Harvard Divinity School Dean Krister Stendahl told a dinner gathering celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible that "the power of the Bible does not need our anxious and zealous help."
Never in history have Christians been "so plagued or blessed" by a variety of Bible translations as in the 1970s, Stendahl said. With the multiplicity of versions available, he urged, "pastors, Christian educators and lay people should be ready to live with fewer and fewer authoritarian props and live with the liberating power of the Bible."
The theologian remarked that "even the RSV committee [of the Division of Education and Ministry of the National Council of Churches] wants to be very sure that the Bible has power, [but] they didn't trust the book quite enough, so that the title is the Holy Bible - as if anyone would miss that this is a "holy and inspired book."
Stendahl commented that older translations, too, had "props" which were essentially attempts at improvements on the Bible. He said that the "Elizabethan English" of the King James Version, while "elegant" actually hindered Christians from understanding the "liberating power of the Bible."
Dr. Bruce Metzger, current chairperson of the RSV committee, said that group is now embarked on a plan to eliminate masculine terminology that is not necessary for a correct understanding of certain passages, and is also planning to eliminate such "archiac second-person pronouns" as "thee" and "thou", exchanging for them the word "you" in most cases.
"Masculine-biased language" may have been acceptable during the period when the Bible was written, but it is offensive to many Christians today, wrote J. Martin Baily of A.D. magazine, commemorating the RSV Bible anniversary.
He called on the standing committee of the National Council of Churches which oversees its publication to produce a complete "new edition." The edition would not refer to God as "He" or call indefinite groups of people "men."
Martin cautioned that "a new generation may leave the pews of our churches" by the 1980s if the exclusively male references are not changed.
A.D. is an official publication of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the United Church of Christ.