September 21, 2017

Ancestry of the English Bible (VIII): The Revised and American Standard Versions

By Mike Willis

Although several private translations had been made during the intervening years, no major English translation was made between 1611 and 1881. However, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, the desire for a new translation gained momentum.

Several reasons were cited for the need of a new translation. Among those reasons was the advancements made in textual research which revealed the weakness of the textual basis of the KJV. None of the best Greek manuscripts had been available for the King James translations. Another reason for a new translation was the need to eliminate archaic words and phrases of the KJV. Therefore, in 1870, British scholars decided to revise the KJV.

The Revised Version

Over a period of eleven years, sixty-five British scholars helped to revise the King James Version. Alterations were marked in the margin and revisions of headings of chapters and pages, punctuation paragraphs, italics, etc. facilitated the reading of this version. Finally, on May 17, 1881, the Revised Version New Testament was published. Nearly three million copies were sold the first year. By 1884, the Old Testament had been completed so that in 1885 both sections were available in one volume.

The American Standard Version

While the Revised Version was being completed in Britain, Dr. Angus solicited the help of thirty American scholars in making revision suggestions. The terms of the agreement stated that British revisers would carefully consider all American suggestions. An appendix was to be inserted in the back of both testaments containing a complete list of American revisions which they declined to adopt. In turn, the American revisers, agreed to support the Revised Version and to wait fourteen years before publishing their own

Finally, in 1901, their revision was published and called the American Standard Version. It was advertised as "the most perfect English Bible in existence." Its faithful adherence to the Greek probably made that a just claim.

Differences in the KJV and the RV and ASV

The division of the Bible into sections according to sense made the reading of it much easier. Poetical sections were printed in separate lines according to their original forms (in all except the prophetical books). Therefore one can read this easier than he can the KJV.

Perhaps these above considerations are offset by the fact that the KJV is superior in English to the ASV or the RV. Though both exceed the KJV in accuracy to the Greek neither rival the beauty of its language.

One of the most noticeable differences between these revisions and the KJV is the use of the term JEHOVAH as God's proper name. The KJV simply calls him the Lord. The Hebrew word is actually YHWH (with no vowels). By using the vowel sound of adonay (Lord) with YHWH, the name JEHOVAH was coined. Modern scholarship now calls God by the name of Yahweh.

The Holy Ghost was translated "Holy Spirit." "Sheol," "Hades," and "Gehenna" are now distinguishable whereas the KJV rendered all three words "hell."

The revisions attempted to render all the Greek words with the same English word, whereas the KJV had freely used synonyms. Both advantages and disadvantages occurred through the adoption of that rule.


Like all other versions, the RV and ASV are not perfect. As new discoveries are made, new translations will soon follow. So long as they are accurate translations, let us adopt them rather than prejudicially criticizing them before examination. Two other major translations have already occurred since the RV and ASV-the Revised Standard Version (1945) and Today's English Version. Both of these versions have been challenged, but especially has the TEV. Compare its rendering of the following passages with a more reliable translation: Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1: 17; Acts 20:7; and a host of passages which eliminate the word "blood."

For the reader, both the King James and the American Standard Versions can be highly recommended. If one is young and not yet used to the KJV, let me suggest that he use the American Standard Version.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 21, pp. 7-8
April 1, 1971