Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fine Tuning the ICSB and RSV-2CE (Guest Post)

Thanks to guest blogger Jonny for this post.

Fine Tuning For The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
I am just one of certainly many who deeply appreciate the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.  As a convert from Protestantism, the ICSB provided me with detailed, faithfully Catholic notes to help me understand the Scriptures that had been interpreted to me incorrectly in various ways by many people.  The ICSB and study questions also provided the resource for a group of Catholic men at my parish to have an excellent Catholic Bible study (as the priests are much to busy to lead every small group.)  The RSV-2CE was the most universally acceptable translation for this diverse group.  Cradle Catholics of various ages, Protestant converts, and Traditionalists could find common ground in acceptance of this translation.  Also, the ICSB notes and study questions complemented and enhanced my RCIA experience, the homilies, and many other things included in my search for a deep understanding of what the Catholic Church believes.  I would later find the Haydock Bible, the older Catechisms, writings of Saints, and other resources, but the ICSB remains for me in regular use as an excellent modern commentary on Sacred Scripture.  I look forward to the release of the entire Bible.

Despite my appreciation of the ICSB, and my excitement about the forthcoming edition containing the entire Bible, I do have some qualms with the RSV-2CE translation that I would like to see changed before the entire Bible is released in the next couple of years.  These range from simple stylistic details that are pet peeves, to things that conflict with the dictates of Liturgiam Authenticam and things that are detrimental to the Christolgical continuity of the Bible as a whole.  I will list them below in order of appearance.

1. Gen 12:3.  Go with the alternate reading “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  That is the interpretation quoted by St. Paul in Gal 3:8, used in the CCC #59 & 2676, and also in the D-R, KJV, ESV, and NRSV.

2. Gen 12:7, 13:15 & 16, 17:19, etc.  “Descendants” is not a bad translation… until you get to Galatians 3:16 in the NT and find out the word was meant to remain ambiguous as being singular or plural as in the Hebrew and Greek words for “seed.”  I personally like the traditional, literal translation “seed,” and it shows continuity from Gen. 3:15 which also has “seed,” but the NRSV and the ESV’s use of the word “offspring” is acceptable as well.  Why purposely translate a Christological reference out of the OT?  One is especially referred to the Genesis/Galatians passages in the NABRE to see an even worse example of preserving the continuity of the Testaments.

3. Gen 22:1, 7, 11, 46:2, Ex 3:4, Is 6:8, 52:6, 65:1, Heb 2:13.  “Here am I?!”  How about “Here I am!”  This also is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and one should note the more natural English was used in most instances in the D-R and KJV, and was brought back in the NRSV and ESV 2011.

4. Genesis 37:3, 23, 32.  Joseph’s “Long robe with sleeves.”  Take a cue from the ESV and go with the traditional rendering everyone wants to hear: “a coat of many colors.”  When the Hebrew is obscure, the traditional rendering is a good choice, especially when supported by the Vulgate and the Greek.

5. Ps. 16:10.  “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit.”  Ignatius Press, thank you for Is. 7:14, but can we see the NT quotation harmonized here as well?  For “You will not let your Holy One see corruption,” see Acts 13:35 and also Ps. 16 in the Revised Grail that will be eventually incorporated into the NAB, LOTH, and Mass.

6. Ps. 109:8.  “May another seize his goods” would be better translated to conform to its quotation in the NT, Acts 1:20.  See the D-R, KJV, Revised Grail Psalms, NABRE, ESV, etc.

7. Micah 5:2.  Prophecy of the Son of God coming in the flesh, “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”  The reality of the Son’s eternity is better rendered in the D-R, KJV, and the ESV.  The RSV revisers would have better left alone the Revised Version’s “goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

8. Unless I am reading “Liturgiam Authenitcam” #23 incorrectly, I think we should seeing “Amen” instead of “Truly,” and “Alleluia” instead of “Hallelujah” throughout the NT.  Other than this, the RSV-2CE seems to follow LA fairly well, although I think a hyper-literal translation with a rich Catholic flavor (based on the “classics” like the D-R and KJV) is really what LA is calling for.  I think that if Ignatius followed the suggestions in this post the RSV-2CE would be closer to the mark.

9. Matt. 5:32.  “Except on the ground of unchastity…”  I have heard this, like the NIV’s “marital unfaithfulness,” misinterpreted to mean that divorce is permissible if one of the spouses cheats.  The traditional and more literal “fornication” would be better here to convey the meaning of the situation (that is quite different from adultery.)  The note in the RSV-CE helps explain the text, but ultimately the Biblical text itself is most crucial in apologetics.

10. Luke 1:34.  Mary’s “How can this be, since I have no husband?”  The first part, “How can this be” contradicts many major translations including D-R, KJV, RSV 1971, NAB, NRSV, ESV that include the traditional rendering “How shall this be.”  It also suggests a contradiction to Catholic doctrine that states that the miraculous conception happened later at Mary’s acceptance (“be it done to me according to thy word.” See CCC 494.)  The last part in the RSV’s “since I have no husband” is even more erroneous.  It even states in the ICSB notes that Mary’s “betrothal to Joseph was already a legally binding marriage.” Newer interpretations, such as the ESV and NRSV’s “How will this be, since I am a virgin” also fall short in meaning, because the last thing a virgin maiden engaged to be married would wonder about is how she might be getting pregnant!   It is a firm Catholic dogma that Mary was a perpetual virgin (CCC 499), so she was not, obviously, intending to consummate her marriage to Joseph.  Only the traditional, literal translation “since I don’t know man” really captures the meaning.  This is traditionally a widely used verse for apologetics and catechesis regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary and the miraculous conception of Jesus.  Don’t include a note that explains why this is a poor translation… change the translation!

11. 1 Cor. 7:25, 28, 36, 37, 38.  The Greek actually has “virgin,” not “unmarried,” “girl,” or “betrothed.”  I think especially in the last 3 instances listed the interpretation is detrimental to the meaning of the text and encourages someone to interfere with a couple who are already engaged to married.

To Ignatius Press: I get the impression from what I have read from Ignatius Press about the RSV-2CE that the intention was to do as light of a revision as possible, primarily removing archaic language, to make it liturgically acceptable.  Therefore, the RSV-CE 1 & 2 would still be relatively compatible.  Given the extent of the changes at this point, I personally don’t see that to be the case.  My advice is to go through the entire Bible again without worrying about changing the RSV-CE so much, and make any additional minor improvements, especially in the sour spots mentioned above.  Some of these readings are reasons that Protestants and Catholics turned their noses up to the RSV long ago.  You have done so much good to the RSV-CE so far, why not go the rest of the way, and dispense, for the most part, with the RSV-CE 1 & 2 and focus on getting the ICSB released in various editions?  The ICSB would make an excellent Family Bible to read from as the rest of the family followed along in their own smaller ICSB personal editions in various colors (including pink….)  I would also strongly recommend a fresh imprimatur and an at least an introduction by Scott Hahn, but lo, these are subjects due their own post altogether.

To the Catholic Bibles blog readers: What are your suggestions?  Are there other things you think need to be changed in the RSV-2CE?  Are any of my suggestions better left alone?  If you agree with my statements, please respond with support, and perhaps the good people of Ignatius Press will see this post and consider fine tuning the ICSB before it is released.  To me, it looks like the ICSB will be the best Catholic Study Bible in modern english for years to come, but I would much rather say it is “excellent” in its own right, than to say it is the simply the “best one available!”


rolf said...

The RSV-2CE (as it is) has already been approved by the Vatican for use and is being used in the Catholic Liturgy in several countries. I don't think that there will be any changes anytime soon.

Biblical Catholic said...

You may be pointing to real problems, but it is important to keep in mind that IgnatIus Press does not own the RSV, the RSV is owned by the National Council oF Churches, and they are very protective of the text. Ignatius probably made about as many changes as the NCC would allow them to make. It would be different, of course, if the RSV were in the public domain and publishers were free to use the RSV text in any way they saw fit, including making any changes to the text they wanted, but as it is, the text is licensed to Ignatius by the NCC and they are not free to simply do what they want with it.

Of course, now is the time for me to note that, if not for the Copyright Act of 1978, and its amendments in the Sonny Bono act of 1998, the RSV would have fallen into the public domain no later than 2008 and the idea of getting permission would be a moot point. As it is, under the Sonny Bono Act, the RSV will remain under copyright until at least 2072....120 years after publication.

Biblical Catholic said...

And I thought that I would add....all of the problems you point to are fixed in the what you really want i think is an ESV Catholic Edition.....if you like the RSV style and language, that is largely preserved in the ESV.

Jonny said...

I might have also included Luke 1:52 (from the Magnificat:) "and the rich he has sent empty away." Not only was this more natural in the original D-R ("sent away empty"), and likewise in the ICEL translation used in the Liturgy of the hours for the past 40+ years, but even some pre-Vatican II prayerbooks changed the DRC translation here as well.

I have a hard time believing such minor changes I have suggested would be disallowed by the copyright owners considering the extensive changes already made, (including adding additional verses!)

Anonymous said...

Wow, what's with the Sonny Bono Act?

Biblical Catholic said...

Sonny Bono actually said that he wanted to make copyrights valid forever, make so they would never expire. But he was then informed that this would be unconstitutional, because the Constitution says that copyrights and patents are valid only 'for a short time', so he then suggested that copyrights should last forever minus one day.

As it was, the Sonny Bono act really only brought US law into conformity with previously existing international law. Under the pre-1978 copyright law, a work was under copyright for 28 years, the owner of the copyright had the option of renewing it in the last year for a second term of 28 years, after that the work went into the public domain.

This relatively weak copyright protection in the US had long been a source of contention outside the US because other nations allow for much longer copyrights. And indeed, for a long time, any work which originated outside the US could never be copyrighted within the US.

In 1978, Congress amended copyright law to allow for copyrights to exist for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years for works done by an individual, and the life of the author plus 75 years for a work done for a corporate entity (such as, say, directing a movie or writing a Donald Duck comic book or something) and for 100 years for works done for a corporation by a group.

In 1998, the Sonny Bono act extended the 1978 law by 20 years. So works are copyrighted for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years for works done by an individual, life of the author plus 95 years for works done by a corporation by an individual, and for a total of 120 years for works done by a committee for a corporation. This is the way the law is written in most of the world.

So the RSV was copyright by a corporation, namely the National Council of Churches, and it was done by a committee, so by the 1998 law, it's copyright extends to at least 2072.....but it probably isn't as simple as that, because it was first published, the RSV was re-copyrighted in 1957, 1966, 1973 and 1977. So really the last one, 1977, is probably the valid one, and that last for 120 years, or until 2097.

Under the pre-1978 law, the RSV could have only been copyrighted for a maximum of 56 years, so the copyright would have expired no later than 2008 = 1952+56.

rolf said...

The only change I would make to the RSV-2CE text right now would be to make the font size BIGGER (on the Ignatius Bible). The study bible is ok, but the standard bible has not been offered in a large print (11-14) version nearing 7 years. The RSV-2CE has become Ignatius' flagship translation, and not offering a large print edition to many of their aging readers is not acceptable or good business! How hard could this be to do???
Sorry Timothy, but I am going to continue ranting about this until one becomes available.

Timothy said...


Keep up the crusade! There should have been a large print, and compact, RSV-2CE by now.

Jonny said...

Ignatius continues to support the original RSV-CE by offering the large print, compact, and family Bible editions. It is as if Ignatius Press considers the RSV-2CE as just an alternative to the original, or they are waiting for the Study Bible to be completed to offer the 2nd edition in all of these formats.

Any edition of the RSV-CE 1 or 2 or the NRSV-CE (or even any RSV or NRSV w/Deuteros for that matter) is quite inadequate in terms of cross references in the OT, especially into and out of the Deutrocanonical books. The study Bible will greatly improve this situation, and I would not be suprised to see more editions available once that is completed. But even if that were so, I would be suprised to see the popular "blue Bible" go away. The ICSB would blow away the currently available RSV-CE as a family Bible and the same format could also double as a large print edition! I am not holding my breath, but I am giving Ignatius Press the benefit of the doubt until I see how they handle the ICSB.

Jonny said...

The ESV does improve on some of the quirks (in my opinion) of the RSV, but I still, overall, prefer the more traditional style and renderings of the RSV, CE, and 2CE.

Gordon Turner said...

What is the CE and 2ce??

Gordon Turner said...

What is the CE and 2ce???

Gordon Turner said...

What is the CE and 2ce???

Timothy said...

CE- Catholic Edition
2CE - Second Catholic Edition

Gordon Turner said...

Timothy, thank u for your clarification and still I think Ignatius press is taking too long on the study bible in both testaments. Why has there been few revisions to the NAB??

Timothy said...

Gordon, since it's initial publication in 1970 there have been three revisions in total, one to the NT, one to the psalms, and one to the entire OT (including Psalms again). They are now revising the NT again. I think they are still trying to figure out what style and translation theory works best.

Red Baron said...

If you go to Catholic Answers Forums (, search for a thread entitled "RSV-CE Needs Correction". I believe you'll find quite a wealth of suggestions and other comments of interest there.