Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 6, 1952
NUMBER 27, PAGE 1,15

"The New Version"

Oswald T. Allis

(Editor's Note: While some of our brethren have been going "all out" in their praise of the new "Revised Standard Version" of the Bible, our Methodist friends, knowing at first hand the terrible tragedy of liberal and modernistic influences in their church, are far more critical of the translation. The following article is taken from The Congregational Methodist Messenger. We commend it to your careful reading. The abbreviations in it are as follows: AV means Authorized Version or King James; ARV means American Revised Version or American Standard Version, which was published in 1901; RSV means Revised Standard Version, which is just off the press.)

On September 30 the much-advertised and highly commended "Revised Standard Version" of the Bible will be available at all book stores in America. It is being presented to the public as "the first official version of the Bible" and "the greatest Bible news" in 341 years.

It is 341 years since the Authorized or King James Version was released. It was an official version in the sense that King James I of England interested himself in the matter and thus gave it the imprimatur of both church and state. It was the work of forty-seven great scholars of the time and is conceded by competent literary critics to be the greatest single piece of English literature, unsurpassed in power and beauty of expression even by Milton and Shakespeare. No book in the history of the world has ever been more beloved or has more profoundly affected the life and the literature of the world.

The new Revised Standard Version is an official version in the sense that it is authorized by the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The work of translation was initiated by the International Council of Religious Education and accomplished by a committee of thirty-two scholars headed by Dr. Luther A. Weigle, dean emeritus of Yale Divinity School. The ICRE was later absorbed by the National Council of Churches and the latter body now owns and controls the copyright and will receive (along with Thomas Nelson and Sons, its publishers) the profits from the new Bible.

For months before the publication of the RSV New Testament in 1946, an extensive publicity campaign was carried on in its favor. Pre-publication copies, which were supplied to reviewers before the release-date, contained this estimate of the version printed on the jacket, "The result, critics agree, is a Version of the New Testament more accurate in translation than any previous and, because of its beautiful modern English, more useful, understandable, and pleasurable to the twentieth-century reader." This was the claim of the publishers before any but what might be called the inner circle of friendly critics had had any opportunity to examine the book, before any reviews or criticisms of it were allowed to appear.

A similar procedure is being followed with the RSV Old Testament. Every effort is being made to treat it as The Most Important Publication of 1952. A recent news-release from New York which appeared in a Los Angeles newspaper has the glaring heading, "Version Corrects Over 5,000 Errors." It speaks of a "Huge First Edition," declaring that "Thomas Nelson and Sons, the publishers, says it is the biggest first edition in history." It declares that "Orders are on hand for over 500,000 copies." It assures the reader that "Weigle expects RSV will replace the King James for most English-speaking churches" and the statement is made: "Vast new material has been found by Bible scholars in the last 75 years. Some 300 words used in the Bible have changed meaning since the King James was prepared in 1611. In some cases translations were wrong."

This and similar statements have been appearing in the public press for some time. It is reported that $850,000 will be spent on publicity and advertising. This seems like a very large sum. But when it is remembered that the RSV is a copyrighted version, that tremendous profits are involved, the figure does not seem remarkable.

It is certainly in order to look again at the RSV New Testament, which has been on the market for six years and which the publishers declared to be "The Most Important Publication of 1946," with a view to a clear understanding of the issues which are raised by the RSV. This should be instructive since it is only natural and proper to expect that in the case of the RSV as in AV and ARV, the Old Testament will follow the same general rules of translation as the New. Otherwise there would be a contrast, even a conflict between the two, which the reviewers would undoubtedly make every effort to avoid.

In the first place it is to be noted that the RSV has the characteristic features of the so-called "modern speech" Bibles or Testaments, features which have in the past sharply distinguished these versions from the AV and ARV. The most important of these features are: (1) Omission of italics; (2) loose renderings which are sometimes paraphrase rather than translation; (8) "idiomatic" renderings and (4) the modernizing of the style.

Space will permit of the citing of only a few examples under each of the above heads.

1. Omission of Italics. With a view to distinguishing between words which are actually in the Biblical text and words which are supplied to clarify the meaning, the AV and ARV use italics. The RSV which is a much freer rendering does not indicate in any way the words which are inserted. E.g., Rom. 8:27 "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Here AV italicizes the words "the will of" because they are not represented in the Greek. RSV not only does not italicize them but inserts the words "of men" and substitutes "the Spirit" for "he" without indicating in any way that they are not in the Greek. In view of the insistent claim which is made for RSV that it is based on better manuscript evidence than AV, the reader would be justified in inferring that these insertions or substitutions have manuscript evidence. But such is not the case. They simply represent a looser rendering of the same text as was used by AV and ARV.

The objection to the use of italics, we are told, is that italics are ordinarily used to indicate emphasis. It should not be difficult to make it clear to the reader of the Bible that the Biblical usage is different. But it is not a question of italics as such. It is simply the problem of indicating in some way to the reader the additions which the translator has made to the text. This could be done by the use of parentheses or square brackets or half-brackets. The important thing is not how the distinction is made, but simply that it be made.

2. Loose Renderings which are sometimes paraphrase rather than translation. Rom. 5:2, "And we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (RSV), instead of "and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Here "our" and "sharing" are simply inserted without any manuscript evidence. Rom. 2:28, "For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly" nor is true criticism something external and physical" (RSV) instead of "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh." 1 Cor. 1:20, "He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus" (RSV), instead of "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus." One reason that italics are not used in the RSV is that as in the last example cited, the rendering is sometimes so free that the interpretive additions could not be indicated by them.

3. Idiomatic Renderings. It used to be quite generally recognized, we believe, that the language of the Bible has certain noteworthy and distinctive characteristics and that it is both proper and desirable that these characteristic features should be reflected in the translation. Now we are told by modern speech translators that they are to be eliminated in order that the version may be perfectly idiomatic. For example, in the Hebrew the use of "and" to join together clauses is quite common, much more so than in English. Consequently, RSV, following the lead of Weymouth, does not hesitate to eliminate what it regards as superfluous "ands." The same is true of other expression. "Answered and said" is reduced to a single word "Men and brethren" is reduced to 'Brethren." "Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee." (Heb. 6:14) is regarded as too Semitic. So it is reduced to "Surely I will bless you and multiply you," a change which makes the statement much less emphatic. Paul uses the expression "I would not have you ignorant six times in his epistles. RSV changes three of them to "i want you to know." The change is purely arbitrary. There is no textual warrant for it. In Luke 5:12 "And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy," (AV) becomes "While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy." Here "and it came to pass" is simply omitted and "behold" is replaced by "there came." But, on the other hand "in one of the cities" is a more literal rendering than "in a certain city" — a striking combination of looseness and accuracy of rendering!