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Many modern Bible translations have standard three-letter or four-letter initials by which they are commonly referred to. Examples are KJV, NKJV, RSV, ASV, NIV, NASB, NLT, RVR (a Spanish version), etc.

Some of these initialisms have even been recognized officially to some extent by translators and/or publishers. For example, the prefaces to the NIV and NLT translations request that persons quoting snippets from their translations use the respective initialisms in their citations.

Where and/or when did the practice of assigning initialisms to translations originate, either in an official or a de facto/consensus sense? I was trying to find initialisms for some older versions and realized that many don't seem to have them. For example, I haven't found standard abbreviations for the Geneva Bible, Matthew's Bible, Wulfia's Gothic translation, or several other not-exactly-recent versions, leading me to suspect that they don't have any because having such initialisms was not "a thing" when those versions came out, and that these versions are not used enough today for new initialisms to develop and become standard. E.g. "I'm doing my thesis on how the TGB was influenced not only by the TMB but also on the WGV and the very obscure QPND Second Revision of AD 833 that had been published in response to suspected bias in the BFO of AD 798."

Part of me thinks that the LXX (Greek Septuagint) counts, but LXX is a number (70), not an acronym or initialism.

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    Looking at this list of abbreviations, it appears that early English translations and less popular modern translations don't really have an abbreviation. Additionally, most of the original texts have more modern abbreviations, sometimes with English in them (e.g. Maj-Text). That leads me to think that it's a more modern invention that wasn't necessary before a plethora of translations became available. Hopefully those more informed can answer definitively. – Thunderforge Sep 20 '17 at 3:48
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It may be impossible to determine the first time an initialism was first used for a translation, but Google's ngrams can illustrate when it became popular. Consider first the usage of KJV versus King James Version:

KJV ngram

The phrase 'King James Version' was in steady use for some time when 'KJV' exploded on to the scene around 1945-7. The American Standard Version was published in 1901. Its ngram is interestingly similar to the KJV. The ASV's title and intialism both appear around 1901, but after an initial period, the full title seems to be more popular. Then around 1945-7, ASV jumps in popularity.

ASV ngram

The comparison between Revised Standard Version and RSV shows a similar spike in the use of the initialism RSV around the same (or slightly earlier) 1945 period. Interestingly, this is the time period of the publication of the RSV (1946 for NT, 1952 for OT).

enter image description here

Looking at the three initialisms together there appears to be a fair amount of correlation in the usage of KJV, ASV, and RSV and the publication of the RSV.

RSV ngram

The usage of all three continues to increase for about a decade or so before a significant drop around 1960. Perhaps this corresponds to debate (scholarly or otherwise) about these three versions. It would not be surprising if this debate led to a short-hand for referring to each.

Of course, the methodology is open to many criticism, but the correlation between the rise of KJV, ASV, and RSV appears strong enough to at least be investigated further.

For fun, here is the ngram for LXX vs Septuagint.

enter image description here

Both terms were in use before the 1800s, but show a jump in usage around the same 1945-1960 period that the other intialism appear.

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