KJV Family: ASV, RSV, and NKJV

This post is part of our ongoing series examining the King James Family of Bibles.

American Standard Version (Revised Version)

ASVThe Revised Version of the KJV was introduced in several stages, with the English Revised Version being completed in the 1885, and the American Standard Version first being published in 1901 (Bruce, 138). This translation sought to edit the KJV based on the textual work of Wescott and Hort, and efforts were made in the margins to note the differences between the Greek texts and English translations, from whence notes reading “Some ancient authorities read…” originate (Bruce, 137). The major differences between the KJV and ASV are spelling and aforementioned marginal notes, as well as an increased static translation style (Kubo, 41). Early reactions to the ASV were anything but positive, as early reviewers labeled the translation “servile” and “pedantic” (Burgon). It would seem that both the prose and the textual apparatus have been surpassed by both the 1611 KJV and more recent translations, making this perhaps the least effective major project in the KJV family.

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

RSVThe Revised Standard Version, completed in 1952, exists as a revision of the Revised Version. It was here that the first major steps were taken to update the English used in translation, moving toward smoother translations of infinitive constructions and genitive absolutes (Bruce, 187). Additionally, the translation committee sought to vary the translations of some Greek terms, moving away from the KJV and RV’s lack of synonyms (Kubo, 44-7). A common criticism this version is that, if the RV went too far in pressing a literal translation of the Greek, the RSV blurred some of the finer distinctions of the NT text (Bruce, 194). While occasionally being criticized as all new translations seem to be, a testament to the effectiveness of this translation, was its long used in academic circles, especially the popular Oxford Annotated edition (Bruce, 201-2). Indeed, it was so popular that two RSV Catholic editions have been published

New King James Version (NKJV)

NKJVPublished in 1982, the New King James Version sought to find “complete equivalence,” that place between the static equivalence of the Revised Version and the dynamic equivalence of the Revised Standard Version, which “seeks to preserve all of the information in the text, while presenting it in good literary form” (Preface, NKJV). Ancient terminology having no modern counterparts, theological terms having long been part of the KJV tradition, and traditional renderings of names were retained in this version, and the translators opted for continued use of the Textus Receptus as their Greek exemplar, though noting major textual divergences such as Matthew 5:44; 17:21; 18:11; and 23:14. In many ways the NKJV seems to correct the over-dynamic translations of the RSV while remaining fairly close to that version. The effectiveness of this translation in the modern context remains difficult to gauge, as many renderings are nearly indistinguishable from those of the RSV, and the later NRSV and ESV.

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3 thoughts on “KJV Family: ASV, RSV, and NKJV

    • Tom,
      There are indeed many rumors about concerning Wescott and Hort, almost none of which seem to be historically accurate. There is a sizable section of the “King James Only” crowd that demonizes W&H, though they appear only to have been attempting to ascertain the most accurate form of the biblical text. Contemporary textual critics also criticize Wescott and Hort, not for their worldview as much as their approach and “over favoring” of the Alexandrian text type. Hope that’s at least somewhat helpful.
      JJP

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