The 2011 translation of the Three Reformed Standards is the result of the work of a joint task force formed by the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC). In addition, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) participated in the joint translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. The task force was commissioned to produce a common text for the Reformed confessions, building upon the work of the previous translations from the CRC and RCA denominations. Since a separate introduction will introduce each confession, this general introduction gives a statement of principles used for coming to a common translation.
The task force did not attempt a wholesale retranslation of the confessions but, rather, used the texts of previously approved RCA and CRC translations as a starting point. Where the translations diverged, or where subsequent scholarship called into question both previous translations, the task force returned to the original language documents to resolve textual differences. Sometimes this resolution involved opting for the previous RCA, PCUSA, or CRC translation; at other times, the task force developed a fresh translation from the original text.
Some divergences in previous translations had to do with gender usage for humanity and God. The task force adopted the following approach in these cases: in references to humankind, all references to men or other exclusive terms have been changed to human or to a similar gender-inclusive term. With regard to language about God, the task force sought to reduce the number of male pronouns for God when it could be done with felicity but did not attempt to eliminate them altogether. Several principles guided this process. On the one hand, excessive repetition of the male pronoun for God was avoided. On the other hand, excessive repetition of the word God as a substitute for the pronoun him was also avoided. In addition, when the elimination of a male pronoun for God would obscure the theological point of the passage, the pronoun was retained. These principles echo the protocol used by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
For direct quotations from Scripture within the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, the task force used the New Revised Standard Version. In the Canons of Dort, because the text of this confession depends on the particular seventeenth-century biblical translations used at the Synod of Dort, the Scripture quotations are translations from the original Latin and do not always correspond to current versions.
This joint translation does not erase all differences remaining between the denominations regarding the confessions. For example, wherever an action of the general synod of one denomination has made a modification of the confession (as with the Belgic Confession, Article 36), it is noted in the text. The discrepancy is not resolved, but simply preserved. Nevertheless, for both denominations, this translation represents a step forward in cooperation and partnership.