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Sunday word: The Revised Standard Version Bible


My previous three articles dealt with some anomalies detected within the earliest English translations of the scriptures. These defects have resulted in some profound consequences both in content and interpretation. Some original meanings have been lost and revision of these scriptures has necessitated a revisit to some contents of the earliest compilations. Some biblical scripts used, wherever possible and preserved, have and could still be used to improve accuracy both in content and meaning of the Bible, especially those of the New Testament.

In the preface section, page (iv) of the Revised Standard Version, the scholars, translators and editors had this to say about their history of works: “The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, was published on September 30, 1952, and has met with wide acceptance.” This preface does not undertake to set forth in detail the lines upon which the revision proceeded. That is done in pamphlets entitled: An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament and An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament written by members of the Committee and designed to help the public to understand the main principles which have guided this comprehensive revision of the King James and American Standard Versions.

The principles were reaffirmed by the Committee in 1959, in connection with a study of criticisms and suggestions from various readers. As a result, a few changes were authorised for subsequent editions, most of them corrections of punctuations, capitalisation, or footnotes. Some of them are changes of words or phrases made in the interest of consistency, clarity or accuracy of translation.

The Revised Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body, holding its meetings at regular intervals. It has become both ecumenical and international, with Protestant and Catholic active members, who come from Great Britain, Canada and the United States.

The Second Edition of the translation of the New Testament (1971) profits from textual and linguistic studies published since the Revised Standard Version New Testament was first issued in 1946. Many proposals for modification were submitted to the committee by individuals and by two denominational committees. All these were given careful attention by the committee.

Two passages, the longer ending of Mark (16:9-10) and the account of the woman caught in adultery (John 7: 53-8:11) are restored to the text, separated from it by a blank space and accompanied by informative notes describing the various arrangements of the texts in the ancient authorities. With new manuscripts support, two passages, Luke 22:19b-20 and 24:51b, are restored to the text and one passage, Luke 22:43-44, is placed in the note, as is a phrase in Luke 12:39. Notes are added which indicate significant variations, additions or omissions in the ancient authorities (Mt 9:34; Mk 3:16; 7:4; Lk 24:32, 51, etc). Among the new notes are those giving the equivalence of ancient coinage with the contemporary day’s or year’s wages of a labourer (Mt 18:24; 28; 20:2, etc). Some of the revisions clarify the meaning through rephrasing or reordering the text (see Mk 5:42; Lk 22:29-30; Jn 10:33; 1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 5:19; Heb 13:13). Even when changes appear to be largely matters of English style, they have the purpose of presenting to the reader more adequate meaning of the text (see Mt 10:8; 12:1; 15:29; 17:20; Lk 7:36; 11:17; 12:40; Jn 16:19; Rom 10:16; 1 Cor 12:24; 2 Cor 2:3; 3:5, 6 etc).

The Revised Standard Version Bible seeks to preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the years. It is intended for use in public and private worship, not merely for reading and instruction. We have resisted the temptation to use phrases that are merely in current usage, but sought to put the message of the Bible in simple, enduring words that are worthy to stand in the great Tyndale-King James tradition. We are glad to say, with the King James translators: “Truly (good Christian Rader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make a bad one a good one …but to make a good one better.”

The Bible is more than a historical document to be preserved. And it is more than a classic of English literature to be cherished and admired. It is a record of God’s dealing with men, of God’s revelation of Himself and His will. It records the life and word of Him in whom the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among men. The Bible carries its full message, not to those who regard it simply as a heritage of the past or praise it’s literacy style, but to those who read it that they may discern and understand God’s word to men. That Word must not be disguised in phrases that are no longer clear, or hidden under words that have changed or lost their meaning. It must stand forth in language that is direct and plain and meaning to people today. It is our hope and our earnest prayer that this Revised Standard Version of the Bible may be used by God to speak to men in these momentous times, and to help them to understand and believe and obey His Word”.

The last paragraph of the preface section of the Revised Standard Version Bible talks about abbreviations on page (vii).

In the notes to the books of the Old Testament, the following abbreviations are used: Ms for manuscript. Heb denotes the Hebrew of the consonantal Masoretic Text of the Old Testament; MT denotes the Hebrew of the pointed Masoretic Text of the Old Testament. The ancient versions of the Old Testament are indicated by:

Grk: Septuagint, Greek Version of Old Testament

Sam: Samarian Hebrew text of Old Testament

Syr: Syriac Version of Old Testament

Tg: Targum

Vg: Vulgate, Latin Version of Old Testament.

Cn indicates a correction made where the text has suffered in transmission and the versions provide no satisfactory restoration, but the committee agrees with the judgement of competent scholars as to the most probable reconstruction of the original text. The reader is referred to the Preface for a statement of policy concerning text and notes (end of quote).

Next week I shall conclude the introductory sections of the Standard Revised Version Bible by some direct messages of advice and other general information perceived to be of importance to the readers. Stay blessed.

  • Prosper Tingini is the Scribe of the Children of God Missionary Assembly – God’s messengers. Contact details: Mobile and Whatsapp: 0771 260 195. Email address: ptingini@gmail.com

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