In recent weeks, I’ve been working on a mini comparison of the RSV-CE, ESV-CE and NRSVue in the first six chapters of 1 Corinthians. I worked my way verse-by-verse, comparing the three translations and noting any significant differences between them. This is my preferred way of understanding how translations differ from each other, and until now, I haven’t done it for the new translations in the RSV family (the ESV-CE and the NRSVue). For this comparison, I used the RSV-CE text that is available on Bible Gateway, the SPCK Hardcover ESV-CE, and the personal size NRSVue with Apocrypha from Zondervan.

Summary of Observed Differences

Overall, there are several themes that emerge from my verse-by-verse notes on 1 Corinthians 1-6:

  • Inclusive Language: Consistent with its reputation, the NRSVue makes a completely comprehensive attempt at inclusive language in every instance where masculine words appear to refer to generic people in the RSV-CE. The ESV-CE is far more restrained in its use of inclusive language, but it occasionally opts for translations like “one” instead of “man” in the RSV-CE. In those cases, the ESV-CE continues to use the male pronoun “he” later in the sentence to refer to “the one.” The ESV-CE uses “brothers” to translate Paul’s references to fellow Christians, with an accompanying footnote explaining that the Greek word can refer to either brothers or brothers and sisters depending on the context.
  • Updates to Formal/Archaic Language: Both the NRSVue and the ESV-CE choose a variety of less-formal words to replace older, more formal words in the RSV-CE. The NRSVue does this significantly more often, but there are a number of cases when the NRSVue and ESV-CE both choose the same updated word to replace a more formal word in the RSV-CE. One simple example is a change in 1 Corinthians 4:7. The RSV-CE translates the beginning of Paul’s second question in this verse as “What have you,” while the ESV-CE and NRSVue translate it as “What do you have.”
  • Literal vs. Dynamic: In cases where it differs from the RSV-CE, the NRSVue chooses a mixture of literal and dynamic renderings. By contrast, the ESV-CE keeps the RSV-CE’s wording intact much more often, and when it chooses a different translation, it usually opts for something more literal than the RSV-CE. This usually involves translating an additional word like “for” or “or” at the beginning of a sentence which appears in Greek but is not translated in the RSV-CE. The vast majority of these examples are trivial with no effect on the meaning, but they are technically more literal. In a few cases, the NRSVue appears to be more literal than either the RSV-CE or the ESV-CE (compared to a Greek-English interlinear).
  • Textual Updates: I found a handful of examples where a textual variant which was listed in the RSV-CE’s notes was chosen as the main text in both the NRSVue and ESV-CE. In the examples I could find, the NRSVue and ESV-CE usually agree on these textual variants.
  • Influence of Christian Tradition: I found one example where later Christian tradition could have some influence on the ESV-CE’s translation stood out to me. In 1 Corinthians 2:12, the ESV-CE uses the personal pronoun “who” to refer to the Spirit (i.e. “the Spirit who is from God”), while the RSV-CE uses the pronoun “which” and the NRSVue uses the pronoun “that.” In this case, a look at a Greek-English interlinear reveals that there is no pronoun in the Greek text at all, so the translations are supplying an English pronoun to conform to English grammar. One could easily argue that all three translations are legitimate here, but the ESV-CE’s use of a personal pronoun seems more consistent with later theology on the Spirit’s role as the third person of the Trinity.

This broad overview is consistent with the reputation of these three translations which I’ve run across in other online discussions. If I had to describe my overall takeaway in a few sentences, I would put it this way: The ESV-CE is a very light update of the RSV which primarily accomplishes three things: nudging the RSV in a slightly more literal direction, updating occasional archaic or formal language and grammar in the RSV, and making extremely limited updates to gender language and footnotes to nudge the RSV in a slightly more inclusive direction (but not much). The NRSVue makes significantly more changes to the RSV. These changes can be either literal or dynamic. It also chooses different words compared to the RSV much more often than the ESV. In many cases, the goal is similar: to find less formal, less archaic words with an equivalent meaning to the RSV. The NRSVue is also completely gender inclusive. It doesn’t use any male pronouns for generic persons at all.

I was struck by a decent number of instances where both the NRSVue and the ESV-CE were more literal than the RSV. In these six chapters, I think it’s safe to say the ESV-CE is definitely more literal than the RSV. It’s harder to judge the NRSVue, since it updates the RSV in both literal and dynamic directions. The increased literalism of the ESV-CE usually has no effect on the meaning at all.

Examples

Here are some selected examples of the differences I found between the versions:

Inclusive Language

1 Corinthians 1:10:
RSV-CE: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
ESV-CE: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
NRSVue: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Here, the ESV-CE has the following footnote: “Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

1 Corinthians 3:10:

RSV-CE: “According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it.”
ESV-CE: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.”
NRSVue: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it.”

Incidentally, this verse is also an example of where the ESV-CE and NRSVue choose a more literal rendering than the RSV. The RSV refers to God’s commission while the ESV-CE and NRSVue refer to his grace.

1 Corinthians 3:14:

RSV-CE: “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”
ESV-CE: “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”
NRSVue: “If the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage.”

1 Corinthians 3:21:

RSV-CE: “So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours”
ESV-CE: “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours”
NRSVue: “So let no one boast about people. For all things are yours”

It strikes me as unusual for the ESV-CE to use “men” in this case, since it often uses “one” instead of “man” in other cases. I can only speculate on the reasoning, but there are a couple of possibilities:

  1. Since this is the conclusion of Paul’s argument about why the Corinthians shouldn’t be making their allegiance to individual preachers like Apollos and Paul, perhaps the translators concluded that Paul was only referring to the people who he named earlier in chapter 1 (Paul, Apollos, Cephas), all of whom were men.
  2. Maybe the ESV translators believed that the plural construction “men” was more acceptable as a generic term meaning “humans” than the singular construction “man” for a single generic human.

1 Corinthians 4:9:

RSV-CE: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death…”
ESV-CE: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death…”
NRSVue: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death…”

Language Updates

1 Corinthians 2:14:

RSV-CE: “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…”
ESV-CE: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him…”
NRSVue: “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them…”

Also note the NRSVue’s use of plural rather than singular here to avoid the male pronoun “him” at the end of the selection. The RSV and NRSVue both have footnotes saying that “natural” is an alternative translation for “unspiritual” while the ESV-CE uses “natural” with no footnotes about alternatives.

1 Corinthians 3:1:

RSV-CE: “But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ.”
ESV-CE: “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”
NRSVue: “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people but rather as fleshly, as infants in Christ.”

Note the inclusive language differences in this verse also.

1 Corinthians 3:11:

RSV-CE: “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
ESV-CE: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
NRSVue: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 4:13:

RSV-CE: “when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.”
ESV-CE: “when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
NRSVue: “when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

1 Corinthians 5:6-7:

RSV-CE: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.”
ESV-CE: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
NRSVue: “Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all of the dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.”

This is a good example of how the ESV-CE makes fewer changes to the RSV than the NRSVue. The NRSVue updates the language to more modern equivalents.

1 Corinthians 6:12:

RSV-CE: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”
ESV-CE: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.”
NRSVue: “‘All things are permitted for me,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are permitted for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.”

Literal vs. Dynamic Translations

1 Corinthians 2:1:

RSV-CE: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom.”
ESV-CE: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.”
NRSVue: “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the testimony of God to you with superior speech or wisdom.

Here, the ESV-CE adds the words “And I” at the beginning of the sentence. This appears to be closer to the Greek grammar, but it has no impact on meaning. This is one of many similar examples where the ESV-CE adds an extra word or two that appears in Greek but does not affect the meaning.

1 Corinthians 2:3:

RSV-CE: “And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling
ESV-CE: “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling
NRSVue: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling

Here, the RSV chose an expression that is an idiom in English (fear and trembling), so it sounds smoother to an English speaker. The NRSVue and ESV-CE are closer to the Greek text’s order, though. Judging from an interlinear, the word “much” modifies “trembling” rather than “fear” in Greek.

1 Corinthians 2:15:

RSV-CE: “The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”
ESV-CE: “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”
NRSVue: “Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.”

Here the NRSVue chooses a rendering that is more dynamic compared to the Greek than the RSV-CE and ESV-CE.

1 Corinthians 4:12:

RSV-CE: “and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure”
ESV-CE: “and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure”
NRSVue: “and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure”

As near as I can tell, the Greek word translated here has a connotation of getting tired out from hard work. One could argue that the RSV and ESV-CE are more literal, while the NRSVue captures the nuance a bit better.

1 Corinthians 4:15:

RSV-CE: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
ESV-CE: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
NRSVue: “For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I fathered you through the gospel.”

The NRSVue is more literal here. The Greek literally says ten thousand. The Greek term translated “guides” in the RSV refers to slaves who served as guardians and tutors to minors. I think the NRSVue’s translation “guardians” captures that nuance a bit better. Finally, the Greek term which the RSV and ESV-CE translate “became your father” literally means “to procreate.” The NRSVue’s translation captures this nuance better as well.

1 Corinthians 5:12:

RSV-CE: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
ESV-CE: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
NRSVue: “For what have I to do with judging those outside? Are you not judges of those who are inside?”

Here, the RSV-CE and ESV-CE supply the words “the church” to explain what Paul means. The Greek merely contrasts outside and inside without specifying the church.

1 Corinthians 6:10:

RSV-CE: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals…”
ESV-CE: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…”
NRSVue: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, men who engage in illicit sex…”

Like the NABRE, the RSV-CE uses “immorality” to translate the Greek word “porneia.” The ESV-CE and NRSVue both clarify the meaning by translating the term as “sexual immorality.” For the last part of this verse, each translation includes a footnote to further explain the meaning:

RSV-CE footnote: “Two Greek words are rendered by this expression homosexuals: Greek has ‘effeminate nor sodomites.’ The apostle condemns, not the inherent tendencies of such, but the indulgence of them.”
ESV-CE footnote: “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts”
NRSVue footnote: “Meaning of Gk uncertain”

45 thoughts on “Comparing the RSV-CE, ESV-CE, and NRSVue in First Corinthians”

  1. I enjoy this kind of post, and hopefully there will be more. It reminds me of an R. Grant Jones YouTube review, but in print. I will make one point, though. Regarding the characterization of the RSV’s use in 1 Corinthians 2:12 of “which” as “[less] consistent with later theology on the Spirit’s role as the third person of the Trinity,” personally, I just see “the Spirit which is from God” as just an archaic holdover from the KJV, when “which” was in fact a personal pronoun; indeed, the KJV does have “the spirit which is of God” here. Take, for another example, the KJV’s “Our Father which art in heaven” from Matthew 6:9. Aside from that, I think the true lesson is that we all maybe should consider a good interlinear NT, and should be willing to cite multiple translations instead of tossing aside certain translations and getting exclusive with others. While I do not own an NRSVue myself, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pull it up online from time to time to see if it’s better to quote for something than the RSV or the ESV (or other options).

  2. Marc,
    This is a great study contrasting the different approaches of the three translations. Much Thanks. One of the things, in recent times that I have looked at is how different translations approach and use “spirit” and “Spirit.” I look at this in in line with your category: “Influence of Christian Tradition.” Specifically, I look at Romans 8, which to me is the “best thing” Paul ever wrote and at the same time, the most difficult and frustrating to understand (never sure I do, as my view changes over time). I will not go into any detail here; other than to say that one needs to read “spirit” in the context of “flesh and spirit” and “Spirit” in the context of the “spirit of Jesus” or the “spirit of the Father.” By using “Spirit” we are writing into the text, our dogma of the Trinity; however, that dogma is post Biblical. To go out on a limb; I would make the statement that scripture informs dogma; but dogma does not write scripture. That is; dogma is developed from Scripture, Magisterium and Tradition.
    Bottom line to me is that a Bible translation needs to make a statement regarding a choice, if using the upper case “S” for “spirit.” We must remember in the original Greek there is no Upper Case versus Lower Case distinction. In your sample of three translations, only the NRSV-UE has a note each time the “S” is used, i.e. “Or spirit.” In my opinion, without explanation, only the lower case “s” should be used. Additionally, if the “S” is used an explanatory note (which is commentary) is warranted. While this would make a difficult chapter even more difficult; I believe overuse of the “S” obscures Paul’s development of a model of the battle between our spirit and flesh regarding sin (remember, Paul tells us many times sin kills). We can only win in this environment of spiritual warfare, if our spirit has been formed by the spirit of Jesus.

    1. Interesting insights! I agree with most of what you say, and recently had this same discussion at a Bible study. Transkators choose whether to capitalise Spirit or not. N.T. (Tom) Wright has dropped this convention altogether, only ever referring to a lowercase “spirit” in the latest edition of his New Testament for Everyone. This is also discussed in his impressive book “Into the Heart of Romans,” a book all about Romans chapter 8. Arguably, only ever using lowercase “spirit” would leave the task of interpreting which spirit is being referred to in the hands of the reader, instead of the translator!

  3. While I am a fan of the ESV, I admit I am quite skeptical of its claim to be a “translation”, it was produced far too quickly to be a real translation. I think all they did was take the 1973 RSV text and make minor modifications to make it fit with Crossway’s Reformed theology.

    I think this for several reasons, not least of which is its many rather bizarre “translations” which seem to be unrelated to the original languages, you highlighted one, but there are many others.

    Another reason is that statistical analysis reveals that the ESV text is more than 98% identical to the RSV. The changes are few and minor. That doesn’t sound like a translation it sounds like a minor revision.

    But the biggest reason I have for being skeptical is the real origin of the ESV, which is passed over in silence by the preface, which offers the usual excuses of “changes to the English language” (since 1973? Not bloody likely) and “updated scholarship” (while there has indeed been a lot of research done in the last 50 years, little of it has anything to do with how the Bible is translated) to justify the translation. This is boilerplate language claimed by all modern Bibles, and it is almost if not always a lie.

    The real origins of the ESV are very similar to the real origins of the CSB, namely the publication in 1996 of the “New Living Translation Inclusive Language Edition” to which there was a massive backlash from conservative evangelicals. The backlash was so strong that many denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod responded to it by ditching the NIV entirely, concluding that the text was in the hands of an untrustworthy organization. The SBC decided to make its own translation, which became the Holman Christian Standard Bible in 2004.

    In 1997, a group of mostly Reformed scholars met in Colorado Springs to discuss guidelines concerning inclusive language, after the guidelines were adopted a decision was made to authorize a new “translation” based on the 1973 RSV. This was published as the ESV about 4 years later.

    I don’t how good a scholar you are, you can’t actually translate the entire Bible from the original languages in only 4 years. This is the main reason I don’t think the ESV is a “translation” but just a modest revision.

    Even the CSB, which was published 8 years after the controversy over the NIV ILE, had actually been in the works for close to 20 years before then.

    1. I too have always been rather skeptical of the ESV[-CE], even though I know several good Catholic apologists who use it as their main translation. That said, I’m not entirely convinced the ESV was the result of “minor modifications to make it fit with Crossway’s Reformed theology.” I’ve seen many of the changes between the RSV71 and the ESV and most of it just seems like the usual “removal of archaic words” and the like. To be clear, I think a great many of the ESV’s changes in this department were clear downgrades from the language of the RSV, but I don’t see most of them as motivated overtly by sectarian aims.

      >Another reason is that statistical analysis reveals that the ESV text is more than 98% identical to the RSV.
      98% is a new one. I seem to recall Wayne Grudem writing that it was 92% identical—claiming “60,000 words” were changed. I’ve also seen 6% thrown around, too, as the amount of difference, so it seems like everyone’s got their own number. With all those, I’ll just conclude it’s at least 90% the same.

      >But the biggest reason I have for being skeptical is the real origin of the ESV, which is passed over in silence by the preface, which offers the usual excuses of “changes to the English language” (since 1973? Not bloody likely) and “updated scholarship” (while there has indeed been a lot of research done in the last 50 years, little of it has anything to do with how the Bible is translated) to justify the translation. This is boilerplate language claimed by all modern Bibles, and it is almost if not always a lie.
      I wholeheartedly agree. At this point, I feel the “changes to the English language” and especially “updated scholarship” claims are little more than thinly-veiled rationalizations to justify churning out new translations to sell. As anyone can tell you, the NA26 (1979), NA27 (1993), and NA28 (2012) Greek New Testament texts are virtually identical, meaning, at its core, the critical edition of the Greek New Testament has been virtually unchanged in any meaningful way for nearly 50 years, predating the NRSV and the bulk of modern translations; the critical Biblia Hebraica, meanwhile, is pretty much the same story for the Old Testament. Regarding the greater use of the DSS and LXX, the ESV uses less of those sources than the NRSV, NABRE, and even the RSV (or at least the RSV2CE) do, so clearly the ESV doesn’t mean that when they say “updated scholarship.”

      >I don’t how good a scholar you are, you can’t actually translate the entire Bible from the original languages in only 4 years.
      I recall reading the original Douay-Rheims of 1582 was fully translated from the Latin—in active comparison with the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts—in less than two years, from Fall 1578 to Summer 1580, so a non-revision translation from the Latin certainly was done in far less than 4 years. But that wasn’t directly from the original languages, like you said.

    2. I’ve read similar criticisms about it not actually being a new translation elsewhere. Perhaps there was marketing material that made this claim, I’m not sure. To be fair, though, the copyright page notes that the ESV “is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible…” and the preface states that the 1971 RSV text provided the starting point for their work and that “[a]rchaic language has been brought into line with current usage and significant corrections have been made in the translation of keh texts.” It does not seem to me that they have tried to pass the ESV off as an entirely new translation at all but have been rather upfront that it is an update to the RSV.

  4. The Douay Rheims is an excellent example of why it is a bad idea to do a quick translation. The original, before the Challoner revisions, had a very Latinate vocabulary which makes the translation virtually incoherent in a significant portion of the text. So literal is the translation that it often retains Latin word order in preference to English word order, and it often omits verbs such as “is” which are necessary to make English sentences coherent, on the grounds that it is wrong to add words that aren’t in the original Latin, even if English grammar requires it. The original Douay Rheims was a complete flop that quickly went out of print. An attempt to require the Douay Rheims in the Catholic Church in Ireland resulted in riots. It was only when Bishop Challoner revised the text in 1752 to make it similar to the KJV that it started to become popular with Catholics.

    1. I’m going to kindly disagree here. I’ve read from the 1582 New Testament and had very little trouble understanding it, Latinate vocab and all. The Gospels, in fact, I’d argue were in more “modern English” than those in the KJV, very smooth and easy to read. The Pauline epistles were trickier, but not any trickier than the KJV’s to a modern reader—both would require a dictionary, and the 1582 at least had a glossary for all those words. Based on my own reading of the text itself, I think people just repeat old Anglican opinions of the 1582 New Testament from the penal law period, which in my experience, were more attacks on its preface that bled into what they thought of the translation. In my opinion, the biggest drawback to reading the 1582 New Testament is simply that there’s no equivalent to the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible for it. The text itself is no less comprehensible than the other Tyndale-inspired translations of the 1500s.

      >The original Douay Rheims was a complete flop that quickly went out of print.
      Only for the Old Testament. The New Testament went through four editions over 50 years and achieved a far wider distribution than the translators expected, thanks in no small part to William Fulke. The fact that copies of the original Rheims New Testament still pop up in good condition has led historians to conclude it had a very large printing. As for it “flopping” after those 50 years, well, that tends to happen when your translation is made illegal to print and own by the state.

      > An attempt to require the Douay Rheims in the Catholic Church in Ireland resulted in riots.
      Do you have a source for that? I heard you mention that on the old blog but was never able to verify that any such riot had taken place, at least from any of the Catholic/Irish history books I’ve consulted.

      >It was only when Bishop Challoner revised the text in 1752 to make it similar to the KJV that it started to become popular with Catholics.
      Annotated copies of Fulke’s edition by Catholics show that it was very much popular at the time it came out, even when it was otherwise illegal to have, so I’d say it’s more accurate to say that Bishop Challoner revived its popularity, even though the likes of Cardinal Wiseman famously considered Challoner’s changes “in general for the worse,” so in that sense, one can ask “but at what cost?”

      1. Yes, I do have a source for everything I said

        “The Bible in English: Its History and Influence” by David Daniell
        Yale University Press 2003

        It is the most comprehensive history of the English Bible ever written, or at least I’ve read literally dozens of books on the subject and have never found any that contained the wealth of information that this book contains.

        Another interesting fact in this book is that the KJV became the default English Bible as a result of cheating. Literally, it was granted a royal license and became the only legal Bible in England, with all rivals illegal to print, sell or even read.

        No one really knows why James I wanted a new translation, but the most common theory is that he was trying to eliminate the actual most popular Bible of the time, the Geneva Bible, which was made under the auspices of Reformed theologians in Geneva, Switzerland. This was Calvin’s Geneva at the height of his influence. The notes in this Bible are very sectarian, anti-royalist, and critical of the Church of England.

        The KJV was published in 1611 and widely rejected by the Bible-reading public, being outsold by the Geneva Bible for decades. Until the crown finally decided to make all other Bibles illegal. Only after that did the KJV gain prominence.

        To note how little impact the KJV had upon publication, notice that neither John Milton in Paradise Lost (1660) nor John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) quotes the KJV in any of its Biblical citations, in both cases, they used the Geneva Bible.

        The KJV didn’t win because it was considered to be the best Bible, it won because it became the only option. I’ve never seen a “KJV Onlyist” address this rather embarrassing fact.

        1. The only reference to an “Irish riot” re: the Douay-Rheims I can find in Daniell is mentioned on page 704 of my copy, and it’s in the 1840s in the U.S. when states were mandating Protestant Bibles in public schools, and doing so to prevent Catholics from using Challoner’s Bible, not a riot against the Douay-Rheims by Catholics in Ireland. What page number is your reference on? I just want to verify. Thanks.

          1. I don’t have a copy of the book, I read it upon its original printing when it was first published. I just have good retention of what I read.

            In general, Danielle is very biased, he despises both Catholics and evangelicals, and the book is filled with sarcastic jibes at both of them. He hates all Catholic translations including not just the Douay Rheims but also the Jerusalem and New Jerusalem and the NAB. He also hates all evangelical translations from the NASB to the NIV and the ESV, which was published shortly before the book was published.

            When he editorializes about the value and utility of a translation you have to take it with a grain of salt given his extreme bias. But his history is impeccable.

            And no I’m not referring to the American riots, which happened during a time of extreme anti-Catholic sentiment. There were lots of anti-Catholic riots at the time, several of which resulted in Churches being burned to the ground by violent mobs.

            It is a forgotten chapter in American history, but it is not what I’m referring to

        2. David Daniell really is a double-edged sword. On one hand, he did put together a very large and comprehensive history of the English Bible decades after the last thorough one, updated to include things like the Revised Standard Version and its children. On the other hand, his anti-Catholic bigotry and lack of historical contextual understanding about a lot of his subject matter really do make his commentary on translations difficult to accept at face value. Reformation historian Dr. Raymond Blacketer wrote in the Journal of Religion that Daniell shows “a disturbing lack of evenhandedness that detracts from the overall credibility of the work” and that his treatment of Catholic biblical thought is “simplistic to say the least and comes disturbingly close to bigotry”. By the time you get to Daniell claiming that St. John Henry Newman “shows no trace of any interest whatsoever in the Bible” it becomes difficult to take him as seriously as the good parts of his work probably deserve, because his opinions about Catholics and Catholic biblical studies are very much stuck in the 1600s.

  5. I agree with most mindful Catholics that the ESV is essentially an Evangelical twist on the RSV-CE. While the RSV-CE seems like a classic in regards to it being the original ecumenical Bible for both Catholic and Protestant circles, there are too many archaisms to me, and the Ignatius Second Edition would be the only acceptable format but it’s just too isolated from modern ecumenical/interfaith input. I wonder if Bishop Barron will employ the NRSV(ue) for the base translation of the WoF Bible or if the NRSVCE will be the only Catholic approved edition. Is the NRSV(ue) truly the successor to the the great RSV? I wonder who makes the decisions in picking the revisers for the NRSV(ue) if the copyright is owned mainly by the liberal Mainline Protestant circles in the US. From what I’ve observed, most of these circles are sects and don’t seem to have an authoritative and lasting impression on Christian identity because it’s become so factious. I would ditch anything in line with the Authorized Version tradition since it’s almost a symbol of how watered down the Mainline churches are these days. This is just my opinion on it.

    1. Word on Fire Bible Vol. 3 still uses the NRSV-CE, and that was completed well after the NRSVue was made available, so I don’t see them changing for any of the remaining volumes.

  6. The NRSV-CE (or ue in this post) is by far the more elegant one of these three. The ESV is a questionable translation for Catholic use since the royalties made from its use will go to fund capital E—Evangelical (not ecumenical) efforts.

    Since ICS Publications quotes from the NRSV-CE, I trust it.

    It’s funny to me that the NRSV is more American rather than British since it stems from a British origin. The NJB appeals to me a lot because it is British (an alternative to the polarized American culture), ecumenical, and ecclesiastical.

    This is a great forum for discussing these topics, I wish American translations were less confusing. It seems there is a translation for every camp and it’s hard to strike a common ground. The NRSV, NJB, RSV-CE(?) and maybe NAB-RE do however gain a stronger reach. I really like the wording of the NRSV/(ue) so I have a lot of respect for their translational team, I just wonder if there’s a weird agenda about the taking out of “immorality” part of the sexual sin quote…

    1. How does the NRSV “stem from an English origin”? The RSV was a fully American Bible, authorized by The International Council of Religious Education which consisted of a bunch of churches in the United States and Canada. This organization later merged with the National Council of Churches, which now owns the copyright to both the RSV and NRSV. It was this (American) organization that in 1974 authorized the NRSV.

  7. Also, anyone else see this?

    https://www.cbcew.org.uk/new-lectionary-to-be-launched-in-england-and-wales-for-advent-2024/

    Apparently it’s REALLY official now. No turning back for England and Wales. Even though I e personally developed more of a taste for the NRSV lately, I’m still very interested to see if CTS is allowed to print an ESV:CE with the Abby Psalms AND the changes to the ESV needed to make it authorized for liturgy (ie Hail Full of Grace in Luke 1 for example). A bible like that might really give the RSV2CE a real run for the money in some circles I would imagine.

    1. I’d really like to believe, but I feel having a Catholic liturgical version of the ESV-CE being sold as a Bible is still a pipe dream, though I’d love to be proven wrong. Because if so, wouldn’t that mean there’d be two ESV-CEs floating around? The standard ESV-CE and the CTS ESV-CE? Sounds like a headache waiting to happen.

    2. What’s the over/under on them switching to the rnjb in a few years? Wasn’t a fan of the esv-CE when I owned one.

      1. Maybe if the bishops get stonewalled hard enough by Crossway when they try to do things that they pull an Augustine Institute (with the CSV). I have the same impression as you, in that the “improvement” from the RSV to the ESV isn’t enough to make it enjoyable reading for me, when I can instead be reading the NCB, RNJB, or NRSVue. I ended up selling my ESVCE after I realized it was collecting dust on the shelf while I used other translations a lot more.

      2. I mean, I feel like the odds of that are next to zero. Given how much drama the conference went through with the NRSV, and then the RSV2CE even before they landed on the ESV, let alone all the flack they’ve caught from very vocal critics trying to push them towards the RNJB, it seems to me that this wasn’t a decision they made lightly. I also feel like I’ve heard stories of Conferences all over the world who are extremely fatigued over all the infighting that happens when it comes to anything involving liturgy ESPECIALLY issues of bible transition, so whatever qualms they might have with the ESV, or Crossway, I just don’t see this as a can of worms they’re going to have any appetite to reopen unless the copyright control issues get very serious. I feel like half the reason the conference selected the ESV to begin with is that it was a modern Lectionary that the Indian Bishops had already gotten all the approvals lined up for, so it was kind of a plug and play ready baked option. And since the ESV is a very recent translation, I might wonder if another major selling point for them was that it probably won’t need to be updated again for many, many years.

  8. The RNJB seems far more in line with the Lectionary and CTS New Catholic Bible, I can’t believe England and Wales adopted the ESV-CE. At least Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand opted for the RNJB. The ESV is big business for Evangelicals, most of them are printed in mainland China (surveillance state-genocidal regime) and you’re giving the owner (Crossway) the royalties to use their translation (as Catholics!)…Crossway is not an ecumenical publisher. You’re far better off collaborating with the American Bible Society or using something like the REB since it’s a British translation.

    1. I don’t find the argument “Don’t buy the ESV because the money goes to Crossway” to be a very compelling argument. We are not morally responsible for what the people we give money to spend their money on.

      Do you tip your waiter? If so, do you know for certain that he morally uses that money? Maybe he uses his tip money to buy drugs, do you know for certain that he doesn’t? Are you responsible for his drug use if he does? The answer is “no”.

  9. Call me petty but I just prefer to ignore the ESV. I know Greek, so I just use that to guide me and otherwise use the RSV, NRSV, and even the KJB where I can if I need to cite an existing English text. If I want to read a blatantly Protestant translation, I’d probably be more likely to give the CSB my eyes before the ESV, because at least the CSB reads like a fresh translation rather than an overcooked KJB. Though part of me wishes the original plans for the HCSB to be based on the Hodges & Farstad Majority Text would’ve been kept, as I’m sure the Orthodox would’ve liked that.

  10. There’s a difference in tipping a waiter and using a work done by a particular organization. Of the many options for Catholics to use, why support Crossway if they clearly act in the interest of Evangelical Protestant ideology, and even worse make a profit off selling expensive Bibles made cheaply in China leveraging profit and supporting their Protestant ideology. As a Catholic you should support independent and at least ecumenical publishers who collaborate more wholesomely with Catholic values. Textually speaking, the NRSV is superior to the ESV, if anything Catholics could gain permission to modify the NRSV to be more liturgically friendly the way CTS published their Bible (Jerusalem Bible with different Psalms and use of LORD…)

    1. You obviously pay for an Internet connection. Do you know that whatever your ISP is, it donates money to organizations like Planned Parenthood and no doubt changes its corporate logo to rainbow colors every year for “Pride Month”? I don’t need to know what your ISP is, this is true of ALL of them, and even if you find some small company that says it doesn’t do those things, all the bandwidth that you need to use to be able to access the Internet is owned by those big telecom and that small local company still has to pay the big telecom companies to use it, so your money still goes to the big telecom companies that use the money you give them to fund things you hate. The same is true of your cell phone and virtually everything you buy from groceries to hardware.

      You mention the NRSV, the NRSV is owned by the National Council of Churches, which supports things like promoting abortion overseas, transgenderism, and radical feminist and liberal theology.

      Name any Bible translation published by any company and I can create a similar path as you have done to show that the money goes towards something you oppose.

      The NABRE? Published by Harper Collins, a big publisher that is just as woke as any other company.

      Remote material cooperation is not a sin, precisely because it is impossible to avoid it.

      And, if you buy the ESV-CE, you are supporting The Augustine Institute, a very fine Catholic organization.

      It is not as black and white as you are making it appear.

      1. You got a lot of energy, that’s good. On a textual basis the ESV is inferior to both the NABRE and NRSV in my opinion. When it comes to ecumenical value the NABRE is better than the ESV, and it is a thoroughly Catholic translation, and no I don’t have the Harper Collins edition of the NABRE. The head of Ignatius Press Fr Joseph Fessio SJ has warned against using the ESV-CE (despite hosting Augustine Institute products on his website) that to use this translation particularly in liturgy that Catholic liturgists/authorities will have to get (awkwardly) get permission from Crossway to modify the translation to suit Catholic use—that’s what’s wrong here first and foremost, second, you’re supporting a giant Evangelical Protestant business that monopolizes off mass-producing their ESV in China and selling at a premium price.

        1. Dillon, as I recall, you barely had an opinion on Catholic Bible translations a few months ago, so you dove head first into it. Well, you got a lot of energy, that’s good. But I thought you were trying to avoid the translation partisanship. OK, you’ve concluded that you don’t like the ESV. That’s fine. But it’s an approved translation, so you have no place to tell other people that they shouldn’t read it.

          1. Phillip, I’ve studied Bible translations for a while now, but I’m otherwise new to this blog. As for partisanship, I’m not telling anyone that they shouldn’t read a particular translation, rather I’m offering my analysis. I’m partisan for ecclesiastical and non-sectarian/partisan camps, so I’m biased about that, when it comes to who you promote I think it’s important to acknowledge the roots of where it comes from. Asking permission to modify something is a lot more formal than mere “material” cooperation, you’re using an Evangelical (Calvinist/Protestant) translation directly and that organization has leverage over the those new Lectionaries, so it’s not remote or materialistic but a matter of authority, albeit speculative since it is indeed approved that’s why Joseph Fessio commented on the issue of copyright and I agree with him.
            Above all, I’m for supporting Catholic identity and authority in translations. It’s unfortunate that Protestants disregard the Deutero-canon and so it’s an embarrassment for a Catholic to use a Protestant translation that ordinarily doesn’t include the deuterocanonical books, it just doesn’t seem right and Catholics should be more energetic in defending the deuterocanonical books since it is in fact a dogma, not an Apocrypha to us. I’m not telling anyone what to do, I’m giving my opinion and at best my advice.

        2. Do you imagine that the ESV is the only Bible published in China? Do you know how much is produced in China, from clothing to electronics? I would bet dollars to donuts that your house is filled with literally dozens of things made in China, including many things you never imagined.

          And I don’t really care what Fr. Fessio says about the ESV, whatever his opinion no one can reasonably doubt that it is tainted by his desire to promote the translation published by his own company. There is nothing wrong with the translation, I prefer it to the RSV because its language is less antiquated.

          1. No you can’t always avoid Chinese manufactured products, but if it can be avoided maybe you should avoid it if you’ve seen the kinds of things that go on over there.
            My main point is that an Evangelical Protestant publisher/company should not have the control and authority over a translation that Catholics use, especially in a proclamatory (liturgical) environment, that’s not in line with Liturgiam authenticam nor does it seem right to “outsource” from a purely Protestant company, they’ll obviously comply since they’re going to gain from the royalty fees involved.
            An ecumenical translation done by those who collaborate with Catholics and Orthodox is praiseworthy and I have nothing against that though.
            The USCCB website mentions (regarding the Psalter for example):
            “In purchasing these copyrights, the bishops are following the guidelines of the Holy See’s Instruction Liturgiam authenticam, which requires that a Conference of Bishops possess all the rights necessary to promote and safeguard the accurate and appropriate use of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy.“

  11. It’s peculiar to me how a major reviser of the Revised Grail Psalms Abbot Gregory Polan OSB didn’t contribute to the NABRE Psalms when these two translations of the Psalter fall so close together chronologically, if the RGP is more official and recognized by the Vatican then why didn’t the NABRE just scrap their old Psalter in favor of the RGP? Or is the NABRE simply more advanced?
    I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have found that some are curious about why the RGP needed to be “corrected” by the CDW (Cong. For Divine Wrshp…), since the main substance of the revision was undertaken by Abbot Gregory Polan as the “Grail IV” and didn’t get into its official state until after being edited by the CDW. Are the NABRE Psalms more textually advanced than the older Grail Psalms as a more literal translation? If so, would that render the CTS New Catholic Bible obsolete if the NABRE and RGP are more up to date?
    Another note, the USCCB owns the copyright of the RGP and I’ve read that they are going to edit it more in the future, but I also learned that the RGP has already been distributed to the African Bishops Conferences so would that mean they would soon have to scrap all those books because of an even newer translation?

  12. Woops.
    I mistakenly posted to this thread when I rewrote one of TWO comments that were intended for the NABRE Psalms post since I thought I deleted my original draft so I rewrote it, now there’s two versions of my same comment intended for: NABRE Psalms: A Hidden Gem.

  13. Nice write up Marc thanks.

    I like the ESV because it’s just a little smoother and easier to read than the RSV, while not going overboard with inclusive language like the NRSV. The ESV has been approved by multiple bishops conferences so I’m confident there are no major inaccuracies or anti-catholic biases in the text.

    For personal devotional reading that’s all I care about. The Crossways sausage making doesn’t concern me as long as the results are good.

    Use in the liturgy is a different matter. While above my pay grade, I am mildly surprised that the bishops’ conference of England and Wales went with the ESV given the concerns about getting Crossways to approve changes. Time will tell if that was the right decision or not.

    1. I also wonder about what the negotiations were like with Crossway behind the scenes, especially when CTS asked about publishing their separate standalone bible with the Abby Psalms and the changes needed to make the translation acceptable for proclamation at Mass.

      It also makes me wonder, if the English conference was willing to license the Abby Psalms from the USCCB, why not the upcoming NAB revision for liturgy as well? I know the NAB has a, reputation, fairly or unfairly, for a certain inelegance, but surely the negations Catholic Conference to Conference would have to have been less fraught that with a Protestant Publisher, wouldn’t they?

      I’m also wondering if the Indian Conference ever completed a revision of the Liturgy of the Hours utilizing the ESV as the base text? I thought I’d heard back when they completed the work on the Lectionary that they did have plans to implement an ESV LOTH edition, but I feel like I haven’t heard anything since. Anyone here heard anything about this?

  14. All of these the translations have their problems from a Catholic perspective. I have gone back to the 1941 Confraternity Edition of the New Testament.

      1. Isn’t the NABRE essentially the contemporary version of the Confraternity Bible? So maybe when the 2025 update is finally complete it will be designated as a “revived” successor to the confraternity versions, albeit based on the Hebrew and Greek. Perhaps we should use a translation based on the Masoretic but corrected by the Vulgate?

        1. It is a little more complicated than that. The original plan in 1937 was to produce a modest update of the 1899 Challoner Douay Rheims.

          The Confraternity New Testament of 1941 was the New Testament of that proposed revision. While work was ongoing, Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical Divini Afflante Spiritu on the Old Testament, in which he said that Catholic Bible translations should be from the original languages and not the Vulgate. At this point, work on the Old Testament was stopped while the bishops decided to re-evaluate the project. By a relatively close vote, it was decided to scrap the idea of revising the Douay Rheims and starting a new translation from the original languages.

          What was still called “The Confraternity Old Testament” was published in 6 volumes from 1952-1969. When the New Testament was finished in 1970, it together with the 6 volumes of the Old Testament (except Genesis, which was revised to make the literary style match the rest of the Bible) was published in one volume. It was at this time that it was decided that the Bible would be named “The New American Bible”. This was done for a number of reasons, first nationalism, they were quite proud of the fact that it was the first new English translation to be produced entirely by American scholars. Second, it was done because it was hoped that it could become an ecumenical Bible that might be adopted by some Protestant churches such as the Episcopal church, that use the “Apocrypha” and thus the word “Catholic” was avoided.

          In retrospect, it seems clear that “Confraternity Bible” could never have actually been the actual name of the finished Bible, that title is too clunky, unmemorable, and for anyone who isn’t familiar with the word (which would be 99% of Catholics) “Confraternity” is practically unpronounceable, it is a big and unfamiliar word inappropriate for the final name of a Bible. It is not in the least bit memorable.

          So, no, there really is no “Confraternity Bible” to revive, only the New Testament was ever published, and if you want that style of writing, there is the 1899 Douay Rheims which is still in print.

  15. So if the predecessor of the NABRE is the Confraternity (Bible) which stems from the D-R I wonder if the NABRE contains any flavors from the D-R or at least the Confraternity. Perhaps the NABRE is an altogether unique translation, while others may claim the RSV-NRSV are their own translations, as I’ve read in their prefaces they claim to be a revision of a revision (ASV) being a revision of the Revised-KJV so is that a good thing? Do messy backstories of translations set up the later revised edition of it for failure or are the corrections made in the update(s) self-vindicating and establish the text as superior (in this case with the NABRE) over others like the NRSV(CE) since it has a more up-to-date OT?

    1. The most visible carry-over I always notice from the D-R to the NABRE, via the Confraternity, is the rendering of “Amen, amen, I say to you” rather than “Truly, truly, I say to you” or “Very truly, I say to you” or “Verily, verily, I say to you.”

    2. I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you asking if it is better to create a brand-new translation or to revise an existing one?

      I guess it depends on what you want. If you want to preserve a textual tradition, you revise an existing translation. If you want to break from that textual tradition, you start afresh, you make a new translation. There is value in both approaches.

      And by the way, English is not the only language in which this is done. In German, there is the Luther Bible of 1522, which has been revised numerous times and is still in print in its most recent revision. The most recent revision is from 2017.

      In Spanish, there is the Reina Valera, originally published in 1602, the most recent revision is from 2011.

      And there is even the equivalent of “KJV Only ism” in other languages, in Spanish, some fundamentalists regard all Reina Valera editions after 1909 as heretical, others go up to the 1960 edition but reject all others.

  16. Regarding the Confraternity Bible. One of my favorite editions of the Bible is the original Catholic Book Publishing Company Douay-Confraternity Bible. It was actually their first published Bible ever in 1949 and included the Confraternity NT and the Pius XII Psalter. The rest was DR Challoner.

    The CBPC Bible had beautiful, readable font, beautiful illustrations, and the entire thing was in modern paragraph format with the outlined headings like the NAB would have decades later. This one is a joy to read from, pages are white and the text is bold and clear. I have a hardcover with pink page edges I treasure more than some of the “premium” modern Bibles. I wish there was a full DRC with this format; I have several and they’re all verse-by-verse.

    1. I agree. I’ve got the Rembrandt edition of the Douay-Confraternity Bible, which still goes for quite cheap on the secondhand market at like $25 or so, and it’s beautiful. The “illuminated manuscript” style printing of the Sermon on the Mount in the middle of the book is a really nice touch. There’s just something about the old Douay-Confraternity Bibles where publishers put out very interesting formats and styles, whereas modern Catholic publishers seem to have slimmed down the options at the very time when Protestant publishers are getting more experimental. I’d love a paragraph format DRC with full-color illustrations.

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