RSV: acceptable to all?
at least one Bible translation that all are comfortable using for scholarly work and for the purposes of dialogue.In a comment on this I wrote:
Unfortunately I am now thinking I must revise this positive opinion of RSV. I have been using this version as a basis while checking a draft translation of the gospel of Luke. And I am afraid that I have been shocked by the approach to textual matters in this book - although several other books I have checked have not been so bad. The basic problem is that time after time RSV follows Codex D, the 5th century Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis. This manuscript presents a highly variant Greek text (the "Western text") for which there is usually no support from any other Greek witness, although sometimes from Old Latin versions.
The ESV translators have disqualified their translation in the eyes of anyone who is not a fully committed evangelical by their theologically motivated changes e.g. to Isaiah 7:14, going back to "virgin" instead of "young woman". For similar reasons NIV is unacceptable to these people; TNIV is somewhat less of a problem to these people, as for example it has drawn back from capitalising "son" in Psalm 2, but it retains "virgin". The objection is to reading New Testament interpretations back into the Old Testament. Thus ESV, NIV and TNIV will never be acceptable to any more than one wing of the church.
The more liberal wing of the church might claim that NRSV fits the bill, but unfortunately this is not acceptable to evangelicals, because of the liberty it takes on some textual matters, and to some because of its approach to gender issues.
I would suggest that RSV is still the nearest we have to a generally acceptable translation. Evangelicals have mostly forgotten their old objections to "young woman" and "expiation". Even if some of us don't like RSV's approach to gender issues, we can at least take it as a product of its time - whereas an almost unbridgeable gap seems to have opened up on this, implying that no more recent translation will be acceptable to all.
In just one chapter, Luke 24, RSV follows Codex D against all other Greek manuscripts in the following places:
v.3 omits "of the Lord Jesus"
v.6 omits "He is not here, but has risen"
v.12 omits the whole verse
v.36 omits "and said to them, 'Peace to you!'"
v.40 omits the whole verse
v.51 omits "and was carried up into heaven" (one other Greek MS agrees with D here)
v.52 omits "worshipped him, and"
All of these readings are rejected by the UBS Greek New Testament with a B rating, which "indicates that the text is almost certain". Admittedly RSV footnotes all of these. I note that all of these points except the first NRSV follows the UBS Greek rather than RSV, with the RSV reading footnoted - not surprising because of the leading role of Bruce Metzger in preparing both of these texts.
Oddly enough, in v.32 RSV does not omit "within us" although this is omitted by Codex D and two other important MSS.
In the light of this, I have to revise my assessment of RSV and suggest that like NRSV it is "not acceptable to evangelicals, because of the liberty it takes on some textual matters". My criticisms of the NRSV on textual matters relate largely to the Old Testament, whereas my criticisms of RSV relate to the New Testament.