About two or three times a month I get asked about translations of the Bible. Usually the questions are about which one I prefer (answer: The New Revised Standard Version, i.e. the NRSV, and also an annotated edition, such as the Harper Collins Study Bible, which gives brief introductions to each of the biblical books and notes at the bottom of the page for difficulty passages, a kind of mini-commentary). But sometimes a questioner wants to know about the process of biblical translation and what it entails.
I’ve been interested in this question for, well, roughly 50 years, but my interest reached a peak in the early 1980s when, as a lowly graduate student, I got invited to be a secretarial assistant for the committee producing the NRSV. Years ago on the blog I talked about that over a series of posts, both what the translation entailed, what problems it (and every other translation committee or individual scholar) had to confront, what I did for the committee over the years, etc. (For the first post in that thread, see Metzger and Me. The NRSV Bible Translation Committee). I thought I’d revisit the issue here, especially since a new updated version has now come out (NRSVue = NRSV Updated Edition; not exactly a catchy title, but accurate). At the end of this series I’ll say a few words about the new edition. First, the original topic: my (rather minor) involvement with the NRSV itself.
The New Revised Standard Version Committee was appointed by the U.S. National Council of Churches to produce a revision of the famous Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible, which had come out in 1952. Since the time