Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RSV vs. NRSV Prologue II

Before I begin analyzing the Catholic Editions of the RSV and NRSV, I did want to make some additional preliminary thoughts:

1) In the previous post I mentioned that I would only be looking at the RSV and NRSV. Through my own study and work in ministry, I have found that they are the most useful to me. This is not to say that the NAB or NJB are not good Bible translations. While I do have some issues with the NAB and NJB, they both can be good for the average Catholic. However, the NAB seems to be in need of constant revision (which is being done for the OT currently) and there is suppose to be a new edition of the NJB in the works.

2) One may ask why I am going to review the original RSV-CE and not the RSV-2CE that has been published by Ignatius Press. While I do own the RSV-2CE, I am not comfortable using it because Ignatius Press has been too vague about the alterations made to the text (outside of the archaic language) and the committee (or person) who made the changes. I am also, at this time, unsure of whether or not the RSV-2CE will stand the test of time. It is only being produced by a small Catholic publishing house, while the others have or had multiple publishers.

3) When looking at these two translations, it will be coming from the perspective of a man who works in full-time ministry to young adults and college students, as well as a graduate student in theology. While the translation, itself, will be the main issue, other issue like reference tools/helps, available editions, and use in prayer/liturgy will also be important.

4) I am aware of the NRSV Anglicized text, which seems to be the standard edition that has been produced in all of the newer HarperColllins NRSV Bibles. Since the differences are not that big between the two, I will not be making any reference to it.

5) Finally, I would like to point out a few reference works that I will be using during this process:
Fee and Strauss How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth, 2007.
Kraus Choosing a Bible For Worship, Teaching, Study, Preaching, and Prayer, 2006.
Comfort Essential Guide to Bible Versions, 2000.
Metzger The Bible in Translation, 2001.
McReynolds Word Study Greek-English NT, 1999.


ElShaddai Edwards said...

Sounds good, Tim. I'm looking forward to your thoughts in this series. I've also just ordered the Fee/Strauss and Kraus books, and look forward to them as well.

Esteban Vázquez said...

I, for one, would be interested in finding out what exactly makes the NRSV-CE a Catholic Bible. As you know, what makes the RSV-CE a Catholic Bible (other than the inclusion of all the books in the Tridentine Canon) is the textual changes in the NT that bring it into closer conformity to the "ecclesiastical text" then in use for the Liturgy (cfr. St Luke 24:12), along with the translational changes that reflect the traditional Catholic understanding of certain texts (cfr. St Luke 1:28). Are there similar changes in the NRSV-CE? If not, what makes this a Catholic NRSV?

I do wish the good folks at Ignatius would produce a list of the changes made to the RSV-2CE Old Testament. How hard can that be? Why hide it, if these changes are such an improvement on the text? Based on my reading, of course, I have found very little to dispute, but I wonder why the secrecy. (My personal theory is that, since they claim that the imprimatur of the 1CE extends to the 2CE because the changes are minimal, producing too long a list could cause an official declaration from the ecclesiastical authorities to the effect that the RSV-2CE does not, in fact, have an imprimatur after all.)

Timothy said...


As I am sure you know in regards to the NRSV, there are no difference for the Catholic edition, other than the inclusion of the Deuterocanonicals. I think, probably, the biggest difference is that there was more representation on the RSV Translation Committee for the NRSV. The interesting thing to see is what will come of the NRSV-CE in the Canadian Mass. Will there be substantial differences? If so, will they produce a new edition? The NAB heard in Mass is not the same as the NAB that is sold in stores.

Esteban Vázquez said...

Tim, thanks for the information! I was actually not aware of that--I have only seen a NRSV-CE once, a few years ago, while visiting the Bishop Baraga Bookstore of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids--and I didn't have much time to look at it then.

It is often the case that the text in lectionaries corresponds to no translation actually available on the shelves, even if they are based on them: this isn't only the case with the NAB-based lectionaries in the US, but in Spanish with the lectionaries based on the Nueva Biblia Española, approved for use in Spain and a number of Latin American countries. One would think that some effort could be put into producing full Roman Catholic translations that can be used unchanged in the liturgy! This would require, however, a paradigm shift: such a translation would have to be based on an ecclesiastical, rather than critical, text.

Meg said...

Tim, I'm not sure what your concern is about the NRSV and the Canadian lectionary.

Our lectionary uses Scripture adapted from the NRSV. How would that change?

BTW, I just learned this week that there is a standing committee that works on keeping the RSV up to date. I had no idea.

Anonymous said...

The questions have been asked: who made the changes to the RSV-2CE? what are they? and why the secrecy?

The answer to the first question is not simple, but here's the essence of the answer. Ignatius Press wanted to reprint the RSVCE lectionary. A new OL (Ordo Lectionum) had been issued which required that any new printing of a lectionary follow the new OL. So IP modified the RSV-2CE Lectionary to conform to the new OL. It was reviewd by the Congregation for Divine Worship. We were surpsrised that the CDW required any changes at all to the RSVCE. We made the changes and, with approval of the CDW, removed archaic language (Thee, Thou, etc.).
At the same time, the CDW was producing "Liturgiam Authenticam" which became and is normative for liturgical and biblical translations. Since there was a pattern to the changes required by the CDW, IP simply made those same changes to the parts of the Bible not included in the lectionary.
The result is that the RSV-2CE Lectionary and Bible are the only lectionary and Bible that are compliance with "Liturgiam Authenticam".

The answer to the third question (why the secrecy about the changes?) will answer the second (what are they?). We didn't keep a list of the changes. We accepted some the CDW made without discussion; others we discussed and sometimes made them, sometimes convinced the CDW there was no need to make them, or an alternative was better. This process took *years*. I'm not sure we evan have the materials that would show which changes were made. And I (who, you may have suspected by now, am the editor of Ignatius Press) do not want to ask our overburdened productin department to do the research, if it is even possible, to make a list which is only of interest to a very small number of people.

And a last, immodest word about our being a "small Catholic publisher". Last year the books we sold would stack up over 16 miles high. In a three year period we could surpass the total number of volumes in all of Notre Dame University's 11 libraries (which they say is "nearly 3 million volumes").

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Ignatius Press