Though it would be a slight exaggeration, one could call this a history of Bible translation for post-moderns. Rather than focusing heavily on the technical issues as do most books on this topic, it focuses on the political and social elements and emphasizes that Bible translation is not a purely objective and scientific process. Any translation is influenced by the social and theological values of the translators.
After briefly providing the background on how English Bible translation developed, the author begins looking in detail at the English Revised Version, the forces that shaped it, and the reasons for its successes and failures. The text really comes alive with chapters 4 and 5, dealing with the translation of the RSV and the liberal-conservative controversy that resulted.
From the historical point of view, this is the key watershed in the history of Bible translation. Before that, even though there were a number of translations, the King James Version was overwhelmingly dominant, and the only competitors that came even close were the ERV and the ASV. The RSV was intended as another general, standard, authorized English Bible to replace the KJV, but Thuesen documents the reasons why it didn’t work. There simply was no organization that could authorize the Bible that would be accepted by all protestants.
The fight over the RSV also tended to focus on theological more than technical issues. It is these social and theological issues that often drove other Bible translations, such as the New American Standard Bible and the NIV.
This book is well-researched, extensively footnoted, and well written. The author does ramble just a bit, in my opinion, but generally less than I do, so that’s OK!
My numerical rating is a 4.