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Catholic ESV Lectionary on hold

August 11, 2013

I previously reported on International Commission for the Preparation of an English-language Lectionary (ICPEL) to prepare a new lectionary (for use outside North America) based on the ESV translation.  I remarked:

Third, and this is most surprising, the ICPEL has apparently chosen a translation that had no Catholic involvement at all.  The ESV (which some jokingly call the Evangelical Standard Version or the Elect Standard Version) had a strictly Protestant (and largely Calvinist) translation team.  (The Translation Oversight Committee and Translation Review Scholars were also all male.)  The RSV Apocrypha was adopted by Oxford University Press and four male Protestant scholars to form the ESV Apocrypha.  The ESV has never received approval as a Catholic Bible (as opposed to a Catholic Lectionary), and it is hard to imagine how it could be approved as Catholic Bible under Canon law 825.  However, lectionaries are governed under a different Canon law (838), which is why in most jurisdictions (including the US) approved Bibles have different text than approved lectionaries.

Well, now, there are rumors that plans for a Catholic ESV Lectionary have been put on hold – or perhaps abandoned:

I found this out from the mouth of the man in charge of it all when I was at the “Great Grace” Conference in Sydney back in June. I could hardly believe it myself. It seems that this now sets back the entire lectionary project (they had the Sunday lectionary practically ready to go), as there was no agreement on which translation they should use as an alternative. Apparently there is a sizable body of opinion simply wanting to rework the Jerusalem Bible lections

HT:  Tim

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 11, 2013 9:16 pm

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on this!

  2. August 11, 2013 10:58 pm

    It is extremely peculiar that lectionary translations would not be governed by the same principles as bible translations. How is a lectionary not a “book of the sacred scriptures”? I would expect lectionaries to be governed by *both* 825 (scriptural book) and 838 (liturgical book), not 838 instead of 825.

  3. August 11, 2013 11:33 pm

    Victoria, first, I’m not a Canon lawyer, so this is just my read. But, having said that, both Canon 825 and 838 primarily delineate the responsibilities that devolve to various parties: the Apostolic See, conferences of bishops, diocesan bishops, and everyone. Those responsibilities are different for the two canons (825 permits translations published by Catholics [possibly working with non-Catholics] and leaves approval up to conferences of bishops; 838 requires more active participation by the conferences [preparing and publishing] and requires the approval of Rome) — so my understanding is that they have entirely different processes.

    And that’s how American Catholics ended up with one version of the NAB for their Bibles and a different version of the NAB for their Lectionaries! (Similarly, the Canadian Lectionary is based on but does not quite match the NRSV; the British Lectionary is based on but does not quite match the Jerusalem Bible). See Liturgiam Authenticam 35.

    Postscript: Note that Liturgiam Authenticam places some strange requirements on translations. Every modern translation of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals that I am aware of uses Rahlfs or Göttingen for the Septuagint text; but LA 37 requires that the deuterocanonical text exactly match the textual basis used by Nova Vulgata (which essentially has the same textual basis as the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate). I think that this is an issue which troubles a great many biblical scholars.

  4. August 12, 2013 12:05 am

    Theophrastus, thanks for your reply. I did notice that the two canons were focused on the different relevant authorities, and it appears to me that 838 is intended to be more stringent in the sense of involving higher authorities than 825. In that way, too, it seemed as if the intent would have been that lectionaries be governed by 838 *in addition to* 825, because why ever would Rome or the bishops want to use lectionaries that had been translated by non-Catholics???

    I agree LT’s specification of the exact source texts is peculiar. I can appreciate that the Vulgate has a special place in the Latin Rite church, similar to the way that the LXX has a special place in the Christian church: in both cases, this particular translation was highly influential both liturgically and theologically. But that special place need not, and arguably ought not, be expressed by mandating that its source text be used as the basis of new translations…


  1. The Catholic ESV Lectionary? | BLT
  2. Biblical Studies Carnival: August, 2013 | NEAR EMMAUS

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