A CONTINUATION OF MY POSTS OF MY RELATIONSHIP WITH BRUCE METZGER
I served as one of the secretaries for the NRSV, as explained in my previous post, for a couple of years. It was not onerous work and was quite a privilege to be able to associate with some of the greatest biblical scholars and Semitic philologists of the time. I was, of course, a complete nobody. Some of the members of the committee treated me (and the other secretaries) as complete nobodies (these tended to be the less qualified and more insecure members of the committee; I won’t name names!); others treated me (and the others) in a dignified and respectful way, realizing that we were, after all, just graduate students, but knowing that we were advanced and heading into academic careers of our own.
When I graduated from my PhD program I was teaching part time at Rutgers, but I did not have a full time, tenure-track position there. It was a slightly oppressive situation, as adjunct positions at universities typically are. I’ll say more about that in a later post. For now: I was working part time teaching at Rutgers, and Metzger asked me if I was interested in being his full time research assistant for the Bible translation committee. It would be a forty-hour a week job, with a decent salary, and I could do it with flexible hours, so that I could do that *and* continue teaching at Rutgers. I jumped at the chance. It made for a busy couple of years, but it was worth it both financially and academically.
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As the full time administrative assistant for the committee and, especially, its chair (I can’t remember what title I had, officially), I had a large number of responsibilities.
- I was to enter all of the translation decisions the committee had made over the years onto the computer, in a kind of word processing program. The computer systems were very primitive (this was 1987), and the committee had not, before this, computerized much of anything.
- I was to check through the translation, both OT and NT, for translational consistency. This took a lot of my time and effort, and was a major pain in the neck. The deal was that there were three subcommittees on the OT, each doing different books. But what happens when the same phrase occurs in different books, and different subcommittees had been responsible for these different books, and had decided, each of them, to render the phrase differently? That, obviously, was no good. And someone had to check the translation to see where that had happened, so a decision could be made how to make sure that all the translations of all the books were consistent with one another (since it was being published as a single translation, not a collection of individual translations). That someone was me. Every technical word, every phrase had to be checked and flagged as a potential problem. This took me months and months.
- I was to check in particular for places where the inclusive language policies of the committee had not been implemented fully. The committee had decided that language used of human beings should not be rendered in a masculine-only way, so that, for example, if the apostle Paul was addressing a mixed group of people, he would not call them “men” – since some of the people were women. And so language about people was to be inclusive if in fact the text indicated that the group included men and women. But the language with respect to the deity was to be kept masculine, since the ancients did indeed imagine God as a masculine being. I will devote some other posts to the question of inclusive language; for now, it is enough to say that the committee had to have a policy, the policy developed over the years they had been doing their work, and someone had to check the entire translation to make sure the final policy had been correctly implemented at every point.
- Finally, at the end of it all, I needed to work through the entire translation and indicate to Metzger where I thought there might be problems, either in the flow or eloquence of the English language or in the accuracy of the translation. I could not change anything myself, of course, but I was to alert Metzger (and the committee through him) of what I detected to be problems and issues. There were many hundreds.
I did all this for a couple of years, after which I was responsible for preparing the translation for the eight official publishers who had been granted the rights to publish the translation. It came out in 1989 as the New Revised Standard Version.