[NOTA BENE: for this review I read carefully through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Psalms 1-40, Romans, and 1 John in the RSV Second Edition (RSV SE), comparing it line by line with both the 1952 and 1966 editions of the RSV.]
The RSV SE is a revision and modernization of the RSV Catholic Edition (RSV CE) first published in full in 1966. That earlier edition is essentially the same as the 1952 RSV with a few modifications in the direction of Catholic Theology. (No changes were made to the Old Testament.) The origin of the present publication is as follows. Ignatius Press proposed language changes to the RSV CE text. These changes met with approval of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Ignatius Press then implemented the proposed changes and sent them for review to the Congregation for Divine Worship (Vatican), which reviewed and approved all of them. The publishers claim the revision in total took ten years. However, as someone pointed out to me, that cannot be correct since Ignatius Press also claims that the RSV SE is intended to conform to Liturgiam Authenticam, a Vatican document issued in 2001! As far as the actual changes are concerned, editors and NOT biblical scholars made the changes from archaisms such as "thee/thy/thou" to the Standard English "you/your/you". Priests (NOT scholars) with theological and biblical expertise were involved in changes in wording. The Congregation for Divine Worship reviewed the proposed changes and added additional ones. The process apparently required multiple approvals from the Vatican.
How good is the result? In regard to the translation itself, several points should be noted:
1. Changes to the RSV text are not merely editorial (as the publishers
claim) but substantial. For example, in the space of a mere eighteen Psalms I noted dozens of substantial changes (e.g. 2.11b; 4.2a; 5.4; 5.11; 6.2; 8.5; 12.1,7; 18.4; 18.33). The famous Hebrew noun HESED is frequently changed from "Steadfast Love" to "Mercy" but this is not always done consistently in that "Steadfast Love" and "Mercy" are found together in single Psalm (Ps 36:5,10) and HESED is sometimes rendered "Mercies" (Ps 17.6). (I suspect that the person responsible for these decisions based most of them on the Vulgate and/or older Catholic translations.) At times the changes lack semantic justification (in Psalm 37.3 the RSV's 'enjoy security' is replaced by 'nourished in safety').
2. Changing language from "Thou" to "You" is not a simple process of
taking out THEES and replacing them with YOUS. The process is tricky because small changes to a language impact on its meaning. For instance, in Psalm 12.7 the RSV originally reads: "Do thou, O LORD, protect us, guard us ever from this generation." The RSV SE has: "Do, O LORD, protect us". The editors have simply deleted the word 'Thou' but this change has unintended consequences: the emphatic 'Thou' in the original Hebrew is lost. In addition, the result is less than natural English: the word 'do' which originally is part of the verb 'protect' now functions as an intensive.
3. Strangely, the marginal notes in the RSV SE have NOT been revised,
and so one finds the anomaly of notes PRESERVING Thees and Thous (e.g. Is 26.7 note; Is 53.10b note)! Notes are also found in the wrong place (Ez 34.22 note should go with v.23.) Sometimes the quality of the notes is poor (for example, the comment on 1 Jn 4.1 confuses Pauline theology with Johannine theology).
4. Small errors abound. In Is 50.11 there should be an exclamation mark
at the end of the first sentence. Paragraph divisions are often omitted (Psalm 18.45) or simply changed without any apparent reason other than it allows more text to fit on a page. There are misspellings too: 'Pharisees' of the introduction to Luke 18 should be 'Pharisee'. I suspect there must be even greater errors in biblical books that I did not read.
5. One or two changes to the original RSV are ludicrous. In 1 Cor 11.25,
instead of the word 'cup' for the Lord's Supper one finds 'chalice', despite the fact that there is no justification in Greek to render POTERION as 'chalice'. Chalices did not exist in the time of Jesus. The integrity of the RSV is compromised by what is clearly a desire to catholicize the text. Similarly in 1 John 5 `mortal sin' is replaced by `deadly sin'.
As to the publication itself: the final result is an attractive and beautifully published Bible with a leatherette cover that has gold iconography embossed on it. The quality of the publication is high, with good paper (but poor ink) in a Smythe Sewn binding. The font is clear but should be at least one tone bolder because of its extremely small size. The margins are small, making it impossible to take notes. The Bible is a good size, not at all bulky. The price is reasonable too.
In conclusion, the RSV SE is an impressive publication, but may only be for those users of the RSV who find the THEES and THOUS of the older RSV offensive. For those who do not find them offensive (like me) there is no reason to make a change. One wonders why all the money and effort was poured into a publication merely to take out the words Thou and Thee when a child can be taught that Thee and Thou simply mean 'you'. In the end, the language is not simplified because the literal style employed by the original translators remains. Most important: the impressive virtue of the original RSV is that it is absolutely trustworthy, something that one cannot say for this particular incarnation. The RSV SE will need to be printed in a Third Edition that irons out the errata and infelicities that now abound in the text.