I intend to post reviews, from time to time, of different study bibles. Prior to commencing that series, I think it helpful if I write a little on the translation I would recommend if you do not read Hebrew and Greek. I  recommend the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), with the extra comment that, those not agile in the original biblical languages need to keep one eye on the footnotes provided.

History

William Tyndale’s New Testament translation of 1525 and the King James Bible set a standard of biblical English leading to a “Revised Version” in the late nineteenth century. This led to the “American Standard Version (ASV – 1901)” of which the “Revised Standard Version (RSV)” was the authorised revision. This last work was completely revised by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches as well as Jewish representation to form the NRSV (1989).

The NRSV was able to take advantage of scholarly developments since the RSV including the availablility of  the Dead Sea Scrolls and other manuscript discoveries.

Translation principles

Linguistically the NRSV stands intentionally in the Tyndale-King James tradition. The Hebrew text is primarily the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint. The Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical texts are from the Septuagint with reference to the Vulgate. The New Testament is a translation of the Novum Testamentum Graece 27th edition. The principle of translation is formal equivalence (as much as possible “word for word” rather than dynamic equivalence – “idea for idea”). Where the original clearly is intended to refer to both genders the translation has attempted to do this as smoothly as possible, clearly noting this in the footnotes. God retains the masculine pronoun. No attempt is made to alter masculine concepts of God such as “Lord” etc. In fact the Divine Tetragrammaton is translated as “LORD”. The archaic second person familiar forms (“thee”, “thou”), often confused as actually being polite forms, have been standardised to “you”, “your” etc. Many translations betray their theological presuppositions in soteriology (theories of salvation) or in hiding apparent biblical inconsistencies. NRSV can be trusted not to do that.

There is an edition following the Protestant canon, another including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books; there is a Catholic Edition containing the First Testament books in the order of the Vulgate, and an anglicized edition which alters the text slightly to fit to British spelling and grammar. Other translations have been assiduous in marketing their product with a large variety of different presentations (teenage bibles, women’s bibles, men’s bibles, 12 step bibles, etc). NRSV has been notably weak in the variety of options available. Thankfully that is slowly improving.

The Episcopal Church and many Anglican provinces have approved the NRSV for worship. Common Worship (CofE) uses it as a standard. It is approved for Roman Catholic use and is the primary translation used in Catechism of the Catholic Church (the other being the RSV).

Conclusion

If you are looking for one translation and you are not confident in the biblical languages, the New Revised Standard Version is the one I would recommend.

Resources

Please remember this site has a collection of the best free, online resources to enhance your study of the scriptures. Beyond this website there is also:

The NRSV online

The NRSV online (an alternative site)

Search the NRSV online

Concise Concordance to NRSV online

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