Thursday, August 1, 2013

Your Bible: Jonny's RSV-CE

I wrote a post for this blog a while back about the Douay-Rheims Bible, and how it was instrumental to my conversion to the Catholic Church.  I will always have a deep affection and appreciation for the Douay-Rheims Bible, and it continues to be one of the few translations I read on a regular basis.  However, after I became Catholic, I began to be active in various ministries throughout my parish, and found I needed a more modern translation to communicate the Scriptures more effectively.  This post is not only features the Bible I use for ministry, but is also the story of how I came to use that particular edition.

The first modern English Catholic Bible I bought was a 1991 NAB.  I was excited about this because as a Protestant I had general distrust in modern translations, but I felt like I could trust the NAB because it had official Catholic approval.  I turned out that I really didn’t care for the translation after being spoiled on the D-R and more literal non-Catholic translations.  Then one day, in a parish gift shop, I spotted the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.  It was the blue-covered, Ignatius Press reprint of the original 1966 edition.  As I thumbed through and read here and there, I saw that this Bible had more formal language, and the font and page layout were more traditional looking as well.  When I saw the self-pronouncing text I was sold for sure, despite the Bible’s overall humble appearance.

I have really enjoyed reading out of this edition, and definitely got my money’s worth, but I was a little disappointed as the glossy blue cover began flaking away.  I then began looking for another edition that was a little nicer.  I think I got one of every edition of the RSV-CE available, but there seemed to be some serious defect with each of them: cheap leather, no cross-references, glued binding, manifold typos (that edition is no longer available), or any combination of the above.  I also searched web and bookstore for any and all Catholic translations and available editions, and collected what I considered the best specimen of each.  In the end of this search, I was left even more frustrated than what I was in the beginning!
For it was during this time of intense Bible collecting I increased in responsibility with the various ministries in my parish.  As I interacted with an increasing number of Priests, Deacons, and lay people of all ages, I came to realize there are four points that need to be true of a Bible I use for ministry:

a)      Must be translated from the original languages
b)      Must have an imprimatur
c)       Must not use excessive inclusive language
d)      Must say “Hail, full of grace” in Luke 1:28

I know that list might seem like a bit superficial, but my experience has been that those are the four points that are recurring obstacles to using a Bible to interact amongst Catholics.  Long story short, the RSV-CE has proven, in my experience, to be the most universally accepted translation for use in ministry.

So now back to the story of “My Bible.”  Given the information above, I found it meet to give Ignatius RSV-CEs as gifts to some of my Catholic friends.  This was a couple of years after I had purchased mine with the flakey cover, and I noticed on the new ones I bought that the deep blue color was replaced by a brighter blue cover of the same design.  I wondered if the new one was better, so I ordered one for myself.  I found that my old one was published by Thomas Nelson for Ignatius Press in the U.S., while the new one was printed in Colombia, apparently with Ignatius applying the covers themselves.  The new cover was of better quality, and didn’t peel, but the book was not bound together well.  I decided to grin and bear the imperfection.  A year of so later, I gave the newer copy away to a friend and ordered another new copy for myself.  This one was slightly better, but still not acceptable for a plain hardcover reprint of a book published in 1966 that costs over 30 dollars!  I finally called Ignatius Press and told them of the trouble I had with that particular book, and they sent me a very nice copy with an even, tight binding. This is the Bible I have used as my basic, primary Bible for all things officially connected to my parish ministries ever since.

A few more details about the Ignatius RSV-CE are in order.  As I mentioned before, this is a self-pronouncing edition, meaning that most of the proper names have the phonetic markings printed on the first occurrence of each name per paragraph.  This is also the only edition of the RSV-CE that has the original RSV-CE cross references.  There are a lot in the NT, less in the OT, and none in Deuterocanonical books.  Yet it has more than any other edition of the RSV-CE, which have none at all.  It is actually an exact reprint, page for page, of the original 1966 edition.  I know that because I know someone who owns the 1966 Thomas Nelson edition.  It has the burgundy hardcover with gold lettering just like the original Thomas Nelson Protestant RSVs did.  Like the original, it is also sadly lacking a map section.  I carry my copy in a Bible cover loaded with glossy inserts available from Rose Publishing.  One of the inserts is a booklet entitled “Then and Now Bible Maps Insert,” which has proven to be more useful than the map sections in other Bibles I own.  So that’s it.  No fancy leather or ribbons, just the basic stuff I need to get the job done.  I hope you are as surprised as I was!

Thank you Jonny!  The plan is to make this a monthly series.  So, if you are interested in participating, just send me an email, mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com, and we'll talk.


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting.

I do have a couple questions, for I am not very well educated in this area.

You say that a bible: Must not use excessive inclusive language

What is inclusive language?

And... Must say “Hail, full of grace” in Luke 1:28...


Can you recommend a reliable article on the history of the Douay-Rheims Bible?

Thank you for taking the time to post this blog. It is very insprational.

Diakonos09 said...

Very interesting. On the 4 points, particularly the last one ("Hail, full of grace") as a longtime parish catechist of all ages, child-adult, I totally agree. Not meaning to go totaly off-topic ont his but it did bring up a long standing question in my mind.

I have found the Good News Bible to be (in general) a great start for youth and even many adults and then move on from there. But here is a question I have never been able to find an answer to (and maybe Timothy knows it): HOW in the world can Luke 1:28 be translated as "Peace be with you" (Godd News Bible) and receive an imprimatur? I have even written a couple of times to the USCCB Bible department for an answer and have never received one. If Catholics editions of the GNT could be ammended to have this translation change it wuould be a great Bible for beginners.

Jonny said...


By inclusive language, I mean gender neutralizing the text when the original language has "man" or masculine pronouns. Translations that try to expunge the patrichal character of the Bible have to resort to changing the text by omitting words or neutralizing them by making them plural. The masculine language is especially important in the Psalms and Prophets who prophecy about our Lord come in the flesh... "Blessed be the man", etc. Not only that, but we Catholics believe that the Bible is inspired by God, that is to say, that God is the primary author of Scripture. In Genesis 5:2, the Scripture tells us that "Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created." (RSV-CE) The word "Man" here is the same word as the proper name "Adam", which leaves no doubt that this word "Man" was intended to be inclusive of both men and women. There is a deeper theology behind all of this, but simply put, it is part of God's plan for men to have the servant-leadership role in Church and in the family (the Domestic Church.) Read Ephesians 5:21-33 for some explicit references to why we were created "Men" and "Women" and how we are to reflect God and the Church in the sacrament of Marriage.

The other question, about "Full of Grace", I simply have to say that Mary was full of grace from the moment of her conception. That is what the Church teaches, and there is extensive theology behind this, especially in how the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament prefigured Mary's Immaculate Conception. This is one of those verses that could be translated many ways, but "full of grace" is what best captures the meaning in English. You can hear scholars argue both sides, but the Church formally teaches in the Catechism that the meaning is "Full of Grace", see CCC 490.

Regarding the Douay-Rheims Bible, I have to recommend getting one and just digging in! The Haydock version is over $100 dollars, but there is soooo much information in there, it is definitly worth the cost. You will find articles about the Vulgate, the D-R, and massive commentaries on the Scriptures, much of which is not available in any other study Bible!

Eric Barczak said...

If you don't want to buy a full Haydock, the notes are also available online at:

I've been working with the 2nd Ed of Ignatius' RSV and it is truly a wonderful Bible. I had purchased it along with a used/abridged copy of the Jerusalem Bible (which I had previous experience with) and somehow I keep turning to the Ignatius RSV/2 each time.

Matt McKillip said...

Nice post Jonny. Enjoyed talking about this with you an Kim tonight after our dinner. -Matt

Jonny said...

I happened to check out Ignatius press website just now, and the RSV-CE is gone!

The Oxford large print and compact versions are still available, as well as the Family Bibles. The Oxford editions are the ones I mentioned that have no cross-references, which is why the blue one was better. I do have the family Bible, too, it is very nice. There are many classic paintings throughout as well as a family history section, full color Catholic devotions and dictionary.

But anyway, is the blue Ignatius Bible going out of print? Are they clearing out their stock to make way for the RSV-2CE study Bible? I am glad I got a decent copy before they ran out!