One of the world’s leading Catholic theologians and biblical scholars is astonished by the decision to withdraw The Jerusalem Bible from liturgical use and to replace it with a dated translation marred by poor scholarship and the use of sexist language
Some Catholic bishops of England and Wales and of Scotland are cherished friends from our days together in Rome and elsewhere. That makes their decision to impose the use of the English Standard Version: Catholic Edition (ESV-CE) in the lectionary without any meaningful consultation even more puzzling and painful. The bishops have announced that The Jerusalem Bible used in the readings at Mass for over 50 years will be replaced not with The Revised New Jerusalem Bible published last year but with the ESV-CE – a translation produced by conservative evangelical scholars and published in the United States in 2001, with modifications approved by the bishops’ conference of India in 2018.
Evangelicals themselves, as John Barton pointed out in The Tablet two weeks ago, tend to prefer the New International Version (NIV). They find the language of the ESV “rather archaic”.
When they explained and defended their choice of the ESV in a statement on 21 January, the bishops claimed that it embodies the “qualities the Church seeks when considering the translation of Scripture”. These qualities are, they said, first, “the evaluation and use of source material”; second, “accuracy of translation which conveys the meaning of the biblical authors”; and, third, “dignity and accessibility of language needed for a worthy proclamation of the Word of God”.