My, how times have changed! Look what bible scholars said 50 years ago about the RSV

My, How times have changed! What Bible scholars were saying a mere 50 years ago about the liberal RSV!

In 1953 a symposium of the Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary published A Critique of the Revised Standard Version and condemned their liberal theology. In this review they criticized in no uncertain terms the way the RSV translated the Christological passage in Micah 5:2 with these words, yet here we are just a few years later and the exact same previously condemned translation is now found in the NIV, the 2001 ESV and the online NET version put out by today's Dallas Theological Seminary group!

Note: For proof that the NET bible version is a Dallas Theological Seminary product, see this critique of the NET bible from Biblical Studies, a non King James Bible only group.

Here is what the Dallas Theological Seminary symposium said. This particular section was written by Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D.
“Micah's famous prophecy of Christ's birth in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2) is watered down by the Revised Standard translators to such an extent that Messiah's eternal pre-existence is obscured, if not ruled out, by their depriving the words of the Hebrew Text of their deeper meaning: "...from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days." The A.V. and American Standard Versions alone obviously meet the scope of this passage: "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," since the "Child" was born in Bethlehem, but the "Son...given" (Isa 9:6, 7) was "from everlasting."
The translation of the Hebrew word motza'oth "goings forth," referring evidently to the divine activity, by "origin" is precarious since on the divine side Messiah was eternal and without beginning, which limitation however the word "origin" implies. On the other hand, even if the scope of the passage is arbitrarily limited to the human side of Messiah and the words "from of old, from ancient days" are made to refer merely to the antiquity of the Davidic family, a very meaningless thought is indicated, inasmuch as the house of David was not older than any of the other families of Israel and Judah, whose origin also extended back as far as patriarchal times, since the whole nation descended from the twelve sons of Jacob and through them from a common ancestor, Abraham.
With Karl Friedrich Keil of the nineteenth century we repeat a warning much-needed in this present hour, too, concerning the great Messianic passage in Micah: "We must reject in the most unqualified manner the attempts that have been made by the Rabbins in a polemical interest, and by rationalizing commentators from a dread of miracles, to deprive the words of their deeper meaning..." 4 (end of section by Dr. Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D.)

King James Bible and many others reads: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; WHOSE GOINGS FORTH HAVE BEEN FROM OF OLD, FROM EVERLASTING."

The RSV, NRSV, and 2001 ESV we read: "But you, O Bethlehem Eph'rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose ORIGIN is from of old, FROM ANCIENT DAYS."

The NIV - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose ORIGINS are from of old, FROM ANCIENT TIMES."

Dan Wallace and the DTS group's NET version - “As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose ORIGINS are IN THE DISTANT PAST.”

For a look at my study of Micah 5:2 see -

This same symposium also criticized the way the RSV translated Genesis 49:10 and how they lost the Messianic overtones.
The King James Bible says: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor A LAWGIVER from between his feet, until SHILOH COME; and unto him shall the GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE BE.”

The RSV says: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the RULER’S STAFF from between his feet, until HE COMES TO WHOM IT BELONGS; and to him shall be THE OBEDIENCE of the peoples.”

In their 1953 report the faculty at DTS said in their criticism of the liberal RSV:
“In other passages as e.g. Genesis 49:10, the translators (of the liberal RSV) have swung away from the emphatic Messianic reference contained in the Hebrew in favor of weakened paraphrases based on the ancient versions (Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, and Symmachus). According to this evidence the original form of the Messianic "Shiloh" of the Hebrew Text, and meaning "Peaceful" or "Peace-maker" in agreement with Isaiah 9:6, was supposed to be "sheloh" -- not a proper name of Messiah at all, but she lo equivalent to asher lo, "to whose it is." Such a reading in this passage is not only weak and comparatively unmeaningful, but is without parallel in the Hebrew of the Pentateuch itself.

The sound procedure followed both by the Authorized Version and American Revision of 1901 is to take Shiloh as a personal name of Messiah, which is not only the ready meaning of the Hebrew Text, but which stands in the most beautiful harmony with the progress of the same Messianic revelation, as recorded next in order at Numbers 23:24, 24:9, where now Jacob's proclamation of the lion-nature of Judah is applied to the nation and the figure of the sceptre from Israel -- taken verbatim from this Messianic prediction -- is rightly set off with capital letters by the Authorized Version in contrast, of course, to the Revised Standard Version: "There shall come a Star out of Jacob and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Num 24:17).”

Well, let’s see how the modern versions since the RSV came out have fared, OK?

One of the previously best know Messianic verses in the Old Testament is Genesis 49:10. "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a LAWGIVER from between his feet, until SHILOH come; and unto him shall THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE be." This verse is a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

LAWGIVER is the reading of the KJB, the Jewish translations, the NKJV, Geneva Bible, Darby and Young's. But the NASB and NIV say "THE RULER'S STAFF' yet they both translated this same word as "lawgiver" in Isaiah 33:22 "the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king."

“Until SHILOH COME” is the reading of the Geneva Bible, Bishops’ bible, the KJB, NKJV, NASB, ASV, RV, Darby, Green, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, Hebrew Names Version, the Spanish Bibles and the Third Millenium Bible. The word Shiloh occurs only once in the Bible and it comes from the verb meaning to be tranquil or to be at peace.

Judaica Press Tanach - Genesis 49:10. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, UNTIL SHILOH COMES, and to him will be a gathering of peoples.”

The NIV, along with the RSV, NRSV and now the NET says: "UNTIL HE COMES TO WHOM IT BELONGS" instead of "until Shiloh come". You won't find this note in the NIV but the RSV and NRSV both tell us in their footnotes that the SYRIAC reads the way the NIV does, but that the Hebrew says UNTIL SHILOH COME.

The Holman Christian Standard - “The scepter will not depart from Judah, or the staff from between his feet, until He WHOSE RIGHT IT IS COMES and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.”

Daniel Wallace and company’s NET version (all from this same Dallas Theological Seminary a mere 50 years later) have in their version: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor THE RULER’S STAFF from between his feet,until HE COMES TO WHOM IT BELONGS ;THE NATIONS WILL OBEY HIM.” Hey! This is just like the old RSV Dallas Theological Seminary severely criciticed in their Faculty Symposium in 1953!

Other “bible versions” give us yet other completely different meanings with the New English Bible 1970 reading: “the sceptre shall not pass from Judah...SO LONG AS TRIBUTE IS BROUGHT TO HIM, (not, “until Shiloh comes”) and the obedience of the nations is his.”

Now the new 2001 ESV (a revision of the RSV) has come out and it too has changed to now read: “nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, UNTIL TRIBUTE COMES TO HIM...”

Young’s ‘literal’ says: “And a lawgiver from between his feet, Till HIS SEED COME”

The 2001 Easy to Read Version says: “before THE REAL KING comes”

The Douay-Rheims has: “till HE COME THAT IS TO BE SENT”

The Holman Standard says: “or the staff from between his feet, until HE WHOSE RIGHT IT IS COMES”

The latest online NIV now gives us three options for this single word ‘Shiloh’. It says: “until HE COMES TO WHOM IT BELONGS and the obedience of the nations is his.” FOOTNOTES: "Or until Shiloh comes; or until he comes to whom tribute belongs.”

So why did the NIV "scholars" decide to dump the Hebrew text and follow the Syriac? Because in spite of all their rhetoric about being "good, godly, evangelical scholars" they are in reality biblical relativists, with no absolute authority but their own minds.

The NIV tells you in their own introduction that they have used sources other than the Hebrew for their Old Testament including "the Septuagint, Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotian, the Vulgate; the Syriac Peshitta, the Tagums. Readings from these versions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed doubtful." Introduction to the NIV found on page xviii. They’re lying to you. Many of the notes in the NIV tell you clearly what the Hebrew says, (it is not ‘doubtful’) yet they follow these other sources.

This same Dallas Theological Seminary symposium criticized the RSV translation for changing “virgin” to “young woman”, and yet today Daniel Wallace of the same Dallas Theological Seminary has put out his NET version, and in Isaiah 7:14 it too now has “young woman” instead of “virgin”.
Here is what DTS said in 1953:
“In no passage do the translators of the Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament do more violence to the context of a Messianic prediction and prove more conclusively that linguistic science alone is often not sufficient for a valid rendering than in their translation of 'almah by "young woman" instead of "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14. This rendering shows plainly that they do not regard this passage in Isaiah as involving a prophecy of the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ. Yet when the context is examined nothing short of a tremendous miracle comprising heaven and earth is unequivocally indicated. The unbelieving Ahaz was invited to ask a sign of Jehovah, his God, "in the depth or in the height above" (Isa 7:10). No limit was placed on God's power, or on the extent and magnitude of the sign.

Ahaz's refusal to ask did not abrogate the sign. "The Lord himself" gave the stupendous sign: "Behold the virgin (ha 'almah) shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." To render 'almah by "young woman" requires no miracle whatever, and moreover could never produce "Immanuel -- God with us." This was the great Messianic sign. Failure to recognize the appended non-Messianic sign of verse 16, Isaiah's own small son Shear-Jashub whom he had in his arms (cf. v. 3 ) and who had immediate application to King Ahaz, has obscured the full meaning of the Immanuel prophecy in the minds of many.
One thing is absolutely clear from the context of Isaiah 7. The prophet Isaiah intended an extraordinary miracle when he employed the word 'almah. It was therefore the task of the translators, whether they believed in miracles or not, to register as accurately as possible the meaning and intention of the prophet and not force upon him their own ideas, or deny him an expression of them under the false assumption that 'almah may not mean a virgin.

Clearly in Genesis 24:43 (cf. v. 16 ) 'almah denotes a virgin, and in not one of its other Biblical occurrences is the thought of virginity ruled out (Exod 2:8; Prov 30:19; Ps 68:25; Song 1:3; 6:8 ; 1 Chron 15:20). But why is not the word bethulah, the word alleged by the rabbis to mean a pure virgin (Lev 21:14), used in Isaiah 7:14 instead of 'almah? The point is that in the Prophetic Books the word bethulah does not mean exclusively a virgin (cf. Joel 1:8), and in many instances the Revised Standard Version itself renders the word simply "maidens" (Ps 148:12; Lam 1:4; Zech 9:17, etc.). The rabbis for polemic reasons labored from the use of bethulah in the Pentateuch to make it the sole word for "virgin" as over against the alleged meaning of 'almah, "young woman." But by the prophetic period the word, as words often do, had evidently changed in meaning, so that 'almah became the more normal word for virgin rather than bethulah. For instance, Joel could speak of lamenting like "a bethulah over the husband of her youth" (1:8 ) and Jeremiah could picture Israel (in a state of marriage relationship with Jehovah, from whom she had gone astray) as "the virgin (bethulah) daughter of Israel" (31:4, 21 ; etc.).

The Revised Standard translators evidently were swayed by the unanimity of Jewish Commentaries in interpreting 'almah to mean "young woman," forgetting that controversy rather than scholarship colored Jewish thought on this point. The majority of the committee of the translators, in line with their usual rationalizing treatment of the great Messianic passages in general, inclined toward the same view. As a result "young woman" rather than "virgin" appears in the Text of the Revised Standard Version. But careful conservative scholars, who are not biased against the miraculous, including the deity and virgin birth of Christ, will hesitate to put their imprimatur upon a translation that is doctrinally unreliable and displays in vital passages the unsoundness of modern liberalism.”

So, let’s take a look at the old liberal RSV so criticized by these scholars at DTS in 1953 and then take a look at the “new scholars” at this same DTS just 50 years later.

RSV - “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, A YOUNG WOMAN shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el.”

NET version (by Dan Wallace and other Dallas Theological Seminary faculty today) - “ For this reason the sovereign master himself will give you a confirming sign. Look, THIS YOUNG WOMAN is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.”

Now, think about it. For God to give a "sign" that a young woman would conceive and bear a son, is not much of a sign. It happens hundreds of times every day. However for a virgin to conceive and bear a son AND STILL BE A VIRGIN, now THAT would indeed be a sign, and the resultant son would really be Immanuel - GOD with us!

This previous Dallas Theological Seminary symposium concludes with these telling words.
“The preceding discussion has demonstrated that the Revised Standard Version is a translation which can never receive the approval of conservative scholars. The propagandists for the version showed their colors in seeking to obtain the acclaim and approval of the religious leaders before anyone had opportunity actually to examine the work, for they employed the technique of the band-wagon. The attempt seemed to be one of getting so many names behind the version that it would be embarrassing to oppose the majority opinion thus obtained. Just as the Pharisees sought to turn aside potential disciples of Christ by asking if any of their own number had believed on the Lord, so the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. have sought to build up overwhelming approval to make it appear that everybody of substantial reputation favors their vaunted production.”

“The Old Testament translation, as it appears in the Revised Standard Version, has taken an attitude toward the reliability of the ancient Massoretic (Hebrew) text which is in distinct contrast to that appearing in both the King James Version and the American Standard Version of 1901. The manner of translation makes it difficult for the average reader to distinguish between translation and paraphrase, as supplied words are not italicized and many variations from the original text are not noted. The version, furthermore, has shown itself to be doctrinally undependable in the way it has handled Messianic references.”
And yet today versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV, NET and Holman Standard all often reject the clear Hebrew Massoretic texts just like the old RSV did.
Helloooooo? Is anybody home???
How Ironic, isn’t it.
Will Kinney

2955 reads
ChrisC's picture

how does your interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 fit with the context of Isaiah 7:13-17? do you believe that Jesus ever failed to "reject the wrong and choose the right"? how does it fit with the context of the rest of the chapter? the birth was to be a sign to ahaz of the destruction of kings rezin and pekah.

Will Kinney's picture

ChrisC wrote:
how does your interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 fit with the context of Isaiah 7:13-17? do you believe that Jesus ever failed to "reject the wrong and choose the right"? how does it fit with the context of the rest of the chapter? the birth was to be a sign to ahaz of the destruction of kings rezin and pekah.

Chris, are you trying to tell us that the word in Isaiah 7:14 should NOT be "a virgin"? Is that what you are complaining about?

Have you ever read Bible commentaries? Try Calvin on Isaiah 7:14. He has a good explanation -

Or you might try John Gill, or Matthew Henry, or even Jamieson, Faucett and Brown. They all agree that the word should be "virgin" and they tell us why. Your question has been answered many times over by numerous commentators.

Will Kinney

"Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" Zechariah 3:2

ChrisC's picture

Will Kinney wrote:
Chris, are you trying to tell us that the word in Isaiah 7:14 should NOT be "a virgin"? Is that what you are complaining about?
more that the most natural reading of isaiah 7 leads me to believe that isaiah wasn't writing about the messiah. in my opinion, isaiah was writing about a normal birth of a normal child that would be a sign to ahaz of the defeat of two kings besieging jerusalem. the miraculous part was not about the mechanism for conception. the miraculous part was that the child born under siege would grow up in unimaginable prosperity.

Will Kinney wrote:
Have you ever read Bible commentaries?
this is bordering on insult, but i won't take it personally. yes, i have read many commentaries. it's kind of an odd hobby.
Will Kinney wrote:
Try Calvin on Isaiah 7:14. He has a good explanation -[/quote]interesting, but calvin has to create an unnatural break between 15 and 16 and explain away "that he may know to refuse the evil" as just reaching an "age of discretion".

anyway, if you want a commentary, try this one:

Edward Miller's picture

The following is a succinct explanation for the RSV OT fiasco:

"The RSV Old Testament was not well received outside of liberal circles, chiefly because the translators often deliberately rendered Old Testament passages in such a way that they were contrary to the interpretations given in the New Testament. This was done on the principle that the Old Testament ought to be interpreted only in reference to its own historical (Jewish) context. Christian interpretations, including those of the New Testament writers, are therefore deliberately excluded as "anachronistic." But this, as conservative critics perceived, practically amounted to a denial of the truth of the New Testament. As the conservative scholar R. Laird Harris wrote,

It is a curious study to check the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, a monument of higher critical scholarship, and note how every important Old Testament passage purporting to predict directly the coming of Christ has been altered so as to remove this possibility ... It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion that the admittedly higher critical bias of the translators has operated in all of these places. The translations given are by no means necessary from the Hebrew and in some cases ... are in clear violation of the Hebrew."

The verse most often mentioned by conservatives was Isaiah 7:14, in which the RSV translators rendered the Hebrew word almah as "young woman" instead of "virgin." While this was not a case of a clear violation of the Hebrew (the word must be interpreted according to its context), it was by no means necessary. (5) And there were many other instances of the same problem, which revealed a pattern of systematic contradiction of the New Testament interpretations of Old Testament passages. For example, in Genesis 22:18 the RSV renders an ambiguous sentence as "by your descendents shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves" contrary to the interpretation given by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:8 and 3:16.

The contradictions foisted into the Bible by the RSV translators included also some renderings which created blatant contradictions within individual books. For example, in Genesis 9:20, where the ASV had read, "And Noah began to be a husbandman" (i.e. a farmer) the RSV reads "Noah was the first tiller of the soil," thus generating a contradiction with the statements in Genesis 3:22 ("the LORD God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground") and 4:2 ("Cain was a tiller of the ground"). It was the belief of the RSV translators that the Book of Genesis is composed of traditional stories that frequently contradict each other, cobbled together by editors who neglected to harmonize them in many places.

The objections of conservatives to the RSV were not merely captious criticisms concerning the meaning of a word here and there; the controversy was about whether or not a version of the Old Testament which ignores and contradicts the New Testament, as well as itself, in so many places, has any right to be received as the standard Bible of American churches."


The 5th Columnists who had infiltrated the RSV OT committee essentially committed sabotage, and violently betrayed the Christian public.

Moffatt had died earlier, leaving

* Millar Burrows, Yale University. (joined 1938)
* James Moffatt, Union Theological Seminary. (died 1944)
* Luther A. Weigle, Yale University, Chairman.
* Fleming James, University of the South, Executive Secretary.
* Julius A. Bewer, Union Theological Seminary.
* William R. Taylor, University of Toronto.
* George Dahl, Yale University.
* Willard L. Sperry, Harvard University.
* Leroy Waterman, University of Michigan.
* Kyle M. Yates, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
* William F. Albright, Johns Hopkins University.
* J. Philip Hyatt, Vanderbilt University.
* Herbert G. May, Oberlin Graduate School of Theology.
* Harry M. Orlinsky, Jewish Institute of Religion.

It was repackaged and sold again by an Ecumenical group deeply involved with the Roman Catholics, in

1973 (with an awful, nearly unreadable translation of the Apocrypha), and again, as

1977 (by Metzger, Oxford U.P. as, "the New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: RSV, with 2nd ed. NT")

1990 (NRSV, Oxford U.P., removing all "sexist" language, and creating the 'unisex' version.)

the NRSV was quickly adopted as a replacement of the RSV in the liberal denominations associated with the National Council of Churches. It has also been favored by liberal university professors, for use as a text in "religion" courses.

1991 (re-edited by Metzger/Murphy), and again republished and disguised as a different version[!!! ]:

1993 (re-edited by Wayne Meeks et. al, as "The Harper Collins Study Bible" in an attempt to avoid the reputation of the RSV)

This was really part of a bigger Roman Catholic plan to gut and dismember Protestantism, a program which was largely successful.

Jn 7:53-8:11 is authentic John: