The Revised Version was the first major English revision of the Authorized (King James) Version. The work was partly based on manuscripts unavailable during the time of King James. Its objective was to present a literally accurate translation of the Bible in modern English. The work was entrusted to some fifty scholars from various denominations in Britain, with some cooperation from American scholars. Strictly, in coming out with the new version, translators had to be faithful to the original text of the Authorized Version.
Two committees were tasked to do the revision of the Old and New Testaments separately- the British and American revisers. The British revisers were able to publish part of their work, the New Testament in May 1881 and, the Old Testament in May 1885. Eventually, in 1901 the American revisers came up with the American Standard Version, which was based on the (English) Revised Version (Bruce 138). After the publication of the Old and New Testaments in Britain, the Apocrypha was revised by some of these British revisers, and in 1896, these were included in the Revised Version.
However, their American counterpart did not include the Apocrypha in their version (Bruce 138). The Apocrypha are texts often printed as part of the bible in the third section, apart from the Old and New Testaments. The texts had Jewish and Christian origins, and were acceptable only by some, and not by all Christian faiths due to lack of (or uncertainty) of its canonicity. All King James Bibles printed before 1640 and prior versions had the Apocrypha. In the early 19th century however, distribution of bibles that contain the Apocrypha was done only in special cases.
Although most modern versions of the bible omit the Apocrypha section, some editions have this. Neither the Revised Version, nor its counterpart, the American Standard Version of 1901, ever won popular appeal. This was mainly because in trying to be so minutely precise in following the original languages word for word, translators failed to come up with a version that has naturally fluent English. Nevertheless, it was considered to be the first real challenge to the Authorized (King James) Version.
The Revised Standard Version In an attempt to make a literally accurate translation of the Bible in modern English, there had been a need to come up with a new revision of the bible for contemporary use. The International Council of Religious Education, a council in which forty major denominations of the United States and Canada were associated, acquired the copyright of the American Standard Version of 1901. In 1937, the Council authorized its American Standard Bible Committee to commence with the new revision.
“The resultant version was to embody the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of the Scriptures, and express this meaning in English diction which is designed for use in public and private worship and preserves those qualities which have given the King James Version a supreme place in English literature” (Bruce 185). In sum, the Revised Standard Version was intended to be a comprehensive revision of the Authorized (King James), the Revised, and the American Standard Versions.
A panel of 32 scholars, along with their advisers, worked on the new revision. The New Testament was published in 1946 but the whole Bible was not published until the year 1952. In this version, numerous archaic words have been more or less eliminated. For instance, Thee and Thou have been replaced except where God is referred. The English language is dynamic and evolving. There had been numerous translations of the Scriptures throughout the bible history, and more can be expected in the generations to come.
Despite efforts put into the translation work of even the best bible scholars, no bible translation can ever be formally equivalent to the original Scriptures. Surely, historical accounts of translation of the bible will prove to be useful in validating bible contents either now, or in centuries to come. The world may be forever changing, but surely, not the Word of God.
Bruce, F. F. The English Bible- A History of Translations from the Earliest English Versions to the New English Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961.