The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland voted at its July meeting to move forward with creating a new lectionary based on the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition (ESV-CE). The complete announcement from the National Liturgy Commission was reported by Independent Catholic News at this link. The announcement lists three primary motivations for why a new lectionary was needed:

  1. The English-speaking bishops around the world have approved a new translation of the Psalms (the Abbey Psalms, which was discussed on this blog here). The Scottish bishops would like the lectionary text to incorporate the new translation of the Psalms, which will eventually be used in the Liturgy of the Hours.
  2. Biblical scholarship has continued to advance since the Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966. A new lectionary “provides an opportunity to benefit from this new scholarship.”
  3. Many new celebrations of saints have been added to the General Roman Calendar since the previous lectionary was published. Corresponding readings for the new celebrations can be specified in the new lectionary.

The announcement proceeds to recount the history of the ESV-CE, and it confirms that the Bishops Conference of England and Wales has also accepted the ESV-CE for its new lectionary. Most of the historical details are well-known to readers of this blog, but the following tidbit caught my eye:

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India produced a Catholic version of the ESV, aided by a team of eight scholars over a period of three years under the chairmanship of Fr Lucien Legrand. This was an ecumenical collaboration and the project had the full support of Crossway.

As a result of the initial scholarship, only about 52 changes were made to the ESV text to produce the Catholic edition. The most extensive difference, of course, is the insertion of the deuterocanonical books.

This is the first time I’ve found a specific number of changes that were made to the original ESV text to produce the Catholic Edition. Ever since the ESV-CE was announced, I have been interested to know how much it differs from the original ESV. Eventually, I hope to see a comprehensive list of changes, similar to the list of changes between the RSV and the RSV-CE which is printed in many editions of the RSV-CE.

Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue has a post at PrayTellBlog where he reflects on the implications of choosing the ESV-CE instead of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible (RNJB).

31 thoughts on “Scottish Bishops approve ESV-CE for new Lectionary”

  1. If you’re happy and you know it leave a ✊,
    If you’re happy and you know it leave a ✊,
    If you’re happy and you know it and you think the Anglican Ordinariate might consider it as well as some places that would like the same text all throughout the mass and in their hand as well as a complete Bible and not a mish mash of thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings… (*gasp*)
    If you’re happy and you know it leave a ✊


  2. For the life of me, I can’t understand why a conference would use the ESV instead of the RSV-CE2. Yes, the RSV is older but the new scholarship of the ESV couldn’t have led that many substantial changes.

    1. I wonder if the primary motive is ecumenism. Since the ESV is currently popular among many protestants, it’s useful to be able to use the same Bible translation. That’s the main reason I can imagine for choosing the ESV over the RSV-2CE. I suppose it’s possible that there is a healthy dose of “new is always better” mixed in. Even if the scholarly differences between the two are vanishingly small, the newer version seems “better.”

      1. I’ll second this suspicion. I’ll admit that I’d personally like a bible translation that’s sensitive to Catholic interpretive tradition (ie Hail Full of Grace vs Hail Highly Favored One in the Gospel of Luke as one example) But it really feels like no one in authority seems to care about that kind of stuff any more. I know from reading commentary that these kinds of changes are always defensible but still…

        That being said, if we’re picking a text with an eye towards ecumenism, I’m pretty pleased that its the ESV. I know its very close to the RSV2CE, but in addition to being based on more recent scholarship I also think the ESV just plain reads more smoothly in certain sections. The trade off of course is that it does sometimes seem to loose some of the poetic flow of the RSV2CE, which is why I sometimes wonder if the Ordinariate might hang on to the RSV2CE.

        Can some one on the site clarify something for me though? In a lot of articles about the Ordinariate I read, it seems to imply that they’re having a hard time getting new lectionaries? Like Ignatius Press donated pretty much all they had left on hand when the Ordinariates were created but for some reason aren’t printing new ones? Is this true? Am I the only one who’s heard this? If that’s the case the Ordinariate might have to switch to the ESV just to be able to get new liturgical materials.

        Circling back to the ecumenical angle to close though, does it seem telling to anyone else that the ESV was seemingly pursued so actively, and then adopted so rapidly once it became available, while the NRSV seemed to basically throw itself at the hierarchy only to be turned away? (Save for special exceptions for Canada, that were not permitted for any other region) What does that say about the kinds of groups the Catholic Church is envisioning as it’s primary ecumenical dialog partners?

        1. We pray using a new Order for the Divine Office in traditional English language and with prayers treasured for centuries in the life of English-speaking nations around the world. Currently in use within the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, it is awaiting formal approval from the Vatican CDW and CDF.*

          *The Ordinariate is still waiting and has been for years.

      2. According to a 2014 study, The Bible in American Life, the KJV comes in at 55% and the NIV at 19% among Americans who read the Bible. I don’t see how the ESV is that popular or useful for ecumenical purposes.

        1. Note: we’re discussing what the Catholic Churches of Britain are planning to adopt, not the Catholic Church in America. So what bible translations are popular in America is less relevant to those that are popular in Britain.

          In that light, I would think in regards for ecumenical purposes, one would think that the Catholic Churches of Britain would choose a translation that is amenable to the Church of England and other Anglican dominations, whatever those translations may be. I think that might be one of the reasons why the NRJB wasn’t selected.

          1. I recall reading somewhere that the RSV is the preferred or most popular version in Great Britain but I think the Church of England uses the NRSV.

        2. I could of course be misunderstanding, but that statistic seems slightly questionable to me, or at least misleading. For most Americans, probably the KJV is the only Bible they’ve heard of, and most homes have one lying around somewhere.

          For ecumenism purposes, however, it is probably more useful to ask what the preferred translation is among the “regularly practicing.” While I imagine the KJV will still come out in front, I suspect if you asked for the percentages among Protestant Christians who regularly attend church services, and who read their Bibles regularly, the numbers would be importantly different.

          Not to mention people can read more than one translation! KJV may be #1 for someone but ESV or NIV close behind.

        3. The ESV has been adopted by several major Protestant denominations, the biggest one probably being the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, while the NIV has been dropped like a hot potato by several denominations including both the aforementioned LCMS and the Southern Baptist Convention, in fact, the entire reason the ESV and Holman Christian Standard version exist is because of the growing movement to ditch the NIV.

          The only reason KJV looks popular is due to the outsized influence of the ‘KJV-Onlyists’, which are the most extreme fundamentalists, if you look at mainstream Protestant churches, the KJV is barely used at all.

    2. In what universe does it make sense to dump one 50-year-old translation in favor of a different 50-year-old translation?

  3. How exciting! Does anyone know where you can purchase an Anglicized version of the ESV-CE? Thanks in advance!

  4. I don’t understand all the praise the ESV receives from Catholics. Does it mostly come from those who converted from Protestantism? Is it because of some proof check verses?

    1. I am not too familiar with it, but here is my take:

      1. It is untainted by the dynamic equivalence wars that cause people to still lose their minds about the NABRE.

      2. According to its public image, the ESV-CE contains all that is good about the RSV 2CE, but with even more Christian renderings of the Old Testament restored.

      The marketing material seems to ignore the Ignatius Bible completely, which is probably a good move, as I seriously can’t tell the difference between the two. I would guess that over 75 percent of the changes made from RSV to ESV were changes made from RSVCE to RSV 2CE. The others are more likely to be a result of the ESV siding more with the Masoretic text, whereas the RSV leaned on the Septuagint in places.

    2. “I don’t understand all the praise the ESV receives from Catholics. Does it mostly come from those who converted from Protestantism? Is it because of some proof check verses?”

      It comes from several things

      1. No inclusive language, or at worst, only moderate use of inclusive language

      2. Tends to retain traditional language that has stood the test if time, with only a modest attempt to eliminate archaic language and improve accuracy. There is none of the wild experimentation that has become distressingly common in modern translations. For those who grew up in the Tyndall/KJV/RSV tradition (which is the overwhelming majority of English speaking Christians) it “sounds familiar”

      3. Unlike many modern translations that are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, it is unafraid to use big or unusual words, respecting out intelligence

      4. It retains traditional theological language such as expiation, grace and justification

      There are more reasons, but those are the big ones

      As for the suggestion of the REV CE2, let’s be honest, it is nothing more than a minor spit polish of the 1966 RSV CE, which is itself only a minor spit polish of the 1952 RSV. There is no getting around it, if the Jerusalem Bible is too old, then it makes no sense to adopt an RSV text which is actually even older.

      1. I respectfully disagree with Biblical Catholic. Note I do detect some facetiousness in my response so apologize in advance:
        -The New Testament (and the Septuagint) were not written in Attic Greek. They were written in Koine Greek which was the Greek of the common person and was the Greek of an individual whose native language was not Greek. Thus, should we not look at translating scripture into “Koine English” which would be a level of English for readers whose English is their second language?
        -If you do a word search for “expiation” in the Bible Gateway application, in the ESV, you will find there are NO OCCURANCES OF EXPIATION. Rather the word “propitiation” is used. I do not have access to the ESV-CE; however, it is highly likely that it has been changed to “expiation.”
        -I would guess that if you went through any “Protestant Bible” that includes the “Deuterocanonical” books and changed the “Hot” words like “most favored one” and “young woman” and “propitiation” among others; then you could convert it to an “authorized” Catholic Edition. I look forward to the KJV-CE version.
        -By the way, I find no harm in Catholics studying and reading “Protestant Bibles.” In fact, since the vast majority of Catholics (Outside of Mass) never read the Bible I think Catholics reading “Protestant Bibles” would be a vast improvement. Remember we are blessed that we have the Catechism to sort things out.
        -When it comes to Bible translation for liturgy (not necessarily for study) we have the guidance of “Liturgiam authenticam.” In this document we have two paragraphs of interest. The first, which made me laugh the first time I read it, is paragraph 27 regarding the translation of the Latin liturgy into a modern language. This guidance has brought us the confusing, Collects in the Mass, that priests stumble over if they haven’t practiced it several times before saying it in Mass. I repeat it here:

        “27. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals; thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression. If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context. In translating biblical passages where seemingly inelegant words or expressions are used, a hasty tendency to sanitize this characteristic is likewise to be avoided. These principles, in fact, should free the Liturgy from the necessity of frequent revisions when modes of expression may have passed out of popular usage.”

        Now in Paragraph 44, in regards SCRIPTURE TRANSLATION INTO THE LECTIONARY we have the following guidance:

        44. In order for a translation to be more easily proclaimed, it is necessary that any expression be avoided which is confusing or ambiguous when heard, such that the hearer would fail to grasp its meaning.

        Paragraph 44 and 27 seem to be in conflict. They are not: as paragraph 27 is speaking of the liturgy in translation e.g. Novus Ordo Mass :and, verse 44 the lectionary as the Bible in translation (either from the Nova Vulgate or the original languages)
        Aside: Unfortunately, the prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours fall under Paragraph 27, and I fear the “Collect” issue will prevail in the rewrite.

        Bottom line for me: Nostalgia is a good thing as it is a memory of what was good and right in the past. However it appropriately ignores the less than positive. For example, I remember the Latin Mass in an oddly positive way. That is; it was very reverent, with many people kneeling and praying the rosary, reading prayer cards, as the priest faced a wall and spoke in a very rapid and clipped language understood by few. This atmosphere allowed me to enter into deep prayer. If it was a sung mass with full choir the prayer time was even more intense. My first reaction to the English Mass was that it made me participate and it took away from me my personal prayer time. Obviously, I did not understand the concept of the Mass and worshipping in communion. So it is when we seek out the use of lofty language, archaic terms, and use of a language not spoken.
        If we are an evangelical church then, at times. the lowest common denominator is in fact the right approach, otherwise how can we teach to the new member. We can grow in our understanding and fullness of the Church as time goes by. However, we must acknowledge that we cannot teach someone algebra if they do not know basic arithmetic.

        Are we the Church of Nostalgia or are we the Church of the New Evangelization.

        Sorry for this long response and if you do not publish it I have no problem with it as writing this was useful to me.

        1. “If you do a word search for “expiation” in the Bible Gateway application, in the ESV, you will find there are NO OCCURANCES OF EXPIATION. Rather the word “propitiation” is used. I do not have access to the ESV-CE; however, it is highly likely that it has been changed to “expiation.”

          You’re right, the word I was thinking of is ‘propitiation’, it is the NABRE that uses ‘expiation’. Propitiation is an even better word. Sometimes, the charge is made that the word ‘propitiation’ is somehow an ‘unCatholic’ word and an example of the ESV’s bias in favor of Reformed theology. But, in fact, it is a very Catholic word, that is used by the Council of Trent to describe the Eucharist.

        2. Hey Jim, I appreciate your comment, although I respectfully disagree. While I agree it is important to make the Scriptures accessible, there clearly is a balance to be had between accessibility and solemnity. Both are important, and I just think the ESV is a good balance. After all, if it is so difficult to understand, why is it that the ESV is so commonly read among lay evangelicals?

          One small thing though: I think paragraph 44 is just referring to homonyms or similar-sounding words that could be misunderstood, since people at Mass are generally listening and not reading the Scriptures. For example, this is the problem they had with the original NAB New Testament that translated “kingdom of God” instead as “reign of God.” You can see how this might cause confusion! So I think that’s all Liturgiam Authenticam was saying there, and I’m not sure that it is actually inconsistent with paragraph 27.

          1. I didn’t say the ESV is “difficult to understand”, (although I think people who use translations like NLT or the Common English Bible, probably think it is), i said that it is written at a fairly high reading level, and it is. While most modern translations are written at a 6th grade reading level, the ESV is written at a 12th grade reading level. Is a 12th grade reading level extremely hard or difficult? Theoretically. anyone who has graduated from high school should have no difficulty.

            But the point Is am making is that unlike a lot of modern translations, the ESV doesn’t assume that the reader is a moron.

            Now,is the ESV the ONLY modern translation that has that quality? No, the NABRE and NASB are written at a similar level.

          2. In regards to the reading levels for various bible translations, here is what the good people at Bible Gateway think:

            “… we offer as general guidelines the following range of USA school grade levels (taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations wherever possible) and age levels:

            Translation — Grade Level (ages)

            Mounce — 12+ (ages 17+)
            KJV — 12+ (ages 17+)
            RSV — 12+ (ages 17+)
            Geneva — 12+ (ages 17+)
            WEB — 12+ (ages 17+)
            NRSV — 11+ (ages 16+)
            NASB — 11+ (ages 16+)
            Amplified — 11+ (ages 16+)
            MEV — 11+ (ages 16+)
            LEB — 11+ (ages 16+)
            ESV — 10+ (ages 15+)
            J.B. Phillips NT — 10+ (ages 15+)
            NABRE — 9+ (ages 14+)
            NIV — 7+ (ages 12+)
            CEB — 7+ (ages 12+)
            NET — 7+ (ages 12+)
            GNT — 7+ (ages 12+)
            ISV — 7+ (ages 12+)
            NKJV — 7+ (ages 12+)
            HCSB — 7+ (ages 12+)
            The Voice — 6+ (ages 11+)
            NLT — 6+ (ages 11+)
            CEV — 5+ (ages 10+)
            GW — 5+ (ages 10+)
            The Message — 4+ (ages 9+)
            Living — 4+ (ages 9+)
            ERV — 4+ (ages 9+)
            NCV — 3+ (ages 7+)
            ICB — 3+ (ages 7+)
            NIrV — 3+ (ages 7+) ”


  5. ESV-CE Lectionary in the UK means a publisher over there will hopefully release new editions. Maybe Cambridge or Oxford will publish a premium leather or at minimum genuine leather edition. One can hope…

    1. In that regard, it would be sweet if Oxford published a full-blown ESV-CE study bible, similar to their The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (based on the NRSV) and The Catholic Study Bible (based on the NABRE).

  6. I beleive that the ESV-CE is popular (compared to the RSV-CE) because it’s considered more accurate, as it’s benefited from more recently discovered biblical texts and scholarship. It retains a certain literalness while not being wooden. It retains a certain familiarity, too, while using more modern phraseology (cf. Luke 11:27 for an example of a more modern rendering that sounds less awkward to the modern ear), and it does a decent job at gender inclusivity without obscuring the meaning of the original.

    It also, unlike the NRSV-CE, holds on to biblical idioms such as “he opened his mouth and taught them” (Mt 5:2) that are packed with meaning (cf. Mt 4:4 for a connection— and as a bonus, look at the meaning behind the Greek [stoma] that’s translated “mouth,” just for fun).

    While I enjoy the NRSV-CE, I’ve been leaning on the ESV-CE for a more literal reading, especially in more in-depth Bible study (whereas I used to go more to the RSVCE before I discovered the ESV-CE).

    I am not an NABRE-hater, and in some places I think it even shines and is superior, but I can’t help but think that they forgot to have a literary editor look over the final text before they printed. There are some seriously awkward and clumsy renderings, from an English point of view. I use the NABRE for study, along with the ESV-CE, but prefer the NRSV-CE and the ESV-CE these days because they are simply better in style and flow, in my opinion.

    The other reason I think it’s a good choice is because it opens the door to ecumenical exchange based on a common text, as the RSV once did. The RSV is not commonly used at all by our Protestant brothers and sisters— in fact, I bet more Catholics use that text than Protestants by a long shot). I love the translation, but it’s quite dated in places (as mentioned above) and based on older manuscripts than the ESV.

    I think the ESV-CE a good choice, and wouldn’t mind at all if the American bishops followed suit, though I know that would never happen, given their ownership and investment in the NABRE.

    What’d be really cool would be to see, similarly to the NABRE, an ecumencial translation that captures the best qualities of the RSV, NRSV, and NABRE (and even the recent NCB). But… that’s a LOT to ask for.

  7. Interesting news. I’m an American so it doesn’t affect me directly. However I’m a big fan of the ESV-CE, so I hope this leads to more editions of it down the line.

    In the foreword to the ESV-CE they carefully state that all changes to the ESV had to be mutually agreed upon by the Indian bishops and Crossways. Does the apply to changes made for the lectionary as well? It would be a strange situation if approval from a Protestant publisher were required to determine what can and cannot be read at Catholic mass.

    I’m also a little surprised that the Scottish bishops didn’t mention using the Indian lectionary as the basis for theirs. They could just create an Anglicanized version of the Indian lectionary.

    1. That is interesting. Hopefully Crossway would be lenient and understanding in the changes we’d require. Although, Catholic and Protestant translations should strive be less biased in translating the Greek texts, so I don’t think we’d require many changes, unless the ESV is biased towards Evangelical presuppositions. I don’t know because I’ve never read the translation. Do you have any experience with it?

      I don’t think the Indian lectionary would need to be Anglicanised because Indian English already uses British spelling/usage.

      1. I haven’t found any major problems in the ESV so far. It does have a certain ‘low church’ flavor. For example, instead of “bishops” in the NT it has “overseers”, things like that. That doesn’t bother me personally.

        A big bete noir for some is 1 Timothy 3:15, where it says the the church is “a pillar” of the truth, whereas almost every other translation has “the pillar”. Even that is a defensible translation (as I understand it, the original Greek has no article), but did the Indian bishops elect to leave that verse alone because they had no problem with it, or did they try to get it changed but Crossways say no?

        If, in years to come, the Scottish bishops decide to change a verse because it has caused confusion when read aloud at mass, will they need to run their revised lectionary by Crossways for final approval?

        But maybe Crossways doesn’t care about the lectionary and will let the bishops do whatever they want there. It all depends on the fine print in the legal agreement.

        Yes, of course Indian English uses British spellings and usage! Duh! Which begs the question though, why are the Scottish bishops creating their own lectionary from scratch if the Indian bishops have already created one?

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