The Revised Version, Standard American Edition of the Bible, more commonly known as the American Standard Version (ASV), is a Bible translation into English that was completed in 1901, with the publication of the revision of the Old Testament; the revised New Testament had been released in 1900. It was originally best known by its full name, but soon came to have other names, such as the American Revised Version, the American Standard Revision, the American Standard Revised Bible, and the American Standard Edition. By the time its copyright was renewed in 1929, it had come to be known by its present name, the American Standard Version. Because of its prominence in seminaries, it was in America sometimes simply called the "Standard Bible".
The American Standard Version, which was also known as The American Revision of 1901, is rooted in the work begun in 1870 to revise the Authorized Version/King James Bible of 1611. This revision project eventually produced the Revised Version (RV). An invitation was extended to American religious leaders for scholars to work on the RV project. In 1871, thirty scholars were chosen by Philip Schaff. The denominations represented on the American committee were the Baptist, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Friends, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, and Unitarian. These scholars began work in 1872.
Any suggestion the American team had would be accepted by the British team only if two-thirds of the British team agreed. This principle was backed up by an agreement that if their suggestions were put into the appendix of the RV, the American team would not publish their version for 14 years. The appendix had about three hundred suggestions in it.
The New Testament was published in 1881, the Old Testament in 1885, and the Apocrypha in 1894. Around this time, the British team disbanded. Also around this time, unauthorized copied editions of the RV appeared with the suggestions of the American team in the main text. This was possible because while the RV in the UK was the subject of a Crown copyright as a product of the University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge, this protection did not extend to the U.S. and the text was never separately copyrighted there. In 1898, publishers for Oxford and Cambridge Universities published their own editions of the RV with the American suggestions included. However, these suggestions were reduced in number (but it did incorporate all of those suggestions which were listed in the Appendixes, as can be verified by comparing the Appendixes with the main text of the 1898 edition). Some of those Americanized editions by Oxford and Cambridge Universities had the title of "American Revised Version" on the cover of their spines. Some of Thomas Nelson's editions of the American Standard Version Holy Bible included the Apocrypha of the Revised Version. The Revised Version (both the 1885 and the American Standard Version of 1901) are some of the Bible versions that are authorized to be used in services of the Episcopal Church and the Church of England.
In 1901, the 14-year agreement between the American and British teams expired, and the Revised Version, Standard American Edition, as the ASV Bible was officially called, was published by Thomas Nelson & Sons that same year. It was copyrighted in North America to ensure the purity of the ASV text. In 1928, the International Council of Religious Education (the body that later merged with the Federal Council of Churches to form the National Council of Churches) acquired the copyright from Nelson and renewed it the following year. The copyright was a reaction to tampering with the text of the Revised Version by some U.S. publishers, as noted above. By the time the ASV's copyright expired for the final time in 1957, interest in this translation had largely waned in the light of newer and more recent ones, and textual corruption hence never became the issue with the ASV that it had with the RV.
Because the language of the ASV was intentionally limited to Elizabethan English, as well as because of what some perceived to be its excessive literalism, it never achieved wide popularity, and the King James Version would remain the primary translation for most American Protestant Christians until the publication of the Revised Standard Version in 1952.
There were two rationales for the ASV. One reason was to obviate any justification for the unauthorized copied editions of the RV that had been circulating. Another reason was to use more of the suggestions the American team had preferred, since the British team used few of their suggestions in the first place, even in the later version which they had published incorporating some of them. While many of the suggestions of the American scholars were based on the differences between American and British usage, many others were based on differences in scholarship and what the American revisers felt the best translation to be. Consequently, there were several changes to the KJV text in the ASV that were not present in the RV.
A Christian mail order publisher, Star Bible, continues to make the ASV available and High Village Publishing began doing so in recent years (their edition, like the King James but unlike the earlier editions of the ASV, presents each verse as a separate paragraph); however High Village Publishing seems to be out of business as of 2013. Gospel Light Publishing Company publishes ASV New Testament editions (including a large print edition). This company also publishes the People's New Testament with Notes, which is a late Victorian Era commentary which incorporates within the work both the entire Authorised Version New Testament text and a parallel columnar presentation of the English Revised Version New Testament of 1881, which is, as noted above, the basis for the ASV. Like the ASV, this commentary is a work formerly under copyright which has now expired so that it is in the public domain and free to be published at will without the payment of a royalty.
There appears to be a growing interest in the ASV, in part because it is included as one of the versions in most recently released Bible-related CD-ROMs. It is also available in most Bible gateway Internet sites, since it is freely available.
The divine name of the Almighty (the Tetragrammaton) is consistently rendered Jehovah in 6,823 places of the ASV Old Testament, rather than LORD as it appears mostly in the King James Bible. However, there are notably seven verses in the King James Bible where the divine name actually appears which are Genesis 22:14, Exodus 6:3, Exodus 17:15, Judges 6:24, Psalms 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and Isaiah 26:4 plus as it's abbreviated form, Jah, once in Psalms 68:4. The reason for this change, as the Committee explained in the preface, was that "...the American Revisers... were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament..." Other changes from the RV to the ASV included (but were not limited to) substituting "who" and "that" for "which" when referring to people, and Holy Ghost was dropped in favor of Holy Spirit. Page headings were added and footnotes were improved.
The ASV was the basis of six revisions. They were the Revised Standard Version, 1971 [1946–52] , the New Revised Standard Version, 1989 , the Amplified Bible, 1965 , the New American Standard Bible, 1995 [1963–71] , the Recovery Version, 1999 and the World English Bible, 2000. The ASV was also the basis for Kenneth N. Taylor's Bible paraphrase, The Living Bible, 1971 .
The ASV has also been used for many years by Jehovah's Witnesses. The reasons for their choosing of the ASV were twofold: its usage of "Jehovah" as the Divine Name, which was congruent with their Joseph Franklin Rutherford doctrine, and they derived their name from Isaiah 43.10, 12, both of which contain the phrase, "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah." Also, there was a perception that the ASV had improved the translation of some verses in the King James Version, and in other places it reduced the verses that they found to be erroneously translated in the KJV to mere footnotes, removed from the main text altogether.
Jehovah's Witnesses' publishing organization, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, had printed its own edition of the King James Version since 1926, but did not obtain the rights to print ASV until 1944. From 1944 to 1992, they printed and distributed over a million copies of the ASV. By the 1960s, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, made by members of their group and the rights to which they controlled, had largely replaced ASV as the Bible used most by Witnesses. Though now preferring the NWT, Jehovah's Witnesses' publications frequently quote from other translations, including ASV.
Because of its popularity in the American Standard Version in the early years of the 20th century, this has been the basis of the Philippine Bible Society in translating the first editions of the Bible in the different Philippine Languages. Now in the public domain, 'Ang Biblia' (titles for the Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray), 'Ti Biblia' (the Ilocano title), and 'Say Biblia' (the Pangasinan title) used the ASV as their basis. This is very evident by the use of the name Jehovah instead of the more commonly accepted Yahweh in the later translations.