American Standard Version

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American Standard Version
American Standard Version

The Revised Version, Standard American Edition of the Bible, more commonly known as the American Standard Version (ASV), is a version of the Bible that was released in 1901. It was originally best known by its full name, but soon came to have other names, such as the American Revised Version, the American Standard Revision, the American Standard Revised Bible, and the American Standard Edition. By the time its copyright was renewed in 1929, it had come to be known at last by its present name, the American Standard Version. Because of its prominence in seminaries, however, it was sometimes simply called the "Standard Bible".


History of the ASV

Title page to the ASV
Title page to the ASV

The American Standard Version 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. These scholars began work in 1872.

Any suggestion the American team had would be accepted by the British team only if two-thirds of the British team agreed. This principle was backed up by an agreement that if their suggestions were put into the appendix of the RV, the American team would not publish their version for 14 years. The appendix had about 300 suggestions in it.

In 1881, the RV New Testament was released. Four years later, the Old Testament appeared. Around this time, the British team disbanded. Also around this time, unauthorized copied editions of the RV appeared with the suggestions of the American team in the main text. In 1898, publishers for Oxford and Cambridge Universities published their own editions of the RV with the American suggestions included. However, these suggestions were reduced in number (but it did incorporate all of those suggestions which were listed in the Appendixes, as can be verified by comparing the Appendixes with the main text of the 1898 edition). Some of Thomas Nelson's editions of the American Standard Version Holy Bible included the Apocrypha of the Revised Version.

In 1901, the 14 year agreement between the American and British teams expired, and the Revised Version, Standard American Edition, as the ASV Bible was officially called, was published by Thomas Nelson & Sons that same year. It was copyrighted in North America to ensure the purity of the ASV text. In 1928, the International Council of Religious Education (the body that later merged with the Federal Council of Churches to form the National Council of Churches) acquired the copyright from Nelson and renewed it the following year. The copyright was a reaction to tampering with the text of the Revised Version by some U.S. publishers, as noted above, 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.

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".

Like its British counterpart, the RV, and like other versions that have succeeded it, the ASV drew fire from the King-James-Only Movement for an alleged basis on faulty manuscripts. One such critic refused to call it "Standard", since it never gained wide popularity. He preferred to call it the American Revised Version, saying that the KJV had a better right to be called the "Authorized Version" than the version of 1901 had to be called the "American Standard Version". However the name "American Standard Version" appears to simply be a shortened name of "American Standard Edition of the Revised Version" and thus some people relegate the term "American Revised Version" to the edition of 1898 (published by the American branches of Oxford and Cambridge which included the American suggestions) and to those particular earlier unauthorized copied editions of the RV which also included the suggestions of the American team in the main text (or in footnotes to the main text).

Reasons for the ASV

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. Interestingly, 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.

Features of the ASV

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.

Revisions of the ASV

The ASV was the basis of four revisions. They were the Revised Standard Version (1946-1952/1971), the Amplified Bible (1965), the New American Standard Bible (1963-1971/1995), and the Recovery Version (1999). A fifth revision is in the making, the World English Bible. The ASV was also the basis for Kenneth N. Taylor's Bible paraphrase, The Living Bible, which was published in 1971.

Usage of the ASV By the Jehovah's Witnesses

The ASV was used for many years by the Jehovah's Witnesses. They first began publishing the ASV in 1944 and have continued publishing the translation until the present time. The reasons for their choosing of the ASV were twofold: One reason for adoption of the ASV was due to its usage of "Jehovah" as the Divine Name, which was congruent with their doctrine, and they derived their name from Isaiah 43:10, 12, both of which contain the phrase, "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah." Also, there was a perception that the ASV had improved the translation of some verses in the King James Version, and in other places it reduced the verses that they found to be erroneously translated in the KJV to mere footnotes, removed from the main text altogether. (For more information see: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 'Why a new translation was commissioned,'

From 1944 to 1963, the Jehovah's Witnesses printed and distributed 884,994 copies of the ASV. The Witnesses' usage of the ASV was supplanted by their current use of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, a translation made by members of their group, and the rights to which are controlled by the Watchtower Society, which is their publishing arm. The ASV, like the New World Translation, is still freely available to nonmembers from those congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses which still have some of the ASV in stock.

The ASV as the Basis of Philippine Bibles

Because of its popularity in the American Standard Version in the early years of the 20th Century, this has been the basis of the Philippine Bible Society in translating the first editions of the Bible in the different Philippine Languages. Now a public domain, 'Ang Biblia' (titles for the Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray), 'Ti Biblia' (the Ilocano title), and 'Say Biblia' (the Pangasinan title) used the ASV as their basis. This is very evident by the use of the name Jehovah instead of the more commonly accepted Yahweh in the later translations.

The ASV Bible Today

The American Standard Version has passed into antiquity, and with the expired copyright, it has passed into the public domain. Rare antique editions are extremely hard to find. Literature departments of various congregations of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the USA report that the Watchtower Society no longer prints the American Standard Version Holy Bible nor any other Bible (other than the Watchtower's own New World Translation and Kingdom Interlinear translations) and thus no longer supplies them to the congregations, however some individual congregations of the Jehovah's Witnesses may still have some ASV Bibles in stock and available to the public. A standard Christian mail order publisher, Star Bible [1] continues to make the ASV available and recently High Village Publishing [2] began doing so also (but the ones by High Village Publishing have each verse as a separate paragraph). 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.

See also

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