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ESV Bible appeals to Catholics

John Sandeman

The English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible may soon become a favourite for Catholic readers in Australia.

The new Catholic Lectionary (a collection of Bible readings for Churches on a given day) will be based on the ESV, according to Mark Coleridge the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn.

The Catholic Church was originally going to use the NRSV version for the Lectionary according to Coleridge. “However, we struck problems with the copyright holders of the NRSV…” the Archbishop writes on the Canberra Goulburn Catholic website. “We have decided to move away from the NRSV and to prepare the Lectionary using a modified form of the English Standard Version.”

The appeal of the ESV lies in its formal language. It is based on a reworking of the 1946 Revised Standard Version, by a US based group of conservative evangelicals. It takes a literal “word for word” approach to translation. For example, the connecting words in Paul’s letters, (“so”, “therefore” ) which occur more than in normal English are left in. The ESV uses “man” or “men” as a generic term that includes women.

This formality comes at the expense of being an easy Bible to read aloud according to critics.

Up until now the ESV in Australia has been favoured by conservative evangelicals mostly associated with the Sydney Anglicans. For a time it was known as the “Eastern Suburbs version” when Matthias Media, begun from St. Matthias Church in Paddington Sydney, marketed the version, with strongly worded testimonials.

The ESV has also gained a lot of readers recently through making it free to  download. More recently the Holman Christian Standard Bible has also become popular among those who want a more literal, word-for-word Bible.

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