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New Revised Standard Version
The NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha
Full name: New Revised Standard Version
Abbreviation: NRSV
Complete Bible published: 1989
Textual Basis: NT: Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition. OT: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint influence. Apocrypha: Septuagint with Vulgate influence.
Translation type: Formal equivalence, with minimal gender-neutral paraphrasing.
Reading Level: High School
Copyright status: © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Religious Affiliation: Ecumenical, but generally mainline Protestant

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, released in 1989, is a thorough revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV).[1]

There are three editions of the NRSV:

  1. the NRSV standard edition, containing the Old and New Testaments (Protestant canon);
  2. the NRSV with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books in addition to the Old and New Testaments (this edition is sometimes called the NRSV Common Bible);
  3. the NRSV Catholic Edition containing the Old Testament books in the order of the Vulgate.

There are also anglicized editions of the NRSV, which modify the text slightly to be consistent with British spelling and grammar.[2]

Contents

History

The NRSV was translated by the Division of Christian Education (now Bible Translation and Utilization) of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical Christian group. There has also been Jewish representation in the group responsible for the Old Testament.[1] This translation is meant to replace the Revised Standard Version, and to identify it in context with the many other English language translations available today. It is called the New Revised Standard Version because it is a revision of the Revised Standard Version of 1952.

Principles of revision

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Improved manuscripts and translations

The Old Testament translation of the RSV was completed before the Dead Sea Scrolls were generally available to scholars. The NRSV was intended to take advantage of this and other manuscript discoveries, and to reflect advances in scholarship since the RSV had been released.[1]

Elimination of archaism

The RSV retained the archaic second person familiar forms ("thee and thou") when God was addressed, but eliminated their use in other contexts. The NRSV eliminated all such archaisms. In a prefatory essay to readers, the translation committee said that "although some readers may regret this change, it should be pointed out that in the original languages neither the Old Testament nor the New makes any linguistic distinction between addressing a human being and addressing the Deity."

Gender language

In the preface to the NRSV, Bruce Metzger wrote for the committee that “many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text”.[1] The RSV observed the older convention of using masculine nouns in a gender-neutral sense (e.g. "man" instead of "person"), and in some cases used a masculine word where the source language used a neuter word. The NRSV by contrast adopted a policy of inclusiveness in gender language.[1] According to Metzger, “The mandates from the Division specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture.”[1]

One of the conventions NRSV uses is to expand gender-specific phrases. For example, if a translation used brothers to refer to a group that is not known to be all male, NRSV may use brothers and sisters. Where such adjustments are made the literal translation is noted in a footnote.

Approval of the NRSV

The NRSV is the official pew Bible of the United Methodist Church.

Many of the older "mainline" Protestant churches officially accept the NRSV or commend it to their members. The Episcopal Church added the NRSV to the list of translations in Canon II.2 which are approved for reading in church services, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) website commends the translation. It is also widely used by The United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Canada.

In accordance with the Code of Canon Law Canon 825.1, the New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, has the imprimatur of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USA) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops granted on 12 September 1991 and 15 October 1991 respectively. Hence, the NRSV(Catholic Edition) is officially approved by the Catholic Church and can be profitably used by Catholics in study and devotional reading of the Bible. Liturgical usage of the Bible demands conformance to Catholic doctrine and an adapted form of the NRSV has recently (2008) been approved by the Vatican for the Catholic Church in Canada[3]. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approves only the New American Bible for liturgical use, the NRSV is quoted in the English-language edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which also quotes from the RSV).

Controversial passages

The NRSV translates Isaiah 7:14 as:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

The NRSV thus retained the RSV decision to translate the Hebrew "almah" as "young woman" instead of "virgin", though a footnote acknowledged that the Greek Septuagint reads "virgin" (that is, "parthenos"). The Gospel of Matthew also translated the word into Greek as "parthenos" (virgin), and English translations prior to the RSV had followed the Greek. The traditional translation of the phrase "will conceive", which likewise is the Greek translation given in Matthew, was rephrased as the present tense "is with child". This and other non-traditional translations were criticized (e.g. preferring "wind" instead of "spirit" for "rûach" in Genesis 1). While the translation in Isaiah received significant response from critics, the decision was not without justification. As definitions change in language throughout centuries (the 16th century definition of a "nice" woman would be highly inappropriate), interpretation of the language should presumably change also. The word "parthenos" at the time the Greek edition of Isaiah was written only indicates a young woman. The implication of a "virgin" only developed later in Greek language. By the time the Gospel of Matthew was written, contemporary Greek texts carried the added meaning. Nonetheless, to translate an ancient word with a more modern meaning does not meet the criteria for either a literal or a meaning-for-meaning translation. Therefore, at the time of the Septuagint text of Isaiah, "the young woman" is likely a more appropriate translation than "virgin," which has often been used because of a traditional Christian bias.[4][5]

The last phrase of Psalm 22:16 is rendered in the NRSV, "My hands and feet have shrivelled." The diversity in translations is indicated by the King James Version with "they pierced my hands and my feet", the Jerusalem Bible has "They tie me hand and foot", and the Masoretic text has "Like a lion [they are at] my hands and feet."

Regarding gender-neutral language, previous translations in this tradition (from the Tyndale Bible to the RSV) adhered to the original text over concerns about readability or gender neutral language; the NRSV departs from this practice. In particular, the NRSV frequently—but not always—substitutes the word "person" or "adult" when the text reads "anēr" (often, but not always, meaning a male adult human being). For example, 1 Corinthians 13:11 in the RSV read: "when I became a man, I gave up childish ways," while the NRSV rendered this passage "when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways". Because the NRSV frequently departs from a literal translation of the text in favour of gender neutrality, critics argue it departed from the heritage of preserving the literal text of Scripture that was the distinguishing feature of translations in the Tyndale/King James tradition.

Orthodox reaction

In spite of Orthodox participation in the translation, and while annotated versions of the RSV were accepted by some Orthodox, the Orthodox Study Bible chose the New King James Version New Testament as a starting point, and the Old Testament committee chose to make a new translation of the Septuagint rather than use any existing English translation or returning to the original Hebrew. Orthodox criticism of the NRSV generally followed conservative Protestant lines, but in addition criticized the use of the Masoretic text as the Old Testament textual basis. In 1990 the synod of the Orthodox Church in America decided not to permit use of the NRSV in liturgy or in Bible studies.[6]

Study editions

  • The Harper Study Bible (1991, ISBN 0-310-90203-7)
  • The HarperCollins Study Bible with Apocrypha (1997, ISBN 0-06-065527-5)
  • The Spiritual Formation Bible (1999, ISBN 0-310-90089-1)
  • The Access Bible with Apocrypha (1999, ISBN 0-19-528217-5)
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, 3rd edition (2001, ISBN 0-19-528478-X)
  • The New Interpreter's Study Bible with Apocrypha (2003, ISBN 0-687-27832-5)
  • The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible with Apocrypha (2005, ISBN 0-06-067108-4)
  • The Oxford New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Cross-Reference Edition (1995, ISBN 978-0-19-107050-1)
  • The Green Bible 2008
  • The Wesley Study Bible (2009, ISBN 978-0-687-64503-9)
  • Lutheran Study Bible (ELCA) (2009)

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Preface to the NRSV from the National Council of Churches website
  2. ^ Amazon.co.uk entry for Anglicized NRSV
  3. ^ CECC / CCCB - Revised lectionary approved for Canada
  4. ^ Godbey, Allen Howard. "The word "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14." Methodist Quarterly Review 73: 513-522. July 1924.
  5. ^ McRay, John. "The virgin birth of Christ". Restoration Quarterly 3: 61-71. 1959.
  6. ^ Bishop Tikhon. "Bishop's Pastoral Letter on the New Revised Standard Version". http://www.holy-trinity.org/liturgics/tikhon.nrsv.html. Retrieved 2007-04-22.  

External links

The Bible in English
Old English (pre-1066)
Middle English (1066-1500)
Early Modern English (1500-1800)
Modern Christian (1800-)
Modern Jewish (1853-)
Miscellaneous

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