Last year, I reported on a job listing seeking section review leaders for the update to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which is currently being coordinated by the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) under an agreement with the National Council of Churches (NCC — the copyright holder for the NRSV). The job listing, along with the original project announcement, provided a good overview of the goals for the update. After a prolonged period of radio silence, several new pieces of information have emerged in recent months.
A few months ago, I became aware of an excellent summary on the Friendship Press website, which includes a complete listing of all the book editors, general editors, section review leaders, and coordinating staff working on the NRSV updated edition (NRSV-UE). Friendship Press was established in 1935, but its business has been limited in recent years. Its board of directors reactivated its operations in 2018, and it is now managing the update process for the NRSV on behalf of the National Council of Churches, in partnership with the Society of Biblical Literature. There is a brief history of Friendship Press on the publisher’s website.
In the last couple of weeks, I have reached out to a number of book editors, general editors, support staff, and coordinators at Friendship Press to learn more about how the update process is going and when the expected release date will be. I’m thankful to all the scholars who took the time to communicate with me.
Currently, the project is on schedule according to the timeframe set out in the press release from the National Council of Churches (available here). Here is a brief summary of that timeframe:
- Book editors must submit all suggested changes to the NRSV text by December 31, 2019
- The National Council of Churches will review current publication licenses and new licensing opportunities for the NRSV-UE in early 2020.
- The editorial board must review all suggested changes and submit a final version to the National Council of Churches by December 31, 2020
- The NCC Biblical Translation Utilization Committee will approve the updates, and files will be provided to licensees for publication.
One of the general editors estimates that the editorial committee has completed about 75% of the necessary work on reviewing the suggested changes from book editors.
On the whole, the project is expected to be a light update to the NRSV. It is not a wholesale reworking of the text. The NRSV’s approach to inclusive language will be retained. One of the book editors described his role as producing a list of suggested changes to the NRSV text, along with justifications for each change. Overall, the changes are focused on two basic areas:
- Details where recent scholarship on text criticism or philology have arrived at an improved understanding over the 1980s when the NRSV was produced.
- Errors or archaic expressions
A general editor, who asked to remain anonymous, generously took the time to answer some specific questions that have been on my mind about the NRSV-UE, and he agreed to share those answers with the readers of this blog. In the following Q&A, my questions are in bold and his answers are in italic.
Regarding inclusive language, the NRSV generally includes textual notes such as “Gk Brothers” where the translation reads “Brothers and sisters” or “believers,” but it often doesn’t offer any textual notes where a singular construction has been translated as plural to ensure an inclusive gender connotation. Will there be any changes to the textual notes to clarify the singular/plural connotation?
No (as far as I know), there will not be added textual notes for this.
In light of the limited nature of the review, would it be accurate to say that many study materials that are keyed to the NRSV, including commentaries and bible dictionaries, will not need to be thoroughly revised?
Correct. They should not have to be changed.
Finally, is it possible to characterize how theological concerns influence the decisions of the editors? Is the committee given freedom to pursue accuracy wherever it leads, or are there theological (or pastoral) constraints that prevent the committee from pursuing what the committee members or book editors believe is the best translation?
We have complete freedom. We translate as accurately as possible the linguistic evidence. There are no outside constraints (though there are probably internal forces or subconscious currents at work). For the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament I work with a Jewish scholar. We have never had the slightest difference based on theological or pastoral concerns.
Friendship Press currently estimates that the NRSV-UE will be released to publishers in November 2021, with final publication dates depending on each publisher’s internal schedule. It is safe to assume that editions will begin appearing for sale in 2022. Friendship Press encourages anyone who is interested in the NRSV-UE project to sign up for email updates on their website.