Arion Press - Lyre Logo  


Prospectus: the Arion Press Folio Edition

In the tradition of grand printed Bibles, the Arion Press Lectern Folio Bible is a monument to the scriptures, to fine typography, and to fine bookmaking. Click here to read recent news, see photos, PBS-TV video, and more.

The Arion Press of San Francisco, under the direction of Andrew Hoyem, has published a large folio limited edition of the Bible in the New Revised Standard Version, the first lectern Bible in this translation. The grand scale of lectern Bibles makes them not only commanding aesthetic objects, but practical tools for conducting religious services: their large format enhances reading by officiants addressing a congregation. The possession of a copy of the lectern edition of the New Revised Standard Version will be an asset for churches and cathedrals where the Bible is revered. This edition contains all the books of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament. The text represents the best in contemporary biblical scholarship. Its translation revision was sponsored by the National Council of Churches and has been widely adopted by the denominations. The Arion Press Bible is designed primarily for use at church lecterns but is also suited for personal and institutional libraries where it can be used for study and devotion and as an example of the arts of bookmaking.
The Arion Press lectern Bible is intended to take its place in the tradition of grand Bibles, as a statement of typographic excellence at the end of the twentieth century. It is designed by Andrew Hoyem and will be entirely printed and bound at the Arion Press, employing fine materials and the skills of traditionally trained craftsmen. In style it is both contemporary and classic, drawing upon a thorough understanding of the great folio Bibles of the past. Its publication will be a milestone in the history of the book, since with the recent transformation of printing technology, it may be the last folio Bible to have the benefit of letterpress printing from metal type.

In addition to their devotional uses, monumental Bibles have a continuing cultural role and an important place in the evolution of printing. Their imposing scale, virtuoso arrangement of type on beautiful paper with generous margins, and handsome binding make them objects of admiration by bibliophiles and of veneration by the faithful. Libraries collect significant Bibles for their religious and literary value as well as for scholarly purposes, including the study of printing technology and aesthetics. But it is the utilitarian aspect of the project that presents the highest challenge to the Arion Press: to print a Bible that will be used in its liturgical function by churches, even while copies are sought by private libraries and institutions that collect fine printing.

The history of printing is inseparable from the history of the Bible. Key events in the development of printing arose from attempts to print the Bible. European printing from moveable type began with the Bible printed by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz in 1455. The printers of the earliest books tried to make their pages look as much as possible like hand-written manuscripts, leaving spaces for initial letters and paragraph marks to be added by the hands of illuminators. But the greatest works of the Incunabula period (the latter half of the fifteenth century) far exceeded the goal of counterfeiting manuscripts. They bear an unmistakable typographic look that places them apart from the works of scribes. Such books set new aesthetic standards that can still be applied to books made today. As Joseph Blumenthal declared in Art of the Printed Book, the Gutenberg Bible is “a work of art whose majestic craftsmanship has never been surpassed”.
Of the notable books printed in the past five-hundred-plus years, many have been folio Bibles. The following are some of the more significant printings of the scriptures in folio:

1455 Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, Bible in Latin.
1462 Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, Mainz, Bible in Latin.
1464 Adolph Rusch, Strasbourg, Bible in Latin.
1476 Friburger, Gering, & Crantz, Paris, Bible in Latin.
1478 Heinrich Quentell, Cologne, Bible in Low German.
1483 Anton Kroberger, Nuremberg, Bible in German.
1517 Arnald Guillen de Brocar, Alcalá de Henares, Bible in polyglot.
1532 Robert Estienne, Paris, Bible in Latin.
1572 Christopher Plantin, Antwerp, Bible in polyglot.
1590 Typographia Vaticana, Rome, Bible in Latin.
1611 Robert Barker, London, Bible in English,
first edition of the King James Version.
1640 Imprimerie Royale, Paris, Bible in Latin.
1763 John Baskerville, Cambridge, Bible in English.
1800 Thomas Bensley, London, Bible in English.
1905 T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, Doves Press, Hammersmith, Bible in English.
1935 Bruce Rogers, Oxford University Press, Bible in English.

Of these landmark folio Bibles of the past, three have particular relevance for the Arion lectern Bible: those of Estienne, Baskerville, and Rogers. The Latin Bible of Robert Estienne (1503-1559), published in Paris in 1532, is one of the most beautiful books of the sixteenth century. Its elegant roman type, based on the Aldine roman of 1495, may have been cut by Claude Garamond. It is set in single- and double-column on a page size 17 by 11-1/8 inches. Large (nine-line) floriated woodcut initials grace the openings of books. Notes are in smaller type in the margins on either side of the type block.
The eighteenth-century English Bible of John Baskerville (1706-1775) is considered his highest achievement. It bears the date 1762 but was issued in 1763. It is set in the great primer type of Baskerville's own design on a page measuring 19-1/4 by 12-1/4 inches. Again some pages are single column, though most are in double-column.
The Oxford Lectern Bible, designed by the celebrated American book and type designer Bruce Rogers (1870-1957) and published in 1935, is generally regarded as the greatest piece of printing in the twentieth century. Rogers modified his own Centaur type in the 22-point size for more compact setting. The resulting pages are spectacular and flawless. Double-column is used throughout. The page size varies: 16 by 12 inches for the standard edition of 1,000 copies, fitting the brass lecterns of Anglican churches, 18-1/4 by 13 inches for the large-paper edition of 180 copies, and 19-1/4 by 14 inches for the unique copy in the Library of Congress.
Andrew Hoyem has carefully studied these three Bibles in preparation for this undertaking, and they are his primary inspirations. While other Bibles on the list have artistic merits and historical importance, they do not bear as significantly upon the present project. The Doves Bible, for example, is much admired. Its type, cut by Edward Prince for the partners of the press, T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, is a successful reinterpretation of Jenson's roman of the fifteenth century, and the initial letters cut by Edward Johnston are glorious. However, its division into five volumes and lack of verse numbers make it impractical for liturgical use. Likewise, the first edition of the King James Version, printed by Robert Barker in 1611, though ruggedly handsome, is set in black-letter type, and thus cannot serve as a model. Yet the past, in all styles, informs the present. We hope that the Arion Press Bible will be seen to honor its heritage and to set a standard for the future.

While the Authorized, or King James Version (1611), is still revered for its elegant language, much progress has since been made in biblical scholarship. Today the New Revised Standard Version is regarded as the most advanced translation. It has been adopted by religious denominations for personal study and for readings in church services. The NRSV, published in 1989, is the revision of the Revised Standard Version (1952), itself a revision of the American Standard Version (1901), which goes back through earlier revisions to the King James Version. The new translation was sponsored by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. A committee of scholars, under the chairmanship of Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, produced the translation, a multifaceted rendering of scriptural sources with footnoted alternative readings. The Committee on Bible Translation and Utilization authorizes licenses to publish the NRSV. Arion Press has received approval to publish the NRSV lectern edition.
The preface to the NRSV, written by Dr. Metzger, gives a clear and concise explanation of the translation and how the text is presented. Entitled “To the Reader”, it is reprinted in full at the conclusion of this prospectus.

Widely regarded as the foremost fine press in the United States, the Arion Press is singularly qualified to produce a lectern Bible, given the unique capabilities of the company with its highly skilled staff and complete facilities for letterpress printing and bookbinding. The press began under the name of Arion in 1975 as the continuation of the printing and publishing business of Andrew Hoyem. From 1966 through 1973 the firm was known as Grabhorn-Hoyem, a partnership between Robert Grabhorn (1900-1973) of the renowned Grabhorn Press and Andrew Hoyem. Arion Press publishes a series of deluxe, limited-edition books, using historic letterpress equipment and type casting from its other division, Mackenzie & Harris, the oldest and largest typefoundry in the country.
Among its better-known publications are a handset edition of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1979); The Temple of Flora, with engravings by Jim Dine (1984); Birds of the Pacific Slope by Andrew Jackson Grayson (1986); Ulysses by James Joyce, with etchings by Robert Motherwell (1988); and The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin, translated by M. F. K. Fisher, with lithographs by Wayne Thiebaud (1994).
Arion Press has published three books of the Bible: Psalms, translated by Arthur Golding (1977); The Apocalypse, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, from the King James Version, with woodcuts by Jim Dine (1982); and Genesis, translated from the Hebrew by Robert Alter, with an etching by Michael Mazur (1996).

Because of the vast changes to printing technology in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly the computerization of typography, this is almost certainly the final opportunity to produce a folio Bible by letterpress from lead type. Arion Press has employed both modern and traditional tools. The text was generated by computer for composition, ensuring textual accuracy. The data was then transmitted to the Monotype machine for casting individual pieces of type in lines to be made up in pages with handset type for display and printed on a two-color cylinder press, two pages per pressrun. Typecasting, printing, and binding are done on site by Arion staff, who are specially trained in the traditional crafts of bookmaking. The book was designed by Andrew Hoyem in collaboration with his associates at Arion Press.

The paper is a mouldmade sheet called Somerset, manufactured from all-cotton fiber by the Inveresk Mill in England. The weight is 115 grams per square meter; the surface is wove; the natural deckle edges are preserved. This prospectus is printed on Somerset, as are the sample pages enclosed. The format is large folio, 18 by 13 inches.
The type chosen for the Bible is Romulus, from the eminent Dutch designer, Jan Van Krimpen (1892-1958), drawn between 1931 and 1937 for the Enschedé Foundry of Haarlem and later developed for machine composition by the Monotype Corporation. Romulus, named for the legendary founder of Rome, is in its roman form a letter of graceful, clean lines, with an open readability and evenness of color, characteristics that are reminiscent of Baskerville from the eighteenth century.
Its companion, or secondary type, was designed as a sloped roman, rather than an italic, at the suggestion of Stanley Morison of Monotype. Although the sloped roman was later considered by Van Krimpen and Morison to have been an experiment rather than the ultimate solution for a companion face, its inclined letterforms may be more easily recognized than italics. It is used sparingly in the Bible, for chapter and verse numbers and words from other languages, such as Selah, and for the alternative texts in footnotes. The main text is set in the 16-point Didot size, cast on an 18-point body, leaded 4 points. That size is used in the prospectus. Footnotes are set in the 11-point Didot size, cast on a 12-point body, leaded 2 points. Figures in the text indicating footnotes are vertical superiors in the 9-point size. Larger type for display will be handset in Didot sizes 24, 36, and 60 points.

Illuminated initial letters are available as an optional feature. The illuminations are designed by Sumner Stone, a prominent American type designer. Before establishing his Stone Typefoundry in Palo Alto, California, Stone was associated with Autologic and Adobe in the development of digital types. His typefaces include ITC Stone, ITC Bodoni, Cycles, Arepo, and Silica. These capitals will be printed in red ink from photopolymer plates.
Illuminated initial letters are available as an optional feature. The illuminations are being designed by Thomas Ingmire of San Francisco, one of the foremost American calligraphers and a member of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators. The printed initials are elaborated with genuine gold and watercolors.

Included with the prospectus is a sheet printed with a set of four sample pages, from four Books of the Bible: Genesis, Job, Psalms, and John. These pages were chosen for trials because they present most of the typo-graphical problems that had to be solved. They give the potential buyer a good representation of how the Bible will look and feel. What these examples lack, of course, is the full dimensionality of the book: the curvature of the pages when bound, the appearance of the margins when pages are joined in the binding, and the heft of the book. But these pages show the scale of the format and the intricacies of the typographic arrangement.
Note that prose portions of the text are set on full measure (line width), while the metrical portions, such as Psalms and Proverbs, are set double-column. The rationale for this system is both aesthetic and practical. The reader's eyes can easily span the longer lines of prose with felicitous word spacing, whereas the use of double-column throughout would sometimes make for awkward spacing in shorter lines. This does not occur for metrical lines, which have constant spacing. By our calculation, relatively few verses will break over to a second indented line.
The use of sloped figures for verse numbers serves two functions: by their angularity, the reader passes over them as nearly invisible when reading for meaning; by their angularity, again, the reader easily spots them when looking for a particular verse. Aside from the use of the sloped roman for words in other languages and for alternative readings in the footnotes, the sloped form carries the meaning of non-text. Chapter and verse designations do not appear in early manuscripts or printed versions of the Bible but are later additions for convenience of reference that have now become conventional. Sloped verse numbers also differentiate themselves from the smaller upright figures used for superior footnote indicators.

Three options are offered in the binding: full leather, full cloth, and unbound in sheets. All copies are presented in a black linen cloth-covered wooden box. The Arion Press has its own in-house bindery, where the Bible bound by hand by experienced bookbinders. The printed sheets are folded, inserted into sections, and gathered into books. For copies that customers request to be delivered unbound for later commissioning of unique bindings, the gathered sheets are delivered in the cloth box. Copies bound in full cloth have a black linen cover with a gold-stamped title on a black goatskin label on the spine and handsewn headbands of black and red silk, in the cloth box. Copies bound in leather have a goatskin cover, black for the spine, purple for the sides, with a red bead between, gold stamped title on the spine, and handsewn headbands of black, purple, and red silk, in the cloth box. Copies are bound as two volumes.

Production began in the spring of 1998. The first pressrun was in March 1999 and printing was completed in August 2000. Binding began in September 2000 and continues. Given the scale of the project and the amount of handwork involved in binding each copy, delivery may be slightly delayed after an order is placed.

Page format 18 by 13 inches, 1,356 pages; composed on a Macintosh computer and cast by Monotype in Romulus type, in 16 point for the main text and 11 point for subsidiary material and explanatory notes, with larger sizes (24, 36, 72 point) for display, handset from foundry type; initial letters designed by Sumner Stone for photopolymer plates; printed by letterpress in two colors on mouldmade paper of 100% cotton fiber; offered in four versions:

  1. unbound, folded sheets gathered in sections (for those who wish to commission a unique binding), in cloth-covered box;
  2. handbound in full cloth with handsewn headbands, in cloth-covered box;
  3. handbound in full leather with handsewn headbands, in cloth-covered box.
  4. Illuminated initial letters may be added as an optional feature.
Weight, with box, approximately 50 pounds.
The edition is limited to 400 copies for sale, of which 150 copies have illuminated initial letters. The Bible is bound as two volumes (divided between Isaiah and Jeremiah) for ease of handling and advantages for display.

Reservations are being accepted for the Arion Press Bible. A deposit of fifty percent is required. The balance, plus sales tax for California residents and shipping charge, is due prior to delivery. Cancellations of orders are subject to a $100 fee against the deposit refund. Credit card payments by Visa and Master cards are subject to a surcharge in the amount levied by our bank, currently 3%. The same applies to bank transfer and currency conversion fees. The price structure is as follows:

 A. Unbound, in cloth-covered box  $7,250
 B. Bound in full cloth, in cloth-covered box  $7,750
 C. Bound in full leather, in cloth-covered box  $8,500
 D. Illuminated initials for above, add  $2,500

You may contact us by telephone, fax, post, or e-mail to place a reservation or to obtain further information.

This preface is addressed to you by the Committee of translators, who wish to explain, as briefly as possible, the origin and character of our work. The publication of our revision is yet another step in the long, continual process of making the Bible available in the form of the English language that is most widely current in our day. To summarize in a single sentence: the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible is an authorized revision of the Revised Standard Version, published in 1952, which was a revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which, in turn, embodied earlier revisions of the King James Version, published in 1611.
In the course of time, the King James Version came to be regarded as “the Authorized Version”. With good reason it has been termed “the noblest monument of English prose”, and it has entered, as no other book has, into the making of the personal character and the public institutions of the English-speaking peoples. We owe to it an incalculable debt.
Yet the King James Version has serious defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of biblical studies and the discovery of many biblical manuscripts more ancient than those on which the King James Version was based made it apparent that these defects were so many as to call for revision. The task was begun, by authority of the Church of England, in 1870. The (British) Revised Version of the Bible was published in 1881-1885; and the American Standard Version, its variant embodying the preferences of the American scholars associated with the work, was published, as was mentioned above, in 1901. In 1928 the copyright of the latter was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education and thus passed into the ownership of the churches of the United States and Canada that were associated in this Council through their boards of education and publication.
The Council appointed a committee of scholars to have charge of the text of the American Standard Version and to undertake inquiry concerning the need for further revision. After studying the questions whether or not revision should be undertaken, and if so, what its nature and extent should be, in 1937 the Council authorized a revision. The scholars who served as members of the Committee worked in two sections, one dealing with the Old Testament and one with the New Testament. In 1946 the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was published. The publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, took place on September 30, 1952. A translation of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament followed in 1957. In 1977 this collection was issued in an expanded edition, containing three additional texts received by Eastern Orthodox communions (3 and 4 Maccabees and Psalm 151). Thereafter the Revised Standard Version gained the distinction of being officially authorized for use by all major Christian churches: Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox.
The Revised Standard Version Bible Committee is a continuing body, comprising about thirty members, both men and women. Ecumenical in representation, it includes scholars affiliated with various Protestant denominations, as well as several Roman Catholic members, an Eastern Orthodox member, and a Jewish member who serves in the Old Testament section. For a period of time the Committee included several members from Canada and from England.
Because no translation of the Bible is perfect or is acceptable to all groups of readers, and because discoveries of older manuscripts and further investigation of linguistic features of the text continue to become available, renderings of the Bible have proliferated. During the years following the publication of the Revised Standard Version, twenty-six other English translations and revisions of the Bible were produced by committees and by individual scholars-not to mention twenty-five other translations and revisions of the New Testament alone. One of the latter was the second edition of the RSV New Testament, issued in 1971, twenty-five years after its initial publication.
Following the publication of the RSV Old Testament in 1952, signifi-cant advances were made in the discovery and interpretation of documents in Semitic languages related to Hebrew. In addition to the information that had become available in the late 1940s from the Dead Sea texts of Isaiah and Habakkuk, subsequent acquisitions from the same area brought to light many other early copies of all the books of the Hebrew Scriptures (except Esther), though most of these copies are fragmentary. During the same period early Greek manuscript copies of books of the New Testament also became available.
In order to take these discoveries into account, along with recent studies of documents in Semitic languages related to Hebrew, in 1974 the Policies Committee of the Revised Standard Version, which is a standing committee of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., authorized the preparation of a revision of the entire RSV Bible.
For the Old Testament the Committee has made use of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977; ed. sec. emendata, 1983). This is an edition of the Hebrew and Aramaic text as current early in the Christian era and fixed by Jewish scholars (the “Masoretes”) of the sixth to the ninth centuries. The vowel signs, which were added by the Masoretes, are accepted in the main, but where a more probable and convincing reading can be obtained by assuming different vowels, this has been done. No notes are given in such cases, because the vowel points are less ancient and reliable than the consonants. When an alternative reading given by the Masoretes is translated in a footnote, this is identified by the words “Another reading is”.
Departures from the consonantal text of the best manuscripts have been made only where it seems clear that errors in copying had been made before the text was standardized. Most of the corrections adopted are based on the ancient versions (translations into Greek, Aramaic, Syriac, and Latin), which were made prior to the time of the work of the Masoretes and which therefore may reflect earlier forms of the Hebrew text. In such instances a footnote specifies the version or versions from which the correction has been derived and also gives a translation of the Masoretic Text. Where it was deemed appropriate to do so, information is supplied in footnotes from subsidiary Jewish traditions concerning other textual readings (the Tiqqune Sopherim, “emendations of the scribes”). These are identified in the footnotes as “Ancient Heb tradition”.
Occasionally it is evident that the text has suffered in transmission and that none of the versions provides a satisfactory restoration. Here we can only follow the best judgment of competent scholars as to the most probable reconstruction of the original text. Such reconstructions are indicated in footnotes by the abbreviation Cn (“Correction”), and a translation of the Masoretic Text is added.
For the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament the Committee has made use of a number of texts. For most of these books the basic Greek text from which the present translation was made is the edition of the Septuagint prepared by Alfred Rahlfs and published by the Württemberg Bible Society (Stuttgart, 1935). For several of the books the more recently published individual volumes of the Göttingen Septuagint project were utilized. For the book of Tobit it was decided to follow the form of the Greek text found in codex Sinaiticus (supported as it is by evidence from Qumran); where this text is defective, it was supplemented and corrected by other Greek manuscripts. For the three Additions of Daniel (namely, Susanna, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, and Bel and the Dragon) the Committee continued to use the Greek version attributed to Theodotion (the so-called “Theodotion-Daniel”). In translating Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), while constant reference was made to the Hebrew fragments of a large portion of this book (those discovered at Qumran and Masada as well as those recovered from the Cairo Geniza), the Committee generally followed the Greek text (including verse numbers) published by Joseph Ziegler in the Göttingen Septuagint (1965). But in many places the Committee has translated the Hebrew text when this provides a reading that is clearly superior to the Greek; the Syriac and Latin versions were also consulted throughout and occasionally adopted. The basic text adopted in rendering 2 Esdras is the Latin version given in Biblia Sacra, edited by Robert Weber (Stuttgart, 1971). This was supplemented by consulting the Latin text as edited by R. L. Bensly (1895) and by Bruno Violet (1910), as well as by taking into account the several Oriental versions of 2 Esdras, namely, the Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic (two forms, referred to as Arabic 1 and Arabic 2), Armenian, and Georgian versions. Finally, since the Additions to the Book of Esther are disjointed and quite unintelligible as they stand in most editions of the Apocrypha, we have provided them with their original context by translating the whole of the Greek version of Esther from Robert Hanhart's Göttingen edition (1983).
For the New Testament the Committee has based its work on the most recent edition of The Greek New Testament, prepared by an intercon-fessional and international committee and published by the United Bible Societies (1966; 3rd ed. corrected, 1983; information concerning changes to be introduced into the critical apparatus of the forthcoming fourth edition was available to the Committee). As in that edition, double brackets are used to enclose a few passages that are generally regarded to be later additions to the text, but which we have retained because of their evident antiquity and their importance in the textual tradition. Only in very rare instances have we replaced the text or the punctuation of the Bible Societies' edition by an alternative that seemed to us to be superior. Here and there in the footnotes the phrase, “Other ancient authorities read”, identifies alternative readings preserved by Greek manuscripts and early versions. In both Testaments, alternative renderings of the text are indicated by the word “Or”.
As for the style of English adopted for the present revision, among the mandates given to the Committee in 1980 by the Division of Education and Ministry of the National Council of Churches of Christ (which now holds the copyright of the RSV Bible) was the directive to continue in the tradition of the King James Bible, but to introduce such changes as are warranted on the basis of accuracy, clarity, euphony, and current English usage. Within the constraints set by the original texts and by the mandates of the Division, the Committee has followed the maxim, “As literal as possible, as free as necessary”. As a consequence, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) remains essentially a literal translation. Paraphrastic renderings have been adopted only sparingly, and then chiefly to compensate for a deficiency in the English language-the lack of a common gender third person singular pronoun.
During the almost half a century since the publication of the RSV, many in the churches have become sensitive to the danger of linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender, a bias that in the case of the Bible has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text. The mandates from the Division specified that, in references to men and women, masculine-oriented language should be eliminated as far as this can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture. As can be appreciated, more than once the Committee found that the several mandates stood in tension and even in conflict. The various concerns had to be balanced case by case in order to provide a faithful and acceptable rendering without using contrived English. Only very occasionally has the pronoun “he” or “him” been retained in passages where the reference may have been to a woman as well as to a man; for example, in several legal texts in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In such instances of formal, legal language, the options of either putting the passage in the plural or of introducing additional nouns to avoid masculine pronouns in English seemed to the Committee to obscure the historic structure and literary character of the original. In the vast majority of cases, however, inclusiveness has been attained by simple rephrasing or by introducing plural forms when this does not distort the meaning of the passage. Of course, in narrative and in parable no attempt was made to generalize the sex of individual persons.
Another aspect of style will be detected by readers who compare the more stately English rendering of the Old Testament with the less formal rendering adopted for the New Testament. For example, the traditional distinction between shall and will in English has been retained in the Old Testament as appropriate in rendering a document that embodies what may be termed the classic form of Hebrew, while in the New Testament the abandonment of such distinctions in the usage of the future tense in English reflects the more colloquial nature of the koine Greek used by most New Testament authors except when they are quoting the Old Testament.
Careful readers will notice that here and there in the Old Testament the word LORD (or in certain cases GOD) is printed in capital letters. This represents the traditional manner in English versions of rendering the Divine Name, the “Tetragrammaton” (see the notes on Exodus 3.14, 15), following the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators and the long established practice in the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures in the synagogue. While it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced “Yahweh”, this pronunciation was not indicated when the Masoretes added vowel sounds to the consonantal Hebrew text. To the four consonants YHWH of the Name, which had come to be regarded as too sacred to be pronounced, they attached vowel signs indicating that in its place should be read the Hebrew word Adonai meaning “Lord” (or Elohim meaning “God”). Ancient Greek translators employed the word Kyrios (“Lord”) for the Name. The Vulgate likewise used the Latin word Dominus (“Lord”). The form “Jehovah” is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. Although the American Standard Version (1901) had used “Jehovah” to render the Tetragrammaton (the sound of Y being represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin), for two reasons the Committees that produced the RSV and the NRSV returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version. (1) The word “Jehovah” does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew. (2) The use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom the true God had to be distinguished, began to be discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.
It will be seen that in the Psalms and in other prayers addressed to God the archaic second person singular pronouns (thee, thou, thine) and verb forms (art, hast, hadst) are no longer used. Although some readers may regret this change, it should be pointed out that in the original languages neither the Old Testament nor the New makes any linguistic distinction between addressing a human being and addressing the Deity. Furthermore, in the tradition of the King James Version one will not expect to find the use of capital letters for pronouns that refer to the Deity-such capitalization is an unnecessary innovation that has only recently been introduced into a few English translations of the Bible. Finally, we have left to the discretion of the licensed publishers such matters as section headings, cross-references, and clues to the pronunciation of proper names.
This new version seeks to preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the years. It is intended for use in public reading and congregational worship, as well as in private study, instruction, and meditation. We have resisted the temptation to introduce terms and phrases that merely reflect current moods, and have tried to put the message of the Scriptures in simple, enduring words and expressions that are worthy to stand in the great tradition of the King James Bible and its predecessors.
In traditional Judaism and Christianity, the Bible has been more than a historical document to be preserved or a classic of literature to be cherished and admired; it is recognized as the unique record of God's dealings with people over the ages. The Old Testament sets forth the call of a special people to enter into covenant relation with the God of justice and steadfast love and to bring God's law to the nations. The New Testament records the life and work of Jesus Christ, the one in whom “the Word became flesh”, as well as describes the rise and spread of the early Christian Church. The Bible carries its full message, not to those who regard it simply as a noble literary heritage of the past or who wish to use it to enhance political purposes and advance otherwise desirable goals, but to all persons and communities who read it so that they may discern and understand what God is saying to them. That message must not be disguised in phrases that are no longer clear, or hidden under words that have changed or lost their meaning; it must be presented in language that is direct and plain and meaningful to people today. It is the hope and prayer of the translators that this version of the Bible may continue to hold a large place in congregational life and to speak to all readers, young and old alike, helping them to understand and believe and respond to its message.

For the Committee, Bruce M. Metzger


Detail of a page from the Book of Job.

Detail from the Book of Job

You may contact us by telephone, fax, post, or e-mail to place a reservation or to obtain further information.

1802 Hays Street, The Presidio
San Francisco, California 94129
Telephone: 415-668-2542
Fax: 415-668-2545