The American Standard Version (ASV) is an English version of the Bible that was published in 1901.
The ASV is rooted in the work that was done with the Revised Version (RV), a late 19th-century British revision of the King James Version of the Bible. In 1870, an invitation was extended to American religious leaders for scholars to work on the Revised Version project. A year later, 30 scholars were chosen by Philip Schaff. These scholars began work in 1872.
Any suggestion the American team had would be accepted by the British team only if 2/3 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 300 suggestions in it.
In 1881, the RV New Testament was released. Four years later, the Old Testament appeared. Around this time, the British team disbanded. Also around this time, pirated editions of the RV appeared with the suggestions of the American team in the main text. 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.
In 1901, the 14 year agreement between the American and British teams expired. The American Standard Version was published the same year. It was copyrighted in North America to ensure the purity of the ASV text, although the copyright has since expired. The copyright was a reaction to tampering with the text of the Revised Version by some U.S. publishers, as noted above, allegedly in the interest of the American reading public, which was legally possible as there was never a U.S. copyright filed for the RV. By the time of the ASV's copyright expiry, 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.
Reasons and features
There were two rationales for the ASV. First, to obviate any justification for the pirated 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. Interestingly, 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. The name of the Almighty (the Tetragrammaton) was rendered Jehovah instead of LORD. Holy Ghost was dropped in favor of Holy Spirit. Page headings were added and footnotes were improved.
The ASV was the basis of two revisions. They were the Revised Standard Version (1952) and the New American Standard Bible (1971). Kenneth Taylor used the ASV as the basis for his paraphrase of the Bible, which was published in 1971. The text, along with original manuscripts, is also the primary basis for the World English Bible.
Usage by the Jehovah's Witnesses
The ASV was used for many years by the Jehovah's Witnesses. They first began publishing the ASV in 1944 and have continued publishing the translation until the present time. The reasons for their choosing of the ASV were twofold: One reason for adoption of the ASV was due to its usage of "Jehovah" as the Divine Name, which was congruent with their doctrine, although their usage of it seems to have predated the release of the ASV. 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.
From 1944 to 1963, the Jehovah's Witnesses printed and distributed 884,994 copies of the ASV. The Witnesses' usage of the ASV was supplanted by their current use of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, a translation made by members of their group, and the rights to which are controlled by the Watchtower Society, which is their publishing arm. The ASV is still freely available to nonmembers from Jehovah's Witnesses.
The ASV is almost completely out of print. A mail order bookseller in Texas known as Star Bible Publishing  claims to be the only publisher of the ASV today. Copies of the ASV may be commonly found in used bookstores, however.
Because the ASV text is out of copyright, it sees wide distribution in electronic form on the internet. Most electronic copies of the ASV seem to come from the same original scanned or otherwise produced electronic edition and have a number of mistakes in common, such as the omission of the word "who" in the phrase "ye who would be" in Galatians 5:4. Some internet copies have corrected some of the typos.
Also because of its copyright status, the ASV has also been used as the foundation of the World English Bible, a modern public domain English updating that is being made available on the internet.
- Metzger, Bruce M. The Bible In Translation, pp. 101-103.
- Capoccia, Tony. Choosing A Bible at http://www.biblebb.com/files/NEWBIBLE.TXT
- Unknown. Which Version of the Bible Should I Use?
- Brindle, Brian. The Bibles of the Jehovah Witnesses, Then and Now. at http://www.catholicapologetics.net/JW_bible_then_and_now.htm