Scripture Sources and Inclusive Language
Why does The Printery House use the NRSV for its Scripture quotations?
People sometimes ask us why we use Scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV). This question often comes from Catholics, who are more familiar with the New American Bible. The New American Bible texts are more familiar to most U.S. Catholics because that is the version we hear proclaimed at Mass. However, the NRSV text is also approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for use by Catholics in private (non-liturgical) settings. (See http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/index.cfm). The primary reason we choose to use the NRSV is because both Catholics and Protestants accept it.
Principles of Translation
Here is some information from the preface to the New Revised Standard Version:
- King James Version, 1611
- American Standard Version, 1901, based on earlier revisions of KJV
- Revised Standard Version, 1952
- New Revised Standard Version, 1989
“…the Revised Standard Version gained the distinction of being officially authorized for use by all major Christian churches: Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox.”
The translators of the NRSV include men and women, Protestants and Catholics. The group also includes “an Eastern Orthodox member, and a Jewish member who serves in the Old Testament section.”*
Our goal is to reach as wide an audience as possible. Although we use the Catholic Edition of the NRSV, we generally avoid quoting from books which Protestants do not accept as canonical Scripture. This would include the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, and parts of the books of Esther and Daniel. For a good summary the differences between Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Bibles, see the Christian Bible Reference Site. (http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_bibles.htm)
In creating the NRSV translation, the principle followed was “As literal as possible, as free as necessary.”* The translators paraphrased only rarely. They did so mainly for the sake of inclusive language. That is, they often shifted passages using “he” or “him” in reference to human beings into the plural. A good example is Psalm 1:1: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…” (NRSV). In other translations this verse is rendered in the original singular: “Blessed indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked…” (from The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter © 2010, Conception Abbey/The Grail, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive agent. www.giamusic.com All rights reserved.). The translators of the NRSV used inclusive paraphrases wherever they felt it did not obscure “the historic structure and literary character of the original.”*
God and Pronouns
On the issue of using gender-neutral language when referring to God, we do acknowledge current Catholic Church teaching on the general principle that God has no gender:
“In no way is God in man’s image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective ‘perfections’ of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 370; see Is 49:14-15; Is 66: 13; Ps 131:2-3; Hos 11:1-4; Jer 3:4- 19).
However, we also recognize the difficulty of creating an appropriate language for God. Our concern is to remain faithful to our mission and to our Church while reaching as many people as possible. Because of this, we prefer translations which have been approved for Catholic use. These tend to be translations which respect the grammar and style of the original languages. This includes the traditional use of masculine pronouns to refer to God. We choose to quote the Scriptures as given in the NRSV because it is commonly accepted among mainline Christian denominations. We do realize that this will not please everyone. The English language continues to evolve. If a newer, more inclusive translation becomes widely accepted, we may consider adopting it.
For the present, we will continue to use the NRSV. If you would like us to produce a card for you with a Scripture quotation from a different translation of the Bible, we will be happy to do so. You would, however, need to pay our customization fee. We must also be able to obtain permission from the copyright owner to reproduce the copyrighted material for sale. If your request involves custom calligraphy, the fee will be greater.
* Unless otherwise indicated, quotations above are from the preface to the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, TN.
Br. David is a monk of Conception Abbey and webmaster for The Printery House.