Thursday, May 10, 2012

Update on ICSB from Fr. Fessio

Responding to a listener question on a recent Catholic Answers Live radio program, Fr. Fessio of Ignatius Press stated that he hoped the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Old Testament would be completed in a year or two.  That, of course, is nothing new.  We heard that from Dr. Scott Hahn a few months backs on EWTN Bookmark.  What was interesting, however, was that it appears that Ignatius may not ultimately publish the complete ICSB in one volume, but rather two.  Citing the amount of commentary and study helps found in the ICSB, he said they are struggling to figure a way to publish it in one volume.  You can listen to the entire program here.  He answers the ICSB question around minute 32.

Now, what do you think about the real possibility of there never being a complete, one volume edition of the ICSB?  Personally, having examined many study Bibles over the past ten years, including ones like the ESV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible, both of which contain more notes and study helps than the ICSB, I would be highly disappointed if it is only available in two distinct volumes.  Those two study Bibles I just mentioned are full of annotations, contain a ton of extra material in the appendix, and come in many different editions and covers.  The NLT Study Bible, which I am flipping through as I write this post, has well over 300 pages of extra material in the appendix and contains more cross-references and in-text theme notes/person profiles/maps than the ICSB.  The ESV Study Bible, like the recently revised NIV Study Bible, is produced with full-color charts, images, and in-text maps.  When you compare these three study Bibles to the overall look of the ICSBNT, there is a huge difference in appearance and the amount of material contained within.  While the material in the ICSB is outstanding, something that has never been in doubt, the overall look and production quality is sorely lacking.  And the possibility of there not being a one volume edition is simply mind-blowing.  Again and again I continue to wonder what is going on at Ignatius Press concerning the ICSB.  Do they have limitations on what they can do?  Have they looked at other study Bibles on the market?  Where is the promotional support for the ICSB and the RSV-2CE?


owen swain said...

If the ultimate answer to the various questions is a market driven one the answer is the market for a single volume complete OT.NT ICSB RSVCE2nE is very small indeed in comparison the market for Evangelical Protestant study bibles you mention. If the ICSB comes in two distinct editions and in the current format (see the remainder of the comment) I may very well take a complete pass.

The format and size of the current ICSBNT has made it unattractive for practical, daily use regardless of the appeal the notes have to a Catholic of a more conservative bent. The style is dull. The margins pathetic. The paper alone makes it thicker than the other complete Protestant study bibles. IF a complete ICSB is coming I certainly hope Ignatius Press finally enters the real world of suitable paper; not thick, no gloss, phleeease.

As an aside, perhaps because I was once Protestant, I have no interest at all in owning any Protestant study bible in any translation.

P.S. The could tone the cover down too, i.e. loos the icons.

P.S.S. Golly, even I didn't know I had such a strong opinion about this.

Timothy said...


The basic two points you make are spot on: The ICSB is both unattractive and not practical for daily use. Unless you will rely on its E-Book edition, it will simply remain a reference book, and not a true study Bible.

dmw said...

I second the motion to lose the thick, glossy paper. Make the font smaller too. The ICSBNT has 726 pages. If we give the same proportion of pages to an OT edition, that'll be over 2,500 pages. With the present format, font, layout, etc., a combined ICSBOT/NT would be over 3,000 pages!

David said...

I think it all comes down to limitations on what they can do. Despite the fact that they publish the Holy Father's books, they are a very small publisher, compared to some of the ones who's study bibles you mentioned. If it weren't for the Holy Father's books, Scott Hahn and EWTN, not as many people would even be aware of their works.

I also feel their focus is more of a theological one, based on the vast majority of their other output being theological writings of various other well known theologians, for example Cardinal Schonborn and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Even the Wikipedia article on Ignatius Press points out the fact that "one of the main objectives of Ignatius Press was to print English translations of contemporary European theologians."

That's not a high profit market. Publishers like Crossway deal mainly with publishing bibles, and their focus is to saturate the market with as many different versions as possibly to scratch every possible itch a bible reader may have. I think Ignatius publishes more as a service to the faithful who want to learn more deeply about the faith, than just simply the average lay Catholic, who couldn't be bothered to even pick up a bible anyway.

It may be unfortunate to someone who wants all the bells and whistles, but if you desire the knowledge, what is given should be enough to satisfy curiosity. Besides, you can always get the electronic editions of both, and then you'll have both in a portable edition to take with you anywhere you go.

Francesco said...

I'm going to go against the stream and say that I like the current ICSBNT format. I'm never going to go out and buy special pens and highlighters to write in my Bible. The thick paper (what am I saying? Its normal paper!) they print it on is one of the reasons I love reading from it.

I hope they come out with the OT in one or more books.

Diakonos said...

I have known the people at Ignatius Press almost since its inception. Marketing, attractiveness by industry standards, visual appeal...these have never been part of their outlook. Their base has always been - so it seems to me - "what we publish is truth and truth will attract on its own merits."

By and large, with few exceptions, the staff of IP has been the same for 25+years. And Fr. Fessio calls the shots from crossing the "t"s to dotting the "i"s. And most of the foundational staff is 50+ with the higher ups pushing 60s and 70s.

Perhaps things will change when the next generation comes into the scene with professional training in publishing arts and marketing. Knowing the Press as I do, I have never held out hope for a slick handy one volume ICSB and never thought the NT would look much different than what it does.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim. I think I've finally given up on Ignatius Press. What a disappointment they ended up being.

Timothy said...


Perhaps something will change in the coming year or two, but I share your disappointment. I do believe, however, that there are some bright spots ahead for some of the other Catholic translations.

Anonymous said...


I agree with your belief that there are some bright spots for other Catholic translations. I've been pleased with NABRE options, particularly Little Rock's study bible and the New Catholic Answer Bible, and in also the leather edition of the NOAB RSV Expanded edition (though technically not Catholic). With such options, the ICSB will just be a Navarre Bible-type study aid, but not for everyday use or for giving as a gift.

I'm not too happy with the NRSV (Catholic) offerings. Most of them are printed in China and the paper is a little too thin. The exception is the NRSV Catholic Faith and Family edition: printed in USA and thicker paper.

Theophrastus said...

There are obvious advantages to having a single-volume edition.

I simply do not understand that argument that Ignatius is too small a publisher to produce this -- Ignatius, like most publishers, relies on printing companies. I fail to see why they could not contract with a printing company for a single volume (Bible-paper) edition.

Dwight said...

As a writer I know that it's not just the contents that sell a book, no matter how good they may or may not be. There must be an outward appeal that first attracts the eye, and this is something that's been a problem for the ICSB from the beginning. And of course Ignatius can figure out a way to create a single volume; that's just a preposterous statement by Fr. Fessio (I don't believe it was intentionally so, however).
Timothy, any chance of you passing the other great comments in this post along to Ignatius?

Timothy said...


I am not sure they are open to listening to our comments to be honest. For example, I recently passed along to them the desire expressed by many on this blog that the RSV-2CE should come in different editions, like large-print. As of an email reply I received only yesterday, an Ignatius Press rep. said that they will not be producing any new editions of the RSV-2CE in the future. So, I have little hope that the desires or imput from outsiders matters to them.

Diakonos said...

"Input from outsiders..." hmmm hate to say I told you so :) "Truth will attract on its own merit"...:)

Anonymous said...

The "truth" is that I would never buy an Ignatius RSV-2CE bible (study edition or otherwise) as a gift for someone.

Unless Ignatius Press gets their act together and starts printing better editions as discussed on this site, the RSV-2CE will never be more than a footnote in the history of bible editions/translations.

rolf said...

That is not good information about future RSV-2CE editions. I was told about a year or so ago by Ignatius Press e-mail that a large print RSV-2CE edition would come out in 1-2 years. Why would they release a large print edition of the RSV-CE which doesn't make their own top 10 books sold list (like the RSV-2CE does)and not for the RSV-2CE?. All Ignatius Press' current and future endeavors (ICSBNT and the future ICSB) are using the RSV-2CE as their base translations and not the RSV-CE, so why exclude the RSV-2CE from any future editions (like a large print bible)??? If there are licensing issues, how can they continue with their future ICSB? Very disappointing!

Tim Wallace said...

Timothy said...


Thanks for the article. I have some thoughts on what Weigel wrote, but perhaps I will save that for a post next week.

Jonny said...

rolf: The large print RSV-CE was actually in print by Oxford, and they allowed Scepter and Ignatius to put a cover on with their name. The compact edition and the no longer available black leather edition were from Oxford, too.

The ICSB NT has been phenomenal for a men's Bible study at my parish, although we have been at it for several years and no longer use the study questions. I have been for some time now bringing the Haydock Bible as my main one-volume commentary source. I would actually be fine with using the Haydock for the main text of the group, but the ICSB meets the need of having a traditional, orthodox, and doctrinal understanding of Sacred Scripture, along with the modern, critical theories espoused by Bibles such as the NABRE. In short, it is meeting us where we are at as a Catholic Church in the United States. I personally find deeper insights in the Haydock, especially when engaged in active discussion and many off the wall questions arise.

Besides my preference for the Douay-Rheims version, there are more than a few places I find the RSV-2CE disappointing. Especially memorable is Luke 1:34, where the ICSB itself claims it to be a bad translation. I have posted this link on this blog before about the ESV: The author here examines the improvements made on the RSV by the ESV translators. A lot of the changes made to make the ESV more literal and accurate revert back to the rendering of the KJV and/or DRV. (If it's not broke... don't fix it?) I am still not totally sold on the ESV. It, like the NABRE and others, borrows a lot from the KJV including even some of the italicized words which were interpretive additions by the translators.

So what do we do, as Catholics who desire a modest set of handy reference material to accompany our Bible study? My advice: buy a few different resources for maps and charts, photocopy the best of them all and put them in a binder to take with your favorite translation! But I don't think I could ever see the RSV-2CE as being an end-all, be-all, ultimate Catholic Study Bible, even if they beefed up the cross-references.

Vince C said...

I too am disappointed to hear that Ignatius doesn't seem to be interested in producing a quality one volume study Bible, which I had my heart set on as my next (and possibly last, since I'm not getting any younger) primary Bible. I guess I'll spend my money elsewhere. :(