What Bible Translations Do Episcopalians Use? Get the Facts


The Episcopalian tradition has a rich history that includes the extensive use of reading the Bible in church services. Some individual members of the Episcopalian tradition also have the habit of Bible reading at home. With so many English Bible translations to choose from today, many people are curious about which one Episcopalians use.

Episcopalians primarily use the New Revised Standard Version. The NRSV was published in 1989 as an update to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) which itself was a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV). Some Episcopalians still use the Revised Standard Version. Others prefer the King James Version (KJV).

What exactly do Episcopalians believe about the Bible and which books do they include in their reading? Is there a particular Study Bible that Episcopalians prefer? Continue reading to explore these questions and others.

Episcopalian Bible
Do Episcopalians read the Apocrypha? See below

How does the NRSV compare to other Bible translations?

The NRSV adheres to “formal equivalence” as its translation philosophy. Formal equivalence means that translators try as much as possible to translate biblical passages word for word.

Quick Comparison
NRSV Romans 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
ESV Romans 6:23
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
NRSV 2 Corinthians 5:17
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
NIV 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

What do Episcopalians believe about the Bible?

Episcopalians believe that the Bible is the Word of God and contains everything that a person needs to become a Christian and be saved. The Episcopal Church will not require of any person anything that the Bible does not contain.

Historically, people in the Episcopalian tradition take the Bible seriously and believe that God reveals his purposes through its pages. Episcopalians have traditionally believed that the Old and New Testaments work together in their offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Although believers no longer need to keep the ceremonial and civil precepts laws of the old covenant, nevertheless Christians ought to keep the moral commandments. [1]

Episcopalians tend to look at the Bible as God’s love narrative to humankind. Although it does contain moral do’s and don’ts, this is not the heart of the book. Rather, Christians should read the Bible in order to see how they fit into the story of God’s people.

In relation to interpretation, Christians should avoid proof-texting in order to support their theology. Instead, they should examine the whole of Scripture in order to better understand the individual parts.

Most Episcopalians avoid using theological terms such as infallibility or inerrancy when talking about the Bible. God used human beings to write the Bible and thus it should not be surprising or alarming if something historically or scientifically askew according to conventional Episcopalian thinking.

Nevertheless, Christians should take the Bible seriously because it is one of the main ways that God has spoken to people. He still can achieve his loving purposes through flawed, human authors.

Also, Episcopalians are not afraid to grapple with modern, historical-critical methods of looking at the Bible.

Do Episcopalians read the Apocrypha or Catholic Bible?

Episcopalians routinely use the books of the Apocrypha or the Deutero-canonical books in their liturgies. Also, many in this tradition use the Apocrypha in their personal study of the scriptures. These books include,

  • Tobit (stand alone)
  • Judith (stand alone)
  • Wisdom of Solomon (stand alone)
  • Ecclesiasticus, also called Wisdom of Sirach (stand alone)
  • Baruch (stand alone)
  • 1-2 Maccabees (stand alone)
  • Additions to Esther
  • Additions to Daniel

However, Episcopalians distinguish between canonical books and the Apocrypha. The canonical books contain everything that a Christian needs in order to achieve salvation. These books, according to Episcopalians (and all Protestants), are sixty-six in number.

27 books are in the New Testament and 39 are in the Old Testament. These books determine the correct Christian doctrines that the church and individuals must believe and follow. A Christian cannot be expected to follow anything that is not contained in the biblical canon. 

The Apocryphal books, usually fourteen in number, are helpful as an example of how to live and behave, but Christians should not read them in order to determine doctrine. The New Revised Standard Version, a favorite of many Episcopalians, has several different versions, some of which incorporate these extra books.

Also see Do Episcopalians Believe in Purgatory? to learn more.

Episcopalian Study Bible

What Study Bibles do Episcopalians like to use

Unlike many other Christian denominations, Episcopalians do not have a Study Bible that they call their own. In fact, there is not even an Anglican Study Bible at this time. Nevertheless, some Episcopalians use Study Bibles.

  • New Oxford Annotated Bible: One particular Study Bible that some Episcopalians use is the New Oxford Annotated Bible. This Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version and places a great emphasis on the historical and cultural underpinnings of the Bible. The study notes are often ecumenical, meaning that they try to incorporate the range of opinions that exist within Christianity.
  • Orthodox Study Bible: Another Study Bible that some Episcopalians use is the Orthodox Study Bible, whose study notes try to capture the thoughts and opinions of many of the church fathers. This Bible utilizes a modified translation of the Septuagint. [3]

Reading Scripture during church services

During a typical church service, a Christian will hear at least four different Bible passages:

  • One from the Old Testament (not Psalms)
  • One from the Psalms
  • One from the New Testament Epistles
  • One from the New Testament Gospels

In fact, if a person were to attend a service every day, they would hear the entire Bible read aloud every two years. This is because Episcopalians follow the liturgical calendar in their services, which systematically works through the entire Bible. In general, all Episcopalian churches are hearing the same biblical passages each day throughout the world. 

The middle way of Anglicanism

The English Reformation had the effect of separating the Church of England from the authority of the Pope, and yet it left many Catholic practices, and some Catholic doctrines intact.

Generally speaking, Anglicans are more Protestant than Catholic. One result of the diversity in Anglicanism is that those in the tradition often have a great appreciation for the full range of Christian theological beliefs.

The Book of Common Prayer, which is in some ways the charter document of Anglicanism, draws from a variety of different liturgies. 

Many modern Episcopalians are accepting of liberal and progressive theological and social perspectives. Some are wary of the modern Evangelical movement and its conservative inclinations.

Also see Do Episcopalians Believe in Transubstantiation? to learn more.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

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