Why Refresh the ASV?

The American Standard Version (ASV) is an Americanized version of the English Revised Version (ERV) published in 1885. The American editors promised their British counterparts not to publish until 15 years had elapsed to allow the English revision to find its niche in public notice.

The Twentieth Century noticed a plethora of ‘new’ translations, while the ASV languished in obscurity and struggled to remain in print until nowadays it can hardly be found. The ASV suffered under the cloud of the archaic Old English renderings of verbal and pronounal suffixes. This, together with occasional atavistic renderings, displeased the moderns’ taste, and at this point, correctly so.

An updated version of the KJV (the New King James Version, NKJV) was nicely produced to remedy this and in so doing the translators stated their purpose was not to “make a new translation…but to make a good one better.” But what about the ASV? The New American Standard Bible (NASB) has gathered some attention, but went too far, losing the crispness and clarity of its original. 

Enter the Refreshed American Standard Version (RASV).

The Editorial Board of the NASB described it best in the 1963 Preface to the original publication of the entire New Testament, where the justifications for the translation were cataloged as follows:

“The procedures of this translation were imbued with the conviction that interest in the American Standard Version should be renewed and increased…The chief inducement, of course, was the recognized value of the version of 1901 which deserves and demands perpetuation. The following observations are advanced as justifiable encouragement:

  1. The American Standard Version of 1901 has been in a very real sense the standard for many translations.

  2. It is a monumental product of applied scholarship, assiduous labor and thorough procedure.

  3. It has enjoyed universal endorsement as a trustworthy translation of the original text

  4. The British and American organizations were governed by rules of procedure which assured accuracy in the completed work.

  5. The American Standard Version, itself a revision of the 1881-1885 edition, is the product of international collaboration, invaluable for perspective, accuracy, and finesse.

  6. Unlike many modern translations of the Scriptures, the American Standard Version retains its acceptability for pulpit reading and for personal memorization.

Perhaps the most weighty impetus for this undertaking can be attributed to a disturbing awareness that the American Standard Version of 1901 was fast disappearing from the scene. As a generation which knew not Joseph was born, even so a generation unacquainted with this great and important work has come into being.”

In 1971, the NASB® Editorial Board updated the Foreword and further declared:

“This translation follows the principles used in the American Standard Version 1901 known as the Rock of Biblical Honesty.”

In 1974, F.F. Bruce wrote in the Editor's Foreword of the New International Commentary on Mark:

We are sometimes asked why, at this time of day, we persist in using the American Standard Version of 1901 as the basic text for the New International Commentary. The principal reason for our persistence is that its excessively literal style of translation, however unsuitable it may be for other purposes, is admirably suited to serve as the basis of a commentary which endeavors to pay careful attention to the details of the text.”