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What is the Revised Standard Version (RSV)?

Revised Standard Version, RSV audio

Revised Standard Version – History
The Revised Standard Version (RSV) is an English translation of the Bible published in the mid-20th century. It traces its history to William Tyndale’s New Testament translation of 1525. The RSV is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version of 1901 and is one of four translations that have the ASV as its basis. In 1928, the copyright to the ASV was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education (ICRE), which formed a panel of 32 scholars and charged them with the task of revising the 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. In 1957, at the request of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Deuterocanonical books were added to the RSV. Minor modifications to the RSV text were authorized in 1959 and completed for the 1962 printings.

In 1965, the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition was published with a revised edition published by Ignatius Press in 2006. In 1971, the RSV Bible was re-released with the Second Edition of the Translation of the New Testament. In 1982, Reader’s Digest published a special edition of the RSV that was billed as a condensed edition of the text. 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 drew even more criticism from conservative Christians than did its 1952 predecessor. The RSV remains a favorite translation for many Christians. However, RSV Bibles are hard to find, except in second-hand shops and churches that used it, because the NCC prefers to print the New Revised Standard Version.

Revised Standard Version – Translation Method
The RSV 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 translation method utilized in the RSV is described as a combination of formal (word for word) and dynamic (thought for thought) equivalence. The translators of the RSV reverted to the use of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), used the archaic pronouns and verbs (thee, thy, hast, hath, etc.)—but only for God and not for humans—and followed the latest Greek text available, where earlier versions relied on the Textus Receptus.

Revised Standard Version – Pros and Cons
Overall, the Revised Standard Version was a good English Bible translation in its time. The RSV, though, can no longer be said to be a modern English translation. While it is more "modern" than the KJV, it does not read as English is spoken today. The RSV is a good balance between formal equivalency and dynamic equivalency, more so than its successor, the NRSV.

Revised Standard Version – Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 8:58 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’”

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

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What is the Revised Standard Version (RSV)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022