Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RSV-CE vs. RSV-2CE 1

Back in October, I posted a review of the recently released Catholic Bible Concordance: Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, published by Emmaus Road. One of the best features of this concordance was the inclusion of the changes made to the RSV-2CE published by Ignatius Press. Last year, I posted a blog entry which asked a few questions about the Ignatius RSV-2CE, particularly focused on whether there was an official list of all the changes. In reply, Fr. Fessio responded in the comment sections of that post with some additional information about the production of the RSV-2CE, but with little specifics about the number of changes between the RSV-CE and RSV-2CE. Well, thankfully, Emmaus Road has included those changes in their concordance. I would like to thank those who worked on this concordance, particularly CW Lyons and Thomas Deliduka, for taking the time to log all the differences.

So, I have decided to take a look at some of the more important changes between the RSV-CE and the RSV-2CE. I was amazed at how many changes there were, far more than I expected. Ignatius Press indicated that the RSV-2CE eliminated any archaic language, which they have done. I will not be discussing the pros and cons of archaic language, other than to say that its removal is a good thing.

The first change that I wanted to bring to your attention is how the RSV-2CE translated the Hebrew term hesed. The original RSV-CE, as well as the current NRSV and the ESV, translate it as "steadfast love". While the RSV-2CE goes with "mercy" which is also used by the KJV, Douay-Rheims, and NAB. The RSV-2CE changes "steadfast love" to "mercy" 121 times and "steadfast love" to "merciful love" 40 additional times.

It is true that hesed is not the easiest Hebrew word to translate into English. The newly released Catholic Bible Dictionary states: "In the Old Testament, God's "mercy" and "love" are closely related. Two Hebrew terms, hesed and rahamim, are both translated either "mercy" or "love." In reference to mercy, God's hesed is a gift and not a right, but it entails a relationship between God and the one who receives it, who is expected to reciprocate by loving God (p.601-602)."

So what do you think? Mercy or Steadfast Love?


Meg said...

We're all used to Hebrew words like Alleluia and Hosanna.

How about getting used to Hesed (and lets throw in Ruah, too)?

The best definition I've read of Hesed (as it relates to God, not to humans) is "covenant loyalty". God's Hesed-love and mercy and compassion are all about HIS side of the covenant.

Rahamim, of course is a much more pregnant (ha!!) term since the root of the word, RHM is the Hebrew word for womb. Love or mercy or compassion translated from Rahamim might be better translated mother-love, motherly-compassion, motherly-mercy, etc.

When one reads the Bible in Hebrew, one can get a sense of the God's motherly care for us in Rahamim. Or so it seems to me.

I refuse to choose one word, because it cannot BE one word -- it always depends on the context.

Timothy said...


Thanks for the helpful insights. It certainly shows why it is important to have a working ability with the Hebrew and Greek. I, too, like the definition of "covenant loyalty" as well.

Matt said...

In the future, why not combine "Mercy" and "Steadfast Love", if they are both accurate?

"for his merciful love endures forever"

It seems that "steadfast" is already implied by "endures forever", so there is no need to repeat it.

Thus we make everyone happy.

Paul said...

Hi Timothy

I was going to comment and say RSV-CE hands down. However, I went to the entry on hesed in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWBOT) and have become a chastened in that opinion! It makes quite a compelling case for the translational choice of RSV-2CE.

On Sat, I'll ge getting a copy of the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and the first word I'll look up will be hesed.

If you would like, I can cut and paste the entries for you into Word and send them by email.

Timothy said...


That would be great. I would really like to see the entry. You can email me at mccorm45 (at)

I had to redo this comment, since in the last one I put the wrong email down.