The Catholic Bible ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition comfortable, quality text-only edition of the English Standard Version – Catholic Edition that invites both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to actually sit down and read the Word of God.
This review of the ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition will consider two important aspects of this newly published Bible from Cambridge University Press. First, we will look at the physical characteristics of the book itself. Second, we will analyze the contents.
ESV-CE Catholic Bible, Cornerstone Edition
Cambridge University Press
September 8, 2022
ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition Physical Characteristics
The ESV-CE Catholic Bible Cornerstone Edition is offered in three bindings: Black imitation leather, Burgundy imitation leather, and Black cowhide leather. The copy I have is Black imitation leather, ISBN 9781009087407. It measures about 6.75” x 9.875” and is about 1.25” thick. The actual page size is specified as 5.90” (150mm) x 9.13” (232mm).
From the Cambridge University Press page about the ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition:
The Bibles are built to last and have fully sewn bindings, allowing the Bible pages to lie flat when open, as well as giving strength and durability.
A large format Bible, the Cornerstone Edition uses a contemporary font in a generous size for ease of reading. Presented in a double-column paragraph format, there are explanatory notes and section headings to aid understanding and navigation. At the back is a section of maps and plans detailing the world of the Bible.
Mine came in a nice box that measures about 7.00” x 10.125” x 1.375” and opens like a book. That’s actually pretty nice for me, since I prefer a hard-cover Bible and this one is not offered with that binding. The smooth black faux leather cover is imprinted with the words HOLY BIBLE in gold on the front and has an embossed circular patterned figure about the same width underneath. It is a sewn binding rather than glued, and lays flat and stays open in the box, on a table, or in my lap. The pages are gold gilt edged and there is a red ribbon marker.
The pages are in 2-column text, with generous margins so that the text does not roll into the gutter at the binding. It is very readable and with good line spacing there is ample white space on the page. The typeface is specified on the copyright page as being “Milo Serif 9.5 point on 10.6 point.” Not being familiar with that phrasing, I asked and learned it means the typed size is 9.5 point and the line spacing is 10.6 points.
I’ve checked several pages and it appears this Bible is printed with line-matched text. That means the lines of text on both sides (front and back) of a page are aligned with each other. This helps to reduce ghosting on thin pages and is a sign of the quality of workmanship that has gone into production of this Bible.
Like most ESV Bibles, the text is in paragraph format. Section headings are in the text, also a standard part of ESV Bibles. They are in bold upper-case letters. Very large numbers mark the chapters, with smaller numbers indicating verses that do not distract from reading the Bible text. Footnote markings are even smaller and lighter. Books of the Bible always begin on a new page. This is a black-letter text edition, meaning the words of Christ are not in red letters. That’s the way I happen to like it.
This is a text edition and does not contain any book introductions, cross references or explanatory study notes. This is the “Catholic Edition” because of the Biblical content, and it does not contain anything extra that expresses Catholic doctrine. Standard ESV footnotes on translation or variant readings are included.
Before the Bible text, the ESV-CE Catholic Bible Cornerstone Edition has a presentation page followed by a 6-page family record section. There is a title page, a copyright page, a table of contents in canonical order and one in alphabetical order. This is followed by a Forward to the ESV-CE, the Preface to the ESV Bible, and an Introduction to the ESV-CE. After the Bible text is a Table of Weights and Measures followed by 12 pages of maps. There is no concordance.
ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition Contents
The English Standard Version (ESV) is among the most highly regarded Bible translations for both its accuracy and readability. It is described by the publisher as an “essentially literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English.” The ESV was first published by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, in 2001, and updated in 2007, 2011, and 2016.
From the Cambridge University Press page about the ESV-CE Cornerstone Edition:
The Cambridge Cornerstone Bible uses the text of the ESV Catholic Edition, produced by a team of more than 80 leading scholars. It includes all 73 books of the Bible accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, including the Greek texts of Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach and Baruch, as well as the additions to the texts of Daniel and Esther. All the books appear in Septuagint order.
This Catholic Edition contains all 66 books of the original ESV plus seven additional books of the Apocrypha along with additional text for Esther and Daniel. These additional books are known as the Deuterocanon, or “Second Canon” considered by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) to be inspired scripture. It should be noted here that though these 73 books make up the canon of the RCC, there are a number of different canons of Scripture used in Christian traditions throughout the world. Hence, this ESV-CE, or English Standard Version – Catholic Edition, matches the canon of the Catholic Church.
The publisher says this Bible contains the “Catholic Deuterocanon in Septuagint order.” In addition to the 66 books of the ESV matching the canon of the Protestant tradition, these books are included:
- Tobit (inserted after Nehemiah)
- Judith (follows Tobit)
- Additional text for Esther
- 1 Maccabees (follows Esther)
- 2 Maccabees (follows 1 Maccabees)
- Wisdom of Solomon (inserted after Song of Solomon)
- Sirach (follows Wisdom of Solomon)
- Baruch (inserted after Lamentations)
- Additional text for Daniel
The phrase “Septuagint order” generally refers to the 39 books of the Old Testament, which are the same as but ordered differently than the 24 books of the Tanach or Hebrew Scriptures.1 In addition, the Septuagint contains books that are part of neither the Protestant nor Catholic canons. The original King James Version (1611) included all books of the Deuterocanon and more.
There are two Greek versions of the book of Tobit – a shorter one found in Brenton’s Septuagint and used in the King James and Revised Standard Versions, and a longer one found (among other places) in the Dead Sea Scrolls and used in the New Revised Standard Version and in the New American Bible. The ESV-CE has the longer version of Tobit.
Chapter and Verse Numbering
There is another “order” that will be important to Catholic readers than the placement of the books. The chapter and verse numbering in the ESV-CE is the same as the original ESV and most other English Bibles. Readers of the New American Bible (NAB), the most popular Catholic Bible, should consider that in most instances the NAB follows the chapter and verse numbering of the Jewish Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures).
For example, in the NAB (and Tanach), Exodus 7:26 reads, “Then the LORD said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and tell him…” But in the ESV-CE, as well as the ESV and most other Christian Bibles, Exodus 7 ends with verse 25 and this is Exodus 8:1. In the NAB, Exodus 8:1 begins with “The LORD said to Moses, say to Aaron, Stretch out your hand…” But in the ESV-CE, that is Exodus 8:5. This is pointed out in the footnotes.
Similarly, in the NAB Joel 2 ends with verse 27 and “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all mankind…” is Joel 3:1. The remainder of what you may know as chapter 2 is actually chapter 3. In the NAB, the most popular Bible in the Catholic Church, Joel chapter 4 corresponds Joel chapter 3 in the ESV-CE. There are many instances like this, some noted in the ESV-CE footnotes and some not. Readers of the NAB or those following along with someone reading from the NAB will want to be aware of the difference in verse numbering.
This is an Anglicized version of the ESV text. That doesn’t change any of the words, at least not that I have found, but it does change the spelling of several words. For example, where I am in the United States we spell common words as savior, labor, honor, center, and defense just to list a few. In this Anglicized version, spellings from the UK are used – saviour, labour, honour, centre, defence.” This is not unlike the King James Version, which uses Anglicized spellings. I did not notice any Anglicized differences in punctuation.
In this ESV-CE as well as the original ESV, the pronouns for Deity are not capitalized. In the Old Testament, the divine name YHWH is rendered as LORD (in lower caps) and when necessary, GOD (in lower caps). Words not found in the source text are not italicized (as they are in the NASB, KJV, and other translations). Old Testament quotes are not bold, capitalized, or otherwise identified, though when used as poetry they are indented the same as other poetry.
The ESV-CE Text
So, are there text changes to the ESV-CE from the 2016 ESV, the latest revision at the time of this writing? Yes, there are a few. Some of them are insignificant, some may appear to be influenced by Catholic doctrine, but none of them that I have found are troublesome or wrong. Here are a few examples.
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20 ESV 2016)
Noah began to till the soil, and he planted a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20 ESV-CE)
The Hebrew words ish ha’adamah literally mean “man of the ground.” The NIV even reads “man of the soil.” It is a noun, not a verb. But there is no loss of meaning in the change.
1 Chronicles 3:1
These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second, Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite, (1 Chronicles 3:1 ESV 2016)
These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second, Daniel, by Abigail of Carmel, (1 Chronicles 3:1 ESV-CE)
The word is transliterated ha-karmaleet – “the Carmelite.” “Of Carmel” probably makes better sense in English. They both mean exactly the same thing.
2 Chronicles 32:22
So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. (2 Chronicles 32:22 ESV 2016)
So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he led them on every side. (2 Chronicles 32:22 ESV-CE)
The Hebrew word va’yanahaleem from the root nahal (Strongs #H5095) in the Piel stem can mean to lead, to guide, to give rest to, or to refresh (as with food). Either rendering here is fine.
There is nothing really significant here, and I’m not sure why these changes were necessary. But when we get to the New Testament, some of the changes are a little more significant.
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19 ESV 2016)
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. (Matthew 1:19 ESV-CE)
The meaning is the same. Divorce, in our modern understanding, implies that a marriage has already taken place. The ESV-CE is probably better here.
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 ESV 2016)
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great sea creature, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 ESV-CE)
Thayer says the Greek word means “a sea-monster, whale, huge fish.” Take your pick. This is the only place this word appears in the Bible.
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:22 ESV 2016)
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22 ESV-CE)
This one is debated. Along with the ESV, the NET (a very good translation when it comes to language issues) and the NIV both say “seventy-seven.” Most other translations read “seventy times seven,” probably a more literal translation. Did Jesus really intend to present a math story problem for his hearers? Either way, the number is high enough to lose count.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28 ESV 2016)
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O highly favoured one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28 ESV-CE)
I’m not sure if that is even significant. The New American Bible (NAB), the most widely used Catholic translation, has “Hail, favored one,” while the KJV, NKJV, and NIV all have “highly favored.” The ESV-CE does not include the words “blessed are you among women,” a phrase added to the Textus Receptus and included in both the KJV and NKJV, and the “Hail Mary” Rosary prayer (but not NAB).
1 Corinthians 5:1
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1 ESV 2016)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among Gentiles, for a man has his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1 ESV-CE)
Ethnos is usually translated as “Gentiles” or “Nations.” In three instances (1 Corinthians 5:1;10:20; 12:2) the ESV translates it “pagans,” probably just because of the context. In this one instance, the ESV-CE used the more common “Gentiles.” It left the other two alone. Go figure.
1 Corinthians 7:25 (also 7:34)
Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (1 Corinthians 7:25 ESV 2016, see also 7:34)
Now concerning the virgins, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (1 Corinthians 7:25 ESV-CE, see also 7:34)
The Greek word literally means an unmarried maiden. It is the same word used in Matthew 1:23 quoting Isaiah 7:14, where the same Greek word is used in the Septuagint. But the virgin/maiden controversy has been a long one. It should not be surprising that a Catholic Bible would use the word “virgin,” but so do most non-Catholic translations. The other word often seen here is “unmarried.” I’m not sure why the ESV decided on “betrothed.”
There are other passages affected that I have not listed here. In each of these cases, either there is no significant difference or the ESV-CE is arguably closer to the meaning of the word(s) in the Greek source text.
The ESV-CE Catholic Bible Cornerstone Edition is perfect for everyday reading. Comfortably sized with easy-to-read text and a quality binding, it feels good in your hands and stays open for use. The English Standard Version is a respected Bible translation, faithful to the original text in an eloquent modern style.
1 The Hebrew Bible has 24 instead of 39 books, though they comprise the same material. The twelve minor prophets are combined into one book. 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles combined into single books respectively, as are Ezra & Nehemiah
Cambridge University Press provided a complimentary copy of the Catholic Bible Cornerstone Edition – English Standard Version Catholic Edition for this review.