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Book of Esther
Son of Sirach
Bel & the  Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
1 Esdras
2 Esdras




This preface is addressed to you by the Committee of translators, who wish to explain, as briefly as possible, the origin and character of our work.  The publication of our revision is yet another step in the long, continual process of making the Bible available in the form of the English language that is most widely current in our day.  To summarize in a single sentence: the New Revised Standard Version, published in 1952, which was a revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which, in turn, embodied earlier revisions of the King James Version, published in 1611.

In the course of time, the   King James Version came to be regarded as "the Authorized Version."  With good reason it has been termed "the noblest monument of English prose," and it has entered, as no other book has, into the making of the personal character and the public institutions of the English-speaking  peoples.  We owe to it an incalculable debt.

Yet the King James Version has serious defects.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the King James Version was based made it apparent that these defects were so many as to call for a revision.  The task was begun, by authority of the Church of England, in 1870.  The (British) Revised of the Bible was published in 1881-1885; and the American Standard Version, its variant embodying the preferences of the American scholars associated with the work, was published, as was mentioned above, in 1901.  In 1928 the copyright of the latter  was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education and thus passed into the ownership of the Churches of the United States and  Canada that were associated in this Council through their boards of education and publication.

The Council appointed a committee of scholars to have charge of the text of the American Standard Version and to undertake inquiry concerning the need for further revision.  After studying the questions whether or not revision should be undertaken, and if so, what its nature and extent should be, in 1937 the Council  authorized a revision.  The scholars who served as members of the Committee worked in two section, one dealing with the Old testament and one with the New Testament.  In 1946 the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was published.   The publication of the Revised Standard  Version of the Bible, containing the Old and the New Testaments, took place on September 30, 1952.  A translation of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament followed in 1957.  In 1977 this collection was issued in an expanded edition, containing three additional texts received by Eastern Orthodox communions (3 and 4 Maccabees and  Psalms 151).  Thereafter the Revised Standard Version gained the distinction of being officially authorized for the use by all major Christian churches: Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox.

The Revised Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body, comprising about thirty members, both men and women. Ecumenical in representation, it includes scholars affiliated with various Protestant denominations, as well as several Roman Catholic members, an Eastern  Orthodox member, and a Jewish member who serves in the Old Testament section.  For a period of time the Committee included several members from Canada and from England.  In 1974 the Policies Committee of the Revised Standard Version, which is a standing committee of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., authorized the preparation of a revision of the entire RSV Bible.

For the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament the Committee has made use of a number of texts.  For most of these books the basic  Greek text from which the present translation was made is the edition of the Septuagint prepared by Alfred Rahlfs and published by the Wurttemberg Bible Society (Stuttgart, 1935).  For several of the books the more recently published individual volumes of the Gottingen Septuagint project were utilized.  For the book of Tobit it was decided to follow the form of the Greek text found in codex Sinaiticus (supported as it is by evidence from Qumran); where this text is defective, it was supplemented and corrected by other Greek manuscripts.  For the three Additions to Daniel ( namely, Susanna, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, and Bel and the Dragon) the Committee continued to use the Greek version attributed to Theodotion ( the so-called "Theodotion-Daniel").  In translating Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), while constant reference was made to the Hebrew fragments of a large portion of this book (those discovered at Qumran and Masada as well as those recovered from the Cairo Geniza), the Committee generally followed the Greek text  (including verse numbers) published by Joseph Ziegler in the Gottingen Septuagint (1965).  But in many places the Committee has translated the Hebrew text when this  provides a reading that is clearly superior to the Greek; the Syriac and Latin versions were also consulted throughout and occasionally adopted.  The basic text adopted in rendering 2 Esdras, namely, the Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic (two forms, referred to as Arabic 1 and Arabic 2), Armenian, and Georgian versions.  Finally, since the additions to  the Book of Ester are disjointed and quite unintelligible as they stand in most editions of the Apocrypha, we have provided them with their original context by translating the whole of the Greek version of Esther from Robert Hanhart's Gottingen edition (1983).

As for the style of English adopted for the present revision among the mandates given to the committee in 1980 by the division of Education and Ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ (which now holds the copyright of the RSV Bible) was the directive to continue in the tradition of the King James Bible, but to introduce such changes as are warranted on the basis of accuracy, clarity, euphony, and current English usage.  Within the constraints set by the original texts and by the mandates of the Division, the Committee has followed the maxim, "As literal as possible, as free as necessary."  As a consequence, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) remains essentially a literal translation.  Paraphrastic renderings have been adopted only sparingly, and then chiefly to compensate for a deficiency in the English Language--the lack of a common gender third person singular pronoun.

During the almost half a century since the publication of the RSV, many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text.  The mandates from the Division specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture. As can be appreciated, more than once the Committee found that the several mandates stood in tension and even in conflict. The various concerns had to be balanced case by case in order to provide a faithful and acceptable rendering without using contrived English. Only very occasionally has the pronoun "he" or "him" been retained in passage where the reference may have been to a woman as well as to a man; for example, in several legal texts in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In such instances of formal, legal language, the options of either putting the passage in the plural or of introducing additional nouns to avoid masculine pronouns in English seemed to the committee to obscure the historic structure and literary character of the original.  In the vast majority of cases, however, inclusiveness has been attained by simple rephrasing or by introducing plural forms when this does not distort the meaning of the passage.  Of course, in narrative and in parable no attempt was made to generalize the sex of individual persons.

This new version seeks to preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the years.  It is intended for use in public reading and congregational worship, as well as in private study, instruction, and meditation.  We have resisted the temptation to introduce terms and phrases that merely reflect current moods, and have tried to put the message of the Scriptures in simple, enduring words and expressions that are worthy to stand in the great traditions of the King James Bible and its predecessors.

                                                            For the Committee,

                                                            BRUCE M. METZGER