Yes, the RSV Again

By Bobby Graham

In response to a reply to my article by Bill McMilleon, Brother Willis has requested that I provide my own reply. I do so without any acquaintance with the respondent or hard feelings toward him.

In that the members of the Revision Committee were extremely modernistic, denying the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, and other matters (including the virgin birth of the Christ), I still affirm that their production, which omits italics where they have inserted words of their own, has served as a vehicle for modernism. This does not mean that each person using the RSV has fallen prey to the liberal influence of the men, but that their work would undermine basic Bible doctrines such as those mentioned. Furthermore, my article did not state that the RSV denied the deity of Christ or the inspiration of the Scriptures, as the respondent charged: it said that “the translators were extremely modernistic, denying the inspiration of the Bible and the deity of Christ.” Such was stated to provide information on the revisers to show how they could so mishandle the sacred text. I know that passages on both doctrines can be cited, and that they will teach both Christ’s deity and the Scripture’s inspiration. Such was not the point of the original article. Some who use the ASV or the KJV have not accepted the basic doctrines presented in them and have espoused modernistic ideas in spite of them, but who would really deny that the RSV, with the faults already noted, is not more risky? For more information on the absence of italics in the RSV, as well as its substitution of a noun for a pronoun quite often, its free renderings, and its omissions, the reader is referred to Oswald T. Allis’ Review or New Translation?, where such matters are explored more fully than this article could do.

In reference to the respondent’s taking exception to the RSV’s lack of italics, note that his comments concerning “thee” and “thou” do not begin to get to the issue. His reference to newer manuscripts since 1611 is correct, but it does not justify the omission of italics. The material in the pages of Allis’ book (published in 1948 just after the completion of the RSV) will show the mishandling that occurred through the omission of the italics. He notes in his book that italics would not suffice in some of the free renderings. The reader has the right to know what the Lord said, not what the revisers thought He meant; but the reader is deprived of such information in some passages through the failure to use italics.

The respondent asked whether I agree with the doctrine of the translators of the KJV? I am certain that I do not on some matters, but I do on the matter of inspiration, deity of Christ,- and those affecting the manner in which they handled the texts available to them. More and better manuscripts have admittedly been found and used for the ASV, but the modernistic bias of the RSV’s revisers prevented their work from being done as well as it could have been done.

I understand that the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 could be “young woman” in some instances. Such is not possible in this passage, however, in that (1) the prophesied event’s being a sign rests on the virginity of the woman involved and (2) the Greek word in Matthew 1:23 eternally settles the matter-it is virgin! One passage hardly ever presents the full truth on a subject, but one passage dealing with this subject can surely reflect the bias of the revisers, especially when they did not treat the Hebrew almah in its other Old Testament occurrences. What about Luke 1:34, which definitely leaves the wrong impression?

While the word in Matthew 5:17 does have the meaning of abolish or annul, Jesus obviously meant more here. The coming mentioned in the verse refers not to the specific act of coming as fulfilling the Law and the prophets, but making it possible for such to be done: “I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.” It is true that Jesus was born, lived, and died under the Law, just as it is true that he came to abolish it through fulfillment (meeting every demand, obeying every precept, and bringing each prophecy to pass). He did not come to set aside the Law or to disregard it, hence to manifest a destructive attitude toward it; but He did come to abolish it, just as he appeared to put away sin by his sacrifice (Heb. 9:26). Did His appearance put away sin? No, but He appeared to put away sin! According to Ephesians 2:15 and 2 Corinthians 3:13, He did abolish the Law!

The instances of the RSV and the principles followed by the revisers cited in this article show it to be a dangerous translation, even though it has some good passages and some usefulness. The purpose of the original article was to point out some of its failings, not to uphold every verse of the KJV or the ASV.

Truth Magazine XXII: 45, pp. 729-730
November 16, 1978