— a lament.
It wasn’t too many years ago that I would have wished all the NRSVs would just go away. I had very little appreciation for the translation. To my mind it was a liberal translation made by unbelievers, and had little right to exist.
Of course, my mind has changed since then. I still don’t have a lot of appreciation for the sponsors of the NRSV — the National Council of Churches, an organization of mostly mainline churches led by extreme “progressives”. But it turns out that the translation itself is quite an exceptional one, highly accurate, yet fairly easy to read.
My title would lead you to think that the NRSV is no longer being printed, and the remaining NRSV Bibles are disappearing. That’s not true. In fact, just go into most any mainline church these days, and if you can find a Bible, more than likely it will be a NRSV. Pew Bibles in those mainline churches will very likely be found to also be the NRSV, and most of those mainline churches give the NRSV to their third graders every fall at the start of the Sunday School year. The NRSV is, in fact, the official or unofficial Bible of nearly all mainline denominations in the United States.
So how come you almost never see a NRSV in the hands of an evangelical? I think that’s mostly because the NRSV was never marketed very well, or at least not marketed towards evangelicals. Back in the “olden days” when they first came out with the NRSV, they licensed with different publishers, and you could actually find them. I used to own one made by Zondervan, and it was a beautiful Bible (for a hardcover). It was blue with silver lettering on the cover, and had the appearance of leather. Inside it had, as I recall, what looked like about 9 pt. type, 2 columns of text with a column of cross-references in the middle, and translators notes at the bottom, still a common format. I gave that Bible away a couple years ago. Now I wish I had kept it.
Today it’s hard to find the NRSV made by anyone but their “official” publisher, Harper San Francisco. There are a few top-line versions from such places as Oxford, Cambridge, and R.L.Allan, all of them fine English Bible makers. Harper has been trying, to be sure, but their progress seems to be a snail’s pace for anyone looking for a traditional Bible with large print in the NRSV translation. Besides that, it has simply gotten hard to find the NRSV at booksellers and Bible bookstores that more often cater to evangelicals. If Harper wants people to buy the NRSV (perhaps they don’t care much about it any more) they need to look to publishers like Zondervan, Crossway, and Tyndale to learn how to do it! If you can’t find what you want from those publishers, then you’re not trying!
Of course, this all may be rendered moot in the near future, as the printed Bible goes the way of the brontosaurus, and everybody uses Bible translations online or downloaded to their personally-preferred electronic advice. But to tell you the truth, the NRSV is a bit behind in that category, too!