewhere around 3000 entries, which cover the main names and places found in the ESV translation. In addition, there are two sets of bible maps included in this edition with the Apocrypha. Between the Apocrypha and New Testament you will find three maps relevant to the Hellenistic/Maccabean period. These are identical to the ones found in the NRSV Reference edition. At the back of the bible, after the concordance, you will find 15 glossy Cambridge Bible Maps including an index. The glossy paper isn’t too shiny or thick to be a distraction. They fit this bible perfectly.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a truly premium edition of the ESV with Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals look no further than the Cambridge Diadem ESV. While it is true that Cambridge will be publishing the ESVCE in their new Cornerstone line this coming summer (which I am looking forward to), it will most likely not have the same study references or premium leather cover and binding that is found in the Diadem. I also absolutely love the size of this bible, which is both portable and readable. Over the past year or so I have been primarily reading from the RSV/ESV lineage of bibles. When I received the Schuyler RSV in the fall of last year I was pretty certain that I had found my new every day bible. That changed with the arrival of the Diadem, which has now become a lead contender to be the everyday bible I use for prayer, study, and teaching. For more information on the Diadem, you can go to Cambridge’s Diadem page. This bible is currently on sale at Evangelical Bible for $247.00 (which includes the cost of shipping).
I want to thank Cambridge University Press for providing me a copy of the ESV Diadem w/ Apocrypha in exchange for an honest review.