Mark Giszczak is Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Augustine Institute Graduate School of Theology (Greenwood Village, CO). He earned his doctorate in Biblical Studies at e Catholic University of America (Ph.D., 2013) and additional degrees from the Pontifical Biblical Commission (S.S.B., 2014; S.S.L., 2016). Dr. Giszczak has a passion for Scripture and loves helping Catholics read, pray, and understand the Bible. He is author of Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture (Our Sunday Visitor, 2015) and has contributed to the Augustine Institute’s Bible in a Year and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. His forthcoming books include a commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon. He writes regularly on his blog, CatholicBibleStudent.com. Dr. Giszczak graciously took the time to answer a few questions I had about his new book Bible Translation & the Making of the ESV Catholic Edition, which has recently been published by the Augustine Institute.
As a fan of books like Msgr. Ronald Knox’s “On Englishing the Bible” and Bruce Metzger’s “The
Making of the NRSV”, I am curious to know what it was like writing a book which attempts to
promote a particular bible translation with so many other Bible options in today’s English
speaking Catholic world? What did you find most challenging in this project?
No Bible translation is perfect, but many are unknown. The ESV-CE is a newcomer in
the world of English Catholic Bible translations and people have a lot of questions. Since
I was involved in its publication in the United States by the Augustine Institute, I
received many inquiries about where the ESV-CE came from, who translated it, what its
translation philosophy was and how it treated specific passages. For me, writing this book
was a great opportunity to answer those questions in a complete way. I had to dive deep
into the history behind the RSV, NRSV and ESV to be able to explain how this new
translation differs from others on the market and why Catholic Bible readers might find it
It is hard to describe the motivations of other people—what motivates translators,
publishers and others involved in Bible translation projects. Translation philosophies
themselves have to be applied to a complex text and thus require some flexibility. For
me, it was a challenge to do justice to all of those involved in producing the ESV-CE,
explain their thinking and then evaluate their work with specific examples. I hope I have
told the story well and that others will come to appreciate the work of the ESV translators
and the ecumenical cooperation of Crossway (the original publisher of the ESV) with the
Indian Bishops’ Conference. To me, the ESV-CE is not only a solid translation, but it
represents a valuable effort at collaboration across denominational lines.
You devote the first half of your book to explaining the origins of the ESV, with special emphasis
on the issues of the lectionary and inclusive language (in both Evangelical and Catholic circles).
Why are those two issues so important in regards to the making of the ESV Catholic Edition?
The Lectionary is where Catholics encounter Scripture in the liturgy. The printed Bible is
a great resource, but the Lectionary is the Bible proclaimed. I love the fact that Catholics
hear a human voice speak the words of Scripture every Sunday at mass. It is a powerful
testimony to its importance in our lives and its ability to transform us. Getting the
translation used in the Lectionary right is a high priority for Catholic bishops around the
world. The ESV-CE is now a resource for bishops and it is being used in the Lectionary
in several countries. The Lectionary must correspond with the Vatican’s translation rules
and the ESV-CE is compliant with those.
Inclusive language translation became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was
not uncontroversial at that time. Indeed, it was the central issue in many translation
controversies, both in the Protestant and Catholic realm. Proponents of inclusive
language translation desire to translate male terms–like father, brother, master, king, man,
men, mankind–in a way that opens their meaning up to be received by a female audience.
This is a laudable pastoral aspiration. However, when the meaning of passages is
substantially altered or restricted by such a translation method, the sense of the original text in all its complexity can be lost. The Vatican’s document on translation (Liturgiam
authenticam, 2001) says of inclusive language translation: “it may not be possible to
employ different words in the translations themselves without detriment to the precise
intended meaning of the text, the correlation of its various words or expressions, or its
aesthetic qualities.” Whenever you translate, you leave behind some meaning that cannot
be fully transferred to another language. This is usually seen as a difficulty to be
overcome, but inclusive translation style leaves some meaning behind on purpose. The
different views—either toward inclusive language or away from it—essentially constitute
competing visions of accuracy in translation. Should the resulting translation be accurate
to the concerns of the audience or should it be as close to the original language as
possible? Different translations trend in different directions on this point.
My favorite chapter in your new book is chapter 9, where you argue that what makes the ESV
(and ESVCE) distinctive among most modern translations is that it is a Christian translation by
design. Could you explain what you mean by this and why Catholics should prefer a more
intentionally Christian translation to one that is not intentionally so?
The ESV translators were aware that their translation would be employed in church
settings. It would be proclaimed aloud, so it needed to read smoothly. It would be used
for prayer, so it had to preserve the form of traditional prayers like the “Our Father” and
some of the Psalms. They were also attentive to the fact that the New Testament often
quotes the Old Testament. In many translations, the NT quotes of the OT do not match,
because the two testaments were translated by different sub-committees with different
priorities. But the ESV, which had just one Translation Oversight Committee deliberately
renders NT quotations of the OT in a way that matches. This practice allows the Bible
reader to more easily see how the New Testament is using the Old and to recognize
quotations when they appear. To me, this practice gives the ESV-CE a more cohesive
sense than many translations.
The ESV-CE also does a few things that are more subtle, like capitalizing references to
Christ, selecting textual variants that lean in favor of the divinity of Christ. My favorite
example is in the Letter of Jude 1:5, where the ESV reads “…that Jesus, who saved a
people out of the land of Egypt” rather than “he who saved a people” (RSV) or “the Lord,
who once saved” (NRSV). The name of Jesus is widely attested in many important
manuscripts (such as Alexandrinus and Vaticanus) and it is included in the latest edition
of the critical edition of the Greek text. The ESV translators opted to go with this
One of my favorite quotes from the book comes at the end where you quote Cardinal Oswald
Gracias who said: “The ESV Catholic Bible is the Indian Church’s contribution to the universal
Church.” As someone who is married to a first generation Indian-American, who is also a
Catholic convert, can you talk about the significance of this translation coming from the Bishops
and biblical scholars of India, and not from Catholics in the West?
I think the significance of the fact that the ESV-CE Bible comes from India cannot be
overstated. It demonstrates that the world is changing. The Church is no longer
dominated by a Euro-centric focus but has become truly global. The English language
itself is no longer the exclusive domain of the British and the Americans, but it is truly a global phenomenon. The globalism we experience with the Internet is now something we
can experience with our very Bible translation. Just a few decades ago, it would be
impossible to think that a Midwestern evangelical publisher would reach a meeting of the
minds with a Catholic bishops’ conference half a world away. I think it also reflects one
of the deepest values of the Crossway organization. They do not want to just print books
and Bibles, but they want to bring knowledge of the Bible to people around the world.
This is evidenced in their ministries that involve giving away copies of the Bible and
translating biblical notes into many languages. Ebeth Dennis, the wife of longtime
Crossway CEO Lane Dennis, grew up in India as the daughter of missionaries and the
ESV-CE publication in India was a unique way for her to give back to the Indian
Christian community. Not only does the ESV-CE represent a great moment in
ecumenical cooperation, but it shows how Christians can team up across the globe to
advance the gospel.
The ESVCE is already the basis for the Indian lectionary and will soon be heard at Mass in the
UK and elsewhere. Here in the US, some form of the NAB (which is still under revision) will
likely remain the liturgical translation heard at Mass and in the breviary for the foreseeable
future. What role, then, do think the ESVCE can play in the US without it having any official
The ESV-CE will take its place alongside other English Catholic Bible translations as a
great resource for Bible study. I think most people enjoy using a variety of translations to
get different insights into the meaning of Scripture. The ESV-CE will provide a welcome
addition to the shelf as a contemporary formal-equivalence style translation that many
Protestants have already come to love and appreciate.
Because of the close affinity between the RSV and ESV, how might you try to convince
someone who has primarily used the RSV-CE/RSV-2CE for years to give the ESVCE a try?
Perhaps you could give an example from the ESVCE that shows how it improves upon the RSV.
The RSV is old. It was translated in the 1940s and 1950s. It is based on older scholarship.
On the other hand, the ESV is informed by new manuscript discoveries and more recent
scholarship. The RSV2CE only updates a handful of things—like removing thee/thou
language–but it only modifies less than 1% of the text. The ESV-CE is a much more
substantial revision that changes about 8% of the biblical text. Ezekiel is a stand-out
example of the contrast, where RSV2CE changes only 467 characters, whereas ESV
changes 15,380 (about 33 times more revision!). I wrote a long blog post comparing the
ESV-CE to the RSV-2CE, showing how the ESV offers a much more complete revision.
The ESV-CE is a more thorough update of the RSV, changing about 60,000 words while
also adhering to the Vatican translation guidelines. The ESV Translation Oversight
Committee recognized that the RSV had some problems baked in since 1952, things it
was criticized for at the time. The most significant example was that the RSV rendered
almah in Isa 7:14 as “young woman.” Both RSV2CE and ESV-CE change it to “virgin.”
Yet the RSV was also notorious for relying on textual emendation to create an imaginary
text in difficult Hebrew passages in the Old Testament, particularly in difficult books like Job. The RSV2CE leaves these alone, while the ESV-CE goes back to the Hebrew Masoretic Text and tries to read it as it stands. My favorite example of this is Job 27:18, which I explain in the book.
The RSV was criticized when it came out for severing New Testament quotations of the
OT from their OT roots. A serious example of this problem is Genesis 12:3 et al., where
the verb could be read either as a passive or reflexive: the nations will either “be blessed”
(by God) or “bless themselves.” The RSV2CE adopts the reflexive meaning in all cases
(18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14), while the NT adopts the passive meaning. So when Acts 3:25
or Gal 3:8 refer back to this Genesis thread, it is lost in the RSV, but present in the ESV.
The ESV is better about making NT references to the OT match. Other stand-out
examples are Psalm 2 and 45:6 in Hebrews 1, which are left unchanged in the RSV2CE.
Another important example is the book of Tobit. The RSV Tobit first came out in 1957,
four years before the most important critical text of Tobit was published. That critical text
demonstrated that the longer form of the book was better, so the Nova Vulgata followed
suit and translated the longer form of Tobit. The ESV retranslated Tobit from the best
edition, while the RSV still has the short form of Tobit that does not correspond to the
official Nova Vulgata.
The ESV-CE also relies on updated text-critical information in the OT, which the
RSV2CE does not. See, for example, Deut 32:43 or Ps 144:2. Note also the difference at
Back when I first started blogging about Catholic Bibles, the thought of Crossway allowing an
ESV Catholic Edition seemed impossible. Yet, with the publication of Oxford’s ESV w/
Apocrypha, there seemed to be a willingness to perhaps consider the possibility of a Catholic
Edition in the future. So I am wondering (if you know) what caused Crossway to fully endorse
and support a Catholic Edition of the ESV? And how has the partnership been between
Crossway and the Augustine Institute?
Really the credit goes to Nigel Fernandes of the Asian Trading Corporation. He reached
out to Crossway and got the discussion started. I think Crossway saw a great mission
opportunity to provide a Bible translation to English-speaking Catholics. They had
already done the preparatory work with the “ESV with Apocrypha” as you mentioned.
Crossway had also worked with other groups, like the Gideons, to bring the ESV to
different audiences. It was a great meeting of the minds—to bring a new English
translation into the Catholic Lectionary.
Is there anything else you would want my readers to know about the ESVCE or the Augustine Institute or yourself? Do you have any other publications forthcoming?
You can pick up a copy of the ESV Catholic Edition Bible at https://catholicbible.org/
Yes, you can look forward to my forthcoming commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon in
the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series in 2024 from Baker Academic.
67 thoughts on “Interview with Dr. Mark Giszczak”
Thanks for doing this interview! Does anyone know more on the forthcoming Old Testament Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture? This is the first time I’ve heard they were publishing an OT series, news I’m very excited about!
It’s a shame, though, that it sounds like the Augustine Institute will not be publishing their own study Bible or devotional Bible. I was hoping for a devotional Bible that came with commentary from St. Augustine himself. Oh well.
I would also be interested to know if Baker Academic has any plans to put the rest of their Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture NT volumes in hardcover form, as they did with the Gospels.
Personally, through continued study and analysis of the translation, I can’t say I’ve been convinced of the ESV, no matter how many times I revisit the question over the years; and believe me, I *want* to accept the ESV, but I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger whenever I reevaluate the same exact translation quibbles. At the end of the day, I feel a combination of the RSV-2CE, the NRSV-CE, and a number of other resources, including the original language critical editions, has been sufficient. That said, if a decent edition came out with good paper, sewn binding, cross-references, and for a reasonable price, I might finally give in. I hope one day the Augustine Institute could do that.
I’m holding out hope for a smaller New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs, Study Bible, and premium Bible with single column format.
I like the ESVCE, but I felt it was a little bit more cumbersome to read in places when compared to the RSV2CE. So I generally stick to the RSV2CE, or sometimes the NRSV.
I would very much like to see an ESVCE study Bible published by the Augustine Institute, though! If they start now they might even be able to finish before the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible is complete!
I once remember hearing you can always tell where the ESV made an edit to the RSV because it’s whenever you notice the flow of the sentence interrupted by something clunky.
I am not sure about that, to be honest. I think, for the most part, the ESV is trying to bring the RSV into the 21st century, without all the excesses and issues that have been discussed concerning the NRSV and the TNIV. The few issues I have had with the ESV isn’t in regards to it being clunky, anymore than the RSV, RSV2CE, or even the NRSV would be considered clunky.
Mark’s book has helped me see the ESV in a slightly different light. If you haven’t purchased it or are on the fence about the ESV, it might be worth the price.
I would love to read his book, but it’s not available at the library, yet. I’m spending my “book money” on a copy of Divine Worship:Daily Office which is finally back in print! Anyways, if you have the time or inclination, I’d love to see a review of his book and how it made you see the ESV in a different light. I’m still on the fence about the ESV.
I hope to do so. I need to sit with it a bit and consider the real differences between the ESV and RSV.
It’s not focused on the RSV-2CE/ESV-CE, but the YouTuber Dr. R. Grant Jones (an Anglican) did a fairly nice video comparing the RSV71 and ESV16 (https://youtu.be/hoPkw6pocH4) in general terms, concluding that the suggestions that the ESV was a “Calvinist” translation were largely unfounded. What I found interesting in following along with the video with the RSV-2CE was that in a few of the examples, the RSV-2CE actually matched the ESV and not the RSV. Obviously, a real deep-dive study would need to be done to better compare the two translations holistically, but this comparison video, I felt, gave me a nice starting point when comparing the them and did a good job showing the “general character” of them.
That said, I recently shared with someone his video comparing the NRSV and the ESV, and this person (who was an NRSV user) came out of the video preferring the ESV and bought a copy. So these kinds of comparisons do help people.
R Grant Jones does such a nice job. I really enjoy his videos. Thanks for the reminder of the one you mentioned.
One of my questions was centered on the possibility of new editions from Augustine Institute. He was unable to answer that so that could mean either there is (and he can’t say publicly) or there simply aren’t any plans as of right now. Time will tell.
> The RSV is old. It was translated in the 1940s and 1950s. It is based on older scholarship.
I like the ESV just fine, but this made me wince.
If the complaint were one of style, I would be more sympathetic, but the complaint is actually one of content, and that gives me pause.
I think one thing danger that is insufficiently attended to when chasing the latest scholarly theories around various manuscript traditions in order to arrive at a theoretically perfect text (perfect until the next revision…), is that even if you succeeded–and there is reason to doubt that you can–what would it mean to have produced a Bible text that was theoretically perfect, but quite literally not a single soul had ever read until approximately 2021?
Where would that Bible fit in the life of the Church, a Bible no saint had ever prayed, no doctor of the Church had ever taught, no monk had ever copied out by candlelight, never been sung at Holy Mass or proclaimed from the pulpit, and no father had ever read aloud to his children?
The ecclesial dimension here is quite lost, and a strong analogy can be made to the quest for the “historical Jesus”. That said, I am not actually against textual criticism. I would tend to argue that both St Jerome and St Augustine were involved in a sort of nascent form of it, for example, but I am also hesitant simply to assume that the Holy Scriptures are in need of incessant revision, so that a translation that was brand new when my father was a child is already considered old and outdated, and again, not for style but for content.
The scriptures are getting footnoted and bracketed away in a way that I think is undermining to their function in the life of the Church. I am not sure what the answer is, but honestly I’d be more than half inclined to hope some future Holy Father issues a sort of inverse Divino Afflante Spiritu and encourages translations from the Vulgate again.
Yeah, I get what he was saying about it being older scholarship, but I also think there is more to a biblical text than simply it needing to be the most up-to-date.
The reality of there being so many translations to choose from can be both a good thing, but the lack of a unifying text has major drawbacks too. The ESV has the potential, since it will soon be used in a rather large number of different regions (minus the US and Canada), to be the most heard English translation at Masses throughout the world. Whether the ESVCE is the right translation, that is a question for another time.
I’d take it… I think my ideal modern translation almost, but not quite, existed. It would have been the Confraternity with OT and NT both as revisions of the Douai/Rhemes Vulgate.
The NT, of course, exists and the rumor is the OT was nearly complete in 1943 when Divino Afflante Spiritu came out. The result was a scuttling of that OT project retranslating the OT from scratch from the Hebrew. The resulting Confraternity OT text is an oddity, as it reflects very different translation philosophies in the OT vs the NT.
I have some hope that deep in the bowels of the USCCB those manuscripts still exist and may yet see the light of day.
Until that glorious day, adopting the ESV-CE seems reasonable enough.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind if an English translation made directly from the Nova Vulgata (NV), in light of the Greek and Hebrew, was commissioned; call it the “New Vulgate Bible” or the “New Vulgate in English” or something, with footnotes indicating differences with older Latin vulgates. To my knowledge, the Navarre Bible series utilizes the RSV-CE and gives the NV on the page, so I’d be curious how that series treats Tobit, if the RSV-CE and NV texts do not match. That said, there will always be new editions; the Nestle-Aland 29th edition of the Greek New Testament is expected within the next two years or so, and we all know a 30th edition will appear eventually in the next 20-30 years. More and more manuscripts will be found and the critical apparatuses will continue to expand accordingly. So, even if we “encouraged translations from the Vulgate again,” we’d still largely end up with the RSV-CE/ESV-CE texts, just with some more traditional wording (“gratia plena” = “full of grace,” as an example), because we’d then translate from the 1986 NV text.
I remember hearing a quite good point from someone once: the period of centuries of relative textual stability caused by the KJV and DRB were the exception, not the rule; even as the Sixto-Clementine served as the official Latin text, the “Oxford Vulgate” and “Benedictine Vulgate” and other critical editions bubbled under the surface of scholarship, and as for the KJV, with more ancient Greek manuscripts differing from the KJV’s TR Greek, the number of marginal “alternate readings” swelled until the Revised Version of 1881/85 became necessary. In the 1500s, new editions of the Greek New Testament were being printed literally just years apart; and as for translations, the Great Bible, Bishops Bible, Geneva Bible, and so on, all before the KJV; meanwhile, the original Douay-Rheims translation of Rev. Gregory Martin was translated from a Latin Vulgate that predated the Clementine edition, hence why there are more textual differences between the Rheims and Challoner-Rheims than just updated spelling or vocabulary.
Does anyone know if a smaller size ESVCE is forthcoming? Crossway has so many wonderful versions- but the CE from AI is limited to large editions only.
One of my questions was about any future ESVCE publications. He didn’t have an answer so I don’t know what the future holds. I certainly hope there will be options going forward. There are going to be more options available in the ESV with apocrypha from various publishers in the coming year or so. I would prefer to get a Catholic edition, but if Schuyler would do an ESV with Apocrypha like their RSV, I’d be all in on that.
You and me both. I just looked at Evangelical Bible yesterday, in fact, to check and see if anything is in the works for an ESV (w/Apoc) similar to the beautiful RSV edition that came out a couple of years ago. It’s good to hear that other editions will be coming out, at any rate.
I am pretty certain that they will be publishing an ESV w/ apocrypha either next year or the year after. Sales of the RSV have shown that there is a market. Now, I am not one to buy bibles to simply collect them, so the question for me will be whether or not I will use it? And that comes down to an ESV vs RSV discussion, right?
My solution to a smaller ESV-CE has been to get Verbum on my phone and purchase the ESV-CE digital copy. I’d love to get an ESV-CE Bible that was smaller to carry around too.
^ I’ve been wanting a smaller ESV-CE, too. I think I just might order this instead of waiting.
ATC Books in India, the original publishers of the ESVCE has a compact hardcover edition that I own. The font size is very small for my older eyes but it may be what you’re looking for.
I started the book, and the intro paints an… odd… picture when crafting its overview of modern Bible translation history.
Obviously, he’s establishing the idea for lay readers that the ESV builds upon the legacy and form of the KJV. But he essentially presents an evangelical perspective on translation history as the baseline. For instance:
-He establishes the need for modern translations after the KJV by discussing how its dated language limits modern comprehension. But then he skips straight to the NIV as the major modern update. Rather than discuss the RV/ASV and RSV as the official attempts to update the KJV, he touches on the RSV in passing as a “liberal Protestant” translation the NIV was responding to. This not only seems odd for a book about Catholic Bible translation (since there IS no NIV-CE), it also doesn’t ring true for my experience as a mainline Protestant before I converted. In my church experience, the RSV was the pew Bible and the KJV was my great-grandma’s lap Bible. That NIV was something my fundamentalist cousins liked after they left our church. A stronger case for the ESV’s continuity with the KJV can be made showing its development through the RSV. Stepping off onto the path of the NIV first severs that link. I think that’s a strange choice.
-He makes a similar omission around the NRSV by simply ignoring the NRSV-CE. After framing the history of modern Protestant Bible translations entirely around the KJV and NIV, he then turns to the history of modern Catholic translations which he frames as an interest in lectionary revision rather than Bible translation. That’s actually a nice distinction. But I find it odd again that, like he skipped the RSV to focus on the NIV, here he jumps to the NRSV and the eventual Church rejection of it for use in catechesis or liturgy and how that sparks the conversation between bishops conferences and Vatican around translation philosophy that ultimately results in Liturgium authenticum. No mention at all that there even IS an NRSV-CE. No mention of Canadian liturgy. No mention of the NAB – or even the Douai-Rheims – as a translation. Just the NRSV as a sort of strawman for the Catholic side of the inclusive language debates.
I’m not saying that he’s presenting anything falsely. He’s writing a high-level intro to the Protestant and Catholic reasons why an ESV was desired after the KJV’s limitations became more evident in the 20th Century. I understand that he’s focusing here to make certain points.
But I am also reflecting that someone completely new to the topic can come away from this introduction with a very artificial view of the Bible translations, basically:
-The normative history of Christianity and the Bible in English is the evengelical perspective
-The Bible and its many forms is a product of Protestantism, which gave us the KJV and the NIV and are now trying to dial back the liberal tendencies of inconsequential experiments like the RSV and the NRSV.
-The Catholic Church’s main focus on Bible translation is where it appears in liturgy or in the catechism, but in that context we care about being faithful to the original language and are seeking a version suitable for English speakers throughout a global church, not just country-by-country.
-The NIV therefore stands as the main modern revision after the KJV started to show its age, and the ESV picks up the baton now that the NIV is showing its age too.
-Since Catholics don’t really invest in Bible translation (*cough* Douai-Rheims, Jerusalem, NAB *cough*) but just focus on liturgical texts, we get to benefit from Protestants focus on scripture.
It normalizes the evangelical worldview as the baseline Christian perspective. This is weird to me both as a Catholic and as a former mainline Protestant.
Oof. I’ve pondered this book since Timothy put this interview up, but after reading this collection of information, this book, or at least its introduction, appears ripe for a confutation more than anything, by a person more learned and able than I. Using the NIV, a translation that never has had a Catholic edition, as both a strawman and a representative of the “KJV successor”, despite it being from a completely different translation family than the KJV (namely, its own) and holding a completely different translation philosophy? Ignoring the historic Catholic translations (DR, Knox, Confraternity, JB/NJB/RNJB, NAB/RE, and so forth)? Seemingly misrepresenting, at least by omission, non-ESV alternatives? Heck, ignoring the rest of the Protestant family of major translations like the RV/ASV up to the NASB/CSB/etc.? For a book titled “Bible Translation,” your summary of the introduction makes it appear that the book has a rather significantly truncated view of the history of Bible translation. And, you know, I wonder what Word on Fire would think of the NRSV-CE not being seen as worth mentioning in a Catholic book on Bible translation…
Like, I understand a book about the ESV-CE written by someone working for the publisher of the ESV-CE is obviously going to write a rosy picture of the translation; being surprised at that would be like being surprised if Ignatius Press wrote a book talking about how awesome the RSV-2CE is or the USCCB with the NABRE. That said, there’s nothing preventing someone from giving a fair assessment of the history of Bible translation in a book meant to talk about a Catholic edition of the Bible and be read primarily by a Catholic audience, namely an assessment from the Catholic side, and still being able to talk about how awesome their translation is.
My biggest issue with the book is exactly what you say in regards to an honest assessment of Bible translation in the Church over the past 100 years. Rehashing the now tired old tropes relating to the NAB have become tiresome at this point. And I could really use an honest assessment of it that does not recycle quotes from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, may he rest in peace. More time, as Chris mentioned above, is spent analyzing the NIV than the other Catholic translations which have been approved and used for decades, including in the lectionary. The Jerusalem Bible is hardly mentioned. Knox isn’t even mentioned once in any way, which seems odd since he was a translator and his bible was used, even if for only a short time, in the Mass.
To be clear-
I’m talking about the main outline of the introduction, and the image it creates.
He does treat all of these translations elsewhere in the book (the very next chapter begins with the Douai-Rheims).
But imagine if he’d introduced the book with this line of reasoning instead:
-Catholic translation of the Bible into English became a priority with the English Reformation
-The University of Douai, serving the community of English priests and seminarians in exile, began an ambitious project to translate the Latin Vulgate into English to serve the English-speaking Catholic Church, recusant Catholics in England, and the priests in hiding who ministered to them
-Though unacknowledged at the time for obvious reasons, the Rheims NT was an important reference for the translators of the Protestant King James Bible alongside Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the Bishops’ Bible and thus helped to shape legacy of the English Bible tradition
-For the next 400 years, these two closely-related Bibles defined the “sound” of Biblical Christianity in English – the KJV for Protestants and civic religion in the US, UK, and Commonwealth, and its older cousin, the DR Bible, for English-speaking Catholics
-But this legacy began to show its age in the 20th Century for both sides of the family:
a) new manuscript discoveries from the late 19th Century up through Qumran in the 1940s made comparative analysis of the texts a priority for Protestant scholars struggling to understand the “original meaning” of scripture for the “first Christians”
b) while still recognizing that the canon of books in the Bible was set by the selection in the Vulgate, Pope Pius mandated that all future Bible translations be made from the original languages in the oldest reliable manuscripts
-As both sides began efforts to craft more readable translations in contemporary English for modern Christians, it was the RSV that amazingly brought their separate streams together
-As an official revision of the KJV in modern English directly from the latest manuscript tradition, the RSV was the most significant continuation of that legacy into the 20th Century
-And though Catholic efforts to produce Bibles from the original languages were under way with the Jerusalem Bible and New American Bible projects, the Church needed something for liturgical use sooner than that, eventually working with the RSV translation committee to approve an adapted RSV Catholic Edition
-The resulting RSV-CE essentially closed the loop back through the KJV to the Rheims New Testament it drew from, giving Catholics and Protestants their first “common” Bible since the Reformation
-But Biblical Studies and manuscript discoveries continued to advance. The success of the RSV – as well as sectarian disputes over its translation philosophy – drove even more original-language translations to satisfy various readers, most notably the NIV, the NLT, and even the NRSV, but these often bent the text too far for some tastes or were too loose with language choices for others
-So another effort, again led by Protestants, began to review and adapt the RSV from the current manuscript tradition into 21st Century English. The result was the ESV, highly regarded in evangelical Protestant circles for balancing the KJV/RSV “sound” with an essentially literal, word-for-word approach to manuscripts.
-In 2017, the Catholic Church in India worked with the ESV translation committee to adapt an approved ESV Catholic Edition.
-At first intended for liturgical use and study in India, the ESV-CE was quickly adopted as the lectionary for the Catholic Church in the U.K. as well
-This is the story of how that happened…
THAT’S the introduction I expected to find. The “KJV got old, so Protestants created the NIV” thread is not.
The lack of any engagement with actual Catholic translators of the main 20th century translations makes this volume incomplete. You are right that the focus ends up being on the NIV. Other than explaining the move (in the 20th century) to more dynamic equivalent translations under the work of Nida, there is really little engagement made with the reasons for that and or the benefits of it. It is just assumed that the most literal is the best….even though a true word-for-word translation is not possible in reality. There is very little in regards to the Jerusalem Bible family of translations and not a word about Knox, neither his bible or his views on translation. And in many ways Knox anticipated what Nida would make popular. So, I think one has to be careful because one could leave reading this book with the idea that a dynamic translation is going to be unfaithful or even uncatholic.
I also need to think more about his assertion that having a “Christian translation by design” is what we should be going for. I mean, yes, if you are translating from the Vulgate that makes a lot of sense. However, if you are being true to the Hebrew and Greek originals (as best we have them) I think that needs to be nuanced. Hmm….
Picking up on the question of whether dynamic translations are unfaithful or uncatholic, I would propose that Catholics have room to be more sanguine about dynamic translations than protestants, because we do not have a doctrinal commitment to scripture *alone*. Catholics have always asserted that Scripture must be interpreted by the Church together with Sacred Tradition. The Church explicitly requires that approved Catholic translations must include notes or helps to aid in understanding. In some ways, dynamic translation is more consistent with that goal (aiding understanding and ensuring proper interpretation) than literal translation.
Of course, the problem with dynamic translation is that scholars will always have disagreements over how to interpret difficult passages. Translating literally avoids the swamp of competing interpretations, leaving it to the reader to study further and adjudicate between the opinions offered in study resources — something that can be endlessly interesting, but also strangely close to the protestant goal of Christians interpreting scripture for themselves.
I read “Christian translation by design” in much the same light as I read Wansbrough’s “Septuagint was the Bible of the early Church” statement: an acknowledgement that the Christian reading of the Bible doesn’t actually originate in the Hebrew Bible. Judaism outside Judea relied on the Greek Septuagint. It is that Greek translation with its added layers of Hellenistic philosophy and culture that shaped the synagogue movement and thus the Jewish Christian readings of Torah that came out of it.
By the time Paul was quoting it from the Greek Septuagint, the “Old Testament” used in Hellenstic synagogues and Christian worship was already something different than the “Hebrew Bible” itself, both in its language and the books it contained.
Thanks for the details to anonymous and the others. That is a major disappointment. I cannot say I am surprised, though, considering some of the stuff the author said in the interview. I use and enjoy the ESV-CE, but I find how he compares it to the RSV more than a little disingenious, especially considering that the ESV’s Old Testament base text could be seen as a major step back from the RSV in that it ignores the Septuagint and does not seem to do much with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of course, it uses the Septuagint in the only place anyone cares about: Isaiah 7:14.
That being said, the edits to make an ESV-CE seem more thoughtful than the original edits that made the RSV-CE, which besides restoring the end of Mark and the woman caught in adultery episode to full canonical status was mostly a light touch up to defend Mary’s perpetual virginity.
In Chapter 2, he claims that the Catholic Church’s madate to translate directly from the original languages didn’t come until Liturgium Authenticum in 2001!
It came from Pius XII in 1943 with Divino Afflante Spiritu. That was the impetus for the JB project, and for the CBA to ditch its DR revision from the Vulgate and start over translating the Confraternity/NAB from the original languages. Without that new requirement in 1943, there would have been no reason to create the RSV-CE in the first place. Even thought the JB and NAB were underway, revising the RSV was the shortest path to an original-language translation suitable for lectionary use.
It still feels like the “Evangelical Standard Version” to me and I wasn’t able to shake that feeling with the CE. I am interested in this book though.
The RSV is old and the RSV-2ce is only a superficial update. Is the RSV-CE and RSV-2ce the only versions on the RSV still on the market?
There is the Schuyler RSV with apocrypha.
So the bulk of those still using the RSV are Catholics using the Catholic Editions would you say? I can’t imagine the RSV has much usage in the Protestant world just based on the sheer number of translations available, all more recent except KJV.
The RSV is pretty much the standard for academic use, FWIW.
I always heard it was the NRSV that was the favorite of academics largely because it was the most up to date. I looked a the Schuyler website and $210 is a bit much.
Yeah, generally in academic circles the NRSV has replaced the RSV. That may or may not be the case in seminaries, where I have seen both used.
Schuyler (evangelicalbible.com) has the RSV available with or without the Deuterocanonical books (in a separate section), and the New Oxford Annotated Bible using the RSV (also with Deuterocanonicals in a separate section) is still readily available for a reasonable price.
I sent an email to the Augustine Institute asking if they are planning on creating new editions of the ESV-CE or a study Bible. This was the response I received:
“At this point, we are not planning any new editions for either the RSV2-CE or the ESV-CE in the foreseeable future.”
I do wonder if they lack the funds right now for anything more.
I have to say, it’s a tricky pitch to simultaneously say “this should become your new primary Bible translation” while also saying “no, we will not support it beyond the most basic text edition.” While the RSV-2CE might only have the ICSBNT and the current crop of individual OT volumes specifically designed for it, for now, it at least has the benefit of being close enough to the original RSV-CE text that you can utilize RSV-CE resources, like the Navarre Bible series, almost seamlessly—in fact, just take the Catholic Bible Concordance (RSV-CE)’s appendix that lists all the RSV-2CE changes and a pencil, and you can turn any RSV-CE resource into a 2CE-compliant one. And while Crossway was willing to let the Indian Bishops touch the ESV text, I *highly* doubt they’ll let Catholics lay hands on their premiere ESV Study Bible to excise/modify objectionable notes.
As Kyle mentioned, I always have a built-in hesitancy with the ESV because it just seems like Crossway still wants nothing to do with Catholics, only let the Indian Bishops make a Catholic version to cynically promote the ESV brand, and would actually probably prefer we not use it—or use it for a little while and then convert to Protestantism and sell it for the regular ESV lol. I mean, the ESV-CE isn’t even mentioned once on the Crossway website. While the RSV-CE/2CE may be old, pairing it with the Greek, the NRSV-CE/UE, and other translations, old and new, you should always be able to find at least one translation of a verse that’s quotable without issue. There’s no law saying you must quote from only one translation of the Bible.
At this point, if I ever become convinced to own an ESV, it’ll either be the hardcover CE from the Augustine Institute, the cowhide CE from Cambridge, or even just the Diadem with the CE changes penciled in. More likely than not, I won’t, and I’ll end up sticking with my current selection. And then, when quoting, continue to always check the Greek and choose the best English rendering on a case-by-case basis; and if, in one verse I’m quoting, that happens to be the ESV-CE, then the ESV-CE will be quoted. Simple as that.
The issue of additional resources is an important point.. You mentioned a number of the ones that are tied to the RSV or 2CE. They can certainly work together. The ICSB will be completed at some point before the second coming, and you mentioned the concordance. But there are also a ton of other Bibles that use the RSV-2CE out there. Just think of what Ascension Press, the Didache Bible, and there is a brand new Living the Word Catholic Women’s Bible that uses the RSV-2CE. So, it’s not going anywhere at this point. And of course there is the Schuyler RSV which is an outstanding Bible. All of this to say that perhaps a jump to the ESV isn’t as simple as it may sound.
I agree. For a long while since 2006, the RSV-2CE just became sort of the “Catholic apologist’s” translation or the “Catholic Answers” translation or the “serious Catholic’s” translation, and always had those questions re: the imprimatur dogging it. However, Fr. Mike’s BIAY podcast turned it from a more niche translation into *the* best-selling Catholic translation within a year. Is it any wonder that suddenly all these new editions started sprouting up since the Great Adventure Bible? I’m sure Ignatius Press is thrilled that their translation has gotten such a boost, just at the very time the ESV-CE could’ve eclipsed it. The only other thing that could’ve given the ESV-CE a boost itself, I think, would’ve been it being the WOF Bible’s translation, but they went with the NRSV-CE.
The odd thing is that the Augustine Institute partners, co-brands, cross-promotes, and goes to market with Ignatius everywhere. They include the same audio content across all their apps. The Ignatius Bible app has both AI and Ignatius logos in the launch screen and menu, and sells all of the AI audio content. Vice versa with the Ignatius audio content in AI’s Amen and Formed apps. Ignatius books are sold in the AI shop and vice versa, with special AI editions of popular AI title in print. In fact, the only place they aren’t directly collaborating is the base text of the Ignatius Bible app. You can switch there between the RSV-CE and -2CE, but can’t opt for the ESV-CE. And though the Amen app includes readings and even a Bible-in-a-Year program using the ESV-CE, there doesn’t seem to be a single app where you can just read the full text Bible.
Chapter 4 makes me want to throw the book against a wall. The author sets up strawman distinctions between inclusive language proponents (concerned about “welcoming”) and literalists (concerned about textual accuracy), ignoring one important argument FOR inclusion language is that it can be a MORE accurate translation given shifts in the receptor language.
The preconceptions of the author shine through, and yet, even while singing the praises of then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF, somehow this chapter still manages to make them sound like Machiavellian tyrants. Declaring “the war over inclusive language came to a definitive close” on Benedict’s watch, the author makes no mention at all about Pope Francis’ subsequent moves to decentralize authority and grant bishops’ conferences the autonomy they were denied in the late 90s: https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-amends-canons-give-greater-authority-bishops-conferences%5D
By comparison, the evangelical dysfunctions in Chapter 5 sound fairly tame, and the Colorado Springs Guidelines for Translation come across as a much better, technically informed and consistent approach.
As distancing as the dismissive and frequent accusations of translations being subject “liberal” and [gasp!] “radical feminist” unfluences are embarassing language errors [“diffusing the NIV time bomb”] that spelling and grammar check should have caught.
The saddest thing about this volume is that it reduces the stately appeal of the ESV, relegating the value of this lovely, scholarly, and precise translation to little more than a cheap backlash by the losing side of a culture war. Reading this, instead of sweet wine for the soul, the ESV goes down like sour grapes.
You bring up the recent move by Francis for decentralizing conference autonomy. Yeah, that is a really good point. As we get closer to the end of the NABRE revision, we will see if that has any effect. I don’t think it will have a huge effect on the translation, but perhaps more positively, on a quicker turnaround from Rome. And you mention straw man arguments, again, I am tired of the tired old complaints about the NAB. If people want to be critical, provide comparison. In particular a book that is pretty exclusively meant for an American audience.
I’ll also say that your comments about inclusive language are also spot on. The ESV, itself, ultimately acknowledges the need for it by its moderate use of it in the text itself as well as the more extensive awareness of it in the textual notes.
Yikes. Sounds like my earlier “confutation” idea could be spread to the entire book, not just the introduction. Quite sad. If the only selling point the author has for the ESV is that it’s a “culture warrior” translation standing athwart the NRSV, NIV, and friends, then that’s a pretty low standard for the ESV. It’s also pretty insulting to it.
And Timothy, I personally don’t think I’ll acquire another translation until the 2025 NAB. I recall it being said they’d be giving the notes an overhaul. And you’re absolutely right; aside from the footnotes, most complaints (not all, but most) I hear about the NAB translation itself are from people who seemingly appear unaware anything has changed since the original 1970 NAB text. It’s like attacking the RSV today in its 1952 form while ignoring the ’66 CE or the RSV71.
I am a big fan of the NABRE OT myself and am looking forward to having a NT to match.
That said, given that my experience of the NABRE is entirely liturgical, I’ll probably just get mine in the form of the revised Liturgy of the Hours and keep my reading Bible the ESV-CE. Growing up and learning the Bible with the RSV, I just like the ring of that school of Biblical English and trust the translation rigor beneath the the translation. It’s nice having a catholic RSV derivative that’s more recent than the 1966 text, and has been revised with more recent critical texts than the version captured in the -2CE.
There was a FB live with Mary Sperry who is the head person at the USCCB in regards to the NABRE revision. She mentioned a couple of interesting things: 1) When it’s released it might have a completely new name; 2) They are looking to have two formats for it, one with full notes and one with just very basic notes. (Which could be great for publishing); 3) Along with the NT revision, they are doing a minor tweak to the OT. Goal is still 2025.
A new name could make sense, lest it be called the NABRE25 or the NABRRE (Revised Revised Edition). Kidding aside, whatever it is, I pray it’s not an acronym that several other off-brand translations are using (NCV and NCB both seem doomed to this), and I propose the word “New” be purged from the world of Bible translation titles, because, in 50 years, it’s going to sound silly. And the variation on the amount of notes could be beneficial if, say, the full-notes version still has some or all of the current annoying clunkers but the basic notes version doesn’t; that would allow the option of just getting the one without the bad notes, an option that could’ve made accepting the NABRE much easier for many of its critics. I’m looking forward to both the 2025 revision and the Liturgy of the Hours revision. I’m hoping somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge might get an opportunity to print a premium edition of it; if not, I hope for a good rebind candidate at least.
Mixed feelings about the possibility of a new name as I am find of my NABRE. On the other hand I understand the need to distance themselves from the NAB’s reputation. I am glad they are looking at full and basic notes, I am just preparing myself for no one to be happ y with either lol.
How long ago was the interview? Could you provide the link? Do you know if the release is still on track for 2025?
You need to go to the Fans of the NABRE Fan Page on Facebook. It should be up there. It was done only a few months ago.
I’m pulling for either:
-The American Bible for Catholics (ABC)
-The Bible for Catholics in English (BCE)
Between the Knox, the ESV, and the NABRE, I’m always able to find a verse that sounds good and I like. They all fall flat in different spots, but being from distinct family trees they tend to cover one another’s shortcomings.
Also, somebody please explain:
What the heck is the “Catholic Standard Version”?!
No clue. Will look around a bit.
Just from the name, I was about to assume it was another meme translation, but seeing “Augustine Institute” attached to it greatly puzzles me. Is the Augustine Institute seriously working on a competitor to their own ESV-CE that they haven’t fully tapped, but they’re going to do it book by book to test the waters? I mean, who knows? It could be the RSV-CE successor Catholics have always wanted, with “Hail, full of grace” and “the pillar” and “bishops” and all the other good stuff in the translation, but with the longer Tobit and updated scholarship the ESV uses. I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to be one of the beta testers for the CSV, though.
That said, I looked up “Catholic Standard Version” and, funny enough, I found myself on Timothy’s old blog in 2012, where a commenter named Jake suggested that Ignatius rebrand the RSV-2CE as the CSV:
“With The Gospel of Matthew, the Augustine Institute inaugurates the first of the biblical books to be translated as part of the Catholic Standard Version (CSV), a new translation of the Holy Bible. The CSV strives to translate the Scriptural text with the highest level of accuracy in its rendering of the original languages, as well as the highest degree of clarity and beauty, making the CSV the perfect translation for both prayerful reading and serious study.”
They say New Translation, but surely any Standard Version will just be a light revision like its brothers R, NR, and E?
I wonder if it’s a new house brand for the ESV-CE.
Ignatius likes to rename the RSV-2CE the “Ignatius Bible”.
Augustine Institute originally tried something similar with the ESV-CE, launching it as the “Augustine Bible.”
Since that didn’t stick, I wonder if they’re pivoting to CSV?
I can’t imagine that would be the case. There is no way that Crossway would allow that and it would be terribly confusing.
Unless Crossway is giving the Augustine institute creative control over the translation. I could only see that if crossway was trying to distance itself from the ESV-CE since they got some flack from the hardcore evangelical crowd.
On the bright side, chapters 7-9 are terrific summaries of translation philosophy.
I came away with a much more specific appreciation of ESV’s method. It seems much more thorough and consistent in its treatment of the RSV than even the process used to create the original RSV-CE. The -2CE really comes across as little more than a spell-check by comparison.
Likewise, Chapter 10 is extremely strong, detailing the translation guidelines concerning translation of pronouns. It shows that the “ESV avoids all gender-neutral language” trope is a gross over-simplification, and that by following the translation guidelines, the ESV translators often introduce gender-neutral phrasing where a specifically male usage isn’t essential to the original text or for a Christological reading in a given passage.
Lane Dennis is a man not a woman. Please correct the gender.
Please delete my earlier comment I stand corrected.
Would love to read this but for some odd reason it’s not available on Kindle, at least from Amazon. It takes a mighty special circumstance nowadays for me to get a physical book (other than a Bible) to add to the piles and piles at home.