Saturday, January 24, 2009

ESV w/ Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals) is Here!

Well, after a fairly long wait, I finally received the Oxford University Press English Standard Bible with Apocrypha. The photo on the left gives you a decent view of what the pages look like. (I hope to be able to get some better pictures up in the coming days.)

Here are my first impressions:

Overall, I think the product, itself, is quite good. Since there was very little information about it given on any of the vendor websites, I must say I am pleasantly surprised. It contains the 2007 edition of the ESV, with the new Oxford 2009 ESV Apocrypha. The new translation of the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals) is really an updating of the older RSV Expanded Apocrypha. The Preface to the Apocrypha says that this edition's goal was "updating archaic language, clarifying obscure words, removing inaccuracies, and bringing punctuation up to current American standards." The scholars who worked on the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicials were David A deSilva (Ashland Theological Seminary), Dan McCartney (Westminster Theological Seminary), and Bernard A. Taylor (Loma Linda University). There was also a post edit job to achieve consistency by David Aiken (Ada, Michigan).

The Table of Contents Lists the Following:
Alphabetic Listing of Books of the Bible
Alphabetic Listing of Books of the Apocrypha
Preface to the ESV
Explanation of Features
Apocrypha Table of Contents
Preface to Apocrypha
Tables of Weights and Measures
Oxford Maps (9)

Positive features:

1) I really like the size of this Bible. I was worried at first that it might be too big and heavy, but it really isn't. In fact, if I were to compare it to one of my other Bibles, it is almost identical in size with the Ignatius RSV-2CE. As a matter of fact, it may be a touch smaller, but not by much.

2) The page layout is pretty good. I think it is similar to many of the Crossway ESV editions that I have looked at in the past, although I could be wrong on that. Each page contains paragraph headings, textual notes, alternative renderings, and cross-references (primarily in NT).

3) It seems to have a solid binding. (I am no expert on this however!) It also lays open nice and rests well in the hand.

4) It contains maps and the previously mentioned cross-references. As I have stated in previous posts, it is amazing, particularly in some Catholic Bibles, that the publishers decide not to have maps or cross-references. Hello HarperCollins? (A concordance would have been nice too, but I am not going to complain about that omission.)

Negative Features:

1) I don't like the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals placed at the back. Yeah, I know, the ESV is a conservative, Evangelical translation, but I would have thought that Oxford would have placed them in the middle, like they do with the NRSV. Perhaps that was a condition of Crossway.

2) I think it would have been helpful to have a list of the various OT Canons in the Apocrypha section. This would certainly have helped the mistake, IMHO, of placing them in the back. Although, I should point out that the Apocrypha are arranged with the Catholic Deuterocanonicals first, before the Orthodox.

3) The last negative feature, thus far, is that the paper is very thin. My guess is that there would be some considerable bleeding through when using any type of Bible pen. While time will tell whether or not I will be using this regularly, it is certain that I won't be writing in this ESV, except perhaps for erasing the "a" in 1 Timothy 3:15. (There is no definitive article, thus using "the", which is in the vast majority of Bibles, or not using an article at all, would have been better.)

That is all for now. I really haven't spent any time reading the ESV before. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am interested in comparing it to the NRSV and the RSV-2CE. Since this edition of the ESV has all the books of the Catholic Bible, as well as maps and cross-references, I am going to consider using this as my reading Bible for 2009.

PS: It looks like the this Bible is now in stock at Amazon.

PS2: It seems that the ESV Apocrypha translators decided to translate the entire Greek edition of Esther, instead of just the additions. (The RSV NOAB just translated the Greek editions of Esther.)


Michael said...

I think that the reason why the Apocrypha is in the back is because this is the way it is done with the New Oxford Annotated Bible With Apocrypha Expanded Edition, it must be Oxford University Press thing...

Timothy said...


True, but for the newer editions of the NRSV NOAB they are placed in the middle.

PaulW said...

Around 4-5 years ago, I wrote this on my blog:

"The promotion of ESV so far has appeared to do little more than engage the in-house issues and concerns of conservative Evangelicals. For this reason, I doubt the ESV will have much appeal beyond this market. To me that’s a shame, because the translators of this version really believed they were doing a service to the entire body of Christ by producing it. Maybe this is a vain hope, but one day I would like to see the ESV in an edition which includes the books that Orthodox and Catholics regard as part of the biblical canon. The translators of the KJV included the Western deutero-canonicals. If the creators of the ESV really want their version to be what its name says it is, then I think the ESV’s publishers have got to seriously consider translating and including the Catholic and Orthodox canons in subsequent editions."

Crossway wouldn't do it, but OUP has answers my prayers here!

Timothy said...

Paul W,

So you are saying that you are going to get it? ;)

Michael said...

Well, I think that the fact that both the ESV Study Bible AND the ESV With Apocrypha quickly sold out almost immediately after being published, and that in the middle of a recession, is a sign that the ESV is a translation that has the potential to become THE common English Bible. They just need a Catholic Edition, which I believe will be coming soon if the sales keep skyrocketing, they will want to have the largest possible audience.

But it would probably be even more popular if not for the controversy over its origins.

The ESV was created for two reasons, one good and one not so good.

The first reason is that it was created to combat the wave of 'dynamic equivalent' translations which the translators believed were starting to veer too far away from the actual words of scripture. If we actually believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then surely the 'exact words' are important and ought to be preserved as much as possible. In itself, this is a good reason to produce the ESV.

The second reason for the existence of the ESV is that it is a kind of knee jerk reaction to the publication of the 'NIV Inclusive Language Edition' in 1996. This is not such a good reason.

Ironically, the very people who complained about the 'inclusive language' in the NRSV and the NIV Inclusive Language Edition ended up reproducing most of that 'objectionable' language in the ESV so one has to wonder what the controversy was about.

Paul W said...

Yes :)

Thanks for the heads up here.

Kalos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kalos said...

I was very pleased myself to get a copy of this edition in the mail.

I can put to rest one question in the preceding comments: OUP did NOT make the decision to place the Apocrypha in the back. Perhaps Luther's solution of separating them out and placing them in between the testaments (a location that makes far better sense historically) was not a sufficient statement regarding their (non-) canonicity. I think a Catholic edition will be a long way off (perhaps scheduled for a few years after the second coming), unfortunately.

It was a privilege, however, to have been asked to work on this. We subjected the RSV to a very thorough revision, correcting it in ways that escaped the notice of the NRSV translators of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books. I know that the ESV has occasioned some serious debates on account of its inclusive language policy, and I am very sympathetic to the application of the same in the NRSV and TNIV. I think we attended well to this policy in handling the Apocryphal books, and expect, if we are not judged together with the rest of the translation, that critics from both sides will look favorably on what we have done.

But most importantly, we have put the Apocrypha within the grasp of the devotees of the ESV -- and anything that fosters knowledge of and appreciation for these texts is a project worthy of some part of my short span on this earth. :)

Kind regards,
David deSilva

Michael said...

Hey, we got one of the actual ESV with Apocrypha translators making a comment here, that's awesome, this blog is moving on up! :-)

Timothy said...

Dr. deSilva,

Thanks for your contributions. I know that I am quite appreciative to have an edition of the ESV with the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals. It gives me another option of a modern translation, which makes use of the newest manuscript findings, along with the NRSV.

I do have two questions for you:

1) Was it intentional the way in which the Apocrypha was arranged, with the Catholic Deuterocanonicals in order first? (I know that the original RSV NOAB Expanded Edition had it a little different)

2) How do you rate this new ESV edition in comparison with the NRSV? Do you think a Catholic, like myself, would be comfortable using it as a primary Bible for prayer and study?


Timothy said...


Yeah no kidding, first Fr. Fessio, now an actual translator! Perhaps Pope Benedict will be next! ;)

Kalos said...

Greetings, Timothy. I really can't answer your second question, since only you can determine your level of comfort. If I were Catholic, I would probably be put off by the books appearing outside of the OT and in the back, although I do think placing them in the middle is an acceptable compromise (acceptable, because some Protestants wouldn't want it printed in a Bible at all, and Catholics would, of course, prefer the more common distribution of the books within the OT). As a translation, I think the ESV Apocrypha offers a strong option for devotional reading and study. I know that I approached my task with the attitude that I was translating the Church's scripture (even if it is not part of MY church's Scripture). I'm admittedly a little uncomfortable with some aspects of the ESV's inclusive language policy, though I think the NRSV sometimes solves the issue of gender inclusivity poorly (e.g., using "friends" or "beloved" to replace "brothers," when I would certainly have used "brothers and sisters" as the inclusive equivalent -- the kinship language being intentional and formational within the early church).

I'm embarrassed to admit that I have no answer for your first question at all. I never paid any attention to the question of how the books would be ordered -- just plugged along translating my own assignments!

All the best,

Kevin Sam said...

Dr. deSilva, thanks. We appreciate your sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

Will they produce a leather edition. Would be nice!.

UnderAgeThinker said...

I think there may be some confusion or perhaps a typo regarding the article in 1 Timothy 3:15. If (as you say) there is no definite article in the Greek then either "a" or no article at all would be most appropriate. This is because "the" is the English definite article. I am open to correction but I believe this is the case.

tpkatsa said...

Mercy and peace to all be multiplied.

Could you please clarify for me the difference between Catholic/Orthodox apocrypha, and the Western Deuterocanonicals?

I'm an Orthodox Christian and we call them "Deutero-canonicals" but I was unaware that there were "Western Deuterocanonicals." What does that mean? Can you point me to a reference that has a good side-by-side comparison of all the book collections and what they are called?

John Iliff said...

Great translation. Very lousy format.
If the Evangelical Protestant publishers are so squemish about a "Catholic" translation, could they at least do something like 'The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (RSV) - An Ecumenical Study Bible' in the ESV? In the Tough Text book cover, decent page thickness, and rugged binding. Also, the books of the so-called 'Apocrypha' are right in where they belong with the rest of the Old Testament. Dumping them in the back seems gratuitously condescending of other Christians's (like myself) scriptures.

Russ said...

I'm a recent convert to the Church after being an Evangelical Protestant for over 50 years. My old favorite was the NASB, and now I use the RSV-2CE. However, I am starting to really love the ESV, partly because it is available in so many formats including a convenient tiny pocket size NT with Psalms which allows me to use it more often than my Catholic Bibles. What are the "rules" (if any) for Catholics concerning the use of Protestant Bible translations?

Timothy said...


First off, welcome home to the Church.

Secondly, you really are free to read whatever Bible you like, but it should have the Deuterocanonicals. Since
the ESV comes in an edition with them, and the ESV is being used in a future lectionary, I say go for it.

Russ said...

That's really great news. The ESV will stay in my back pocket. Thanks!

tpkatsa said...

Mercy and peace to all. I am an Orthodox Christian and I echo the sentiment that the deutero-canon (aka apocrypha) is important. For example, some protestants today believe that to be physically healed all we have to do is pray about it and we'll be healed. And so every once in a while you read in the paper about these kids who've suffered and died because their parents refused to take them to the doctor. Now to be fair this is a fringe of protestantism but this is where such thinking leads. If you read Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Sirach) chapter 38:1-12 you'll see how it talks about the God-given honor due a physician. But the protestants don't get this - and many other things - because they took out the deutero-canon sometime after the 1769 KJV. Personally I've liked the KJV version best (I have David Norton's Cambridge hardcover w/apocrypha 2005), but lately for Old Testament I've gravitated toward the Greek Septuagint (LXX). I have looked into the ESV and it's probably pretty solid but you always want to look at what the Saints have to say about a passage. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches have a rich history of Biblical commentary from the Saints starting as early as the 2nd century. Another gem is St. Andrew's commentary on revelation from the 5th or 6th century.

mwidunn said...

Regarding Timothy's reply to Russ, I have to jump in:

(1) A theological quibble: If Russ were baptized, then he was already part of the Christ's Church, albeit without belonging to Her visible structure through communion with the Pope. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #838. One should probably say, then: "Welcome back to the fullness of the Faith!"

(2) A more problematic quibble: The Sacred Scriptures are the property of THE CHURCH -- not of Russ or of Timothy or of Oxford University Press or of me or of anybody else. That is why no "Catholic" Bible translation can be published without express episcopal permission. Canon 825 of the Church's Code of Canon Law is very salient on this matter:

Can. 825 §1. Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations.

§2. With the permission of the conference of bishops, Catholic members of the Christian faithful in collaboration with separated brothers and sisters can prepare and publish translations of the sacred scriptures provided with appropriate annotations.

The E. S. V.'s Bible is advertised as the E. S. V. (a Protestant translation) with the Apocrypha added on.

It is not called a "Catholic" edition . . . and, for good reason! I doubt that the publishers asked for the imprimatur from the Church. If there is in fact no imprimatur in evidence in the book's frontmatter, then it violates the first part of can. 825 above. It is, then, not suitable for use amongst Catholics.

In the case of the Apocrypha, THERE IS NO SUCH THING for a Catholic Bible. I cannot stress this enough: The books of Tobit, Judith, I & II Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch (with Jeremiah's Letter), and the longer versions of Esther and Daniel are inspired, sacred, and canonical. This much was defined as such explicitly at the Council of Trent against Protestant denials of their sacred and canonical nature. This demonstrates a faulty Protestant-inspired theology which denigrates and places at a lower level the so-called "Apocryphal" books of the Bible.

May "ecumenical" translation of the Sacred Scriptures be published? Yes, of course. Can. 825.2 above says as much. And, some have appeared, like the R. S. V. In the case of the E. S. V., however, I do not notice ONE Catholic who has actually collaborated on the translation -- not even for the supposed "Apocryphals." So, that portion of the canon does not seem to apply at all.

I would suggest to Russ, then, that the E. S. V. is indeed NOT an adequate translation for him to use. The Sacred Scriptures are not the property of any person or group; rather they belong to the Church. Only translations that bear the express approval of the Church's authority may be used and read by Catholics.

tpkatsa said...

@ mwidunn Perhaps the relevant question is whether the ESV does an good job at translating the original Biblical texts in Hebrew and Greek into English, with all of the above being secondary.