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The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is an English translation of the Bible. Published by the Lockman Foundation, the first NASB text—a translation of the Gospel of John—was released in 1960. The NASB New Testament was released in 1963. The complete NASB Bible was released in 1971. The NASB is a revision of the American Standard Version.
The Lockman Foundation claims the NASB “has been widely embraced as a literal and accurate English translation because it consistently uses the formal equivalence translation philosophy.” This was true at one time but the NASB2020 revision has slightly stepped away from their literal translation philosophy sticking their toe into the dynamic equivalent arena.
The NASB does not attempt to interpret Scripture through translation. Instead, the NASB adheres to the principles of a formal equivalence translation. This is the most exacting and demanding method of translation, striving for the most readable word-for-word translation that is both accurate and clear. This method more closely follows the word and sentence patterns of the biblical authors to enable the reader to study Scripture in its most literal format and experience the individual personalities of those who penned the original manuscripts.
Some sources consider the New American Standard Bible as the most literally translated of major 20th-century English Bible translations. This actually is not the case. The 1901 American Standard Version is more literal. And the forthcoming Updated American Standard Version (UASV) this year, 2021, will be more literal and accurate than the NASB. According to the NASB’s preface, the translators had a “Fourfold Aim” in this work:
- These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
- They shall be grammatically correct.
- They shall be understandable.
- They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him; therefore, no work will ever be personalized.
The NASB is an original translation from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, based on the same principles of translation, and wording, as the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. It offers an alternative to the Revised Standard Version (1946–1952/1971), which is considered by some to be theologically liberal, and also to the 1929 revision of the ASV.
The Hebrew text used for this translation was the third edition of Rudolf Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia was consulted for the 1995 revision. For Greek, Eberhard Nestle’s Novum Testamentum Graece was used; the 23rd edition in the 1971 original, and the 26th in the 1995 revision.
Seeing the need for a literal, modern English Bible translation, the translators sought to produce a contemporary English Bible while maintaining a word-for-word translation style. In cases where word-for-word literalness was determined to be unacceptable for modern readers, changes were made in the direction of more current idioms. In some such instances, the more literal renderings were indicated in footnotes.
The greatest strength of the NASB is its reliability and fidelity to the original languages. Additionally, the NASB includes printing of verses as individual units (although more recent editions are available in paragraph format.)
JHVH (rendered as “Jehovah” in the original A.S.V.) is rendered LORD or GOD in capital letters in the NASB. The committee stated the reason as: “This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it has been consistently translated, LORD. The only exception is when it occurs in immediate proximity to the word Lord, that is, Adonai. In that case, it is regularly translated GOD in order to avoid confusion. It is known that for many years YHWH has been transliterated as Yahweh. However no complete certainty attaches to this pronunciation.” This is in direct contrast to the preface of ASV of 70 years earlier, where the committee explained that “the American Revisers…were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament.”
THE SACRED PERSONAL NAME OF GOD THE FATHER: The Myth That Jehovah Was Pointed with the Vowel Markings of Adonai
Revisions of the New American Standard Bible
The Lockman Foundation published NASB text, modifications, and revisions in the following order:
- Gospel of John (1960)
- The Gospels (1962)
- New Testament (1963)
- Psalms (1968)
- Complete Bible (Old Testament and New Testament; 1971)
- Minor text modifications (1972, 1973, 1975)
- Major text revisions (1977, 1995, 2020)
In 1992, the Lockman Foundation commissioned a limited revision of the NASB. In 1995, the Lockman Foundation reissued the NASB text as the NASB Updated Edition (more commonly, the Updated NASB or NASB95). Since then, it has become widely known as simply the “NASB,” supplanting the 1977 text in current printings, save for a few (Thompson Chain Reference Bibles, Open Bibles, Key Word Study Bibles, et al.).
In the updated NASB, consideration was given to the latest available manuscripts to determine the best Greek text. Primarily, the 26th edition of Nestle-Aland’s Novum Testamentum Graece is closely followed. The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia is also employed together with the most recent light from lexicography, cognate languages, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The updated NASB represents recommended revisions and refinements and incorporates thorough research based on current English usage. Vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure were meticulously revised for greater understanding and smoother reading, hence increasing clarity and readability. Terms found in Elizabethan English such as “thy” and “thou” have been modernized, while verses with difficult word ordering are restructured. Punctuation and paragraphing have been formatted for modernization, and verbs with multiple meanings have been updated to better account for their contextual usage.
2020 Revision of the NASB
After completion in 1971, the NASB was updated in 1977, 1995, and most recently in 2020. They claim that this brand-new update of the widely respected NASB 1995 builds upon its strengths by further improving accuracy, modernizing language, and improving readability. Lockman further claims that the NASB 2020 is an important update because it utilizes advances in biblical scholarship over the past 25 years, and it incorporates changes necessary to keep pace with the ever-evolving English language. Lockman goes on to say that this refreshed text is designed to speak accurately and clearly to current and future generations. While these statements might be true to a degree, it is also true that it appears that Lockman is dipping its toes into the Dynamic Equivalent translation philosophy to see if they cannot pick up a bigger share of the Bible market like the English Standard Version and Christian Standard Bible has.
Lockman further claims that the long-established translation standard for the NASB remains the same as it always has been, that is to accurately translate the inspired Word of God from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts into modern English that is clearly understandable today. Yes, to a degree but when you let your hand down (slack off) in relation to your literal translation philosophy and keep known corrupt readings in the main text to try and corral in KJV readers, I am not certain that is entirely true.
Lockman goes on to say that the NASB 2020 is a Bible that is accessible to all readers and is presented in a way that clearly and accurately communicates the content, so it is understood in the same way it would have been to the original audience. Most importantly, the NASB 2020 provides a literal translation of the Bible that clearly communicates God’s message to the modern English reader so that everyone can continue to grow in their knowledge and love of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ. Again, with the delving into the interpretive translation philosophy and having corrupt readings in the main text, this is not entirely true.
Starting in 2018, the Lockman Foundation posted some passages from “NASB 2020”, an update of the 1995 revision. Key differences from the 1995 revision include an effort to improve “gender accuracy” (for example, adding “or sisters” in italics to passages that reference “brothers”, to help convey the mixed-gender meaning of a passage that might otherwise be misunderstood as only speaking of men), a shift (where applicable) from the common construct “let us” when proposing action to the more-contemporary construct “let’s” (to disambiguate a sort of “imperative” encouragement rather than a seeking of permission that could otherwise be misunderstood from a given passage), and a repositioning of some “bracketed text” (that is, verses or portions of verses that are not present in earliest Biblical manuscripts, and thus printed in brackets in previous NASB editions) out from inline-and-in-brackets down instead to footnotes.
The reader of the CPH blog has continuously read interpretive and translation principles that are not only sound but also aid the Christian in understanding the Bible more fully. One such interpretive principle is about the meaning that we are after, what the author meant by the words that he used as should have been understood by his initial intended audience.
When we look at the controversy over gender-inclusive language and the use of plurals, the above principles come into play, as does the historical-grammatical approach, which means that God personally chose the time, the place, the language, and the culture into which his Word was inspirationally penned. Who are we to disrespect that because we wish to appease the modern man or woman, who may be offended? Their offense is nothing more than self-centeredness, refusing to wrap their mind around the idea that the Creator of all things chose the setting, the language, and time in which his Word was to be introduced to man. One of the last bastions of literal translation philosophy, the New American Standard Bible, has given into the gender-inclusive translation philosophy. How are we to translate the Greek word ἀδελφοί (brothers)?
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (NASB 1995/2020): The 1995 edition was* very literal. The NASB Translates “brothers” or “brethren,” to “brothers and sisters.” The NASB has gender-inclusive changes to the word “man” in Romans 2:1-11 and Micah 6:8.
*The NASB 2020 revision has taken the first steps at abandoning their literal translation philosophy. One of the updates is what the NASB (the Lockman Foundation) calls the use of the “Gender Accurate” language. This is actually good marketing skills to call an abandonment of your core translation values “accurate” when it is anything but accurate.
1 Thessalonians 5:14: We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 1995
1 Thessalonians 5:14: We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 2020
Romans 2:1: Therefore you have no excuse, you foolish person, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge someone else [another], you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…
Romans 2:3: But do you suppose this, you foolish person [O man] who passes [when you pass] judgment on those who practice such things and yet does them as well [do the same yourself], that you will escape the judgment of God?
Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good… NASB 1995
Micah 6:8: He has told you, a human, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? NASB 2020
From what the Lockman Foundation has released about the 2020NASB, the 2020 update seems like it is a more significant release than their 1995 update was. Taking everything into account, there are gender-neutral language changes. There is an attempt to remove archaic language which has also led to removing literal renderings, and that is not a good thing. We can say, some of the changes are good, some are irrelevant, some are wordy, and some are poor. Looking at all the pluses and minuses. There seem to be more minuses than pluses. We have not even delved into the Lockman’s Foundation obsession with retaining the corrupt readings from the King James Version NT (Textus Receptus) in the main text instead of relegating them to footnotes.
The translation work was done by a group sponsored by the Lockman Foundation. According to the Lockman Foundation, the committee consisted of people from Christian institutions of higher learning and from evangelical Protestant, predominantly conservative, denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Nazarene, American Baptist, Fundamentalist, Conservative Baptist, Free Methodist, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Free, Independent Baptist, Independent Mennonite, Assembly of God, North American Baptist, and “other religious groups”).
The foundation’s Web site indicates that among the translators and consultants who contributed are Bible scholars with doctorates in biblical languages, theology, “or other advanced degrees”, and come from a variety of denominational backgrounds. More than 20 individuals worked on modernizing the NASB in accord with the most recent research.
The Bible that Will Replace the NASB
The Updated American Standard Version (UASV) will be released by the end of 2021 for a 120-year anniversary of the American Standard Version (ASV). Unlike the NASB2020, the UASV has no intention of ever abandoning the literal translation philosophy or even stepping away from it even in minor ways. It will not be our desire to bend toward the dynamic equivalent translations (NIV, CEV, TEV, NLT, etc.) and the quasi literal translations (ESV CSB) but rather to educate the readers of those translations of the importance of the literal translation philosophy and bring them into our camp.
Our primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what a translator thinks God meant in its place.—Truth Matters! Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator.—Translating Truth!
The translation of God’s Word from the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is a task unlike any other and should never be taken lightly. It carries with it the heaviest responsibility: the translator renders God’s thoughts into a modern language. The Updated American Standard Version (UASV) is a literal translation. What does that mean?
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 use word order to emphasize or convey some meaning. In most cases, the translator is simply rendering 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 to make 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 120+ years have seen the discovering of far more manuscripts, especially the papyri, with many manuscripts dating within decades 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
by Edward D. Andrews and Wikipedia