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Anglicized Edition

The publication of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1990 marked the latest stage in the development of an authoritative English language text, a process that started in England with the translation commonly known as the Authorized or King James Version of 1611. The ongoing task of translation had already resulted in the Revised Standard Version of 1952, and a fuller account of this developmental process can be found in the preface To the Reader.

The RSV rapidly found favour throughout the English-speaking world, and in the United Kingdom the translation was quickly adopted by churches, theological colleges, and university faculties as their standard version. In all these places, the RSV was recognized as being authoritative and accurate, impartial in its scholarship, and well-suited to the needs of the Christian community of that period.

The continuance of the Translation Committee’s work after the RSV first appeared is a testimony to the fluid nature of the labour with which it is concerned. Bible translators must try to reflect the language of the people for whom they are writing, and the NRSV, recognizing that the English language was evolving rapidly, adopted terms that are familiar to contemporary readers. Yet the English language has developed in different ways in separate countries, and there has been an ongoing divergence between the language as it is used in the United States of America, and the form most commonly used in the British Isles and other countries where British usage is preferred. Therefore, whilst the appearance of the NRSV was warmly welcomed, it soon became apparent that there was a sufficient number of variances between American and British usage to suggest that an edition embodying British usage would be appreciated. The task of producing a text that would meet this need was therefore undertaken, with the convenient (if not strictly accurate) description of an Anglicized Edition.

All those participating in the process of ‘anglicization’ accepted that no attempt could be made to alter the basic translation in any way; their responsibility was simply to render words that might otherwise be uncertain or awkward into the best generally acceptable equivalent in British usage, whilst at the same time adjusting appropriate points of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

It is the spelling of various words that will for many present the most obvious examples of change. (Readers may care to note that the verb ending -ize, in Britain sometimes regarded as American usage, has been retained where this is etymologically permissable). Other common changes include: the insertion of ‘and’ into numbers higher than one hundred; the replacement of obsolete (in British usage) past participles such as ‘gotten’; the avoidance of subjunctive verbs, still familiar in American but much rarer in British usage; the reinstatement of prepositions such as ‘to’ and ‘for’ often elided in US idiom.

The Anglicized Edition’s editors also found that words in common use could sometimes have different meanings in various English-speaking cultures, which must affect understanding and interpretation of the text. Thus, references to the (freshwater) Sea of Galilee retain this form, but where the proper name is not given in full, ‘sea’ is replace by ‘lake’, a more unmistakable description for readers to whom sea implies salt water, corresponding to the American ‘Ocean’. The ‘tone’ of a particular word may also vary between countries; what is an acceptable ‘informal’ use in the USA may sometimes be seen as a vulgarism in Britain and other places.

Many smaller alterations have been made, apparently insignificant in themselves, yet which contribute to the overall rendition of the biblical narrative in what may be termed British style.

The intention that lies behind the publication of the New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition has been to present an already excellent version of the Scriptures in the form most accessible to its intended readers, so reinforcing their understanding. The editorial work was carried out in Great Britain, but the active support and encouragement of members of the original Translation Committee has ensured that the foundational scholarship which undergirds the NRSV has been retained, and enhanced for those who prefer British usage. It is the earnest hope of all involved in the task that their efforts will enable still more readers to gain fresh insights into the written Word of God.

October 1995

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