Revised Standard Version

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Revised Standard Version
RSV Bible Meridian paperback.JPG
Full nameRevised Standard Version
OT published1952
NT published1946
Derived fromAmerican Standard Version
Textual basisNT: Novum Testamentum Graece. OT: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with limited Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint influence. Apocrypha: Septuagint with Vulgate influence.
Translation typeBorderline of formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence.
Reading levelMiddle School
Version revision1971 (NT only)
Copyright1946, 1952, 1971 (the Apocrypha is copyrighted 1957, 1977) by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Religious affiliationProtestant (usually mainline)
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Revised Standard Version
RSV Bible Meridian paperback.JPG
Full nameRevised Standard Version
OT published1952
NT published1946
Derived fromAmerican Standard Version
Textual basisNT: Novum Testamentum Graece. OT: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with limited Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint influence. Apocrypha: Septuagint with Vulgate influence.
Translation typeBorderline of formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence.
Reading levelMiddle School
Version revision1971 (NT only)
Copyright1946, 1952, 1971 (the Apocrypha is copyrighted 1957, 1977) by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Religious affiliationProtestant (usually mainline)

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English translation of the Bible published in several parts during the mid-20th century. The RSV is a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) authorized by the copyright holder.[1]

The RSV posed the first serious challenge to the popularity of the King James Version (KJV). It was intended to be a readable and literally accurate modern English translation. 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:

In later years, the RSV served as the basis for two revisions - the New Revised Standard Version of 1989, and the English Standard Version of 2001.

Making of the RSV[edit]

In 1928, the copyright to the ASV was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education (ICRE). From 1930–32, a study of the ASV text was undertaken to decide the question of a new revision, but due to the Great Depression, it was not until 1937 that the ICRE voted in favor of revising the ASV text. A panel of 32 scholars was put together for that task. Also, the Council hoped to set up a corresponding translation committee in Great Britain, as had been the case with the RV and ASV, but this plan was canceled because of World War II.

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 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. 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.

Title page to the first edition of the RSV Bible

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 an appreciative President Harry S. Truman on September 26, four days before it was released to the general public. [1]


There were three key differences between the RSV (on the one hand) and the KJV, RV and ASV:

Reception and controversy[edit]

The Isaiah 7:14 dispute[edit]

Main article: Isaiah 7:14

The RSV New Testament was well received, but reactions to the Old Testament were varied and not without controversy.[2] It was claimed that the RSV translators had translated the Old Testament from an odd viewpoint. Some critics specifically referred to a Jewish viewpoint, pointing to agreements with the 1917 Jewish Publication Society of America Version Tanakh and the presence on the editorial board of a Jewish scholar, Harry Orlinsky. Such critics further claimed that other views, including those of the New Testament, were not considered. The focus of the controversy was the RSV's translation of the Hebrew word עַלְמָה (ʿalmāh) in Isaiah 7:14 as "young woman" rather than the traditional Christian translation of "virgin."

Of the seven appearances of ʿalmāh, the Septuagint translates only two of them as parthenos, "virgin" (including Isaiah 7:14). 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. Disputes continue over what ʿalmāh does mean; the RSV translators chose to reconcile it with other passages where it does not necessarily mean "virgin".

Criticism of the RSV[edit]

Fundamentalists and evangelicals, in particular, accused the translators of deliberately tampering with the Scriptures to deny the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and they cited other traditionally Messianic prophecies that were allegedly obscured in the RSV (i.e., Psalm 16:10, Genesis 22:18).[3] Some opponents of the RSV took their antagonism beyond condemnation. For example, a pastor in the Southern United States burned a copy of the RSV with a blowlamp in his pulpit, saying that it was like the devil because it was hard to burn, and sent the ashes as a protest to Weigle. (However, F.F. Bruce dismissed it as a publicity stunt and wrote[citation needed] that it had the opposite effect of causing nearly every family in that congregation to acquire a copy.) The RSV translators linked these events to the life of William Tyndale, an inspiration to them, explaining in their preface: "He met bitter opposition. He was accused of willfully perverting the meaning of the Scriptures, and his New Testaments were ordered to be burned as 'untrue translations.'" But where Tyndale was burned at the stake for his work, Bruce Metzger, referring to the pastor who burned the RSV and sent the ashes to Weigle, commented in his book The Bible In Translation " it is happily only a copy of the translation that meets such a fate." There is also criticism of the RSV at Genesis 24:47, where "earrings" is changed to "ring on her nose", and at Psalm 136, where "mercy" is changed to "steadfast love".

Results of the young woman/virgin controversy[edit]

The controversy stemming from the RSV helped reignite the King-James-Only Movement within the Independent Baptist and Pentecostal churches. Furthermore, many Christians have adopted what has come to be known as the "Isaiah 7:14 litmus test"[citation needed], under that verse is the one checked to determine whether or not a new translation can be trusted -the New American Standard Bible (1963–71), the New International Version (1973–78), the English Standard Version (2001-2011), and the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition#Second Edition (2006) all chose 'virgin' instead of 'young woman'.

Later editions[edit]

1962 printings[edit]

Approximately 85 alterations to the RSV text were authorized in 1959 and introduced into the 1962 printings. At the same time, as Thomas Nelson & Sons was not keeping up with the public demand for the RSV Bible, the NCC authorized other publishing companies besides Nelson to print it, including Zondervan, Holman, Melton, Oxford, Cokesbury, and the American Bible Society. Some of the changes included (but were not limited to) reverting to the Greek phrase "the husband of one wife" in 1 Timothy 3.2, 12 and Titus 1.6 (in the 1946-52 printing it was paraphrased as "married only once"), quoting the Roman centurion who witnessed Jesus' death as calling him "the Son of God" in Matthew 27.54 and Mark 15.39 (in 1946-52 he was quoted as calling Jesus "a son of God"), and changing "without" in Job 19.26 to "from" (and adjusting the associated footnote accordingly).

1971 Second Edition of the New Testament[edit]

On March 15, 1971, the RSV Bible was re-released with the Second Edition of the Translation of the New Testament. Whereas in 1962 the translation panel had merely authorized a handful of changes, in 1971 they gave the New Testament text a thorough editing. This Second Edition incorporated Greek manuscripts not previously available to the RSV translation panel, namely, the Bodmer Papyri, published in 1956-61.

The most obvious changes were the restoration of Mark 16.9-20 (the long ending) and John 7.53-8.11 (in which Jesus forgives an adultress) to the text (in 1946, they were put in footnotes). Also restored was Luke 22.19b-20, containing the bulk of Jesus' institution of the Lord's Supper. In the 1946-52 text, this had been cut off at the phrase "This is my body", and the rest had only been footnoted, since this verse did not appear in the original Codex Bezae manuscript used by the translation committee. The description of Christ's ascension in Luke 24:51 had the footnote "... and was carried up into heaven" restored to the text. Luke 22.43-44, which had been part of the text in 1946-52, was relegated to the footnote section because of its questionable authenticity; in these verses an angel appears to Jesus in Gethsemane to strengthen and encourage Him before His arrest and crucifixion. Many other verses were rephrased or rewritten for greater clarity and accuracy. Moreover, the footnotes concerning monetary values were no longer expressed in terms of dollars and cents but in terms of how long it took to earn each coin (the denarius was no longer defined as twenty cents but as a day's wage). The book of Revelation, called "The Revelation to John" in the previous editions, was retitled "The Revelation to John (The Apocalypse)". Some of these changes to the RSV New Testament had already been introduced in the 1965-66 Catholic Edition, and their introduction into the Protestant edition was done to pave the way for the publication of the RSV Common Bible in 1973.

There were plans by the Standard Bible Committee to prepare a second edition of the Old Testament,[4] but those plans were scrapped in 1974 when the National Council of Churches voted to authorize a full revision of the RSV.

The Apocrypha and the Catholic Edition[edit]


In 1957, at the request of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Deuterocanonical books (called the Apocrypha by most Protestant Christians) were added to the RSV. Since there was no American Standard Version of the Apocrypha, the RSV Apocrypha was a revision of the Revised Version Apocrypha of 1894, as well as the King James Version. To make the RSV acceptable to Eastern Orthodox congregations, an expanded edition of the Apocrypha containing 3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151 was released in 1977; in these 1977 additions, as in the New Revised Standard Version, archaic pronouns ("thou", "thee) and verb forms ("hast", "didst") are no longer used for God.

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 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).

Catholic Edition[edit]

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)


There have been many adaptations of the RSV over the years.

Common Bible[edit]

The Common Bible of 1973 ordered the books in a way that pleased both Catholics and Protestants. It was divided into four sections:

  1. The Old Testament (39 Books)
  2. The Catholic Deuterocanonical Books (12 Books)
  3. The additional Eastern Orthodox Deuterocanonical Books (three Books; six Books after 1977)
  4. The New Testament (27 Books)

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 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), although it still does not include additional books in the Syriac and Ethiopian canons. 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.

Reader's Digest Bible[edit]

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.


New Revised Standard Version[edit]

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. This criticism largely stemmed from concerns that the modified language obscured phrases in the Old Testament that could be read as messianic prophecies.

English Standard Version[edit]

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 amount of gender-neutral language.

The RSV today[edit]

The RSV remains a favorite for many Christians today, although it is increasingly difficult to find. In 1999, the National Council of Churches, in association with Odyssey Productions, produced a TV documentary about the making of the RSV – The Bible Under Fire.

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. In an effort to further ecumenical relations, this 50th Anniversary Edition included some of the preferred Catholic readings in the text and footnotes of the New Testament section.

Current Available Editions[edit]

Oxford continues to make the 1977 RSV edition of the Oxford Annotated Bible with the Expanded Apocrypha available in hardcover and genuine leather editions.

Meridian Publishing makes the 1962 edition of the RSV available in paperback form (seen at the top of this article).

The British and Foreign Bible Society prints two Anglicized editions of the 1971 RSV – a compact edition and a standard-size illustrated edition. In addition, the Bible Society's branches in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana also make the compact edition available in their own countries with covers designed specifically for those countries.

Oxford continues to print the 1966 edition of the RSV-Catholic Bible, as does St. Benedict Press, which has issued a Catholic Scripture Study Bible using the RSV-CE text.

Ignatius, as mentioned, has made the 2006 Second Catholic Edition of the full Bible and a New Testament/Psalms available. Ignatius has also issued a Catholic Study New Testament with the RSV-SCE text.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the RSV". USA: NCC. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  2. ^ Wallace, Daniel B., "The History of the English Bible" (lecture series with transcripts).
  3. ^ C. P. Lincoln, A.M., Th.D., A Critique of the Revised Standard Version, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 110 (Jan. 1953) pp. 50-66
  4. ^ "English Versions of the Bible". From The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

External links[edit]