The Standard Reference Text—Historical Context and Purpose

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Marvin Gawryn

By Marvin Gawryn, project manager, Standard Reference Text Committee, Nevada, United States

Editor’s Note: The Standard Reference Text Committee was initially formed in 2007. The current members are Marilynn Kulieke and Merritt Horn, co-chairs; Marvin Gawryn, project manager; Ken Keyser; David Kulieke; Jay Peregrine; and Tamara Strumfeld. The committee's job is to review all passages brought to their attention that might contain a possible error and to make a recommendation to adopt a correction or retain the original text.

The Standard Reference Text (SRT) had its origin during a significant transitional period in the history of our young Urantia movement. For over 50 years, the Contact Commission, followed by the trustees of Urantia Foundation, shepherded the text of The Urantia Book, protecting its integrity as the sole publisher through more than a dozen printings. In 2005, a few years after the previously copyrighted text moved into the public domain and the Urantia Book Fellowship began publication of the text, it became apparent to both publishers that a new approach was necessary to continue to fulfill the mandate to preserve the text “inviolate,” unaltered in fact and in meaning.

It was in that context that the idea of a joint committee, comprised equally of representatives appointed by the Foundation and the Fellowship, was proposed. Details were worked out and in 2007 a six-member standing committee was formed. The committee was tasked with establishing and continuing to oversee a process whereby both publishers would agree to print the “Standard Reference Text” of The Urantia Book.

The task was substantial. According to historical documents, the revealed text of the Urantia Papers was predominantly received in handwritten or stenographic form and went through several typing and typesetting steps in preparation for the initial 1955 printing. Meticulous efforts to avoid spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and other typesetting errors in this first printing were largely successful. This was remarkable for a volume of more than one million words and 2,000 pages.

The publisher and dedicated readers continued to search for any remaining errors; by the time of the second printing (1967) fewer than 40 more were found and corrected. It was well understood at that time that the finding and correcting of such minor errors would need to continue through subsequent printings and the occasional replacement of worn-out printing plates. The later transition to electronic editions of the text posed similar challenges.

At the time the SRT Committee was established, the Foundation was on its 16th printing and the Fellowship on its 3rd printing. The need to review the entire history of corrections made was the first task of the committee. After more than two years of intensive work the task was completed in 2009, resulting in the committee’s substantial first report and recommendations to the publishers. This report was adopted by both organizations as the basis for the Standard Reference Text.

The SRT Committee has continued to meet to address its assigned task, submitting additional reports to the publishers in 2015 and 2018, and will next report in 2021. Well over 300 items have been considered to date, resulting in 175 copyediting corrections to the 1955 first printing. All of the committee’s reports and recommendations have been adopted by both publishers, thus establishing the pervasive standard text adopted by all major online publishers and used universally in translation projects. These reports, recommendations, and related information can be found at

It is well understood that the committee’s working philosophy, its purpose and methodology, have been inherently conservative: to make only necessary and minor corrections to the “original” 1955 text, and to thereby vouchsafe the integrity of the printings published by the Foundation and the Fellowship. Readers can rest assured that any publication of The Urantia Book that uses the SRT is essentially identical to the text that was published in 1955, incorporating the necessary corrections to the spelling, punctuation, and related grammatical issues of the first printing.

A recent item of consideration relates to an issue that the committee recognizes is relevant to its purpose. As the English language continues to evolve and usage changes, especially over the centuries-long lifespan of this revelation, the language of the text in many of its passages may become archaic, and perhaps even incomprehensible.

In its most recent deliberations, the committee discussed the idea of “modernizing” such archaic language and unanimously agreed to recommend to the publishers the following resolution, which was adopted by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees:

SRT Committee Resolution Regarding Archaic Language

The SRT Committee recommends adopting the following guidelines in considering possible instances of "archaic" language in the text of The Urantia Book:

1. Archaic words and phrases are those which were once used regularly in a language, but which are now rarely encountered. They have characteristics of the language of the past and are retained for special purposes, such as for referring back to unique or unusual meanings associated with those forms, and for preserving the original text of a work even as the language evolves over time.

2. When reviewing possible instances of archaic language in The Urantia Book, where no other issues exist related to our copyediting mandate, the SRT Committee's preference will be to retain the language in its original 1955 form. The committee will include such instances in its compilation of considered items, along with any clarifying commentary from its deliberations.

Urantia Foundation remains dedicated to protecting and publishing the 1955 text free from errors. The SRT Committee will always be an integral part of this process, and we are grateful for their competence, oversight, commitment, and service to the revelation.

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