I remember back when they first came out with the NRSV. Our pastor endorsed it wholeheartedly, saying it was an excellent translation for public reading. I was in the early stages of becoming interested in Bible study and translations, and pretty soon I was asking him to recommend a study Bible. He told me I should get the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible – NRSV with the Apocrypha, and even ordered it for me!
At first I loved it, but I gradually found the study notes to be too liberal for my tastes, and too few and far between to do me much good. I also discovered that the NRSV was commissioned by the very liberal National Council of Churches, and saw what appeared to me to be changes they had made in the text to fit with their own liberal political agenda. At that point I refused to use the NRSV any more and relegated the two copies I had to a bookshelf in my bedroom where they have gathered dust for a number of years.
When we got a new pastor last summer, I was pleased to discover he’s much more evangelical and conservative than most of the pastors I have known in the UMC. But one thing upset me. I quickly discovered that he preached from the NRSV. The previous pastor had begun to use the Good News Bible because of it’s clear, common English, and while I didn’t care for that translation, I couldn’t really argue with his reasoning. But our church has all these NRSV pew Bibles, so when the new pastor came, it was a natural for him to go back to the NRSV.
Well, I wrote the new pastor an e-mail, telling him I was happy with his preaching, but I wish he wouldn’t use that liberal translation. Of course he very graciously informed me that he intended to continue using the NRSV, and that it’s really not such a bad translation. He said he used to be an NIV guy, but when he went to seminary, he had to use the NRSV, and found he really kind of liked it. I told him that while I didn’t care for the NRSV, I wouldn’t raise any stink about it because I like his preaching – he preaches the Gospel of Christ and holds to a high Christology. I can’t argue with that!…
…But I still didn’t like the NRSV.
Since I have been reading and participating on the biblioblogs, I have run into numerous cases where the NRSV is compared with other translations, and a number of people who use the NRSV and recommend it. But I have long felt that it was a dying translation, soon to become an asterisk in the annals of Bible translation history, since it appears to be used only by the mainline denominations, and everybody knows they are shrinking rapidly.
Well, something has moved me over the last few weeks to take another look at the NRSV. Maybe it’s things I have read on the blogs; maybe it’s the fact that when our pastor reads from it, it’s quite clear (and the fact that he, being an evangelical, uses it.) Maybe it’s just the moving of the Holy Spirit in my life. But whatever it is, I have once again picked up my dusty NRSV and begun reading.
And what have I found? It’s almost like coming home! Having grown up all my early life with the old RSV, I have the style and word-pictures of that translation ingrained into my mind, so since the NRSV retains much of that, it’s clear, understandable, and familiar to me…it’s comfortable! And yet it’s so accurate!
But besides that, in recent months I have become very aware of the way our language is used, and how masculine generic pronouns are so often misunderstood by today’s reader, and so when I read the NRSV I notice how the wording has been changed a little bit here and there to reflect that. It’s not a liberal thing, it’s a matter of making it understandable!
I’m almost embarrassed to say, I’m becoming comfortable with the NRSV. I’m even starting to look for a leather-covered version, since the two I have are hardcover. And their print is quite small, so I need to find a large-print version as well.
I have been noticing that the new publisher, Harper San Francisco, has cut way back on the styles they are selling; apparently they are doing a complete overhaul of the NRSV styles, and they so far are very short on leather and large print. But I believe that is changing, as I see hints that they have a number of new styles coming out in the near future. There are also a couple other publishers that still have a few NRSVs available.
At any rate, It appears I have done quite a turn-around regarding the NRSV. I’m not yet sure how it will figure into the scheme of things as far as my teaching is concerned, but I am back…I am using the NRSV again.