The Revised Standard Version (1st and 2nd) Catholic Edition: When Literal is Necessary
"And he said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.' And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them." - Mark 9:1-3
The RSV-CE remains as popular for Catholics today as when it was first published in the mid-60's. Actually, it could be argued that it is more popular today, particularly since it is still promoted by Biblical scholars as well as more conservative Catholics. The RSV-CE comes primarily in two editions these days, the original 1966 version, which contains archaic language and the 2nd Edition published by Ignatius Press, which eliminated archaic language and made various changes at points in the text. This post will focus mainly on the RSV-2CE.
Translation Philosophy 4.5/5
The RSV is the most literal modern Catholic translation on the market today. Catholics do not have an equivalent to the Protestant NASB. Therefore, the RSV serves as the most literal/formal modern translation, which certainly makes it useful when doing serious study. We have discussed on this blog on many occasions the various issues related to the RSV translation itself, most notably in the 2nd Edition. I will refer you to those posts here here and here.
I will, however, point out one specific area in Mark where the RSV shines, even though it may not appear so at first glance. As the Catholic Study Bible points out: "The pace of the story is urgent. Jesus moves rapidly from place to place; there is little wasted motion and a minimum of verbage (387)." Now one of the ways this is most evident in Mark is the constant use of the Greek word καὶ at the beginning of sentences. Most often this word is translated into English as "and". The RSV does a great job in maintaining the use of "and" in most cases, while a number of more recent translations try to make Mark a smoother read by not translating καὶ. Yet, I am not sure Mark is meant to be a smooth read. Events happen quickly and as the above quote from the CSB states: "The pace of the story is urgent." The RSV does the best job at producing that urgency in Mark.
For the most part, the RSV remains a pretty smooth read. In particular, the RSV-2CE, with the elimination of archaic language, helps to modernize the text a bit. There are, however, still places where the words chosen or the word order can make reading a bit more difficult. I notice this most often in the Psalms, but perhaps that is to be expected when using a more formal translation. (Psalm 65 is an example.)
One other area of note is in the RSV's use of inclusive language. As most of you know, it does not use inclusive language. As a matter of fact, Ignatius Press goes out of its way to promote that the RSV-2CE does not include "feminist" inclusive language. One of the main changes in the RSV-2CE is the consistent rendering of "sons of Israel" instead of "people of Israel." In this way, the RSV-2CE goes beyond the original RSV. As I have mentioned on this blog before, my thoughts on inclusive language have changed a bit in the last few years. Now a days, I am more open to the use of modest horizontal inclusive language, as found in the NJB and to a lesser extent the NABRE. Now that I do a lot of reading of the Scriptures out loud in class, with both youth and adults, I find that having limited horizontal inclusive language in a translation to be preferable.
Available Formats 3.5/5
The RSV is available in a number of printed formats, as well as on Kindle. Oxford University Press still prints the beautiful New Oxford Annotated Bible-RSV, which still remains a standard today for its size, durability, and concise, yet useful study notes. Oxford also produces an RSV-CE reading Bible, while Saint Benedict Press prints the RSV in various editions. The one thing that hampers these editions is their lack of cross-references. If you want the RSV-CE with cross-references, you have to go with the edition printed by Ignatius Press.
As noted earlier, the RSV-2CE is the child of Ignatius Press. The RSV-2CE comes in a standard edition, with cross-references, maps, and the original notes, in both hardbound, bonded leather, and paperback. Ignatius also prints a pocket edition of the New Testament and Psalms. The most notable edition of the RSV-2CE is found in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Of course, the issue with the ICSB is not whether or not it is good and useful, but rather when it will be finished. (I feel a bit like Pope Julius II in the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy!) I have not heard back from Ignatius about any future editions of the RSV-2CE.
The RSV is historically one of the first truly ecumenical Bibles. Its influence is still felt today, not only by it still being in print, but also by its descendants the NRSV and ESV, and to a lesser extent the RSV-2CE. In addition, Ignatius Press has printed a Lectionary for the RSV-2CE if it is ever allowed in the USA.
However, I still wonder what the future holds for the RSV-CE or RSV-2CE. I pondered this question a few months back, which you can read here. When I look at the main project associated with the RSV, that being the ICSB, I am not sure I am willing to sit around and wait for its completion. Also, in the past those who felt the RSV was easily the best translation on the market, including myself, now have to contend with an improved NABRE as well as the ESV w/Apocrypha. We shall see what happens, but as of today, the RSV remains my #1 Catholic Bible....but barely.