Friday, February 8, 2013

R S V P If You Please

Today is February 8th...

On this day in 1946, the first portion of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published.  It was quite the news, and the first real update of the King James Version of the Bible.  I was not around yet (nor would be for many a year) but I do know that it was well received from the start and soon became the new Standard for reading Scripture, whether in public worship or private devotions.

We have a plethora of other newer translations and paraphrases now, and it would be something of a challenge for you to get a new Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Because, in fact, the RSV as we call it, was again updated in the 1980s and became the New Revised Standard Version, which is, as the name suggests, a scholarly accurate revision of the scholarly accurate revision of the King James Version.  If you open and read the three side by side you can see how closely related they are, sort of like members of  your own family tree.

I am sometimes asked by church members or friends which version of the Bible I recommend. Without question I recommend the New Revised Standard Version, which takes the study of the ancient texts with so much seriousness and insight that it would be very difficult indeed to find any other good translation that comes close.  In fact, the NRSV is the translation in our pews, as it should be, and in the pews of most of our sister congregations in our denomination and many other denominations.

Often I am asked why one cannot easily find the NRSV on the shelves of the local religious bookstore chains.  The answer is simple.  As wonderful as the various bookstore chains are, they are all owned by or closely affiliated with particular publishing houses, none of which are the copyright holders of (you guessed it) the NRSV.  But they are copyright holders of different translations or paraphrases and they feature them front and center in all of their book displays. 

It is similar to the reason why you cannot find competing pop (or soda) at fast food chains that are owned by...surprise!...this or that maker of fizzy soft drinks.

When you read your Bible today, if it is from the majestic poetry of the 1606 King James, enjoy!  It is like reading Shakespeare.  Or if you are reading the RSV, think: "Today is RSV Day!"  If you are reading from the NRSV, well and good, it is like reading from the RSV's offspring.  

And if you are reading from some other translation or paraphrase, keep in mind that they all owe much to the wisdom of those who did the work for the RSV in 1946 and thereabout.

No comments: