The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English translation of the Bible published in the mid-20th century. It traces its history all the way back to William Tyndale's New Testament translation of 1525 and the King James Version of 1611. The RSV is a comprehensive revision of the King James Version (KJV), the Revised Version (RV) of 1881-85, and the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901, with the ASV being the primary basis for the revision.
The RSV posed the first serious challenge to the popularity of the KJV, aiming to be a readable and literally accurate modern English translation of the Bible. The intention was not only to create a clearer version of the Bible for the English-speaking church, but also to "preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the centuries" and "to put the message of the Bible in simple, enduring words that are worthy to stand in the great Tyndale-King James tradition."
The RSV was published in the following stages:
Funding for the revision was assured in 1936 by a deal that was made with Thomas Nelson & Sons. The deal gave Thomas Nelson & Sons the exclusive rights to print the new version for ten years. The translators were to be paid by advance royalties.
The Committee determined that, since the work would be a revision of the "Standard Bible" (as the ASV was sometimes called because of its standard use in seminaries in those days), the name of the work would be the "Revised Standard Version".
The translation panel used the 17th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text for the New Testament, and the traditional Hebrew Masoretic Text for the Old Testament. However, they amended the Hebrew in a number of places. In the Book of Isaiah, they sometimes followed readings found in the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls.
The RSV New Testament was published on February 11, 1946. In his presentation speech to the ICRE, Luther Weigle, dean of the translation committee, explained that he wanted the RSV to supplement and not supplant the KJV and ASV.
In 1950, the ICRE merged with the Federal Council of Churches to form the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. The former ICRE became the new Council's Division of Christian Education, and the NCC became the official sponsor of the RSV.
After a thorough examination and about eighty changes to the New Testament text, the NCC authorized the RSV Bible for publication in 1951. St. Jerome's Day, September 30, 1952, was selected as the day of publication, and on that day, the NCC sponsored a celebratory rally in Washington D.C., with representatives of the churches affiliated with it present. The very first copy of the RSV Bible to come off the press was presented by Weigle to President Harry S. Truman.
Of the seven appearances of ʿalmāh, the Septuagint translates only two of them as parthenos ("virgin"), including this passage. By contrast, the word בְּתוּלָה (bəṯūlāh) appears some fifty times, and the Septuagint and English translations agree in understanding the word to mean "virgin" in almost every case. In the end, disputes continue over what ʿalmāh does mean; the RSV translators chose to reconcile it with other passages where it does not necessarily mean "virgin".
The 2006 Second Catholic Edition of the RSV resolved the controversy by replacing "young woman" with "virgin" (see Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition#The RSV-CE Today).
Most editions of the RSV that contain the Apocrypha place those books after the New Testament, arranged in the order of the King James Version (the Eastern Orthodox books in post-1977 editions are added at the end). The exception, of course, is the Common Bible, where the Apocryphal books were placed between the Testaments and rearranged in an order pleasing to Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox alike (see below for more information about the Common Bible).
In 1965, the Catholic Biblical Association adapted—under the editorship of Bernard Orchard OSB and Reginald C. Fuller—the RSV for Catholic use with the release of the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition. The RSV-Catholic New Testament was published in 1965 and the full RSV-Catholic Bible in 1966. This included revisions up through 1962, along with a small number of new revisions in the New Testament, mostly to return to familiar phrases. In addition, a few footnotes were changed. This edition is currently published and licensed by Ignatius Press. It contains the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament placed in the traditional order of the Vulgate.
The Catholic RSV was also used as the English text for the Navarre Bible commentary.
In 2006, Ignatius Press released the Revised Standard Version-Second Catholic Edition, which updated the archaic language in the 1966 printing and exchanged some footnotes and texts to reflect a more traditional understanding of certain passages, such as replacing "young woman" with "virgin" in Isaiah 7.14, as previously mentioned. (See also Ignatius Catholic Study Bible series)
The non-deuterocanonicals gave the Common Bible a total of 81 books: it included 1 Esdras (also known as 3 Ezra), 2 Esdras (4 Ezra), and the Prayer of Manasseh, books that have appeared in the Vulgate's appendix since Jerome's time "lest they perish entirely", but are not considered canonical by Roman Catholics and are thus not included in most modern Catholic Bibles. In 1977, the RSV Apocrypha was expanded to include 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and Psalm 151, three additional sections accepted in the Eastern Orthodox canon (4 Maccabees again forming an appendix in that tradition). This action increased the Common Bible to 84 Books, making it the most comprehensive English bible translation to date in its inclusion of books not accepted by all denominations. The goal of the Common Bible was to help ecumenical relations between the churches.
In 1982, Reader's Digest published a special edition of the RSV that was billed as a condensed edition of the text. The Reader's Digest edition of the RSV was intended for those who did not read the Bible or who read it infrequently. It was not intended as a replacement of the full RSV text. In this version, 55% of the Old Testament and 25% of the New Testament were cut. Familiar passages such as the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 23 and the Ten Commandments were retained. For those who wanted the full RSV, Reader's Digest provided a list of publishers that sold the complete RSV at that time.
In 1989, the National Council of Churches released a full-scale revision to the RSV called the New Revised Standard Version. It was the first major version to use gender-neutral language, and thus drew more criticism and ire from conservative Christians than did its 1952 predecessor.
As an alternative to the NRSV, in 2001, publisher Crossway Bibles released its own Protestant evangelical revision of the RSV called the English Standard Version (ESV). This version was commissioned for the purpose of modifying RSV passages that conservatives had long disputed: e.g., the RSV's Isaiah 7:14 usage of the phrase "young woman" was changed back to "virgin". Unlike its cousin, it used only a small dose of gender-neutral language.
The year 2002 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of the RSV Bible. Oxford University Press commemorated it by releasing two different Anniversary editions: one with the Old and New Testaments only (the NT text being from 1971), and one including the Apocryphal books as seen in the 1977 expanded edition. Because these editions contain some of the readings and footnotes found in the RSV-Catholic New Testament (as in Matthew 1.19; 19.9; Mark 16.9-20; Luke 8.43 24.5, 12, 36, 40; John 7.53-8.11; Romans 5.5; 8.11; 1 Corinthians 9.5; Hebrews 13.13, to name only a few), and because of the order of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books and their placement between the Testaments, it is apparent that these editions are revivals of the 1977 Expanded Edition Common Bible.
Oxford continues to make the RSV Oxford Annotated Bible available, in a 1973 edition with Old and New Testaments (the NT text being from the 1971 update) and a 1977 edition featuring both Testaments and the 1977 Expanded Apocrypha.
Scepter Publishers, Ignatius Press, and Oxford continue to print the 1966 edition of the RSV-Catholic Bible, and Ignatius, as mentioned, has made the Second Catholic Edition of the full Bible and a New Testament/Psalms available.
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