NRSV Updated Edition Bible Review

This month (May, 2024) Cambridge University Press published the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVue) text edition, a hardbound textbook or pew Bible available both with Apocrypha and without Apocrypha. The NRSVue provides more clarity in language and up-to-date consideration of critical texts to make this “a readable an accurate version of the Holy Bible to the global English-speaking community for public worship and personal study, for scholarship and study in classrooms, and for informing faith and action in response to God” (from “To The Reader”).

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition with Apocrypha front cover

New Revised Standard Version
Updated Edition
with Apocrypha

Cambridge University Press
May 2024

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Cambridge Bibles published this quality hardbound text edition of the NRSVue in May, 2024. The Bible is printed in two-column format in a very clear Charis SIL font – Cambridge lists it as 9-point letters with 10-point line spacing. It is in paragraph format with pericope topic headings. The text appears to be line matched on both sides of the page to reduce ghosting. It measures 8.50″ x 5.88″ x 1.50″ (specified as 218 x 149 x 38 mm) and looks to have a smyth-sewn binding and a paper dust cover. There are no bookmark ribbons.

This text edition is British (Anglicized) text – spelling of some words and maybe some punctuation is different than American English. Included are a brief preface to the NRSV Anglicized edition and the NRSVue British text edition that include some fascinating explanations of English usage that might not be familiar to American readers. It is interesting how languages change, one of two primary focuses of this updated edition.

The hardback text edition of the NRSVue is offered both with the Apocrypha and without the Apocrypha. Cambridge plans to release a black calf split leather edition, also with or without Apocrypha, on July 11, 2024.

About the SBL

…the NCC [National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA] commissioned the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the leading international association lf biblical scholars, to review and update the NRSV. The SBL’s mandate and process were to single-mindedly intend to ensure the currency and integrity of the NRSVue [New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition] as the most up-to-date and reliable Bible for use and study in English-language religious communities and educational institutions.

from “To The Reader” in the NRSVue

According to their website, the SBL was “founded in 1880 to foster biblical scholarship.” The Preface to the NRSVue indicates each Bible book was assigned to one or more book editors, who submitted their proposed updates to the general editors. It states that the NRSVue “presents approximately 12,000 substantive edits and 20.000 total changes, which include alterations in grammar and punctuation.” And while there are some noticeable changes, I presume that most of these 20.000 are, in fact, grammar and punctuation.

I could not find on the SBL website where there was extensive participation in any other Bible translation or update. Through Harper-Collins, they have published the SBL Study Bible using the NRSVue. This appears to be an updated edition of the Harper-Collins Study Bible of 2006, which used the NRSV text. The earlier NRSV Preface, written by Dr. Bruce Metzger of the Translation Committee, does not mention SBL. Metzger, who passed away in 2007, was very involved with the RSV and NRSV, and was a past president of SBL (1971).

Translation Philosophy

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) published in 1989, an update of The Revised Standard Version (RSV) New Testament published in 1946, and the RSV Old Testament in 1952, and the Apocrypha published in 1957. The National Council of Churches, which holds the copyrights, commissioned the Society for Biblical Literature to produce the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (NRSVue). According to the title page, the NRSVue is © 2021. This text edition of the NRSVue, published by Cambridge University Press, is dated 2024.

The “Preface to the NRSV Updated Edition” from the Society of Biblical Literature stresses the commitment not to turn this into a new translation. It identifies two primary types of revisions for this update: Text-Critical Revisions and Philological Revisions. And while the basic content of the discussion is very similar to what I reviewed earlier for the NRSVue Apocrypha, further explanation is made regarding updates in both the Old and New Testament texts.

As to where this falls on the scale of literal vs. dynamic equivalent translations, the approach of the Editorial Committee is describe as “to present the text as literally as possible and as freely as necessary.” Modern translations have all seemed to define their own particular work in a unique way; this quoted approach probably describes the NRSVue quite well.

Text Critical Revisions – The NRSVue Old Testament continues to use the Masoretic Text as its base. This should not be surprising, given the commitment not to make a new translation. There are, however, recent discoveries of ancient manuscripts that shed new light on some texts. And even though it isn’t “recent” or “new,” awareness and use of the Septuagint has increased as well, perhaps due to a rapid rise in electronic formats and their accessibility. The last line of this quote from the preface is particularly telling.

Since the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint translation predate the Christian era, they present for certain books an earlier and more original version in the development of the texts. Each of the versions was considered authoritative by a community. This advance in textual scholarship is recent, however, so the NRSVue retains for its translation the version presented by the Masoretic Text, whether it attests to the earlier, parallel, or later version. The differences between these major versions are larger than can be added to the notes.

Preface to the NRSV Updated Edition

NRSVue New Testament books are translated from the United Bible Society The Greek New Testament, 5th revised edition) and others. This is pretty standard with most of the modern translations. Interestingly, the Preface notes, “care was taken not to push too far ahead of the existing critical editions or to turn the translation itself and its notes into a critical edition.”

Philological Revisions – Word changes in the NRSVue were necessary so that terms in modern English, which is itself changing, accurately reflect the meaning of the ancient languages. I think some of these changes will be welcomed by Messianic and Hebrew Roots readers.

The NRSVue took special care not to use terms in ways that are theologically or historically anachronistic, though, as in every translation, anachronism is unavoidable.

From the Preface to the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the NRSV Updated Edition

No doubt there will be criticism because of “gender inclusive” language. It is probably better to say “gender accurate,” or just “accurate,” language. The NRSVue has made this a little more consistent than the NRSV, as seen by the translation of adelphoi discussed later.

As with nearly all English translations, the divine name has been rendered as LORD (or when preceded by the Hebrew Adonai, Lord GOD). Other proper names are also as found in most English translations, including Jesus for the Greek Iesous and James for the Greek Iakabos.

Consideration of the Dead Sea Scrolls

My brief excursion through the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and in particular the Torah did not turn up any radical changes from consideration of newly discovered ancient texts. As mentioned above, these books rely primarily on the Masoretic Texts – even though we know there were changes made by the Masoretes. The preface makes this one comment, but I have not been able to determine where this was applied as compared to the earlier NRSV.

The vowel signs, which were added by the Masoretes, are accepted in the main, but where a more probably and convincing reading can be obtained by assuming different vowels, we adopted that reading. No notes are given in such cases because the vowel points are more recent and less reliably original than the consonants.

Preface to the NRSV Updated Edition

In other reading, I did come across mention of a passage changed at least in part from writings found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is the passage from 1 Kings 8:16 as it now appears in the NRSVue, complete with the footnote.

Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, nor did I choose anyone to be a ruler over my people Israel. But I have chosen Jerusalem in order that my name may be there,a and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.

a Cn Compare Q ms and 2 Chr 6.5-6: MT lacks nor did…be there

(1 Kings 8:16 NRSVue with footnote)

This differs from how the passage appears in the earlier NRSV:

Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.

(1 Kings 8:16 NRSV)

So I decided to do a little digging and see what I could find out about the source of this change. First, here is how the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles appears in the NRSVue, which is similar to most other translations.

Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, so that my name might be there, and I chose no one as ruler over my people Israel, but I have chosen Jerusalem in order that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.

(2 Chronicles 6:5-6 NRSVue)

1 Kings 8:16 in the Septuagint includes the phrase “I chose Jerusalem that my name should be there,” an indication that at least something was omitted in the Masoretic Text.

From the day that I brought out my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any one tribe of Israel to build a house, so that my name should be there: but I chose Jerusalem that my name should be there, and I chose David to be over my people Israel.

(1 Kings 8:16 Brenton LXX)

Only a portion of the books of Kings has been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), at least at this time. And if you obtain an English translation of the DSS, most do not include any of the canonical Scriptures. I was able to find this verse from 1 Kings 8:16 in The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Abegg, Flint & Ulrich)

[From the day I brought my people Israel out from Egypt, I have not chosen a city from among the tribes of Israel to build a house for my name to be there, nor did I choose anyone] to be a ruler over [my] people [Israel, but I chose Jerusalem for my name to be there,9 and I chose David] to be over my people, over [Israel.]

9. 4QKgs [2 Chron 5:5b-6a]. MT of Kings omits, having skipped from the first occurrence of my name to be there to the second. LXX omits the first clause but retains the second, having skipped from nor did I choose to but I chose. MT of Chronicles retains the entire reading intact. This reconstruction is strongly indicated by the repetition of over my people, the manuscript spacing, the partial parallel in LXX, and the full parallel in 2 Chron.

(1 Kings 8:16 from The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Abegg with footnote)

In this book, square brackets [ ] “surround areas lost in the scroll due to various types of damage.” Italicized text shows “readings from the scrolls that differ (variants) from the traditional Hebrew text (MT)…” The footnote offers additional explanation beyond the text of the scroll itself.

This verse does demonstrate that consideration was give to new discoveries in the DSS. I have found no other translation updates that reflect this reading, including ESV 2016, CSB 2020, and NASB 2020.

More From The DSS and Septuagint

The only complete Biblical scroll in the Dead Sea Scrolls is the book of Isaiah. So I took a quick look at the first part of Isaiah to see what other influences I might find in the NRSV Updated Edition.

Right off I saw in the first chapter the use of double brackets [[ ]] to indicate “passages that are generally regarded to be later editions to the text but that have been retained because of their antiquity and importance in the textual tradition” (from the Preface to the NRSV Updated Edition). This isn’t new, but there are more of them. The last phrase of Isaiah 1:4 is now enclosed in double brackets with the footnote, “Gk OL lack: Heb addds who are utterly estranged” that is new to the NRSVue. (Gk means Greek, OL means Old Latin.)

A similar note about Greek and Old Latin manuscripts accompanies Isaiah 2:22, also enclosed in double brackets. Double brackets are also used in Isaiah 2:9-10 with the footnote, “Q ms lack do not forgive…majesty” with Q referring to Qumran or the Dead Sea Scrolls – in this case obviously the Isaiah scroll(s). All of these are updates in the NRSVue not found in the earlier NRSV.

It is refreshing to see clear evidence that newly discovered texts are being considered and incorporated into this update. Realizing the direct statement that this was not intended to be a new translation, I don’t expect to find any radical changes even in the footnotes. However, I am encouraged and looking forward to a deeper dive into some of the textual revisions in the NRSV Updated Edition.

Philological Updates – Leprosy

Most of us know that what in the Bible is called “leprosy” is certainly not what we know as leprosy today. It could be a variety of different skin infections, and probably does not refer to any specific one. Yet nearly all major Bible translations have continued to use the terms “leprosy” and “leper,” very likely because the Greek words lepros (Strong’s #G3015 and lepra (#G3014) found in the New Testament and Septuagint.

Those of us in Messianic and Hebrew Roots circles have become used to seeing the transliterated Hebrew word, tzara’at, in our Bibles. The Complete Jewish Bible, Tree of Life Version, New Jerusalem Version and most others use this word even in the New Testament where the Greek word appears . We read it, think leprosy, and move on.

In keeping with the philological revisions goal, the NRSVue, these Hebrew and Greek words are simply translated as “skin disease” or “defiling skin disease.”

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the rule for the person with a defiling skin disease at the time of his cleansing.”

Leviticus 14:1-2 NRSV Updated Edition

When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam’s skin had become diseased, as white as show. And Aaron turned towards Miriam an saw that she was diseased.

Numbers 12:10 NRSV Updated Edition

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with a skin disease approached him.

Luke 17:11-12 NRSV Updated Edition

The Purification Offering

The Hebrew word chattat (#H2403) can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Most Bible translations use the words “sin” and “sin offering.”

chattat. Sin, sin offering. The most extensively used noun form is the feminine chattat which occurs almost two hundred and ninety times. In Gen 18:20 the noun refers to the condition of sin. In Gen 31:36; 50:17 it is paired with pesa another common term for sin. In Lev and in Num the noun appears many times alternating in meaning between sin, the reality of disobedience to God, and sin-offering, the means of removing the guilt and penalty of sin before the Lord through the sacrificial system. In this context, the noun is closely associated with asham, which is often translated as “guilt-offering.”

(from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament #2398

The word for “sin offering” (sometimes translated “purification offering”) is the same word for “sin” earlier in the verse. One can tell which rendering is intended only by context.

from the footnote on Leviticus 4:3 in the NET Bible

The term “sin offering,” was used in both the RSV and NRSV. In the NRSV Updated Edition, this word is now consistently translated as “purification offering” when referring to this sacrifice or offering. Though I have not found this wording in any other widely used translation, it is used in the footnotes of both the CSB and NIV. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS 1985 updated 200008) reads “sin offering” with the footnote, “so traditionally; more precisely “offering of purgation.” This word choice in the NRSVue gives more clarity to the purpose of the offering, and does not diminish the Biblical emphasis on sin when that is the intended meaning.

Brothers and Sisters

The topic of gender neutral or gender inclusive terms is always a hot button in Bible translations. Gender neutral disengages the question of gender under the false pretense that it does not exist. Gender inclusive, on the other hand, recognizes that some words in masculine form in ancient languages do, in fact, include both the male and female gender. The NRSV was a gender inclusive translation. The NRSV Updated Edition is also gender inclusive in a more consistent and comfortable manner.

For example, the Hebrew word ben (#H1121) means “son” and the Hebrew word bat (#H1323) means “daughter.” In the plural form ben becomes b’nei, and though context could indicate it means “sons,” the more common usage is “children.” benei yisrael is correctly translated literally as “children of Israel.”

The NRSV most often translated b’nei yisrael as “Israelites.” The phrase “children of Israel” appeared only three times in the NRSV Old Testament. In the NRSVue, it is consistently rendered as “Israelites.”

In New Testament Greek, the word adelphos (#G80) means “brother” and the word adelphe, it’s feminine counterpart (#G79) means “sister.” The plural form of adelphos is adelphoi (or adelphous depending on case), and could either mean “brothers” or “siblings” (or, “brothers and sisters”) as determined by context. Though it has traditionally been rendered “bretheren” in the KJV and other literal translations, it would more correctly be “brothers and sisters.”

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,a what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

a Gk your brothers

(Matthew 5:47 NRSV)

In the Matthew 5:47 above the NRSV Updated Edition reads the same, with two notable exceptions. First, the footnote has been removed. “Brothers” or “brothers and sisters” as a translation of the Greek are equally accurate, so there is no reason to perpetuate the tradition of stating that the Greek says “brothers.” Second, in the NRSVue the word “gentiles” is not capitalized because it is not considered to be a proper noun. Both of these revisions are consistent throughout the NRSVue.

Be assured, though, that the NRSVue is NOT gender neutral. There is no “non-binary” human or deity. All are either male or female or a group consisting of only those two genders. God (Yahweh, the LORD) is always referenced in the masculine gender. Even where the traditional “man” has the meaning “mankind” and is translated as “human” in the NRSVue, gender is not lost.

So God created humankindd in his image, in the image of God he created them;e male and female he created them.

d Heb adam
e Heb him

(Genesis 1:27 NRSV)

So God created humanse in his image, in the image of God he created them;f male and female he created them.

d Heb adam
e Heb him

(Genesis 1:27 NRSV Updated Edition)

A Few More Interesting Philological Updates

Some of the wording updates that might go unnoticed are in the footnotes, and rather than being something that has been added, they are notes that have been deleted. The words referenced in the original footnotes from the NRSV are, evidently, no longer relevant.

The Greek word transliterated as Praetorium appears seven times in three gospels (Matthew, Mark, John) and Acts. Many translations, including the NIV, NASB, and RSV, used the transliterated word in the Bible text. The NRSV opted to translate the meaning of the word, “governor’s headquarters” or, when applicable to a specific person, “headquarters.” Footnotes in each instance say “Gk praetorium.”

The NRSVue no longer contains this footnote, except at the first occurrence of the word in Matthew 27:27 and the last occurrence in Acts 23:35. I’m not sure why this is the case, as each of the Gospels tell their own story from the writer’s perspective. Showing the footnote only once in Matthew departs from a historical-critical reading of each Gospel.

A footnote in the NRSV at Luke 2:25 states that “Simeon” is “Gk: Symeon” (not entirely accurate). The footnote does not appear at any other occurrence of the same word. In the NRSVue, this rogue footnote is removed. Footnotes identifying Greek words have also been deleted in a number of other places where, though they may be correct, really served no purpose to the English reader. Uncluttering to make room for more relevant footnotes is a pleasant update.

In some instances, previous changes in the NRSV have been changed back to more familiar readings in the NRSVue. For example, Matthew 2:2 in the NRSV reads, “We have observed his star at its rising.” A footnote on “at its rising” reads, “Or, in the east.” The Greek is ambiguous. This is reversed in the NRSVue, with the passage retaining the familiar reading “we observed his star in the east” with the footnote “Or at its rising.”

The NRSVue Apocrypha

As in the earlier NRSV, the Apocrypha – not just the Roman Catholic Deuterocanon – is a part of this Updated Edition. I did a comprehensive review of the NRSV Updated Edition Apocrypha at The books of the Apocrypha are in a separate section located between the Old and New Testaments, as has been the practice in the RSV and NRSV.

Apocryphal books are broken down into groups, each based on what books are included in the canons of certain faiths. The Table of Contents in the front of this Bible just list the books in order. However, how the books are arranged according to the various Bible canons at the beginning of the section for the Apocrypha.

There are two Greek versions of the book of Tobit, a shorter and longer version. Most English translations since the mid-1960s are based on the longer version which also takes into account findings in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The RSV contained the short version; the NRSV and NRSVue have the longer version.

The complete text of Esther is presented in the Apocrypha section, not just the additional chapters not found in the Hebrew Bible. This translation of Esther is actually from the Greek text and not just a repetition of the Hebrew translation with the additions inserted. There are variations from what is found in the canonical Old Testament Esther. For more details, see my previous review.

The Apocrypha books follow the same update principles as the rest of the NRSV Updated Edition Old Testament and New Testament. There are both text-critical and philological revisions.


The stated goal of the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition is to provide an text-critical and philological updates without creating a new translation. Certainly the translation team at the Society for Biblical Literacy has achieved this goal. I especially appreciate the numerous additional references to the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Old Testament.

The NRSV Updated Edition brings this respected translation current with clarity of language and up-to-date consideration of critical texts. The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books are arranged according to various Bible canons. This quality bound text edition from Cambridge University Press packages it all in a convenient, easy-to-read format for all Bible readers.

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