American Standard Version

What is the American Standard Version?

The American Standard Version of the Bible (ASV) is an English translation of the Bible that was released in 1901 based on the work of British and American scholars. Since then it has undergone many updates. Because of the ASV's use in seminaries in America, it was sometimes just called the "Standard Bible". The title page to the ASV indicates that it is rooted in the work that was done with the Revised Version (RV).

In 1870, an invitation was extended to American religious leaders for scholars to work on the RV project. A year later, 30 scholars were chosen by Philip Schaff. The denominations represented were the Baptist, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Friends, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, and Unitarian. These scholars began work in 1872. In 1881, the RV New Testament was released. Four years later, the Old Testament appeared.

History of the American Standard Bible Translation

In 1898, publishers for Oxford and Cambridge Universities published their own editions of the RV. Some of those Americanized editions by Oxford and Cambridge Universities had the title of "American Revised Version" on the cover of their spines. Some of Thomas Nelson's editions of the American Standard Version Holy Bible included the Apocrypha of the Revised Version. In 1901 it was copyrighted in North America to ensure the purity of the ASV text.

In 1928, the International Council of Religious Education acquired the copyright from Nelson and renewed it the following year. The copyright was a reaction to tampering with the text of the RV by some U.S. publishers, allegedly in the interest of the American reading public, which was legally possible as there was never a U.S. copyright filed for the RV. By the time the ASV's copyright expired, interest in this translation had largely waned in the light of newer and more recent ones, and textual corruption hence never became the issue with the ASV that it had with the RV.

The Use of the ASV

Because the language of the ASV was limited to Elizabethan English, as well as because of what some perceived to be its excessive literalism, it never achieved wide popularity, and the King James Version would remain the primary translation for most American Protestant Christians until the publication of the Revised Standard Version in 1952. However, for many years the ASV was the standard Bible for many seminaries. In fact, this was another nickname it gained, the Standard Bible, and so the translators who produced the RSV called it a revision of the Standard Bible, hence the name, "Revised Standard Version".

There were two rationales for the ASV. One reason was to obviate any justification for the unauthorized copied editions of the RV that had been circulating. Another reason was to use more of the suggestions the American team had preferred, since the British team used few of their suggestions in the first place, even in the later version which they had published incorporating some of them. While many of the suggestions of the American scholars were based on the differences between American and British usage, many others were based on differences in scholarship and what the American revisers felt the best translation to be. Consequently, there were several changes to the KJV text in the ASV that were not present in the RV.

The ASV today

A Christian mail order publisher, Star Bible, continues to make the ASV available (New testament only as of February 2013) and High Village Publishing began doing so in recent years (theirs has each verse as a separate paragraph). Gospel Light Publishing Company publishes ASV New Testament editions (including a large print edition), they even publish the People's New Testament with Notes which is a commentary which includes a parallel New Testament that includes the Revised Version New Testament of 1881.

There appears to be a growing interest in the ASV, in part because it is included as one of the versions in most recently released Bible related CD-ROMs. It is also available in most Bible gateway Internet sites.

Translation issues

The divine name of the Almighty (the Tetragrammaton) is consistently rendered Jehovah in the ASV Old Testament, rather than LORD as it appears in the King James Bible. The reason for this change, as the Committee explained in the preface, was that "...the American Revisers... were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament..." Other changes from the RV to the ASV included (but were not limited to) substituting "who" and "that" for "which" when referring to people, and Holy Ghost was dropped in favor of Holy Spirit. Page headings were added and footnotes were improved.


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