The History of the English Bible Part 17: RSV (1952) NRSV (1989)

I’m going to group the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version together since they are both revisions of the ASV done by the same organization. The International Council of Religious Education acquired the copyright of the ASV in 1928. This organization represented 45 denominations and they set up a committee to see if a revision should be done and if it was possible.

While the committee did feel the need for a revision, the Great Depression kept that from happening. In 1937 Money finally became available and 32 scholars led by Luther Weigel of Yale Divinity School were selected. These men are said to have worked free of charge.

The New Testament was published in 1946 and the entire bible in 1952. In 1957 the Apocrypha was added for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1971 a second edition was published that reinserted passages that had been left out of the first edition. The longer ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) and the woman caught in adultery from John 7:35-8:11

The main change from the ASV to the RSV was the modern language usage. For example speaketh was replaced by speaks and seeth replaced by sees. Plus the translators were not restricted to one English word for one given Greek or Hebrew word. They used you for Jesus’ Earthly life and Thou after the resurrection. Critics complained that this denied Jesus’ divinity on Earth.

The translators also took bible language such as “and it came to pass” out. Quotation marks were introduced and poetic passages were printed in a way that highlighted their structure. This translation is a literal translation that tries to stay with a word for word philosophy.

Besides for being criticized on the use of you and thou, this bible was accused of denying the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14. (The more accurate translation here is young maiden) As I stated in an earlier post if they were trying to deny the virgin birth they would have to have taken it out of Luke 1:27? also. Another criticism thrown at it was in John 3:16 they translated “only Son” instead of “only Begotten Son”.

In 1974 the National Council of Churches proposed that a complete revision be done. A committee of 30 men and women from Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish groups was formed for the purpose of revising. This committee is still in existence today all though some members have been replaced due to deaths and resignations. The New Revised Standard Version was published in 1989 with the RSV staying in print until 1995. That being said the RSV is still in print.

The policy of the revisers was to be “as literal as possible and as free as necessary”. They also decided to go with a gender neutral language. What this means is that God and Christ were still referred to with masculine pronouns, but words such as “mankind” would be changed to “all people” (John 12:32) Thees and thous were not used when addressing God. They decided to use brackets instead of footnotes to show alternative readings. (the RSV used footnotes.) The Comma Johanneum was given a footnote in this version while it was not even mentioned in the RSV. Lastly, some words (such as sluggard to lazybones) were changed to give them a more modern sound.

John 3:16 from RSV

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Lord’s Prayer from the RSV (Matthew 6:9-13)

Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

John 3:16 from the NRSV

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

The Lord’s Prayer from the RSV (Matthew 6:9-13)

‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

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