ASV (1901): symbolic of America’s historic spirit of independence

What is so American about the American Standard Version (ASV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB)? The ASV was originally called the “Standard American Edition of the Revised Version” (1881). The American revisers of the Revised Version modified the name by dumping “English” and adding “American” into its name–hence, we now have American Standard Version. I may be pushing it a little far but I think of the American Standard Version as a kind of symbolic representation of America’s historic spirit of independence from England. Here is a little of its history.

The idea of translating the Revised Version or English Revised Version (ERV) (1881) was initiated by a group of Anglican-Episcopal clergy who wanted a modern translation to replace the old KJV. They decided they’d had enough of the old archaic King James English so after calling a General Assembly in Canterbury, England on May 6, 1870, they began their work on the English Revised Version. The British revisers invited Americans to join them in this joint-effort with the formation of an American committee in 1871. Both British and American committees exchanged their revisions across the rough waters of the Atlantic and worked to harmonize their differences. The British told the American members that any remaining differences would be inserted into the back of an appendix for a stipulated time of 14 years. Americans would not be allowed to make revisions to the English Revised Version (1881-85) for 14 years. The British imposed this one-sided decision on the Americans. The American revisers had their hands tied by the publisher University Presses of England (see Preface). After the English Committee finished their work on the Old Testament in 1885, there was no intention, on behalf of the British, to ever amalgamate the readings in the appendix with future English editions. It sure doesn’t sound very fair, does it? A new reason for a belated-Boston Tea Party?! But the American revisers refused to have their revisional differences remain relegated in the “dungeons” of a never-looked-at appendix. After waiting 14 years, American revisers finally got their chance to release the American Standard Version. They had been working on it even before its actual release date in 1901. What may have begun as a united English-American project was to be declared separate from its British counterparts. The ASV is a result of American’s dissatisfaction toward the British committee who left them high and dry. They used and abused the hard work of American biblical scholars on the American committee. They took what was good, and dumped the leftovers into an appendix that was never intended to be used again. (See history of the RV by Michael Marlowe at

When the ASV first came out in 1901, it was considered the most accurate bible translation in terms of formal-equivalence. Today, many more Greek manuscripts have become available since 1901. When the ASV was being translated, there were 1500 Greek NT manuscripts available to the translators, but today, there are four times as many available. Nevertheless, it is a translation to be honored because it became the foundation of several major translations: the RSV and the NASB; plus the Recovery Version, and the Amplified Version (which is so modified that it no longer reads anything like the ASV). It is interesting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses previously used the ASV between 1944-1963 but it was later bumped by their New World Translation. The reason they approved of the ASV was because it used “Jehovah” throughout rather than “LORD” as the name of God, e.g., “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen.2:7). I do think it sounds kind of neat with “Jehovah God”. It was definitely a radical approach back then. Whether it’s right or wrong to do so is a debatable issue.

I have never personally seen a physical copy of the ASV (1901). To find an authentic historic copy of it is rare so I did some research and was surprised to learn that brand new copies of it are still available for sale today. There is only one publisher that publishes it: Star Bible located in Texas. So if you are nostalgic enough, you can get yourself a copy of the ASV, 1901 edition. I called them up and they told me they have been printing the ASV since 1990. They sell the ASV in genuine leather, bonded leather, and hardcover ($69.96, $59.95, $24.95).

20 thoughts on “ASV (1901): symbolic of America’s historic spirit of independence

  1. Gavin, I wasn’t aware where I had ever quoted the JPS(1917) as saying “G-d”. I don’t think the ASV removed God’s name of Jehovah, at least not the last time I checked.

    ASV Psalm 24:1 The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fulness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1 ASV)

    I doubt if NIV2011 will use Yahweh/Jehovah but if you like the use of “Yahweh”, the NJB says: To Yahweh belong the earth and all it contains, the world and all who live there; (Psa 24:1 NJB). I kind of like reading the NJB for a change.

    I’m not aware of the RV Apoc because I have never read it.


  2. I am disappointed that the Revisions of the ASV have removed God’s name of Jehovah (Yahweh/YHWH) from the scripture text, in fact they have even done so entirely (except for the Living Bible which only partially removed The Name “Jehovah”). I would love it if more of the newer Bible translations would restore The Name Jehovah/Yahweh/YHWH to the English translation of the Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures (Old Covenant/Testament)! I hope the 2011 revised edition of the New International Version (NIV) includes The Name of God at least in those places where it is emphasized as a personal name (and at least in brackets following the word “LORD” if not in place of the word “LORD”), though I don’t expect that Bible to do so. I notice that some have said that the RV Apocrypha is not as good as the that of the KJV Apocrypha, but I have not been able to find any examples to support this and I do not have access to JSTOR. I do know that the RV Apocrypha includes 70 verses in II Esdras which are missing from II Esdras in the KJV and from virtually all Latin copies, thus II Esdras in the RV is superior to that of II Esdras in the KJV in that respect.


  3. Kevin quoted the JPS(1917) as writing “G-d’ but it instead writes “God” just like in Christian Bibles. Likewise the 1985 JPS translation (the Tanakh) writes “God” instead of “G-d”. Just because some (or many) Orthodox Jewish people don’t spell out the name/title of “God” fully does not mean that the widely used Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Bible copies that practice nor does it mean that all devoutly religious Jews spell God as “G-d”.


      1. Hi Cathy, I don’t think they go for very much. Yahoo (new $35)? If you’re talking about first print, I have no idea. They’re probably a collector’s item.


  4. Anon, since I haven't ever seen the RV or its appendix, I don't know the details. You might want to contact the publisher Star Bible (link on post) about the ASV. Maybe they can help point you into the right direction.

    Best wishes on your dissertation writing. I'm sure it will be a very interesting dissertation.


  5. Kevin – I am currently writing a dissertation on exactly this subject and tend to agree with your comments so far. I was wondering about the RV appendix and whether you knew the proportion of American suggestions that were down to linguistic differences rather than general differences in opinion?


  6. I’d like to point-out that the English revisers were not pining for a modern version, nor tired of the older English of the KJV: in fact they wrote about how [childish] (my word] the Americans seemed in wanting all new, whereas the KJV at the time was sooooo entrenched and well-known that such was unthinkable: given that too many changes would deprive the publics of familiarity they didn’t want to change anything unecessarily…and even with what they did change the public reaction was more resentment and rejection than enthusiasm, though there was some.

    And on the “hands tied” thing: the Americans were [i]invited[/i] to help, not initiators: it was the English’s game, so your analysis isn’t truthful, but rather libel: be more careful. Furthermore some American preferences were incorporated, and in later editions a few more were adopted (if my memory serves me correctly), but not many; some were simply due to style of English (American vs. English) and some were textual/interpretative/opinion-on-best-rendering so it’s not fair to depict the English as dastardly…and the Americans could have published their preferences at any time, but agreed with the English to wait so two competing editions wouldn’t be dropped on everyone; as to the appendix, it was (in the words of the Americans) “hastily prepared” and wasn’t complete (couldn’t have been: too many things to add).

    As to Darby’s version: it is independent. Any resemblance to the KJV version is due to Darby’s familiarity and constant use of the KJV (you can read his preface online which discusses what’s going on in there). The American Revisors did, however, consult Darby’s notes in preparing their edition of the [E]RV!

    Aside from all this, thanks for the blog work. : )


  7. I also think your views on the English revisers are (to say the least) a little harsh.

    Yes, maybe I did sound a little harsh on the English revisers…but sometimes the truth hurts.


  8. If you have access to JSTOR, look up I. Abraham’s 9 page detailed review of the RV Apocrypha (in the Jewish Quarterly Review, 8:2, January 1896), pp. 321-329. It savages the RV Apocrypha (quite justly, in my opinion) and presents a fascinating, highly technical analysis.


  9. Kevin,

    You say “The American revisers of the Revised Version modified the name by dumping ‘English’ and adding ‘American’ into its name. Now some people may refer to the RV as “the English ‘Revised Version’ ” (to distinguish it from the later American edition), but the word “English” was never actually part of its name.

    I also think your views on the English revisers are (to say the least) a little harsh. When they and their American counterparts differed, why should the latter assume that their choices should override those of the former and be included in the final wording? (Of course that may be how some Americans think these days.) I won’t say more, as *I* have no desire to re-run the American War of Independence (as we call it this side of the pond).

    You might be interested to know (if you don’t already) that the reference system devised for inclusion in RV reference Bibles was used as a basis for that in the ESV and Oxford NRSV reference editions.

    I have two second-hand editions of the RV (one with references and the Apocrypha). I did have one I had bought new, but I gave it away (I didn’t like the way it was divided into “verse paragraphs”). When I bought it about 20 years ago it was the only edition of the RV then in print.



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  11. Anon, thanks for helping to point this out. I had no idea that the E/RV was still available! It depends which version is more dead, I’d say the ERV but that’s hard to say.

    Several of the comments from Amazon’s customers shows how they like the E/RV for bible study.Their comments on how it is set up sounds very interesting. I’d sure like to take a closer look at that bible but I don’t know if I’m willing shell out $100 to buy it if I know I’m not actually going to make good use of it.


  12. ElShaddai Edwards, the ERV is now extinct but is still available if you follow Anon’s link below to Cambridge KJV/RV. And thanks to Anon for pointing this out right after your comment that the ERV spawned the JPS (1917). I think it also spawned Darby’s version as well. Notice the similarities between the 3 versions:

    ASV(1901): And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

    JPS(1917): And G-d called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas; and G-d saw that it was good.

    Darby (1890): And God called the dry [land] Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

    It’s interesting to see the connections between all the versions. If we went far back enough we could probably find that the ERV came from another previous translation too.


  13. A careful analysis of versions directly based on the ASV (the RSV, the NASB71, and the JPS1917) shows that they reversed most of the (very small) number of changes made by the ASV editors to the RV. In this sense, the ASV was a dead end.

    There is at least one copy of the RV in print, the Cambridge KJV/RV does contain a full list of ASV revisions. They are quite minor and scarce — perhaps fewer in number as the differences between the Anglicized NRSV and the NRSV or the Anglicized (T)NIV and the (T)NIV.


  14. Thanks for posting that, Kevin. In your research, did you come across any references as to what’s happened with the ERV? Obviously the New English Bible and Revised English Bible have been British translations within the last 50 years or so, but I’m curious if the original ERV spawned any revisions (other than the ASV)?


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