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I am not going to assume, but I am going to make some educated inferences about the Lockman Foundation and the NASB. First, let me preface it with I respect the NASB and every translator that has worked on it from the beginning.
I certainly have no problem with updating a translation because I am doing that right now with the Updated American Standard Version (UASV), which I am happy to announce will be done by March 31, 2021. We, too (Christian Publishing House), are updating the ASV, which means removing the archaic language but not removing the literal renderings that may slow a reader down. As we feel (1) slowing the reader down encourages deeper Bible study, and (2) it is more accurate to keep the literal rendering and place the interpretive rendering in the footnote. Now, this is not to say that some literal renderings do not need to be placed in the footnote and the word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as the literal word or phrase in the main text. But for us, that is very few cases. It WAS very few cases with the NASB1995 too. In fact, it was the case since 1960 for the NASB.
You see, the Lockman Foundation and the NASB have enjoyed and rode the wave of being referred to as the most literal and accurate translations. Google this question, “What is the most accurate Bible translation,” and you will easily and decisively find article after article listing the NASB first and foremost. Their long run ended this year, 2022, with the release of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).
They proudly rode that horse and bragged and boasted as such. They argued for decades that literal translation philosophy was superior. And when they spoke about literal translation, they meant it. The NASB translation philosophy was nothing like the 1952 Revised Standard Version, the 2001 English Standard Version, and the 2017 Christian Standard Bible, all who claim to be literal in some sense. The ESV is essentially literal, which in my mind, means essentially the Word of God. The CSB is an Optimal Equivalent translation, no real hardcore claim to literalness, but tries to get their foot in that market too.
Now, I could sit here and type out and argue why literal translation is so important, but I would simply be echoing the words of NASB translators have been using for decades but are now trying to nuance so they can move into a new market with the ESV and the CSB. Yes, I am going to offer my opinion now.
I think the Lockman Foundation has done a great service to the Bible reading world, but I think its primary goal has always been to try and market to as many audiences as possible, which sounds altruistic, but not really. It has tried to cling to the Westcott and Hort and Nestle-Aland world with its modern-day translation and, at the same time, retain the Textus Receptus King James Version readers by keeping known textual errors in the main text. I would assume every NT translator knows what the original readers were, but the publisher sought to capture two markets.
Now, that approach was good for decades because the King James Version still rules the Bible sales world. But as each decade passed, especially when the NIV really started to take over the market in the 1980s, Christians were starting to step away from the King James Version but stepped over the body of the NASB for an NIV. It is somewhat like the Harley Davidson motorcycle. You never saw Harley commercials because there was only one real motorcycle, the Harley Davidson. Then, after decades, the market moved, and Harley was slow to see the need to pick up its marketing.
After the NIV, a hundred dynamic equivalents (interpretive translations) came on the scene and have taken small percentages of the market, but when added together, they were good sales. Then, in 2001 the ESV came out trying to straddle the market and did an impressive job presenting the idea that you can have the best of both worlds. Many books were written by their translators that spoke of the importance of literal translation philosophy. They seldom used the qualifier “essentially” literal because they wanted to slowly capture both worlds. And they did just that. Now the 2017 CSB has done the same and taken a portion of the market. This new philosophy of having your cake and eating it too, that is, trying to have two good things that do not usually go together at the same time, namely, literal translation cake and interpretive translation icing. But do you want the Word of God (UASV) in English or “essentially” the Word of God (ESV)?
Well, the writing was on the wall, just as the conservative historical-grammatical principles of Bible interpretation gave way to the liberal-moderate historical-critical method of interpretation, so too, the literal translation philosophy is giving way to the interpretive dynamic equivalent translation philosophy.
So, the NASB has now dipped its toe into the dynamic equivalent translation philosophy of the shallow end of the pool; how long will it be before they are swimming in the deep end? In the late 1890s, R. A. Torrey and others came together in a battle against higher criticism, and for a time, they held liberal Christianity at bay. However, today we only have about ten truly conservative seminaries in America out of thousands. And five of those ten are playing the middle ground, as the NIV does in translation.
- Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES)
- Veritas International University (VIU)
- The Master’s Seminary (TMS)
- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS)
- Moody Theological Seminary (MTS)
In 1901, literal translations ruled the day and continued to do so until the 1980s. Today, dynamic equivalent translations have the largest market share, and then you have the having your cake and eating it too translations (ESV, CSB, LEB, and the NASB), trying to cover their bases.
The Lexham English Bible is right there with the ESV but more literal. The CSB is more literal than the NIV, but not close to the ESV and the LEB.
I promise that the UASV will remain literal in the sense of the 1901 ASV and the 1960-1995 NASB. We are not going to play both sides of the field with Textus Receptus corruption, nor will we play the same side of the field with translation philosophy. There is no committee, and there is no publisher that can change things because I am the committee and the publisher.
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UPDATED AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION
A literal translation is certainly more than a word-for-word rendering of the original language of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The corresponding English words need to be brought over according to English grammar and syntax, but the translation at the same time must be faithful to the original word or as much as possible, for the author may have used word order to emphasize or convey some meaning. In most cases, the translator simply renders the original-language word with the same corresponding English term each time it occurs. The translator has used his good judgment in order to select words in the English translation from the lexicon within the context of the original-language text. The translator remains faithful to this literal translation philosophy unless it has been determined that the rendering will be misunderstood or misinterpreted. The translator is not tasked with making the text easy to read but rather with making it as accurately faithful to the original as possible.
Removing the Outdated
- Passages with the Old English “thee’s” and “thou’s” etc. have been replaced with modern English.
- Many words and phrases that were extremely ambiguous or easily misunderstood since the 1901 ASV have been updated according to the best lexicons.
- Verses with difficult word order or vocabulary have been translated into correct English grammar and syntax, for easier reading. However, if the word order of the original conveyed meaning, it was kept.
- The last 110+ years have seen the discovery of far more manuscripts, especially the papyri, with many manuscripts dating within 100 years of the originals.
- While making more accurate translation choices, we have stayed true to the literal translation philosophy of the ASV, while other literal translations abandon the philosophy far too often.
- The translator seeks to render the Scriptures accurately, without losing what the Bible author penned by changing what the author wrote, by distorting or embellishing through imposing what the translator believes the author meant into the original text.
- Accuracy in Bible translation is being faithful to what the original author wrote (the words that he used), as opposed to going beyond into the meaning, trying to determine what the author meant by his words. The latter is the reader’s job.
- The translator uses the most reliable, accurate critical texts (e.g., WH, NA, UBS, BHS, as well as the original language texts, versions, and other sources that will help him to determine the original reading.
Why the Need for Updated Translations?
- New manuscript discoveries
- Changes in the language
- A better understanding of the original languages
- Improved insight into Bible translation
Choosing to capitalize personal pronouns in Scripture creates unnecessary difficulties at times. Note what the Pharisees say when speaking to Jesus (in the NASB), “We wish to see a sign from You.” Thus, the meaning here would be that the Pharisees regarded Jesus as a deity when that is not the case. Some feel that it is honoring God to capitalize the personal pronouns. However, God has honor and authority purely because he is God. The Scriptures are filled with ways we are actually called to honor and worship God; we do not need to create others to show our reverence for God. We are not dishonoring God if personal pronouns referring to him are not capitalized. For those that decide to capitalize all personal pronouns referring to God, it is simply a matter of preference or style, not because the Scriptures obligate them to do so. Suppose we want to show respect, reverence, honor, and praise to God. In that case, it isn’t through capitalizing personal pronouns that refer to him, but rather by personal Bible study, obedience to the Word of God, our service, church attendance, and carrying out the great commission to make disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8) When we look at the ancient manuscripts, there is no effort made to differentiate the personal pronouns that refer to God. Sir Frederic Kenyon, in his book Textual Criticism of the New Testament, says, “Capital letters, which are occasionally used in business documents to mark the beginning of a clause, do not occur in literary papyri . . .” Some might not even be aware that the translators of the highly valued King James Version always capitalized personal pronouns referring to God. It is a bit ironic that those translations that capitalize the personal pronouns referring to God out of reverence and respect remove the Father’s personal name some 7,000 times in the Old Testament.
 Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London; New York: Macmillan and Co., 1901), 22.