The first printed editions of the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVue) have begun to appear over the past month or two. Zondervan, an imprint of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, has recently released several editions. I pre-ordered the personal size edition with Apocrypha in brown imitation leather from ChristianBook, and I’ve been using it for prayer and bible reading over the past month and a half.
I can happily recommend this edition. It is compares favorably to the NRSV Personal Size edition from Catholic Bible Press (also a subsidiary of Harper Collins Christian Publishing) which has been one of my favorites over the past few years.
Both editions are nearly identical in size, measuring about 8.9 inches long and 5.75 inches wide. The new Zondervan NRSVue has an imitation leather cover with a relatively coarse texture, along with style accents along the border on the front and back. Overall, the cover feels rougher and more “rubber-like” than the smooth, supple imitation leather on the Catholic Bible Press NRSV-CE. I’d say the texture feels similar to the genuine leather cover on the most recent two editions of the New Oxford Annotated Bible.
Both editions have gold-gilded page edges. The gilding looks slightly smoother and higher quality on the Zondervan edition, but the downside is that many pages were stuck together when I first received it. As with many premium bibles, I spent some time carefully separating the pages when I first received the Zondervan edition. By contrast, the pages were already separated when I received the NRSV-CE from Catholic Bible Press.
The new Zondervan edition also features a sewn binding, two ribbon markers, and a double-column page layout. The ribbons are 3/8-inch wide compared to the 1/2-inch ribbons on the Catholic Bible Press NRSV-CE.
The biggest difference between the two bibles is the paper and typesetting. This is where the Catholic Bible press edition falls a little below the ideal. It has relatively thin paper with a bold 9.5-point font. The line-matched printing keeps ghosting manageable, but even after using this bible for two years, I find myself wishing that there was less ghosting. The page layout also feels cramped, with very little whitespace and relatively few words per line of text.
By comparison, the new Zondervan NRSVue is a marked improvement in my view. The paper is more opaque and a brighter white color. Ghosting is almost non-existent. Chapter numbers and section headings are printed in burgundy-colored text, which adds a pop of color to the page compared to the black and white printing in the Catholic Bible Press NRSV-CE. Zondervan used 8.5-point font in the NRSVue, which creates room for more words in each line of text. The text is a touch small for my liking, but I think I prefer the better page layout enough to justify the smaller text. The text size is also comparable to other bibles in the same size segment, like the Cambridge REB with Apocrypha — one of my favorite bibles.
I’ll include photos from prose and poetry sections below to illustrate the page layouts in both editions:
Both editions feature the same set of color maps at the back of the Bible. Otherwise, these are reader’s bibles with very few explanatory helps. The Catholic Bible Press edition features extremely brief book introductions but no explanatory notes. The Zondervan edition does not include any book introductions.
As a final note, I’ve found reading and praying with the NRSVue to be a very similar experience to the NRSV-CE. The updates to the translation have not changed the tone or character of the text. The NRSVue has attracted some debate because of the translators’ choice to rephrase words like “paralytic” and “demoniac” to “afflicted with paralysis” and “possessed by demons.” So far, I have not noticed any of these changes during my reading, which has covered some of Paul’s letters and parts of the Old Testament and 1 Maccabees.
My sense is that the translators were careful to stay close to the NRSV’s language and not indulge in highly speculative translations. Even in cases where the NRSV was updated to reflect a new scholarly consensus, their updates seem careful and restrained. A case in point is Galatians 2:16. Traditional translations have rendered Paul’s language as a contrast between works of the law and faith in Christ. The modern scholarly debate, reflected in multiple recent translations and study bibles, has shifted toward a translation that contrasts works of the law with Christ’s own faithfulness. As an example, here is how the New English Translation (NET) renders this verse:
yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.Galatians 2:16 NET
The NRSVue chose a simple substitution of the alternate rendering in the textual notes of the original NRSV: “faith of Christ.” As I understand it, this is an easily defensible translation of the Greek grammar without taking the additional interpretive step of rendering “faith” as “faithfulness”:
yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through the faith of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.Galatians 2:16 NRSVue
Overall, if you like the original NRSV I can easily recommend the NRSVue. The translators were respectful of the original edition and retained much of its language and style. There are few jarring departures.
The Personal Size edition from Zondervan is currently available for $36.99 from ChristianBook and $39.81 from Amazon. This is an excellent price range for the quality of this edition. I can easily recommend it.