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Just what is the word of God, anyway? When you have more than 2,000 years of human interpretation it can get, well, confused.

Yet another version is being released this month, and Christians are eager to get their hands on it. It's the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, a 15-year reinterpretation of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the most widely used Bible in Christendom.Many bookstores have been flooded with requests for the book, which is used by Protestant and Orthodox churches and allowed in Roman Catholic churches. Publishers began shipping the new Bible the first week of May, and local bookstores got their first copies this week.

Karen Walling, a receptionist at Sam Weller Bookstore downtown, said she was so anxious to get a copy that she "bought one before they even put it out on the shelf."

She was after one major feature of the new edition. "I wanted it because of inclusive pronouns instead of the generic ones. I'm reading the Bible more now than I used to, because I don't get so mad. I think they could have gone even farther with the pronouns, but it is a giant step in the right direction."

Walling said she's so excited about the new edition that she's been calling her friends - many of them feminist Christians - to spread the word. She had only one suggestion - "it would have been nice to have it in large print. Eventually, they will put one out. Right now, it's the standard-sized print."

LaRae Hughes, a clerk at Sam Wellers, said the store sold six copies on Wednesday - the first day it was in. "Many customers were asking for it before it came in and we've had about 10 special orders. We're out of stock right now, but we're ordering again and we'll order at least 15 to 20 copies at a time."

Nationally, the initial response "has been great, but it may not be what people expect," said Donald Kraus, senior editor of the Bible section of Oxford University Press' offices in New York City. "Right now it looks like the NRSV is being received well." The Oxford Press is one of six publishers of the new Bible.

To modernize the Bible, its revisionists changed much of its gender-specific language. In the NRSV there are no "men" and "man's" when the reference is to all people. To make the language of the Bible more universal and, it is hoped, a compendium with which all people could identify, the gender of words was made neutral whenever possible.

However, NRSV scholars wanted to keep the new Bible as true to tradition as possible, so they continued to refer to God as male and Jesus as the son of God.

Said Michael Holmes of Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., "Some will think it has gone way too far and others will think it hasn't gone far enough." For two summers, the associate professor of biblical studies and early Christianity worked for one of the National Council of Churches subcommittees as it revised sections.

Considering that there are 45 million copies of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in circulation today and that publishers expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of the new Bible this year alone, the issue of language and translation is a serious one. Sales of all Bibles exceed $200 million annually in the United States.

All major Protestant denominations use the RSV, which was first published in 1952, and many, including the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, already have approved using the new revision.