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This article offers a thorough examination of the shifts in translation philosophy between the NASB 1995 and 2020 editions. It places special emphasis on how these changes may either preserve the truth or compromise accuracy. The 2022 Updated American Standard Version (UASV) serves as a model for maintaining a stringent literal translation philosophy without compromising the Word of God.
Uncover the nuanced differences between the NASB 1995 and 2020 editions. Explore how these shifts impact the preservation of truth and the risk of compromising accuracy. Gain insights into the future of literal Bible translation, anchored by the 2022 Updated American Standard Version (UASV). Prioritize faithfulness to God’s Word in your Bible reading and study.
Introduction: The Weight of Bible Translation
The Heavy Responsibility of Translators
When it comes to the divine task of translating the Bible, the responsibility resting on the shoulders of the translator is monumental, to say the least. The objective is not to offer a paraphrase or an interpretative layer but to accurately render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text into a modern language. To put it simply, we are dealing with God’s very words, and they must be handled with the utmost precision and reverence.
The Gravity of the Task
Translating the Bible is not merely an academic exercise; it is a spiritual undertaking that demands the highest level of integrity and skill. It goes beyond language skills, requiring a deep understanding of theology, the cultural background of the text, and the nuances that often exist within the biblical languages. Any deviation from the original text is, in essence, a deviation from the Divine message itself.
Accountability to God and Man
A Bible translator stands in a unique position of accountability: first to God, who inspired the text, and then to the reader who seeks spiritual guidance and nourishment from it. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we should be “workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This task is not merely an intellectual endeavor but a commitment to convey the heart of God’s revelation.
Bypassing Human Interpretation
Our core philosophy emphasizes that the meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter, i.e., the reader, not the translator. In no way should translators take liberties to modify, simplify, or embellish the text to make it more palatable to modern sensibilities. By doing so, they compromise the integrity of the text and shift the weight from divine revelation to human interpretation.
Implications for Bible Study and Faith
The words of the Bible shape theology, dictate doctrine, and guide moral and ethical behavior. Even a minor discrepancy in translation can lead to significant shifts in understanding and belief. Therefore, the translator must minimize any interpretative layer to allow the reader to engage directly with what God intended to communicate.
Contrast with Other Types of Translation
Unlike translating other historical or literary works, Bible translation carries an eternal consequence. It influences how individuals understand God, salvation, and their role in His plan. As such, Bible translators are not just linguists but stewards of eternal truths.
In conclusion, the heavy responsibility of Bible translators is not to be underestimated. Their primary task is to convey the original text as faithfully as possible, adhering to the principles of literal translation. In doing so, they act as servants, not just to the current generation but to all those who will turn to the Scriptures in the future, seeking divine wisdom and guidance. Therefore, any shift in translation philosophy, such as that from the NASB 1995 to the 2020 edition, warrants careful scrutiny, as it has significant implications for preserving or compromising the eternal truth of God’s Word.
Why Literal Translation Matters: Preserving God’s Words
The Primacy of Literal Translation: A Non-Negotiable Tenet
The foundational principle in Bible translation should be the commitment to represent God’s words as they were originally written. Literal translation aims to preserve the original text as closely as possible, ensuring that the modern reader can access God’s message as it was intended. Anything less compromises the integrity of Scripture and veers into the territory of human interpretation, something we must steadfastly avoid.
Guardians of the Text
Translators function as guardians of God’s Word. They have the solemn duty of making sure that the text’s original meaning remains unaltered as it crosses languages and cultures. Literal translation isn’t just a method; it’s a pledge to uphold the sacredness of Scripture.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Paraphrase and Interpretation
While paraphrases or overly interpretative translations might make a text more accessible, they can also introduce human error and bias. The meaning of the text should be discerned by the reader through diligent study, guided by a reliable translation, not pre-interpreted by a translator. The reader should encounter the text in its raw form, as close to the original as possible.
Literal Translation as a Safeguard
A key advantage of literal translation is that it serves as a safeguard against doctrinal error. Even a subtle change in wording can have profound theological implications. When we alter the text to fit our understanding, we essentially become editors of God’s Word rather than its stewards.
Why a “Difficult” Text is Preferable
Sometimes critics argue that literal translations can be “difficult” for the modern reader to understand. However, it is better for the Bible to be a bit challenging than for it to be simplified at the cost of diluting its original message. The depth of Scripture is not something to be streamlined for convenience but to be studied and revered.
Textual Criticism and Literal Translation
Our approach to textual criticism aims to ascertain the original words of the original texts. We’re not interested in getting back to some nebulous “initial text” but rather the exact words penned by the human authors under divine inspiration. This exactitude in the original texts must then be rendered into modern language through a literal translation philosophy.
The Responsibility of the Reader
With a literal translation, the onus of interpretation lies on the reader, where it belongs. It is the reader’s task to study, to seek understanding, and to meditate upon the Word. A literal translation respects the reader’s agency in this holy endeavor. If God’s Word is important to you, the effort to understand it should be a given.
In summary, the significance of literal translation cannot be overstated. It remains the most reliable method for conveying the inspired Scriptures to the modern reader. This method safeguards the text’s original meaning, respects the reader’s role in interpretation, and most importantly, honors God by presenting His words as they were given. Therefore, any shifts in translation philosophy, like those seen in the 1995 to 2020 NASB editions, must be carefully evaluated against this gold standard of preserving God’s words.
The NASB Legacy: A Brief History
Formal Equivalence: The Bedrock of NASB
The Pillar of Formal Equivalence: What It Means
Formal equivalence, also known as literal translation, is the linchpin of reliable Bible translation. It’s a method that aims to be as faithful as possible to the structure, wording, and syntax of the original texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In this sense, formal equivalence stands as a fortress safeguarding the sanctity of the biblical text.
NASB’s Historical Commitment to Formal Equivalence
The New American Standard Bible (NASB) has historically held formal equivalence as its cornerstone. Over the years, it has garnered respect and widespread use precisely because of its commitment to this exacting method. The 1995 NASB edition was largely considered a stalwart in presenting the Scriptures in their purest form.
The Technical Demands and How NASB Meets Them
Undertaking a formal equivalence translation is no light task; it requires rigorous scholarship in biblical languages and a painstaking attention to detail. The NASB has been exemplary in this, employing scholars who are experts in the nuances of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, ensuring that every word counts.
Preserving Idiomatic Expressions: A Fine Line
One of the challenges in maintaining a formal equivalence approach is the handling of idiomatic expressions. The NASB has historically managed to walk this fine line carefully, offering footnotes where an idiom in the original language doesn’t have a direct counterpart in English. In such cases, the footnotes serve to enrich the reader’s understanding without compromising the text. Annotations, not alterations, are the key.
Formal Equivalence as the Benchmark
Any Bible translation that deviates from the formal equivalence approach puts itself in the dangerous position of potentially misrepresenting the Word of God. This is why the NASB’s commitment to formal equivalence has set it apart as a benchmark for other translations. In essence, it serves as a standard against which the fidelity of other translations can be measured.
Challenges to Formal Equivalence in Recent Editions
The shift from the 1995 to the 2020 editions of the NASB raises questions about the continued commitment to formal equivalence. These changes need to be scrutinized in the light of this non-negotiable translation philosophy. Any alteration from this foundational commitment is not just a change—it’s a compromise.
In Summary: Why This Matters
Formal equivalence isn’t a mere preference in translation methodology; it’s an absolute necessity for preserving the inerrant Word of God. The reader has the onus to study and interpret the text, a task made profoundly simpler when the translation they are working from is as accurate and faithful to the original as possible. It’s not just about getting the words right; it’s about getting the Word right.
Thus, the history and philosophy of the NASB’s commitment to formal equivalence serve as a vital backdrop against which to evaluate any changes or shifts in the translation’s newest editions. We owe it to God and to the community of believers to hold this standard high, ensuring that this time-honored translation continues to be a reliable source for biblical study.
The Impact and Reception of the 1995 Edition
The Inception: A Commitment to Literalism
The 1995 New American Standard Bible (NASB) was born out of a sincere desire to produce an English Bible translation that hewed as closely as possible to the original texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It positioned itself as the go-to resource for serious Bible study, demanding but rewarding, challenging yet enlightening.
Academic Reception: A Tool for Study
The 1995 NASB was widely recognized in academic circles for its formal equivalence approach. Seminaries and Bible colleges often recommended it as a primary text for exegesis and hermeneutical studies. It became a touchstone in the scholarly community, a tool aiding those dedicated to plumbing the depths of God’s Word.
The Lay Reader: Accessible yet Demanding
The 1995 edition didn’t just appeal to scholars. Lay readers, earnest in their quest to understand the Bible’s original meaning, found its commitment to literal translation a pathway to deeper understanding. It was recognized that serious study, not casual reading, was the purpose of this translation.
Pulpits and Pew Bibles: A Staple in Conservative Churches
Many conservative pastors adopted the 1995 NASB as their primary preaching text. In the pews, the NASB found itself beside hymnals and other worship aids, ready to be consulted. Its presence in churches underscored its weight and authority in the Christian community.
Comparative Excellence: Standing Apart from the Others
Amidst a sea of translations leaning towards dynamic equivalence or paraphrasing, the 1995 NASB stood apart. It was often the recommended translation for those who wished to engage in comparative Bible study, illuminating the nuances lost in less literal translations. It became a measure against which the fidelity of other translations was weighed.
Theological Integrity: Preserving Core Beliefs
A non-negotiable aspect of the 1995 NASB was its theological integrity. By adhering to a literal translation philosophy, it ensured that core Christian beliefs were not compromised. It was received as a translation where doctrinal soundness was not sacrificed at the altar of readability.
The Shift Toward 2020: A Concern
The reception and impact of the 1995 NASB thus establish its role as a foundational text in both academic and ecclesiastical settings. This makes the shift toward the 2020 edition all the more significant and concerning. Changes are not just textual adjustments; they are shifts in the theological and scholarly landscape.
Why This Matters: Upholding the Standard
The 1995 NASB edition was not just another translation; it was a standard-bearer for those who prioritized biblical fidelity over modern linguistic trends. Its reception was not an accident but the result of careful scholarship and unwavering commitment to literal translation. As we review any changes in the 2020 edition, we should bear in mind that what is at stake is not merely words on a page, but the very integrity of God’s revealed Word.
The 1995 NASB edition’s impact and reception serve as a high-water mark, a standard to be upheld and defended, as the Bible’s translation continues to evolve. It’s not just about maintaining a legacy; it’s about preserving Truth in an age that desperately needs it.
2020 Edition: A Departure from Tradition?
Examining the Shift in Translation Philosophy from 1995 to 2020
The Original Stand: 1995 NASB’s Commitment to Formal Equivalence
The 1995 NASB was lauded for its adherence to formal equivalence, the approach of translating the source text as literally as possible. Like a precisely crafted key, it unlocked the original text’s intricate details, allowing Bible readers to peer into the linguistic and theological depths of the Scriptures. Its formal equivalence approach served as an unyielding backbone to the translation.
Navigating the Waters of Modern Linguistics
It’s worth acknowledging that language evolves. However, the changes made in the 2020 NASB edition appear to be a nod to modern linguistic trends rather than a commitment to maintaining a literal, formal equivalence. For instance, some of the new renderings seem to prioritize readability and fluidity over the precision found in the original languages. If we equate Bible translation to bridge-building, then in this case, it seems the bridge has begun to wobble.
Questionable Choices: Gender Language and Inclusive Terms
One glaring shift in the 2020 edition lies in its approach to gender language. Though the original texts possess a nuance and clarity around gender-specific terms, the 2020 NASB attempts to neutralize this for the sake of contemporary inclusivity. The shift is subtle but significant. Translators must not lose sight of the fact that fidelity to the original text trumps cultural or social considerations.
The Danger of Compromising Doctrinal Integrity
If we compromise on translating a simple gender term, what prevents a slide into more significant areas like doctrine? It’s a slippery slope, and one we must be cautious about descending. A small fissure in the dam can eventually lead to a deluge.
Readability vs. Study: The Balance Shifts
The 1995 NASB was not designed as a casual read; it was a tool for study. The 2020 edition leans toward readability, which is not inherently bad but must be viewed in light of the translation’s original intent. The purpose of a Bible translation should be to bring the reader to an understanding of the original, even if that requires extra effort.
Retreating from Complexity: The Reduction of Footnotes
Another noteworthy alteration is the reduction of textual footnotes in the 2020 NASB. Such footnotes provided a wealth of information, helping readers understand the nuances or alternative readings of a text. Their reduction is akin to removing training wheels before the rider is ready; it presupposes that the modern reader doesn’t need or want to engage in the complexities of the text.
The Importance of Staying the Course
As the world swirls with change, it is crucial for Bible translations to remain steadfast, particularly when the alteration could compromise accuracy or encourage eisegesis, the act of reading one’s own interpretation into the text. The changes in the 2020 edition could be seen as a departure from the literal translation philosophy that made the 1995 NASB a standard in the first place. It’s not just about retaining a legacy but about preserving the sanctity and integrity of God’s Word.
By analyzing the changes between the 1995 and 2020 editions of the NASB, we realize that the philosophy behind the translation has shifted subtly yet significantly. As guardians of the Scriptures, we must be vigilant in upholding the translation principles that prioritize accuracy and faithfulness to the original text. After all, what is at stake is far greater than mere words—it is the very Word of God.
Examples of Dynamic Elements in the 2020 Edition
In the quest for clarity and modernity, the 2020 NASB edition has shifted towards idiomatic translations for certain expressions that were previously rendered more literally. For example, the Greek phrase “sarx kai aima” is traditionally translated as “flesh and blood,” preserving both the literal meaning and the Semitic idiom. In the 2020 edition, however, this could be smoothed out to a more interpretive rendering like “human beings” or “mortal bodies.” While the objective may be to make the text more immediately understandable, this approach risks losing the texture and depth of the original language expressions.
Gender-Neutral Renderings: Treading Dangerous Waters
One of the most evident dynamic elements in the 2020 NASB is the move towards gender-neutral language. For example, the Greek term “adelphoi,” traditionally translated as “brothers,” is often rendered as “brothers and sisters” to appeal to modern sensibilities. This shift carries weighty implications. It disrupts the lexical accuracy and the theological underpinnings of the original text.
Idiomatic Phrases: The Trap of Oversimplification
In an effort to make the text more relatable to contemporary readers, the 2020 NASB edition often opts for idiomatic translations in places where a more literal translation was previously used. For example, the Greek term “skandalon,” which traditionally is rendered as “stumbling block,” may be translated more idiomatically as “cause for offense” or “something that trips you up.” While the aim might be to improve clarity, such changes risk diluting the nuanced meanings carried in the original terms.
By making these adjustments, the translation moves away from its cornerstone philosophy of adhering as closely as possible to the original languages. Truth Matters! Therefore, even though idiomatic renderings may seem minor, they are a significant departure when our ultimate objective is to translate God’s Word faithfully.
Stance on Controversial Terms: Euphemisms and the Danger They Pose
Terms that are culturally or politically charged today are often softened. For example, the term “slave” may be substituted for a less abrasive term like “servant” in the New Testament. Such substitutions are not only anachronistic but can also lead to a watering down of the text’s original intent. The Scriptures were never intended to conform to the cultural sensibilities of any era, including our own.
Intricacies of the Text: The Sacrifice of Complex Constructs
The Hebrew and Greek texts have certain grammatical constructs and syntactical peculiarities that are often flattened out in the 2020 edition. For example, participles in Greek, which carry tense, voice, and aspect, may be simplified to align more closely with English verb forms. This may make for smoother reading but at the cost of robust theological understanding.
Footnote Reductions: Obscuring Academic Rigor
The 2020 NASB also shows a significant reduction in footnotes, limiting the scholarly apparatus that often accompanies a robust translation. This is not merely an editorial decision; it influences how deeply a reader can delve into the text. Eliminating these academic crutches can compromise the reader’s ability to engage comprehensively with the Scriptures.
Collective to Individual: A Focus on Personal Application
There’s also a subtle shift from understanding some texts as directed towards a community to rendering them in a way that focuses on individual application. This may serve modern individualistic culture well but doesn’t align with the collective emphasis prevalent in Hebrew culture and in the early Christian church.
By introducing these dynamic elements, the 2020 NASB edition has made a pivot away from strict formal equivalence, an approach that upholds the integrity and complexity of the original languages. While some may argue these changes make for easier reading, we must remember that ease should not supersede accuracy. The Bible is not just another book; it’s the inspired Word of God, and treating it as such in translation is a non-negotiable mandate.
Translating Truth! The strength of a translation resides in its faithfulness to the original text. By introducing idiomatic expressions in the 2020 edition, one could argue that the NASB has moved a step away from its foundational philosophy of formal equivalence, which is a commitment to render the text as closely as possible to the original languages.
Remember, our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. Such shifts in translation philosophy might appear minor, but they are consequential when the ultimate aim is to present God’s Word as He inspired it to be written. The Bible reader has the responsibility to make the time to understand their Bible, which will give them what the author meant by the words that the author used. Truth Matters!
What’s at Stake: Accuracy vs. Readability
The Price of Linguistic Concessions
When we talk about Bible translation, the tension between accuracy and readability is like a razor’s edge that translators must carefully navigate. The cost of erring on one side or the other can be steep. While readability is important, it should never come at the cost of accuracy. Let’s explore why this is such a pivotal issue.
The Value of Accurate Translation: Upholding the Word of God
Accuracy is not negotiable. The original languages of the Bible—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—have certain grammatical structures, idioms, and vocabulary that carry nuanced meanings. These facets can reveal significant theological, cultural, or narrative details. For instance, the Hebrew verb forms in the Old Testament often convey not just actions, but also the attitudes and motivations behind those actions. Think of it like a photograph that captures not just the image but also the emotions and context of a particular moment. When we prioritize readability over accuracy, we run the risk of diluting or even losing these critical details, akin to downgrading a high-resolution photograph to a grainy, pixelated version.
The Pitfalls of Prioritizing Readability
Ease of reading must not trump fidelity to the text. There is a temptation in modern translation projects, like the 2020 edition of the NASB, to soften the edges, to make the text flow more “naturally” in modern English. While this may make for a text that is easier on the eyes and ears, it betrays the principle of giving the reader what God actually said through His human authors. It’s like serving a pre-chewed meal; the essence may be the same, but the experience and the nutrients are significantly compromised. For example, changing the language from “repentance” to “changing one’s mind” might seem like a trivial alteration but can undermine the seriousness and depth of the term in its original context.
The Responsibility of the Reader
It is essential to remember that the meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator. This means that if the text is difficult to understand, it’s not the translator’s role to simplify it. Rather, it’s the reader’s responsibility to dig deeper, to study, and to seek understanding. For instance, if a person wants to understand complex mathematical theories, simplifying them to basic arithmetic won’t help. It only prevents a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
The Ultimate Objective: Translating Truth
Our ultimate objective should be to reflect as closely as possible what is in the original texts, rather than catering to modern sensibilities or linguistic preferences. It’s the difference between giving someone a fishing rod instead of a fish; the former equips you to delve into the depths yourself, while the latter only provides a temporary, superficial fix. Truth Matters!
In conclusion, while readability has its place, it should never compromise the accuracy and integrity of the original languages of the Bible. The stakes are too high to opt for convenience over truth. The Word of God is not just another book; it’s an eternal document that deserves our utmost respect and painstaking attention to detail. Translating Truth!
Word-for-Word vs. Thought-for-Thought: The Ongoing Debate
When it comes to Bible translation, two major philosophies dominate the landscape: word-for-word (formal equivalence) and thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalence). The decision to follow one over the other carries immense implications.
Word-for-Word: The Pillar of Formal Equivalence
The word-for-word approach, or formal equivalence, is precisely what it sounds like: translating each word from the original language to the target language. This approach has unyielding commitment to textual fidelity. For example, the Hebrew verb “bara” is best translated as “created,” preserving the nuance and intent of the original text as in Genesis 1:1. By adhering closely to the words and structure of the original language, this method offers the reader a text that is as close as possible to the inspired originals.
The Shortcomings of the Thought-for-Thought Approach
In contrast, the thought-for-thought method, also known as dynamic equivalence, aims to convey the ideas or thoughts of the original text, even if that means straying from a literal word-for-word translation. For example, instead of translating the Greek term “logos” as “word,” a thought-for-thought translation might render it as “message” to clarify the concept for modern readers. While this approach can make for easier reading, it carries the risk of interjecting the translator’s interpretation into the text. The original words are like pieces in a complex puzzle, each contributing to the larger picture. Replacing them with approximations is like replacing puzzle pieces with ones that almost fit; the end image might look similar, but it’s not what the original author designed.
The Domino Effect: The Chain Reaction of Inaccuracies
When the thought-for-thought methodology is employed, it often sets off a domino effect of unintended consequences. If a Hebrew or Greek term with layered meanings is simplified, it creates a ripple effect through connected passages, affecting the reader’s understanding of themes, doctrines, or narrative arcs. To illustrate, think of the delicate balance of an ecosystem. If you remove or alter one element, the entire system can be thrown into disarray. The thought-for-thought approach disrupts this delicate balance, potentially leading to a cascade of inaccuracies.
The Reader’s Responsibility: Shouldering the Burden of Understanding
The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., the reader), not the translator. To opt for a thought-for-thought translation is to take the keys of interpretation from the hands of the reader and place them into the hands of the translator. This is unacceptable from a conservative, literal translation standpoint. If understanding the Bible requires extra effort, then that is a worthy price to pay. Assembling a complex machine requires a careful reading of the instruction manual; likewise, understanding God’s Word requires diligent study and should not be made “easier” at the expense of accuracy.
Conclusion: Unwavering Commitment to Textual Fidelity
Our unwavering commitment should always be to Translating Truth!—giving the reader as close an approximation as possible to what was written by the original authors, guided by the Holy Spirit. In the ongoing debate between word-for-word and thought-for-thought translations, the stakes are incredibly high. We cannot afford to lean toward convenience or readability at the expense of absolute fidelity to the original text. Truth Matters!
Implications for Serious Bible Study
Interpretation: Whose Job Is It Anyway?
When we enter the realm of Bible study, one of the fundamental questions that emerge is about the responsibility of interpretation. Whose role is it to interpret the words of the Scriptures? Is it the job of the translator, or is it the mantle that the reader must take up? The answer has profound implications for how we approach serious Bible study.
The Translator’s Duty: A Faithful Rendering
The primary role of the translator is to provide the most accurate and faithful rendering of the original text. In the same way that an artist’s sketch should closely resemble the original scene, a Bible translation should closely mirror the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. A conservative, literal translation philosophy is unwavering in this regard: Truth Matters! This is about Translating Truth, not accommodating human preferences. The translator is a conduit, not a commentator.
The Reader’s Obligation: Seeking Understanding
Once the translator has done his or her job, the mantle shifts to the reader. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., the reader), not the translator. For instance, when Paul speaks of “justification” in his letters, the word bears rich theological depth. It is the reader’s task to plunge into this depth, to study, and to seek understanding. Think of it as a miner digging for precious jewels; the deeper you dig (study), the more you find (understand).
A Faulty Shortcut: When Translators Overstep
There’s an alluring yet dangerous shortcut: allowing the translator to interpret the text for you. This is particularly problematic when translations opt for thought-for-thought methodologies. When translators take liberties to make the text “easier” to understand, they’re essentially making interpretive decisions that should belong to the reader. It’s akin to a teacher doing your homework for you; it might make life easier in the short run, but in the long term, it robs you of genuine understanding and personal growth.
Interconnected Threads: Doctrines, Themes, and Cohesiveness
When translators inject their interpretation into the text, it impacts not just isolated verses but also interconnected doctrines and themes. The ripple effect could distort the reader’s view of soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ecclesiology (doctrine of the church), or eschatology (doctrine of last things), among others. Imagine building a house on a flawed foundation; no matter how beautiful the house may appear, it’s always at risk of collapsing. Translation errors have far-reaching implications, affecting the integrity and cohesiveness of Scriptural truths.
The Sacred Balance of Responsibilities
In the grand scheme of Bible study, both the translator and the reader have crucial roles to play. The translator must faithfully render the text, while the reader must diligently seek to understand it. It is a sacred partnership, each holding a piece of the responsibility. It is better for Bible reading to be a little more difficult to understand than to compromise our commitment to textual fidelity. Thus, in the realm of interpretation, the answer is clear: the job belongs to both the translator and the reader, but each within their God-ordained boundaries. Truth Matters!
The Role of the Translator in Not in Guiding Theological Understanding
In the realm of Biblical interpretation, a vital distinction must be made between the role of the translator and the role of the reader. Specifically, it must be emphasized that the role of the translator is not in guiding theological understanding. This is a foundational concept for anyone committed to serious Bible study.
The Translator as a Conduit, Not a Guide
Think of the translator as a bridge. A bridge’s role is to provide a pathway between two points—in this case, between the original text and the reader. It is not the bridge’s role to interpret the scenery or to influence the traveler’s experience in any subjective manner. Likewise, the translator should serve as a conduit for God’s Word, not as a guide to what the Word means. In other words, Translating Truth should be the translator’s primary focus, not interpreting it.
The Limits of Linguistic Choices
Every language has its peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, and unique shades of meaning. While it might be tempting for a translator to choose words that “clarify” theological concepts, doing so crosses a line. For instance, choosing to translate the Greek word “dikaiosyne” as “righteousness” is appropriate, but opting for a phrase like “in a right relationship with God” would be adding an interpretation that might not be universally agreed upon. When translators take on the role of theologians, they risk diluting or even altering the text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., the reader), not the translator.
Impacts on Systematic Theology
When a translator starts to guide theological understanding, they inadvertently influence entire frameworks of belief—also known as systematic theology. These frameworks are like a house of cards; if one card is off, the integrity of the entire structure can be compromised. If the translation leans towards a particular theological slant, it could lead to misunderstandings that affect one’s views on vital topics like salvation, sanctification, and the attributes of God.
The High Stakes of Theological Neutrality
Theological neutrality in translation is not an option; it’s an imperative. Consider a courtroom: a translator’s role is similar to that of a stenographer, who records spoken words verbatim. The stenographer does not offer an opinion on the legality or morality of the statements being made. In the same way, a Bible translator must uphold Truth Matters! by staying faithful to the text, without injecting personal or popular theological viewpoints.
A Balanced Approach is Required
The goal of Bible translation is to be as accurate and faithful to the original text as possible. It is better for the Bible reading to be a little more difficult to understand than to compromise our commitment to textual fidelity. The reader should be entrusted with the gravitas of diving deep into theological understanding, guided by the faithful translation provided. The translator must stick to the daunting yet straightforward task of rendering God’s words as clearly and accurately as possible, steering clear of the role of a theological guide.
Comparative Analysis: Key Passages in Focus
Spotlight on Select Verses: 1995 vs. 2020
In the task of translating the Word of God, even minute changes can significantly influence the reader’s comprehension and, consequently, theological understanding. Below are some verses that have undergone notable changes between the 1995 and 2020 editions of the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Case 1: Psalm 51:5 – Inherited Sin Nature
1995: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”
2020: “Behold, I was brought forth in wrongdoing, And in sin my mother conceived me.”
Implications: The word “iniquity” is stronger and carries more weight than “wrongdoing,” implying not just actions but also a sinful nature. This change could potentially dilute the original meaning of the text, thus altering the reader’s understanding of the human condition as outlined in the Bible.
Case 2: Romans 1:26-27 – Sexual Immorality
1995: “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another.”
2020: “For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions; for their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.”
Implications: The term “degrading passions” in the 1995 edition carries a heavier moral tone than “dishonorable passions” in the 2020 edition. The stronger language in the 1995 edition reflects a more severe condemnation, consistent with the Apostle Paul’s intent.
Case 3: Ephesians 2:8-9 – Grace Through Faith
1995: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
2020: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Implications: The phrase “not of yourselves” in the 1995 edition places a stronger emphasis on the source of salvation being solely from God, whereas “not your own doing” in the 2020 edition could imply a human element, however slight. This has significant theological implications regarding the nature of grace and salvation.
Our Literal Translation Philosophy
Translators carry the heavy burden of rendering God’s thoughts into human language. It’s a task that demands more than linguistic skills; it requires a commitment to theological neutrality and textual fidelity. It is better for the Bible reading to be a little more difficult to understand than to compromise the original text. The 2020 NASB mostly succeeds in this regard but should serve as a continuous reminder that our focus must always be on preserving truth rather than compromising accuracy.
Our overarching aim is to provide readers with what the original authors intended to say—Truth Matters! Anything less runs the risk of diluting the Word and, consequently, misleading the flock. It’s not the role of the translator to interpret but to offer the most precise and faithful rendering possible from the original texts so that readers can approach the interpretation task grounded in a text that is as close to the original as possible. This is the gravity of our task in translating God’s Word—Translating Truth!
What We Lose with the Dynamic Equivalent (Interpretive) Approach
The approach of Dynamic Equivalence (DE) in Bible translation has its appeal to many. It offers a more “readable” and “accessible” text at the cost of direct representation of the original words. While well-intended, this method can undermine several foundational aspects of how the Scriptures should be read and understood.
Erosion of Authorial Intent
In the DE approach, translators take the liberty to offer what they think the author meant rather than what the author said. This fundamentally disrupts the chain of communication between the original author and the modern reader. For example, if the Apostle Paul wrote about the “works of the law,” translating it as “legalistic rituals” may seem helpful but actually imports a specific interpretation into the text, one that might not align with Paul’s intended meaning.
Reduced Theological Precision
Words matter—especially in the realm of theology. In a DE translation, the rich theological vocabulary of the original languages can get watered down. For instance, the Greek term “dikaiosune,” often translated as “righteousness,” has a depth of meaning that can be lost if rendered merely as “being good” or “doing right.” This reduces the concept to mere moralism, thereby losing the nuance and breadth of the original term.
Misguided Interpretive Choices
In DE, the translator becomes an unintended interpreter. When Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24), replacing “eye of a needle” with “narrow door” might make it easier to understand but also robs the text of its poetic force and hyperbole, which are essential to its impact and meaning.
Risk of Modern Bias
By striving for readability and relatability, DE translations risk imposing contemporary beliefs or biases upon the text. When Paul discusses the role of women in the church, the DE approach might soften or adjust the wording to align with modern egalitarian views, potentially altering the original message.
Our Literal Translation Philosophy
As we focus on literal translation, our aim is nothing less than fidelity to the original words of the Scripture—Truth Matters! There’s a difference between simplifying a complex truth and simplifying it away. Our primary goal is to be both accurate and faithful to the text. The task of interpreting those words rests upon the reader, undergirded by sound hermeneutical principles—Translating Truth! By adhering strictly to the literal philosophy, we respect the integrity of the original text, and thereby honor God, the ultimate Author.
The Reader’s Responsibility: Understanding the Changes
The Possible Goal of This New Shift In Translation Philosophy from 1995 to 2020
Market Share: A Tug of War for Reader Loyalty
While it’s hard to discern all the motives behind the recent shifts in the NASB’s translation philosophy, one potential driving force could be the changing landscape of Bible translations and the increasing competition for market share. With the appearance of the ESV (English Standard Version), which calls itself “essentially literal” yet is more fluid in its translation than the NASB, some of the NASB’s readership may have been siphoned off. The ESV has effectively marketed itself as a middle-ground option, balancing readability with faithfulness to the text. This has captured the attention of a wide demographic, perhaps including those who were formerly staunch NASB users.
Responding to Market Dynamics
In the realm of Bible translations, market share matters—not necessarily for profit but for the spread of Scriptural truth. Translating Truth! The NASB has long been respected for its commitment to a literal translation philosophy. Yet, despite this, its slice of the market has remained small. Meanwhile, the ESV and even the more interpretive NIV have grown in popularity. Faced with this scenario, the Lockman Foundation may have felt the pressure to adapt, if not in substance, at least in style.
Chasing “Essentially Literal” Benchmarks
“Essentially literal” has become a buzzword in the realm of Bible translations. The ESV’s success using this term might have tempted the Lockman Foundation to ease the NASB into this less strict, more malleable category. The dilemma here lies in the compromise of the translation philosophy that originally made the NASB unique and respected for its adherence to a literal rendering of the text.
Appealing to Modern Sensibilities
In an age where readability often trumps depth of meaning, it may be that the NASB is aiming to appeal to the contemporary reader who is not accustomed to archaic language or complex sentence structures. While this is understandable from a market perspective, it calls into question the ethics of altering a proven translation philosophy purely for the sake of broader appeal. Truth Matters!
The Cost of Compromise
It should be noted that this shift towards a less literal translation philosophy could be a dangerous gambit. On the one hand, the NASB risks losing its core readership who have valued its commitment to a literal representation of the Scriptures. On the other, it might gain a broader readership but at the cost of diluting the Word of God, which carries eternal consequences.
In summary, while market dynamics can have a strong pull, they must never be the overriding factor in Bible translation. The primary goal should always be to be accurate and faithful to the original text. This principle should remain non-negotiable, irrespective of changing market trends or reader preferences. The Bible reader has the responsibility to make the time to understand their Bible, which will give them what the author meant by the words that he used. Any shift away from this core philosophy risks not just market share but the very integrity of God’s Word.
Recommendations for Those Committed to Literal Translation
The 2022 Updated American Standard Version (UASV) is a literal translation. 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!
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 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 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) and the original language texts, versions, and other sources that will help him 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
The NASB Continues to Retain the Corrupt Textus Receptus (KJV) Readings in the Main Text
Trying to Appease King James Version Readers by Retaining the Corrupt Textus Receptus (KJV) Readings in the Main Text
The Textus Receptus and the KJV: A Legacy of Influence
One issue that raises eyebrows among textual scholars and readers alike is the NASB’s decision to retain readings from the Textus Receptus (TR) in its main text. This move appears to be an attempt to appease those who are deeply attached to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. The TR forms the base text for the New Testament in the KJV, but it is not considered the best representation of the original manuscripts. Thus, including TR readings in a translation that otherwise prides itself on adhering to the best-available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts is puzzling, to say the least. Translating Truth!
The Consequences of Dual Allegiance
By incorporating TR readings, the NASB is effectively trying to serve two masters: those who demand textual purity and those who have a sentimental attachment to the KJV. This dual allegiance raises critical questions about the integrity of the translation. Truth Matters! The use of TR readings, although intended to capture a broader audience, comes at the expense of the NASB’s commitment to providing a literal and academically rigorous translation.
A Question of Motive: Faithfulness or Popularity?
While this tactic might win the NASB some favor among KJV enthusiasts, it weakens the translation’s standing among those who prioritize textual accuracy. The NASB’s choice to retain these readings seems to prioritize a segment of the market over the ultimate goal of faithfulness to the original text. But is it worth sacrificing textual fidelity for the sake of popularity?
Straining the Translator’s Responsibility
It is the responsibility of the translator to render God’s thoughts into a modern language as faithfully as possible. This means relying on the best available manuscripts, not pandering to a particular readership’s preferences. Any divergence from this approach calls into question the translator’s motives and, indeed, the integrity of the translation itself.
Safeguarding Scriptural Integrity
By including readings from the TR, the NASB muddies the waters of textual criticism and jeopardizes its standing as a rigorous, literal translation. In essence, the translation becomes a buffet where readers pick what they like and ignore the rest, undermining the very essence of Scripture as the inspired, infallible Word of God.
In sum, while the move to include TR readings may win the NASB some temporary acclaim among KJV readers, it does so at the peril of compromising textual accuracy. The primary goal should always be to be accurate and faithful to the original text. Any compromise on this front endangers not just the integrity of the translation but also the spiritual wellbeing of its readers, who rely on the Word of God for truth. It’s a trade-off that should give any serious Bible reader and scholar pause.
Translators Should Not Knowingly Retain a Know Interpolation In the Main Text. It Should Be Relegated to a Footnote
The Gravity of Interpolation: A Threat to Original Text
One of the most critical challenges in Bible translation is dealing with interpolations—text that was not part of the original manuscript but was added later. These can be significant stumbling blocks for serious Bible students seeking the pure Word of God. Including known interpolations in the main text is essentially packaging man’s words as God’s. Truth Matters!
The Responsibility of the Translator: Stewardship of God’s Word
In the task of Bible translation, there is no room for playing loose with the original text. The core responsibility is to provide the reader with what God said through His human authors. When a translator knowingly includes an interpolation in the main text, it muddies the purity of Scripture. The reader is then misled, as what is presented as divine might actually be a human addition. Translating Truth!
Deceptive Clarity: The Risk of Misinterpretation
At a glance, interpolations may seem to clarify or elaborate on biblical themes. However, the risk outweighs any perceived benefit. A known interpolation can lead readers down a theological path that the original authors never intended. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator.
The Footnote: A Humble Abode for Interpolations
If an interpolation is historically significant or widely known, relegating it to a footnote is an acceptable compromise. Here, it is clearly indicated that the text in question is not part of the original manuscripts. This allows the reader to engage with the text fully informed, free to make their own conclusions about its relevance or importance.
The Cost of Compromise: Undermining Scriptural Authority
Every time a known interpolation is included in the main text, it chips away at the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. The Bible is unlike any other text; it is God-breathed and should be handled with the utmost respect and precision. It is better for the Bible reading to be a little more difficult to understand than to compromise our literal translation philosophy of giving the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors.
The Highest Standard: Faithfulness Over Convenience
In conclusion, the standard for Bible translation should be nothing less than complete faithfulness to the original texts. Known interpolations have no place in the main text and should be relegated to footnotes, where they can be studied but not mistaken for God’s Word. Our primary goal should always be to be accurate and faithful to the original text. To do otherwise is to dilute the very Word of God we are charged with preserving.
Final Thoughts: Translating Truth, Preserving Integrity
Revisiting the Heaviest Responsibility: Faithfulness to God’s Word
The Sacred Task of Bible Translation
Translating the Bible is not just another linguistic exercise; it is a sacred duty that demands unwavering commitment to accuracy and integrity. The challenge is not just to understand Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek but to faithfully render the very thoughts of God into another language. This task carries with it the heaviest responsibility because the translator is conveying God’s thoughts to people.
Why Accuracy and Faithfulness Are Paramount
The original words in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts are not just random choices made by the human authors; they are divinely inspired. Each word, each phrase, and each sentence holds profound meaning and divine wisdom. As such, our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text.
The Perils of Taking Liberties with Translation
Deviation from a literal translation philosophy to incorporate interpretive elements not only undermines the integrity of the translation but also robs the reader of the opportunity to engage directly with God’s Word. Translating Truth! If a translator inserts their understanding of a passage into the translation, then they take away the reader’s God-given right to interpret Scripture for themselves.
It’s Not About Ease; It’s About Truth
Some may argue that making a translation “easier” to read is beneficial. However, the primary aim should not be to make the text easy but to make it true. It is better for the Bible reading to be a little more difficult to understand than to compromise our literal translation philosophy of giving the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors.
The Reader’s Role: Interpretation and Understanding
A translator provides the words; the reader provides the understanding. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator. The reader must be willing to invest the time to delve into the text, to grapple with its complexities, and to seek understanding through study and prayer.
The Final Verdict: Faithfulness Above All
In the final analysis, the quality of a Bible translation is measured not by its readability, but by its faithfulness to the original text. The ultimate goal is not to produce a bestseller but to produce a translation that stands the test of divine scrutiny. 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.
By adhering to these principles, we honor not just the text but the Author of the text. This is the pinnacle of our duty, the highest responsibility we carry: to be faithful stewards of the unchanging Word of God.
Future Directions for Literal Bible Translation Philosophy
A New Benchmark: The 2022 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The 2022 Updated American Standard Version (UASV) published by Christian Publishing House serves as a contemporary example of maintaining a stringent literal translation philosophy. Let’s consider the advancements made in this particular version as a model for future endeavors in Bible translation.
Removing the Outdated: Modernization Without Compromise
In any living language, words evolve, and linguistic structures change. The UASV acknowledges this reality by removing archaic language like “thee’s” and “thou’s” and substituting them with their modern counterparts. However, this is done without sacrificing the meaning or depth of the original texts.
Striving for Greater Clarity: Syntax and Vocabulary
The UASV also tackles verses with difficult word order or vocabulary. These are translated into correct English grammar and syntax, thus making them easier to read. But let’s be clear: if the original word order conveyed specific meaning, it remains intact. This assures that the translation is both understandable and faithful to the original.
The Quest for Accuracy: Manuscript Discoveries
Over the past century, numerous ancient manuscripts have been discovered, enriching our understanding of the original texts. The UASV takes these discoveries into account, especially the invaluable papyri manuscripts, to render a more accurate translation that stays true to the literal translation philosophy of the ASV.
A Commitment to Textual Integrity
In the UASV, the translator avoids the pitfall of substituting what they think the author meant for what the author actually wrote. The translator uses the most reliable, accurate critical texts and original language sources to determine the original reading. This serves as a concrete example for future translation projects aiming to honor both the letter and the spirit of the Scriptures.
Why the Need for Updated Translations?
New Manuscript Discoveries: As more ancient manuscripts come to light, they offer new perspectives and textual variants that should be considered.
Changes in the Language: English, like any language, evolves. A static translation will eventually become archaic and less accessible.
A Better Understanding of the Original Languages: Scholarship in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is continually advancing, providing deeper insights into these languages.
Improved Insight into Bible Translation: As we learn more about the art and science of translation itself, better techniques become available.
The Unchanging Goal: Faithfulness to God’s Word
Despite these advancements and the need for updates, the core philosophy remains the same: be faithful to the original text. Our primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The reader has the responsibility to take the time to understand the Bible, guided by an accurate and faithful translation.
By adhering to these principles and continuing to innovate responsibly, we are not just preserving the integrity of God’s Word for the current generation but are also laying the foundation for future translations. This is the future of literal Bible translation philosophy, one that prioritizes faithfulness to God’s Word above all else.