Saturday, March 10, 2012

The RSV Lectionary 2.0 (including some random thoughts)

For some additional info go here. Make sure to read the comments, which mentions a bit more on the ESV.

Some random, mostly speculative thoughts about this whole issue:

1) Are we right to assume that the RSV Lectionaries are that of the 2nd Edition? When they mention that they bought the remainder of what was in stock, does this mean Ignatius will not be producing any more in the future? With the NAB firmly entrenched in the USA and apparently the imminent publication of an ESV Lectionary, it seems probable that no large English language territory will ever use the RSV-2CE in its Lectionary. This may indicate why Ignatius is dumping its Lectionaries.

2) Why and how is the ESV being used? Why not the already adapted NRSV of Canada or the RSV-2CE? There are a lot of questions but very few answers. Who are they securing the rights to use the ESV? Crossway? NCCUSA? If Crossway, why would they do such a thing, considering the fact that they have been unwilling to produce an ESV with Deuterocanonicals? It was Oxford University Press that did so.

3) The link, above, states that there is a Catholic on the ESV translation team. Who might that be? Am I the only one who is a bit confused as to why any Catholic Lectionary would use a primarily Reformed translation?

4) What is the future of the RSV-2CE? We know that the complete ICSB will likely be published in the next 2-3 years, but one has to wonder if the RSV-2CE will remain a niche translation. The vast majority of theology books I have read since 2006 quote the older RSV-CE. Other than the ICSB, Ignatius doesn't seem interested in promoting or providing background information on their translation. I wish they would.


Theophrastus said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "a bit more on the ESV," -- it seems to me that Father Sommerville-Knapman is simply repeating information that appeared elsewhere or is incorrect.

Sommerville-Knapman: There is at least one Catholic on the translation board

There is no organization called "ESV translation board." The members of the "ESV Translation Oversight Committee" are listed here. The twelve voting members listed here are all prominent Protestants. The two adjunct members both work for Crossway, and appear to be Protestant ministers.

Sommerville-Knapman: the Catholic preferences in translation are already clearly marked in the footnotes of the the ESV

Assuming Father Sommerville-Knapman is referring to the Oxford English Standard Version with Apocrypha, the New Testament footnotes reflects the ESV, not the RSV-CE. To demonstrate this, it suffices to review the very first change in the RSV-CE (it is easy to do this since the RSV-CE prints the changes in an appendix.) The first change is at Matthew 1:19, where the RSV-CE changed "divorce" to "send her away." The Oxford ESV with Apocrypha prints "divorce"; there is no footnote indicating "send her away."

Timothy said...


So what do you think is going on?

Theophrastus said...

Perhaps the key to understanding this is look at copyright ownership:

Copyright ownership of the RSV, RSV-CE, RSV-2CE, NRSV: National Council of Churches.

Copyright ownership of ESV: Crossway.

Note that Ignatius did not buy copyright from NCC; they merely license it. This means NCC has veto power.

I do not have first hand knowledge, but I heard the following, and it seems plausible: NCC veto-ed the continued production of the RSV-2CE lectionary, as well as future printings of the NRSV Canada lectionary. (Note that the final fourth volume of the NRSV Canada lectionary never appeared.)

If that is the case, it explains why Archbishop Coleridge would announce the ICPEL deal with Crossway -- it is a backdoor to getting something like the RSV or NRSV.

For the Deuterocanonicals, because of paragraph 37 of Liturgiam Authenticam, the RSV-CE could not be used for the lectionary (the Nova Vulgata uses a different textual basis.) So, my guess is that ICPEL will commission its own translation from Nova Vulgata for the Deuterocanonical lectionary portions.

Strossmayer said...

2) The ESV will no doubt be adapted (Catholisized, as it were) for use in the Mass. We can only guess why the bishops of Britain, Australia, and New Zealand were unsatisfied with the 2008 Canadian NRSV Lectionary. My conjecture is that the Canadian bishops were willing to settle for only minor changes to the text. But the other bishops weren't satisfied – and when they asked for more revisions, the NCC refused. So the bishops took their business elsewhere. Crossway, which owns the rights to the ESV, are apparently more willing to work with Catholic bishops than the NCC. Actions speak louder than words – I am inclined to take the bishops' move as a tacit affirmation from our hierarchy that the Catholic Church has more in common with conservative evangelical Protestants (e.g. Crossway) than their liberal mainstream counterparts (e.g. the NCC).

3) The ESV is an excellent translation. It is a faithful update of the RSV – gracefully bringing it into line with modern idiom and the most recent Greek and Hebrew research. Sure, the translators were all Evangelical – but I prefer a Bible translated by men who deny the authority of the Catholic Church (e.g. ESV) to a Bible translated by men who deny the divinity of Christ (e.g. NRSV). This is a wonderful development – I hope we hear the ESV in American churches some day soon.

4) The RSV-2CE will be used by the Anglican Ordinariates in the United States. You'll also hear it in the Antilles and among Anglophones in a number African nations (link). It appears none of the other major English speaking nations will adopt it. Ignatius Press seems to have largely jettisoned its lectionary project – the African lectionaries, for example, are being printed by Paulines Africa (here) with Ignatius taking on a sort of consulting role.

Theophrastus said...

I asked Father Sommerville-Knapman about that "Catholic member" of the "ESV translation board." He wrote:

I concede I was sloppy with what I posted in haste. My reference was to the ESV Study Bible from Crossway, one of the articles in which is by Mark Futato, who did his doctorate at the Catholic University of America.

As it turns out, I know Mark Futato, and he is most definitely Protestant. He has taught at Westminster Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary.

Father Sommerville-Knapman (who is based in the UK) was perhaps unaware of what a large number of non-Catholics study (and teach!) at US Catholic universities such as CUA, Notre Dame, Fordham, Georgetown, Gonzoga, Loyola (Chicago and Maryland), Marquette, St. Louis, Santa Clara, Villanova, etc.

So, unless I am missing something, there were no Catholics involved at any level in the ESV.


There's another thing I want to say too. Many Americans lament that they cannot buy a version of NAB that matches what they hear from the lectionary -- there is no Bible with the lectionary text in it. Even in Canada, where the situation is much better, there are minor changes to the NRSV lectionary which are not printed in Bibles. Soon, congregants in ICPEL countries will join their number: given the extensive changes that will need to be made to bring the ESV in line with Liturgiam Authenticam, it seems unlikely that we will ever see a Catholic ESV that matches the proposed lectionary. (In particular, because of problems like those you noted in Sirach 24, the Oxford ESV with Apocrypha certainly will not meet this requirement.)

Timothy said...

I simply cannot see an ESV Catholic edition ever being published. But then again, I never would have imagined that so many English language conferences would adopt and adapt the ESV. So what do I know. (Clearly not much.).

Theophrastus said...


As I indicate above, I think that this turn of events is more about copyright than any warming to any particular group. Copyright terms in Southern Africa are much shorter than in other Anglophone countries; in South Africa, they are 50 years, for example. The RSV with Apocrypha appeared in 1957; so it is now in the public domain. (It is true, later revisions including the RSV-CE, have later secondary copyright dates, but the first publication date is the most important.) This explains how Paulines Africa may be able to print the Ignatius lectionary while Ignatius cannot.


You wrote: I prefer a Bible translated by men who deny the authority of the Catholic Church (e.g. ESV) to a Bible translated by men who deny the divinity of Christ (e.g. NRSV).

To the best of my knowledge, the only scholar on the NRSV committee who was not a believing Christian was Harry Orlinsky, who was a believing Jew. Orlinsky also served on the RSV translation committee, so his work touches the RSV-CE and ESV as well. The chair of the NRSV translation committee, Bruce Metzger, was a well-known Evangelical believer.

It is true that the NRSV has become the standard text for secular readers (because of its quality), but the text itself was produced by believers.

It is worth noting that all major contemporary English Catholic translations (NAB, NABRE, NJB, RSV-CE, and NRSV) were produced by ecumenical teams.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the license Ignatius Press has for the RSV-2CE limits their ability to promote or publish what they would otherwise want?

Francesco said...


But Liturgiam Authenticam seems to also recommend that something like an "X-Liturgical Edition" should also be published whenever the Lectionary differs from the base translation:

36. In order that the faithful may be able to commit to memory at least the more important texts of the Sacred Scriptures and be formed by them even in their private prayer, it is of the greatest importance that the translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for liturgical use be characterized by a certain uniformity and stability, such that in every territory there should exist only one approved translation, which will be employed in all parts of the various liturgical books. This stability is especially to be desired in the translation of the Sacred Books of more frequent use, such as the Psalter, which is the fundamental prayer book of the Christian people.[31] The Conferences of Bishops are strongly encouraged to provide for the commissioning and publication in their territories of an integral translation of the Sacred Scriptures intended for the private study and reading of the faithful, which corresponds in every part to the text that is used in the Sacred Liturgy.

Theophrastus said...

Anonymous: I do not know the details; and my reports on the copyright issues is only hearsay. I wish Ignatius would be more forthcoming and transparent with information about the RSV-2CE.

Why did Ignatius not get a copyright to its changes, as did Crossway for the ESV?

Why did Ignatius suddenly discontinue its lectionary, just as Anglican Ordinates were approved to use it?

I have to believe that there is some significant part of the story which is not being made public; what else accounts for the exceptionally tight-lipped secrecy of Ignatius on the RSV-2CE? And why has Ignatius been so spectacularly ineffective at promoting the RSV-2CE? Ignatius's temerity gives me no confidence; I wonder, for example, if the RSV-2CE will even be available in ten years time.


Francesco: Of course, you are right. Nonetheless, as you will note, that recommendation has not lead to the publication of Bibles in the US or Canada -- the NAB does not match the American lectionary and the NRSV does not match the Canadian lectionary. Moreover, we have heard from the Confraternity that it is unlikely that any such volume will be forthcoming. We are told that even a volume that prints the NAB with the New Grail Psalter would be vetoed.

Will we see an ESV that matches the proposed ICPEL lectionary? I am not a betting man, but I would wager against it.

Timothy said...


Sounds like a good title of a future post:
Will the RSV-2CE be available in ten years?

Chrysostom said...

"The ESV is an excellent translation. It is a faithful update of the RSV – gracefully bringing it into line with modern idiom and the most recent Greek and Hebrew research. Sure, the translators were all Evangelical –

but I prefer a Bible translated by men who deny the authority of the Catholic Church (e.g. ESV) to a Bible translated by men who deny the divinity of Christ (e.g. NRSV)."

Amen reverend.

Chrysostom said...

"It is worth noting that all major contemporary English Catholic translations (NAB, NABRE, NJB, RSV-CE, and NRSV) were produced by ecumenical teams."

Is that why they're all bad? Or, if that verbiage is too strong, shall I say, immensely sub-optimal?

Strossmayer said...


Thank you for correcting me on my comment about the NRSV. I shouldn't have been quite so shrill about it – we must be careful to shed more light than heat when discussing the Scriptures.

I agree with you that the NRSV is a fine piece of scholarship and that many faithful believers collaborated in its composition. I think many of them do hail from a fairly liberal school of biblical theology, but that alone is not grounds to question their faith in the Resurrection.

In fact, many of the more objectionable renderings were not introduced by the scholars who did the initial translation – they were introduced at the end of the translation process by a "final editorial committee" with an axe to grind. One of the original translators, upon learning of the changes, wrote that "when members of the full committee became aware of the extent of these changes, many were outraged, feeling that much of their own work on the translation over the years had been irresponsibly gutted."

What happened with the NRSV was a tragedy: a small cadre with a liberal agenda hijacked what could have been a truly great work. Unfortunately, that cadre now runs the NCC and will allow no changes to their translation. As long as this is so, the NRSV is compromised.

rolf said...

I think the RSV-2CE will be around in 10 years, Ignatius Press would not have made it the base translation for its current ICSB-NT and the forthcoming complete ICSB if it had not planned on continuing to publish the translation. I don't anything about copyrights, but if they are having a problem, it might just be with the Lectionary and not the translation in general.

Dan Z. said...

Here's a simple solution to all of this: The Vatican should commission a modern English translation of the Vulgate, which would become the only approved Scripture for Mass in all English speaking countries. It would also be made available as a Bible, so that people can buy a Bible that matches 100% to the readings at Mass. Catholics would also be free to choose to buy the NABRE, NRSV, or RSV-CE, or any other version should they wish, even though none of those verisons would any longer be approved for Mass.

Francesco said...

I have concerns about an updated Douay-Rheims.

First off, the Vatican doesn't have unlimited resources. Many of the people involved would presumably be taken off of other things which would probably be more important. Given how involved the Holy See is in the world with things like philanthropic activities, evangelization, diplomacy, and dealing with the myriad of other things that the Holy See does.

Secondly, it would have implications that we may not be totally on board with. Does every language need a Vatican-approved translation of the NV that must be used? What are the ecumenical and inter-religious implications if Catholics worldwide stop studying translations from Hebrew and Greek? How will the faithful around the world react to this added level of centralization? Such a big move would have far-reaching implications.

Lastly, there is no guarantee that we'll actually like the translation. Part of the reason that old translations sound nice is that they're old. We're not going to get an old translation, it is going to be a translation into something approximating modern English.

Theophrastus said...

Dan Z.:

Unfortunately, the translation you suggest would not meet the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam, 24 and thus could not be used in the lectionary.

Liturgiam Authenticam, 24 requires

Furthermore, it is not permissible that the translations be produced from other translations already made into other languages; rather, the new translations must be made directly from the original texts, namely [...] the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, as the case may be, as regards the texts of Sacred Scripture.

I have read the Nova Vulgata, and found it to be uneven and inconsistent. Scholars have been especially critical of Nova Vulgata's treatment of the Deuterocanonicals.

Chrysostom said...

I also find much to be desired in the Nova Vulgata (albeit better than any English Catholic translation).

I keep one around for reference, but when studying the Latin text (as the historical text of the Church) along with or instead of the Greek (of which I have NA27, a Hodges-Farstad Majority Text, Westcott and Hort, and the TBS Textus Receptus... you can guess which ones I prefer), I tend to stick with the Sixto-Clementina Vulgata(?) or whichever one the "old" Vulgate available is. Superior to the new, as many old things are.

Chrysostom said...

Note: I have not read the Nova Vulgata cover to cover, but only several full books, including Sirach (I thought the translation was fine, even if it translated the traditional, longer recension). For the OT I have Rahlf's - I can't afford the Gottingen, and I can't read Hebrew.

Theophrastus said...

I am afraid an extended discussion of Nova Vulgata's Sirach would hijack this thread, so I will make my remarks as brief as possible.

NV Sirach is largely based on the Old Latin version; when the Old Latin differs from the expanded Greek (GII), the NV frequently follows the Old Latin. (Note that Jerome used the Old Latin for his Vulgate and did not make a fresh translation.)

Professor Alexander Di Lella, OFM, of Catholic University of America, critiques the Old Latin at length in his standard commentary on Sirach (Yale Anchor Bible). See pp. 56-57 and 60, and then individual discussions in the later verse commentary.

Theophrastus said...

Getting back to the topic of this thread, Father Somerville-Knapman reprints an e-mail from Archbishop Coleridge:

In answer to your questions, the facts are these. The ESV was chosen over the RSV because the ESV, in its 7% modification of the RSV, seeks to incorporate the fruit of more recent biblical scholarship, i.e. since the publication of the RSV. In other words, the RSV is out-of-date. We were looking for a more up-to-date version of the RSV; and when the NRSV proved impossible, we chose the ESV. Unlike the copyright holders of the NRSV, the copyright holders of the ESV have shown themselves quite open to the kind of changes we would need or want to make for Catholic lectionary purposes; and the copyright arrangements for the project are now in place. What will appear in the lectionary will be a modified form of the ESV. This may in time look to the production of a Catholic edition of the ESV, though that is not decided. I know too little of the permission given to the English ordinariate, but I doubt that it will have an effect on the lectionary we are producing. That would depend on the Holy See. It is very hard to say when the ESV lectionary will be ready for publication. We have all but finished work on the first volume (Sundays and Solemnities), and it may be that the first volume will appear before the others. But it depends on how quickly the bishops of the five Conferences get back to us within the process of consultation. Many of them are keen to have a new lectionary as soon as possible, so it may be that we will have the entire new lectionary by 2014

Timothy said...

Fascinating info Theophrastus. I am going to repost that now, in order to encourage greater discussion.

Chrysostom said...

I should get an SBL Gk NT too. Theophrastus, do you have any experience with it? Where does it sit on the "continuum", and/or from whence does it draw its inspiration?

Or, is it just a plain "reasonably eclectic" Alexandrian critical text such as the NA27 with different choices for A, B, and C readings?

Chrysostom said...

(Note to Tim: please moderate my last comment, I didn't finish this one.)

...And I actually do have the entire AYBC series on the Deuterocanonicals and Protestant Apocrypha, being the only commentary that I could find on all of them. Hermeneia covers some of them, but is ridiculously expensive (I got the eight AYBCs for about $75). There is no commentary available on the deuterocanonicals other than the study-Bible type annotation in the Haydock and the Navarre that treats them as inspired Scripture.

I've never (or very rarely) picked them up after I read Maccabees, with an author who is absolutely obsessed with micro-redaction (well, it's AYBC... I should have known!), but even that didn't turn me off for good until I picked up the commentary on Wisdom, with the author's fringe theory that it was written about the time of the Gospels - at that time, I figured the volumes were more like extended monographs than proper commentary.

My other experiences with the AYBC have been mixed, not that they're bad, but that I know what to expect and don't necessarily agree; however, the "Introduction" by RE Brown is a good introduction to the mainstream of historical criticism (which is so liberal that it would have been torched in the pulpit along with the "conservative" RSV if it was around at the same time, and the pastor would exclaim, "Like the Devil, it's hard to burn!"*) and commentaries on the Books of John by RE Brown are of nearly necessary importance to understand Johannine scholarship of the late 20th century and are eminently worthy for what they are, for they succeed perfectly at what they are meant to be.

I definitely appreciate the direction in which Carson, Keener, and Kostenberger are taking it, but, without RE Brown, Catholics can't claim to have the foremost of all Johannine scholars alive on their side (although we still may be able to claim we have the foremost of all Johannine scholars, alive or dead, on our side). We also have one of the best Lukan scholars, the eponymous dissident Luke Timothy Johnson (author of NTL Hebrews and SP Luke-Acts) whose work doesn't get nearly as much attention as it deserves.

About Sirach... from reading it, I thought it translated the longer recension, as it includes those verses, such as 1:5,1:7, etc. that are generally relegated to the footnotes in modern versions - is there another, longer Greek recension? I was always of the impression that the Latin recension was the long one (I've heard it called the "Pharisaic recension"), and the Greek recension the shorter and more original one - is that backwards?

Speaking of that, I'll go grab my AYBC Sirach off the shelf and flip to the high 50s and read.

*So no one thinks I would do that to the RSV (whether or would or not is immaterial, it would probably get my comment moderated), that is based on an actual event that occurred when the RSV was first released after a massive (for the time) mainstream PR campaign that would never again be repeated in the revolving-door Biblical publishing sphere.

Theophrastus said...

Chrysostom: The SBL Greek NT is available for free. The main motivation behind the SBL Greek NT is to make a modern critical Greek NT (similar to the NA27) that has more liberal licensing terms than the German Bible Society's licensing terms for the NA27.

The German Bible Society has sent "cease and desist" letters to quite a few web sites that use the NA27. They have also threatened students for using the NA27.

Chrysostom said...

You mean to say that they are like the MPAA, and will threaten to sue me for quoting the NA27 in my dissertation?

And, if you could enlighten me on the different recensions of Sirach, I'd appreciate it. I read AYBC Sirach, the pages you pointed out, and am still unsure. Is it that there is a short Greek recension, a longer Latin recension, and an even longer Greek recension? Or the Latin recension and the second Greek recension are the same length? Or, are there only two recensions? And which are which?


Chrysostom said...

...And, what about the Qumran or Cairo Geniza recensions of Sirach? I understand that more than half of Sirach has been found in Hebrew at Qumran and in the Geniza, but I can't read Hebrew and only have a couple of popular copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls in English (e.g. Vermes and Martin/Abegg/Cook).

gerald said...

If Ignatius would plan to dump their lectionaries, it may be better that they sell the rights for the RSV-2CE to other publishers. What a waste if other publishers would benefit from this version just in case Ignatius is not anymore interested in it!

I would not take to see an ESV-Catholic Edition, though in my opinion, ESV is a good version. Since little Protestant blemishes are still left on RSV-2CE, much more that we should be alarmed that these blemishes would be more significant if an ESV-Catholic Edition would come out.