Why the flurry of Bible translation in recent years? As Amos said long ago, “Does a lion roar in the forest when there is no prey for him?” Gradually the Christian public became aware of a cause-and-effect relation: The Bible just wasn’t being read, and one of the main reasons for this neglect was that to hosts of readers it failed to communicate. Its vocabulary was a mixture of archaisms and what many thought of as jargon. Its syntax was poor, judged by modern standards. Many of its figures of speech were lost on the modern reader. Its idioms were those of a past age. It did not attract. Much of it was not understood.
So the crusade started, and the Revised Standard Version appeared. Unprecedented sales promotion helped to make it a publishing success from the start. It met some of the problems, at least partially. But it was still the King James Version in modern dress. Like the King James, it remained within the stylistic tradition of the 1534 Tyndale New Testament. It was, as it professed to be, only a revision. Its score on communication was up 10 per cent, 20 per cent, or more above the King James, but the score was still far too low.
Evangelicals criticized the RSV on other grounds but failed to mention the communication problem. The observation on this point made by William A. Smalley in the October, 1965, issue of the Bible Translator probably came as a surprise to those who read it, but the sample evidence he cited was convincing. Smalley quoted Second Corinthians 6:11–13 as found in the RSV, the Authorized Version (King James), the New English Bible, and the Phillips translation, and then said about the first two: “It seems incredible that anyone would want to return to these versions after using Phillips and the ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more