This will be a first for me. I’m actually going to try and write about the NRSV without writing anything disparaging about the liberals/progressives. Up until now, my view of the liberals/progressives has tainted my view of the NRSV, but I think … I hope … that I can now look at the NRSV for what it is, and write objectively about it.
As you probably know, the NRSV is a relatively recent revision of the Revised Standard Version. There is nary a “thee” or a “thou” to be found anywhere in the NRSV, and “inclusive language” has been added, mainly in the form of replacing “brothers” or “brethren” with “brothers and sisters” — generally pretty mild stuff. The revision has made for quite an easy-read for what is actually an “essentially literal” translation. I can remember a previous pastor telling us he really liked the new NRSV translation – it’s really good for public reading! And that’s certainly something worth considering, even if your public reading is limited to a classroom. Not all versions are good for reading out loud…
I have complained in the past that the NRSV is a “muddy” translation, and that it almost seems that whenever the translators had to make a theological decision, they made the wrong one. While I don’t think that way any more, there are a number of renderings that seem a little odd at times. For example, Genesis 1:2 – “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Now I’m sure the translators had good reasons for putting it that way, but what happened to the more traditional rendering of the “Spirit of God” rather than a “wind from God”? It just seems a little odd.
And the NRSV, like the RSV before it, uses the term “destined” rather than “predestined” in Ephesians. I checked it out in a number of dictionaries, and the two terms are actually synonymous, so “destined” should actually be considered just as correct as “predestined”. But it seems to me that the concept of “destined” is a little different than “predestined”, as if “destined” is more a matter of fate and “predestined” is more concerning the will of God. But that’s just my “impression”.
One other thing of note is the fact that the NRSV is in the family of translations that use the phrase “young woman” instead of “virgin” in Isaiah 7:14, which is certainly a hot-button issue for many evangelicals, but one which is not too hard for most of us to deal with. It shouldn’t be a “faith-breaker” for anybody.
Personally, when I get past the odd renderings here and there, I can honestly say that the NRSV is a very solid translation. I am quite pleased with what I have found in my recent reading of it, and it doesn’t bother me too much at all to recommend it to others. Recently I was pleased to see that my local church gave the NRSV Student Bible to all the children in our confirmation classes, and I willingly donated some money to help pay for them.
Is it my favorite translation? No. But it is a good translation, a solid translation. It’s the one that my church uses, so I do have to deal with its issues. Currently I own a NRSV reference Bible, hardback from Zondervan; and also a NRSV New Oxford Study Bible, also hardcover. I’m not at all fond of hardcover Bibles. At this point I am debating whether or not to buy a new NRSV Standard Bible or NRSV XL, look for a nice used leather-covered NRSV, or wait until Harper Bibles comes out with a good leather-covered NRSV large-print, which is what I would really like. I guess it all depends on how much I want one.