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The following article is reproduced from the Princeton Seminary Bulletin 11/3 (1990), pp. 211-23. It should be noted that another member of the NRSV committee has stated that this article is “inadequate” as a description of the NRSV revision process and “in need of critical supplementation.” I have also added some footnotes to the article to correct several of its erroneous and misleading statements. —M.D.M.
Some modern versions of the Bible lay special emphasis upon the fact that they are completely fresh translations, without ties to the conventions of the past. Good arguments can be advanced for that kind of approach. But however valid the arguments may be—and most of these versions are excellent in their own way—such is not the philosophy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), nor was it that of the old Revised Standard Version (RSV) on which it is based. ln contrast, the committees that produced these versions are, or were, proud to stand in the direct line of descent from the earliest translation of the Bible into modern English, that of William Tyndale in 1534, and its “authorized” successor, the classic and beloved King James Version of 1611. In spite of all the changes that have been introduced, the NRSV is a revision, not a new translation of the Bible. The first revision of the standard English Bible was the (“English”) Revised Version of 1881-95; the second, the revision published by the American members of that revision committee in 1901 and called the American Standard Version (ASV); the third, the Revised Standard Version of 1946-57.
When I was a student in Dean Luther A. Weigle’s class in American Church History at Yale Divinity School in the spring of 1930, and heard him speak, in his pleasantly enthusiastic way, of his hope that a revision of the ASV would soon be available that would both conserve its considerable virtues and correct its all-too-obvious faults, it could hardly have occurred to me that one day a revision of that revision would be published, and that I would be a member of the committee that produced it. This is how it happened. In 1929 the International Council of Religious Education, later to be merged into a department of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, had entrusted the work on a possible revision of the ASV into the hands of Dean Weigle and a representative committee of scholars. Such a revision seemed desirable both because of changing tastes in English style and the rapid advance of modern biblical scholarship, but also because of certain distinguishing marks of the ASV that hindered its wide acceptance  as a satisfactory successor to the universally admired KJV, in spite of the superior intelligibility of the ASV for the modern reader and its much greater accuracy in rendering the ancient Greek and Hebrew text.
The most obvious of these characteristics was the universal use in the Old Testament of the proper name “Jehovah,” instead of “The LORD,” to translate the Tetragrammaton, the Hebrew name of God. However correct this practice might be in scholarly theory—for the word in Hebrew is indeed a proper name, not a title—it was disastrous from the point of view of the liturgical, homiletical, and devotional use of the Bible, and was almost universally disliked. The other limiting feature of the ASV was a product of the same kind of over-meticulous scholarship. This was the attempt to reproduce not only the words but, as far as possible, the word-order of the original ancient text. The result was an English version that was frequently more awkward than even the KJV.
Dean Weigle’s committee decided to revert to the use of “The LORD” to render the divine name, because the constant use of “Jehovah” grates on the ear, and it is not, in fact, an accurate representation of the mysterious name of the God of ancient Israel. The RSV’s philosophy of language was, on the whole, conservative. The style of the ASV was modernized and its awkwardnesses smoothed over, but there was an effort to preserve something of the dignity and strength of the older English versions. Many passages, such as Psalm 23, were retained from the KJV without significant change. In prayers and other matters addressed to the deity even the archaic forms (“thou,” “hast,” etc.) were kept.
When the complete RSV was published in 1952 (the Apocrypha being added in 1957), it achieved wide acceptance in the churches except for a few very conservative groups that objected to the occasional use, in the Old Testament, of the ancient versions or modern scholarly conjectures to “correct” the traditional Hebrew text. Despite the general success of its endeavors, the committee was not content to remain idle. Far from regarding its work as complete, it continued in existence under Dean Weigle’s presidency, and from time to time expanded its membership, both to maintain its existence in the face of inevitable deaths and resignations, and to broaden its representative character. (I became a member in the late 1950’s.) Every two or three years, under call by the chair, the committee would meet for extended sessions to consider suggestions that had been made for the improvement of the version and on occasion to deal with extensive agenda that had been submitted by church bodies. Every proposal was carefully examined and filed for use in a possible future revision. Some minor changes were eventually  made in the Old Testament, and a second edition of the New Testament appeared in 1971.
Dean Weigle was one of those rare people who are vigorous and resilient at 90, but eventually, in 1966, it became necessary for someone else to assume the leadership of the committee. The new Chair was Prof. Herbert G. May of the Graduate School of Theology at Oberlin College in Ohio. With his accession to the office, the meetings of the RSV committee, which had previously met for the most part at Yale Divinity School, were transferred to the Oberlin campus, where they remained until Prof. May’s tragic death in 1977 in an automobile accident.
In 1974 the National Council of Churches had authorized work to begin preparing a new revision of the Standard Bible which, it was optimistically hoped, would be ready for publication “sometime in the 1980’s.” One could hardly have believed that the preparatory work would last through that entire decade so that the actual publication dale would be deferred to the fall of 1990.
The decision to produce a further revision of the RSV was basically due to the social changes that took place during the 60’s and early 70’s. One of these was the tendency, whether good or ill, toward less formality in social relationships, a relaxation of manner and dress that led inevitably to the use of a less formal style of language in public worship, sometimes almost to the point of colloquialization. Even in the stiffest of traditions it brought about the use of normal 20th century literary style in place of the archaic forms that had for many generations characterized the language of worship. What finally made this movement irresistible was the decision of the Roman Catholic Church to translate its Latin liturgy into English, and into current English rather than into an artifical liturgical style.
The RSV had already moved a long way in this direction by translating the Bible into contemporary English except, as was noted above, for speech addressed to God. In such passages (most of the Psalter, for example), the “thee’s” and “thou’s” were retained. For a full generation this had seemed a satisfactory compromise, as is evident from the fact that it was adopted for the New English Bible, when it was published in the late 60’s and early 70’s. But by the time the decision was reached to revise the RSV all were agreed that the middle way was not good enough. After all, the KJV made no distinction between speech to God and speech to human beings, and neither did the ancient languages in which the biblical books were originally written.  The RSV compromise had been a half-way step that demanded eventual completion; in the early 70’s the time had obviously come for the committee to begin this necessary, though relatively mechanical task.
A second, and much more important, impetus for reconsidering the style of the RSV was given by the wide-spread demand that the English language be purged of what seemed to many “sex-biased” language, notably the word “man” in the so-called generic sense that covers both men and women, and the indefinite “he,” referring to an antecedent that might be either male or female. Many other examples are easily found. There is a large constituency, even of women, that feels such concerns are trivial, but the leaders of the main-line churches, both men and women, are committed to the use of “inclusive language,” as are most younger women and most publishers and educational organizations. The movement in that direction is increasing and is not likely to be reversed. For a committee of scholars this general tendency in modern language usage is strongly reinforced by the fact that the sexbiased forms are, for the most part, accidents of English style and are not supported by the ancient biblical languages. 1
All in all, the committee had no doubt that this was another compelling reason for re-examining the text of the RSV, although it would obviously require a great deal more effort than was involved in merely updating obsolete language. It should be noted, incidentally, that the committee was never seriously tempted to change the allegedly patriarchal terminology the Bible uses about God, such terms as “Father,” “Lord,” “King,” etc., since these are inherent in the biblical text and in the thought-world of biblical times, not mere accidents of English style. 2 The Bible is a historical document and the function of the scholar is to transmit the ancient text as faithfully as possible, not to adapt it to contemporary tastes. 3 The whole subject of inclusive language in the NRSV is treated at length in another article in this issue, and therefore will not be further pursued here.
Once the need for modernizing the residual archaic forms in the RSV and of purging the language of sex-biased elements had been recognized, it was evident thar the rime was ripe for a further revision of the entire text, having in mind the incorporation into the Bible of the results of the committee’s thinking about the problems of biblical translation over a whole generation and the conclusions of contemporary scholarship. Scholars are constantly engaged in studying matters that are relevant to a proper understanding of the meaning of biblical passages. From time to time new manuscript evidence comes to light, grammarians arrive at a new understanding of Greek or Hebrew constructions, social studies illuminate the context in  which ancient words were used, inscriptions and other discoveries in archaeological “digs” provide a new look at items in the Hebrew or Greek vocabulary, and scholars in library stacks get sudden flashes of insight that cause everyone to take a new look at passages they had always thought to be troublesome. The generally accepted conclusions of such study need to be incorporated in the biblical text for the edification of the general public. This provided a third motive for revising the RSV and gave the committee a third area in which to operate.
Even in the context of scholarship in the 40’s and 50’s, the original RSV was something of a compromise, as all “authorized” versions necessarily are. The 23rd psalm is a rather extreme illustration. In the RSV text the psalm appears essentially in its KJV form, but with footnotes that give alternative translations. In at least three of these instances scholars almost universally regarded the alternatives as preferable, but these were relegated to the margin while the familiar KJV language was retained in the text (“right paths” vs. “paths of righteousness”; “the valley of deep darkness” vs. “the valley of the shadow of death”; “as long as I live” vs. “for ever”). By the 70’s this kind of deference to tradition was no longer necessary, especially since several new translations incorporating the marginal readings had already appeared. The committee now had the opportunity to bring the RSV into harmony with the best scholarship of the 70’s and 80’s.
The program was, therefore, this: to update grammatical forms, to eliminate sex-biased vocabulary, and to incorporate the results of sound biblical scholarship into the translation.
The schedule of the meetings was always the same. On a Sunday night the members would arrive in Oberlin, later Princeton, and have dinner together; then, Monday morning, promptly at 9 o’clock, the Chair would call the whole group together for a general meeting, beginning with a Bible reading and a prayer, to receive communications, to consider matters of general policy, and to address specific issues that had arisen since the previous meeting. A representative from the Department of Education and Ministry of the NCCC was always present to express its continuing interest in, and support for, the committee’s work; the representative usually sat in with one of the working groups for the rest of the day, to observe what was being done. In view of the size of the agenda to be covered in any week, these general meetings were kept as brief as possible. At the conclusion of the business meeting, the committee broke into sub-groups for the Old Testament and New Testament. Later, as pressures to complete the job began to mount, the Old Testament committee was broken up into two, and finally  three, sub-groups. Eventually a sub-committee on the Apocrypha was added. Since this committee drew upon members from both Old Testament and New Testament, it usually met independently at a different time of year.
The sub-groups were exhausting fer all the participants, who, though unpaid, were without exception deeply, often emotionally, concerned with every detail of the work being done and therefore constantly on the qui vive. Since the meetings lasted from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., everyone was thoroughly worn-out by the end of the week. Of course there were breaks: there was a lunch hour from 12 to 2 (later, after a heart-felt plea from one exhausted scholar, 2:30!) and a dinner hour from 5-7 p.m. A fifteen minute break was allowed at the half-way point of the morning and afternoon sessions, but for all practical purposes every day involved eight hours of concentrated intellectual work. It is a tribute to the character of the members that, in spite of the pressures everyone felt, the sessions were generally good-tempered—episodes marked by anger or irritation were exceedingly rare.
The membership of the committee was structured so as to be as representative as possible. The NRSV was intended to be an ecumenical project. This would not have been possible in the climate of the 30’s-50’s when the original RSV was planned and produced; with the exception of one Jewish member, who was invited to join the Old Testament section only at a rather late stage (and is the only survivor of the original RSV committee to continue active on the NRSV), the old committee seems to have been resolutely main-line Protestant in affiliation. But the acceptance of the RSV by Roman Catholics in England, culminating in the publication of an official Catholic edition in 1966, in which the books of the Old Testament were arranged in the traditional Catholic order, supplemented by the Deuterocanonical books, opened the doors to genuine ecumenical collaboration. In 1973, the Collins Press issued an edition of the RSV entitled The Common Bible, in which the apocryphal books were placed between the Old Testament and New Testament, whereas the normal RSV order treated them as a supplement to the New Testament; and the Catholic Deuterocanonical books were distinguished, and printed separately, from the three additional books included in the standard Protestant collection of Apocrypha. In 1977 an expanded edition of The Oxford Annotated Bible, a study edinon of the RSV, added 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151 to the Apocrypha, three items that belong to the liturgical tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This last  step made possible an edition of the NRSV that would be fully ecumenical both in content and preparation.
ln accordance with the ecumenical perspective of the planning for the NRSV, the membership of the committee had been expanded to include Roman Catholic scholars, and the number of these tended to increase as the years passed, since they represented the largest single group of Christians in America. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church, as an aspect of its revival of biblical studies generally, has produced a remarkable number of scholars of first-class ability. The Eastern tradition was represented by a leading scholar of the Greek Orthodox Church who served on both the New Testament and Apocrypha sub-committees. While, for obvious reasons, the Jewish community could not he expected to endorse any part of the NRSV, the presence of an eminent Jewish scholar on the Old Testament committee, participating as a full contributing member, was intended as both an expression of good-will and an assurance that the NRSV translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Christian Old Testament) would contain nothing offensive to our Jewish neighbors.
If, at the beginning, the NRSV committee was almost exclusively dominatce by men (though there was one well-known woman scholar on the New Testament committee from the very start), this was not because the Chair was indifferent to the situation, but rather because the relative scarcity of women scholars made it difficult for some of those invited to join to accept the committee’s invitation. Nevertheless, as time went on, the number of women members and their contributions became substantial.
Each of the sub-groups imo which the Old Testament session was divided had its own presiding officer, at first the two Vice-Chairs; then, as the number of sub-groups expanded to three, their ranks were increased by a Chair pro-tem chosen from within the new group. Each Old Testament sub-group was assigned a graduate-student secretary who was responsible for keeping track of the issues discussed and the decisions reached. Inasmuch as the conduct of the discussions was very informal, the secretaries were generally encouraged to take part in them when they felt impelled to do so. Obviously, they had the longest working day of all, since much of their labor took place after hours.
The life of the committee naturally had a less serious side in the brief intervals between working sessions. Most of the members, like myself, looked forward to the opportunities presented by coffee breaks and meal-times to talk with friends and engage in lively discussions with people of similar interests. Arguments begun in working sessions were often continued  over meals; inevitably, one must admit, conversations were concerned with matters irrelevant to the matters in hand, sport, politics, travel, cultural activities, even gossip (!). After the 9 o’clock adjournment there was still time for conviviality at a local restaurant or a visit to the last show at a local movie house. One of the inconveniences of the meetings at Oberlin was the limited opportunity for that kind of relaxation. The one year that Herbert May attempted to speed things up by having the committee meet for two successive weeks was never repeated, due to the energetic protests of one or two members who felt that two weeks in a town with only one picture show and practically no other opportunity for relaxing after work was one week too many.
After Herbert May’s death, the general oversight of the committee devolved on Prof. Bruce M. Metzger, Professor of NT at Princeton Theological Seminary, who had previously served as Chair only of the NT section. With his accession to the chair of the general committee, the venue of the meetings naturally shifted to Princeton, N.J., where it remained until the completion of the work, a period of about ten years. The sessions were housed at the Seminary’s Center of Continuing Education, where the members had their living quarters, and in the seminar rooms of the school’s library just across the street. This was a happy arrangement since the library shelves were able to provide an answer to almost any question, however recondite, that might arise during the course of deliberations.
The procedure for dealing with the separate books of the Bible was very simple. At least one member in each group was assigned a particular book for study, and for as much research as necessary. When the member’s study was finished, he or she then drew up a detailed list of all the changes he or she felt were either necessary or desirable. These agendas were then discussed seriatim, each item being either accepted immediately (as many were, of course, being in accordance with previous decisions) or discussed until a consensus was reached. In rare instances, discussion of a single item could go on for an hour or two. If, finally, no consensus seemed possible, the issue was decided by simple majority vote. At the end of the week all the changes voted by all of the sub-committees, after further discussion when it seemed necessary, were ratified at a general meeting. Since the committee’s work went on for some fifteen years, with many changes in personnel, a large number of the Old Testament books were reviewed a second time by another sub-committee, following an agenda prepared by yet another scholar,  since in the course of time the committee’s understanding of its task had changed and matured; new general rules were formulated and the whole process of revision had become more thorough-going (some might say more radical) than had originally been envisaged.
The final stage in the process came when the work of the sub-committees was complete and the last book had been reviewed and re-reviewed. At this point the general committee voted to suspend operations and to elect an editorial committee, consisting of five persons, Prof. Metzger, as Chair both of the general committee and the New Testament section, plus two representatives from the New Tesrament sub-committee, and the two ViceChairs, both or whom represented the work on the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. Necessarily the two sub-committees (New Testament and Old Testament) met separately, with Prof. Metzger presiding at each. This editorial committee was given power to determine the final form of the text before publication. The Old Testament and New Testament sub-committees met for sessions lasting a week or ten days, frequently at two-month intervals, and made a final review of every verse and almost every punctuation mark in the entire Bible, looking for inconsistencies in general style and the rendering of individual words, endeavoring to pull the whole together so that the NRSV would seem a unified work, nor simply a collection of discrete translations. The editorial committee was able to give thought to some matters, not strictly academic, which were of necessity largely passed over in the general committee, where pure scholarship tended to hold the floor. Inasmuch as the NRSV is sponsored by the National Council of Churches, it is intended for use in the services of the churches as well as for the private reading, study, and spiritual instruction of their members. For this reason attention needed to be given to the rhythm of sentences and the sound of words as they would be heard in public worship, and the general appropriateness of the text for a liturgical setting. Finally, since the NRSV was intended to be a revision of the RSV, not a new translation, it was important that it maintain, as far as is possible in modern English, the mood, tone, style, and uniform dignity of the KJV, which was the original Standard Bible.
As was said above, the work of the sub-committees covered three general areas: First was the comparatively simple procedure of removing “thee’s” and “thou’s” and the corresponding archaic verb forms. Generally speaking, this was the easiest task. Occasionally, however, some further adjustment had to be made. One insignificant example occurs in the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven,” mechanically corrected to modern style,  would produce “Our Father who are in heaven,” which, though grammatically correct, would sound wrong to contemporary ears. Therefore the NRSV, like all other modern versions, simply omits the verbal copula and reads, “Our Father in heaven.” It is true that this ignores one element in the Greek, the article, and has a more clipped, less resonant sound than the KJV, but such choices have to be made!
The second area to which attention had to be directed was that of insuring that the language was properly inclusive, so that no words intended by the original writer to refer to all human beings were translated by English words that might be understood to refer only to members of a single sex. The solution to these problems, which, in view of rhe peculiar nature of English, were often extremely difficult, was very time-consuming, since the resulting text had to sound like normal English, not some modish jargon. In only a tiny minimum of instances was the problem to prove insoluble—to us, at least. Two or three members of the committee, representing both the Old Testament and New Testament sections, resigned with the complaint that an inordinate amount of time was being spent on matters that seemed to them essentially trivial rather than on issues of substantial scholarly concern. The majority of the members, however, felt that the whole question was sufficiently important to warrant the time and effort spent upon it. Since another article in this issue deals with the subject at length, no more need be said about it here.
By far the most important discussions centered not on more or less routine items like the removal of archaic language forms or the introduction of inclusive language, but on substantive matters that concerned the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek and how this meaning is best expressed in modern literary English. In many cases the problem is the definition of a single word such as the Hebrew ruach or the Greek pneuma, either of which means both “wind” and “spirit.” ln the majority of instances the context makes the meaning clear, but in some passages such as Gen. 1:2 the context is completely neutral. Should one read with the KJV “the Spirit of God” or, with most modern versions, something like “a divine wind” or “a mighty wind,” since no creative function is ascribed to the ruach and its presence seems merely an accompanying circumstance? The reading of the NRSV, after much discussion, is “a wind from God,” which is the same as that of the New Jewish Version. No member of the committee would feel assured that this translation is definitive, but it seems at least closer to the  probable sense of the original Hebrew than the traditional rendering found in KJV and RSV (RSV, it should be noted, offered a similar meaning in a footnote).
One item that could provide almost a paradigm of the kind of problem of which we are speaking, although a much simpler one than the meaning of ruach in Gen. 1:2, is the word “blessed” that occurs in a well-known “wisdom” formula that is found in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the “Good News Bible” (Today’s English Version), these words are rendered uniformly “happy,” as can be seen in Psalm 1:1 and Matt. 5:3-11, and some would argue that this is a more accurate translation everywhere, especially since neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word is derived from rhe verb “to bless.” Even the KJV and RSV sometimes render the Greek word by “happy” (e.g., Rom. 14:22, 1 Cor. 7:40). But lexicographers argue that the Greek word makarios, in the classical form of the language, is used for that special happiness possessed by the gods and other divine beings, while a different word (eudaimon) describes the happiness enjoyed by ordinary human beings. The New Testament committee, in common with the translators of most other modern versions, opted to retain the word “blessed” in the Beatitudes and most other places. But the situation in Hebrew is altogether different in that the word ashre (actually a plural construct), which is translated “blessed” in KJV and RSV is the ordinary word for human happiness. 4 So the OT committee voted to change “blessed” to “happy” wherever it translates ashre. (The word “blessed” as applied to God is an altogether different matter and translates quite different Hebrew and Greek words. 5 In such passages, e.g., Psalm 144:1, NRSV, like all other versions, still reads “blessed.” Rarely, the Hebrew word—baruch—is also applied to human beings, e.g., Ps. 118:26.) 6
A word that raises very difficult problems in translating the New Testament is the Greek doulos, which the classical Greek lexicon defines unequivocally “slave, or bondman.” Nevertheless the KJV translated it 120 times as “servant”: thus in Luke 2:29, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart ... ,” a reading preserved verbatim in RSV. Many scholars, including some members of the NRSV committee, have argued that it should invariably be translated “slave,” since other Greek words were available for “servant” if that had been the meaning intended. The counter-argument is that in Greco-Roman society slaves were often highly respected persons who could hold responsible positions in society, whereas in American society the connotations of the word are entirely negative. as indicated by the adjective “slavish,” or such denigrating phrases as “wage slave,” “slave of passion.” It  is also true that in Old Testament Greek the word doulos can designate someone in high authority like Naaman of Syria (I Kings 5:1, cf. vs. 6), and is used in other contexts in an obviously weakened sense. There are obviously good arguments on both sides of this issue and the final judgment had to be given by majority vote, which favored the retention of “servant” in such crucial passages as Luke 2:29, but with a new footnote, “Gk slave.”
These are just a few illustrations of the kind of complex problems the committee had to confront and the necessity of extended discussion to solve them. In other instances the data were of an entirely different character. Occasionally, for example, Old Testament passages have been illuminated by archaeological discoveries. A notable instance is found in the RSV at Gen. 14:15 where KJV-ASV describe God as “possessor of heaven and earth,” but the RSV-NRSV text says “creator of heaven and earth.” The change was based upon the discovery that in the ancient Canaanite language, as shown by the clay tablets found at Ras Shamra in Syria, the word qanah, which normally means “possess,” once also had the meaning “create.” Just such a discovery provides also the reason for an NRSV change in the text of Exod. 15:2, Psalm 118:14, and Isaiah 12:2, where both KJV and RSV read “The Lord is my strength and (my) song,” a striking but rather unlikely coupling of ideas. It is now known, however, from inscriptions in ancient South Arabic (a dialect cognate with biblical Hebrew) that zimrah, which in biblical Hebrew usually means “song,” could also mean something like “might” or “power.” Furthermore, in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Exodus passage reads “my protector,” which seems to point in the same direction. So, in the NRSV as in several other contemporary versions such as the New Jewish Bible, the line reads “The Lord is my strength and my might.”
Most of the changes made are not the result of new discoveries or scholarly insights, but rather the application of common sense. For example, it is surprising to note in a concordance to the KJV or RSV that the word “city” appears about seven times more frequently than the word “town.” But it is obvious to anyone who has visited the country, or even thinks of the probabilities, that a very large proportion of these so-called cities are what we should call “towns”; Hebrew has words for “village” and “city,” but no appropriate designation for the intermediate-sized “town.” So the committee felt free to interpret the word “city” in accordance with what is known historically about the particular site. The Palestinian landscape, in  consequence, is considerably less crowded with large municipalities in the NRSV than in the older versions. Again, for the sake of greater accuracy, the “brook” Zered of Deut. 2:13, which is actually a canyon nearly 4000 ft. deep at its lower end, and is some 3-4 miles wide, in the NRSV has now become the “Wadi” Zered, and the word “wadi” has been introduced in numerous other places where it is clearly the exact word required. The conjunction “lest” has been largely, if not entirely eliminated from the NRSV vocabulary because some of us have discovered that even among college graduates many no longer understand its function. RSV Exod. 20:19, “let not God speak to us, lest we die” becomes in the NRSV, “do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” In the KJV the word “animal” never appears; the only word used is “beast.” The RSV slightly modernized by using “animal” in a few places, mostly having to do with laws concerning ritual purity. ln the NRSV the situation is reversed and “animal” becomes the norm; “the beasts of the field” are now “the wild animals.”
None of the changes made, I think, were made just for the sake of being modern, but rather for the sake of greater clarity and accuracy. The fact that our discussion in this article has been necessarily concentrated on examples of things that have been changed may suggest to the reader that the revision is much more sweeping than is in fact the case. Much of the older text remains basically rhe same. One would hope that the changes that have been made would commend themselves to all readers as reasonable and necessary. But such universal agreement is not likely. The members of the committee recognize that no work of this kind can be regarded as final or definitive. A later generation may feel that still further revision is necessary in the light of increasing knowledge and the changing mores and languagestyle of human society. But the committee has worked long and devotedly and hopes that, at the very least, the NRSV is not unworthy to stand in the great succession headed by the KJV and continued in the RSV.
1. This statement is false. Nearly all of the “sex-biased” expressions found in literal English translations of the Bible represent similarly “sex-biased” expressions in the original text. —M.D.M.
2. This statement is predicated on the falsehood noted above, and does not in fact represent the thinking of the committee. According to Walter Harrelson, the NRSV revisers did deliberately eliminate some masculine forms that refer to God: “We were in agreement that we should not eliminate all the personal pronouns for the deity, though we did find that often we could reduce the number of such pronouns by simply eliminating those that seemed unnecessary.” (“Inclusive Language in the New Revised Standard Version,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 11/3 , p. 231.)
3. Yet this is exactly what the NRSV revision was designed to do, according to Dentan himself in statements made above.
4. This statement lacks any support from usage in the OT, where the word clearly refers to a state of blessedness, not merely happiness, in every place where it occurs.
5. This is true only of the Hebrew, because makarios is used of God in 1 Tim. 1:11 and 6:15.
6. This usage of the passive participle baruch is not especially rare, and other passive forms of the verb barach are used in reference to people hundreds of times in the Old Testament. One has to begin wondering at this point if the author is really familiar with Hebrew.
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