Friday, January 26, 2018

NRSV Update Planned!

According to the recent SBL report, the NRSV will shortly begin an update process that will take roughly three years.  You can read all about this on page seven of the SBL annual Society Report 2017.

Here is a little bit of what the report has:

At the 2017 SBL-AAR Annual Meeting, the National Council of Churches (NCC) announced an update of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), an English translation of the Bible owned and licensed by the NCC. This update will be managed by the Society for Biblical Literature, following a partnership approved by Council earlier in 2017. Scholars have produced a considerable amount of work in text criticism since 1989, the year the NRSV was published. The last three decades have provided significant new discoveries, including new manuscript witnesses, developments in textcritical methodology, and philological insights. A thirty-year review is not only necessary in the light of this scholarly work but will result in an English translation that is based, without exception, on the most up-to-date textual analysis. The update will focus on three areas:
  • Text-Critical and Philological Advances: The primary focus of the thirty-year review is on new text-critical and philological considerations that affect the English translation. The philological review will draw upon the fruits of historical-critical scholarship that affect expressions in English. For the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, text-critical developments in the last thirty years have been especially significant. The publication of the Judean Desert biblical texts and fragments has revealed a number of readings that differ from the medieval Hebrew traditions in the Masoretic Text, which was the basis of the NRSV.
  • Textual Notes: SBL’s initial review of the NRSV suggested that the current text-critical footnotes are neither complete nor consistent. There are cases when the translation silently adds words not conspicuously in the sources or does not indicate when a reading is not following the sources. To address this deficiency, reviewers will be asked to identify text-critical issues that should have been documented in the notes but were not.
  • Style and Rendering: The translation philosophy of the NRSV will be maintained, including its overarching commitment to being “‘as literal as possible’ in adhering to the ancient texts and only ‘as free as necessary’ to make the meaning clear in graceful, understandable English.” That being said, when a reviewer judges a particular translation awkward, inaccurate, or difficult for general readers to understand, the reviewer may suggest a more elegant rendering.

Thanks to the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog for posting the link.

54 comments:

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

I for one am looking forward to this.

Ed Rio said...

I wonder what the title will be. The Revised New Revised Standard Version maybe? I think it's time for a lot of these translations to get a complete name change.

Timothy said...

I think they need to keep it as the NRSV, perhaps with something in the inside front cover stating clearly that is an updated version. Follow the lead of the ESV and keep the name the same. In a similar way, I hope when the NT is Revised, the NABRE remains the NABRE.

Ed Rio said...

The RE in the NABRE is good. A lot of other books use "second edition" or third, and so on when revisions are done. I think that would be a nice alternative, even if just on the inside of the cover.

476429 said...

Just go with the current trend, NRSV21 (if it takes three years). We have the CSB17 and the NIV11. We'll soon have the NASB18. Some people call the current ESV the ESV16.

I think our modern age has us accustomed to version numbers so they don't have to come up with an entirely new name. Just tack the version number on the end.

Biblical Catholic said...

If it is only going to take 3 years, then it is a very minor update indeed, and no name change will be necessary. A complete revision of the entire text would require at least 10-15 years. This is more like a minor upgrade from version 2.0 to version 2.0.1

Biblical Catholic said...

"We have the CSB17"

That was a very substantial revision, basically a retranslation from scratch in which all of the distinctive features were eliminated. Indeed, the entire translation team from the previous version was fired and a new team hired. The name was indeed changed to reflect this, from 'Holman Christian Standard' to simply 'Christian Standard'.

I have to say, what was happened with that translation is weird, there is no stability at all. It was first published in 2004, then received a revision in 2009 in which massive changes to the text were made, and then in 2017, all the changes introduced in the 2009 text were removed. I don't know what is going at Holman, but they clearly have some major problems. It may be related to the upheaval in the SBC leadership since 2013.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the CSB is a translation in crisis.

Evergreen Dissident said...

The titles of Bible translations have gotten silly. What are they going to call this? The New Revised New Revised Standard Version? The Really New New Revised Standard Version? The Newest New Revised Standard Version? Ugh. I imagine they will do something like the NRSV 2nd Edition -- since that is what the RSV did when it underwent periodic revisions in 1971 (Hebrew Bible and NT) and 1977 (Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books). But still.

Biblical Catholic said...

"The titles of Bible translations have gotten silly."

Maybe, but I think that showing respect for the audience by adopting a new name when there have been significant changes to the text is important. Of course, people can disagree about what kind of changes would be considered 'significant', but, at the very least, the changes from the Revised Standard to the New Revised Standard were extremely significant, and to try to pawn them off as just a minor revision by not changing the name would have been dishonest I think.

Christopher Buckley said...

I wish they's simply start naming translations after the translating body.

Why not:
-The NCC/SBL Bible (NRSV+)
-The USCCB/CBA Bible (NABRE+)
-The CRDC Bible (CEB)
-The Lifeway Bible (CSB)
-The Crossway Bible (ESV)
-The Tyndale House Bible (NLT)

That last one might be a bit problematic, but you see what we're going for.

Anonymous said...

I’m interested in this, but concerned. I anticipate that I will like the textual note revisions, but not like the style and rendering revisions so much.

I agree that that they should continue to call it the NRSV.

I wonder if part of the revision will be to make it Anglicized, considering almost all versions available to buy currently are. If so, I’m out (not a fan of the Anglicized version).

Michael P.

Biblical Catholic said...

The problem with that idea is that such a naming convention tells you nothing about the history of the Bible translation in question.

Part of the value of the naming conventions in use is that they are a convenient shorthand that tells us exactly what family a translation belongs to.

The New Revised Standard Version is called that because it is an authorized revision of the Revised Standard Version, which was an authorized revision of the "Standard Verison" or 'American Standard Version' which is what the American version of the English Revised Version was commonly called, even though that wasn't it's official name.

Likewise, 'Revied New Jerusalem Bible', though an awkward name, immediately tells you that it is a revision of the New Jerusalem Bible, which was itself a revision of the original Jerusalem Bible.

'New American Standard' tells you that it is a revision of the American Standard Version.

'New Living Translation' tells you that it is a revision of the original Living Translation, which was itself derived from the original Living Bible of 1971.

etc etc etc

This kind of information is very helpful to the consumer.

Some have suggested that suggested that instead of re-naming a translation after significant changes have been introduced, a year should be added to the end of the name, so that the Revised Standard Version would be called 'American Standard Version 1952', and the 'New Revised Standard' could be 'American Standard Version 1989'.

This is fine for modest revisions, like what the ESV has gone through, but when you're talking about a revision where they don't just a couple hundred words, but actually go so far as re-translate the entire Bible from scratch, making changes to nearly every verse in the entire Bible, you can't really call this new translation by the old name, because it is literally not the same translation. The New Revised Standard Version is literally a brand new translation, it is not just a revision of the RSV.

Christopher Buckley said...

SO let's just call it King James 5.0

The new NABRE NT revision can be Douay-Rheims 6.0

;-)

Biblical Catholic said...

If you look at something like the Reina Valera translation in Spanish, they keep revising it and then just adding a year, 'Reina Valera 1909, Reina Valera 1960, Reina Valera 1995', and they have been doing this for close to 500 years now. There is a bit of a 'Thesus' Boat' problem here, exactly how much of the text can be changed before it can no longer honestly be called the 'Reina Valera'? I think they have probably reached that point.

A good compromise might be to do something like what they do with computer software, where the name changes when there is a significant revision, but it is still clear what 'family' the software belongs to, so you have 'Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 10' etc, or Mac OS X 'Sierra', Mac OS X 'High Sierra' etc or 'Android Lollipop, Android Marshmallow, Android Nougat'.

So it becomes 'New Revised Standard Ultra Politically Correct Edition' (given that is probably exactly the direction they are going to go in).

Javier said...

Well, what all Reina-Valeras have in common is that they are the only spanish translations that still use the Textus Receptus. In that sense they can be said to belong to a family, and to be different from all the others.

Javier
Argentina

Biblical Catholic said...

"Well, what all Reina-Valeras have in common is that they are the only Spanish translations that still use the Textus Receptus. In that sense, they can be said to belong to a family, and to be different from all the others."

But at this point, there cannot possibly be much of the original wording left. According to Wikipedia, it was first published in 1569 and has been revised 15 times, after 15 rounds of revision, there can't be any of the original left.

To be honest, I'm kind of disappointed that they have decided to revise, however modestly, the NRSV. The NRSV and the New Jerusalem Bible were both notable for going a fairly long time without being revised.

I do wonder what really motivates these constant revisions of Bible translations. I don't buy the 'advances in Biblical scholarship' excuse because whatever advances in Biblical scholarship that have been made since, say 1950, concern very obscure things that could not possibly be reflected in a Bible translation.

The Vulgate of St. Jerome lasted more than 1000 years before it was revised by the decrees of the Council of Trent, but somehow every modern translation needs to be revised about once every 10 years? Bah.

Timothy said...

BC,

I totally agree with you in regards to be disappointed about these revisions. I honestly don’t think they are at all necessary. There hasn’t been some dramatic Dead Sea Scroll type discovery since the mid 80’s. And both the NRSV and NJB are still quite readable, contemporary, and accurate.

Jimbob James said...

With the news of the NRSV and NJB, Tim, do you have any news or updated regarding the ICSB or the 2025 NABRE? I haven't heard a peep about either in quite a while.

Jimbob James said...

How do you figure?

Dr. Gregory Martin and his team translated the entire Rheims and Douai Bible from scratch in about 4 years.

The KJV was translated in about 5 years.

The Rheims Douai was updated entirely by Bishop Richard Challoner and Father Francis Blythe in under 5 years.

The whole modern phenomenon of taking decades to translate or even simply update a Bible is totally unnecessary, there is absolutely no reason why it should take 20 people 10 years just to revise a translation.

Timothy said...

NABRE is still on schedule for 2025. No clue about the ICSB since Ignatius doesn’t reveal what they are doing, ever.

Jimbob James said...

I was watching a video the other day made in 2011 and the person said something about the ICSB NT being great and that a whole ICSB was coming "soon..." I thought to myself, "ha, if only you knew!"

Biblical Catholic said...

"Dr. Gregory Martin and his team translated the entire Rheims and Douai Bible from scratch in about 4 years.

The KJV was translated in about 5 years.

The Rheims Douai was updated entirely by Bishop Richard Challoner and Father Francis Blythe in under 5 years.

The whole modern phenomenon of taking decades to translate or even simply update a Bible is totally unnecessary, there is absolutely no reason why it should take 20 people 10 years just to revise a translation."


Okay, first of all, the standards of modern scholarship are so far above the scholarly standards of the 16th and even 18th centuries that it is simply a joke to even try to compare them.

Gregory Martin was translating from the Vulgate, and his work was really bad. Bishop Challenor frankly did little more than copy from the KJV and polish up the text. He didn't do a translation from scratch, and even if he had, he was working from a single text.

There is so much information out there today, so many sources, so much research to do before you can even begin a Bible translation.

Look at the research they need to do. First, they need to make literally thousands of decisions about what the New Testament text IS before they can begin to translate it. If they start with Aland and Nestle 28, which most translations do, then they have to look at the critical apparatus to determine why the compilers of that text made the choices they did, and then vote on each of the thousands of textual variations which one they want to use the main text and which one they will push to the margins. If they are at all diligent about doing this, it will take years. That is years devoted to just doing the research before a single word has been translated.

The Old Testament is even harder because the text is far more uncertain, most translations start with the Masoretic text, but the Masoretic text is badly corrupted, so they usually compare the MT to other versions, including, but not limited to, the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Aramaic Targums, there are also full or partial translations into Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic.

Every time there is a problem in the Masoretic Text, and there are literally tens of thousands of places where there are, then they have to look through the ancient versions and versions to see if they can determine what the original text might have said.

At literally thousands of places in the Old Testament, the translator has to decide 'okay, the Masoretic text says this, but the Septuagint says something different and the Vulgate says a third thing, and the Dead Sea Scrolls say a fourth thing, which one of them is right?' and they have to make this decision on a case by case basis, thousands upon thousands of times.

Only after all that has been done before the work of translation can begin. Then when the work of translation begins, that's when it gets really hard. The scholars have to decide, do they need to decide on a translation philosophy, and they are probably going to compare their work to other translations, on the one hand searching for guidance and on the other hand trying not to inadvertently plagiarize someone else's translation.

If a scholar is at all diligent or cares at all about quality, he is not going to rush through these thousands upon thousands of decision it in only 2 or 3 years.

And then, when the translation is done. It is time to write the footnotes. This also takes some time.




Jimbob James said...

Honestly, I stopped reading when you said Fr. Martins work was "really bad."

I venerate him as a Saint, and I find it incredibly insulting to refer to the work of the man who laid the foundation of English Catholic Bible translation as "incredibly bad."

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

Shame.

Jimbob James said...

Also your comment betrays such arrogance.

Oh yeah, us moderns, sooo much smarter than those primitives in the 18th century. We can just dismiss all their work, it's a real joke. *laughing in a conceited tone*

Timothy said...

Let’s try to chill a bit here. I will not allow this to escalate from this point.

Anonymous said...

For me, it doesn’t really matter if the NRSV or NJB or any other translation is revised because the result will be either I like the revision or I don’t. If I like it, I’ll buy it. If I don’t like it, I’ve got enough copies of the translations I like that, even if they are never printed again and unavailable to buy used, I’m set for the rest of my life. So, for me, I don’t get emotionally invested one way or the other.

Michael P.

Michael Demers said...

RSV 1946, 1952, 1957, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1977, 2006
NRSV 1989, 1993, 1995, 2021?
D-R 1582, 1609, 1610
Challoner 1749-1752
CCD 1941
CCD 2.0 1948, 1950, 1952, 1955, 1961, 1961, 1969
NAB 1970, 1986, 1991, 2011
JB 1966, 1985, 2018?

A tremendous amount of scholarly work and achievement!

Biblical Catholic said...

"Honestly, I stopped reading when you said Fr. Martins work was "really bad.""

That is because it is true, his translation doesn't even use coherent English, the translation is so excessively literal that it retains even the word order of the Latin and there are entire sentences which don't have a verb and other sentences that don't have a noun.

A translation which doesn't use coherent English is not a good translation, by definition.

And if you don't think that modern academia insists on much higher standards of quality than they did in the 16th or even the 19th centuries, then I can only conclude that you have never even studied the issue. It is undeniable that standards today are much, much, much, higher.


Jimbob James said...

I have studied the issue in depth. I still find the dismissive attitude of "those 18th century primitives" to be arrogant.

Surly Hermit said...

I've thought about writing numerous things here as I've read through the comments, but I suppose I won't. Instead, I'd like to urge each side (of any conversation, really) to consider the other a bit more charitably. Unthinking rudeness won't assuage blind arrogance, I'm afraid.

I do have an embarrassing confession to make, though: I read "I venerate [Fr Martin] as a saint" as referring to Fr James Martin, S.J. the first time around. I'll have to clean my keyboard now.

Timothy said...

And why would you need to clean your computer?

Surly Hermit said...

Eh, it was just about time for a cleaning, I suppose.

Martin reminds me phonetically of Merton which reminds me to recommend to you Cardinal Sarah's The Power of Silence. He quotes Merton extensively, and it was quite possibly the most spiritually important book I read in 2017.

Jerry Mc Kenna said...

My guess is that the NCC wants to get fresh attention to the NSRV. It is a good translation and if they can make it better and sell more, that would be wonderful.

Christopher Buckley said...

Has the SBL ever been involved with the NRSV before?
I don't seem to remeber their prior involvement.
Seems like the real news here is the merger, or even transfer, of the struggling NCC's stewardship of the NRSV to the SBL.

Timothy said...

That is indeed the big news.

Tom said...

I think revisions of revisions done by committee tend to be tepid. I say go big or go home, like David Bentley Hart's solo translation of the New Testament.

straykat said...

Interesting. I imagine Harper has something to do with this.. (now the US copyright holders and the publisher of the SBL written Harper Collins Study Bible (probably better than the Oxford, but I'm not a fan of either). With this kind of unified backing though, I wonder what would become of the NAOB. People would want an SBL bible also translated by an SBL commitee, methinks. It's a nice complete package.. as far as that market goes.

They ought to just call it the SBL version, at that. Heh. I mean, NRSV is pretty silly if you think about it.

Not sure why this of all things got me out of lurking. /back to my hole :D

straykat said...

Oh yeah, I said Harper is the copyright holder. Someone mentioned the NCC above. They sold it to Harper, as far as I know (maybe I'm missing something). NCC also sold some rights to the RSV to the ESV translators as we all know, but the NRSV is Harper's now. Therefore this new SBL committee makes sense. They're already the SBL's publishing arm.

Steve Molitor said...

I agree Tom!

Tim are you going to review DBH’s NT?

Timothy said...

If I can find the time. 🤪

Dan said...

When they say they are using the latest scholarship, what they mean is: "Sales have dropped. We need a new version to get more money!".

Evergreen Dissident said...

I don't see a need for revision of the NRSV at this point. The language is still understandable and it remains a, ahem, standard translation for academic research and theological reflection. The NJB is a harder call -- the language is more idiosyncratic and then there is its use of the speculative "Yahwah" for the Divine Name. A light revision taking care of those problems would be justified. The NAB OT needed revision badly -- its language was in spots offense and in others baffling to modern readers. The revised OT is heads and shoulders a great translation in terms of reading smoothness and tone of language. The NAB NT is a harder case, although it has its quirks ("holy Spirit" instead of Holy Spirit, for example). The NRSV though is holding up pretty well.

straykat said...

Sales have never seemed that great for the NRSV. It never won over evangelicals.. especially with the release of the NIV in the 70s/80s. It set out to be ecumenical, and barely wins over Catholics and Orthodox either. Catholics are either traditionalist and go for older translations or already have the good NAB. Orthodox are often very conservative and I see a lot of discouragement and frowning on the NRSV. So it's mostly used by mainline Protestants and scholarship. A small crowd. And definitely not high volume bible purchasers like evangelicals.

Evergreen Dissident said...

The Orthodox were unhappy enough with it that they produced the Orthodox Study Bible as an alternative, using the NKJV as the base text.

straykat said...

Yeah. I only wish they updated the NT, like they did the OT (as it is, the NKJV is unaltered for the NT). That would be my bible of preference, if it ever happens.

Timothy said...

Please keep in mind that the OSB is not necessarily the official bible of the Orthodox Church in America. Also, if you do a quick search online, there are a number of critiques of this edition, most particularly in how the LXX was translated in places.

Timothy said...

But, to your point, there was discontent by some, perhaps most, in the Orthodox Church in America regarding elements of the NRSV.

straykat said...

Thanks. I'm not even sure who from the OCA might have been on the team of translators/revisers. I see more names associated with Greek and Antiochian branches. Or do you just mean Orthodox Church in America in the general sense? :)

That said, it's the best option as far LXX based bibles... with an Orthodox canon. What I meant about the NT is I'd like to see them translate from the Majority Text, if it's going to be Orthodox (although the TR doesn't differ much apparently).

I also wish more English bibles kept things from the original texts. Like when Jesus often declares "Amen, amen I say to you". Latin branches starting with Jerome and now the modern NAB keep it in, but for some reason, anything driven by Protestant committees takes it out. The NKJV has "Most assuredly, I say to you". NRSV has "Very truly" (better than NKJV at least). This isn't what Jesus said, and I think the Gospel writers intentionally kept in various Armaic quirks. Like they kept in Mary's "Rabboni!" and Jesus' "Talitha cumi" too. Words like Amen, Marinatha, Alleluia are all part of our language now... but they wouldn't be if the early church had filtered things the way modern English translators do.

Timothy said...

I agree with what you said in that last paragraph. One of the very good points of the current NAB NT is that it remains quite literal in regards to “Amen” and other terms and sayings. Some even give it a hard time, unnecessarily, when it is literal with a word line “Gehenna.” I certainly hope it keeps that tradition alive in the revision, including the “I Am” sayings.

straykat said...

I hope it won't be too heavily revised as well. As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm not a Catholic, but I like it. I notice there are some Catholics who are (strongly) not fans. I wish I could tell them what a gem they have, or.. appreciate even the very idea of a unified/bishops' backed translation process. This is a blessing. Other churches don't have this. It's very hard for anyone else (Orthodox or Protestant) to get together and work on something. The NCC and SBL for the NRSV might be the next best thing (as far as process goes).

Anonymous said...

Tim,

When the SBL says “when a reviewer judges a particular translation ... difficult for general readers to understand, the reviewer may suggest a more elegant rendering.” - do you think this means that the revised NRSV will end up being a more dynamic translation than the current version? I know they want to continue to be “as literal as possible” but this sentence makes me think that they will not be as literal as the current version.

Any thoughts?

Michael P.

Timothy said...

Great question. It is difficult to say. All depends on what they determine to be elegant. Elegant in more a modern dynamic idiom or in conjunction with the long history going back to the KJV. We shall certainly see.

All I can say is boy there is a lot of Bible news going on!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim.

I also suspect that they will revise the NRSV in such a way that there will be only one "version" i.e., there will not be a separate Anglicized version.

Michael P.

David Garcia said...

Ya know all these revisions to all these translations all fly in the face of the OBOY concept!! Lol! Pick a Bible that isn’t gonna be revised!!! Go JB1966!!!! ;)