Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
Today we are most fortunate indeed to be the beneficiaries of wonderful Biblical scholarship that dates back five hundred years or more. Such diligence has produced a number of highly accurate translations of the Old and New Testaments in the English language, with the Authorized King James Verson(KJV), the New King James Version(NKJV) and the English Standard Version(ESV) representing just three of the best word for word renditions of the Holy Bible. As a keen reader of Scripture, I am always on the look out for new ways to improve my personal knowledge of the Bible, and, in this capacity, found yet another version to be particularly enlightening; enter the New American Standard Bible(NASB).
Like so many highly literal versions of the Bible, the NASB has an interesting history. Beginning in the 1880s, a team of American and British Bible scholars embarked on an ambitious project to update the archaic language of the KJV, producing the English Revised Version, which in turn formed the basis of the American Standard Version(ASV), first published in 1901. The ASV called upon a much larger number of manuscripts than the prestigious KJV, which were considerably older than any of the sources used to construct the KJV(mostly 10th and 11th centuries AD). And it was about this time that scholars began to notice a few small differences between the older and newer manuscripts. An example can be found in the Gospel of John chapter 5:
The KJV reads:
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
Once manuscripts dating back to the 4th and fifth centuries AD began to be uncovered, it was noted that many of them did not contain this verse, suggesting that it was accidently inserted by scribes at some later time. That is why most modern Bibles have a footnote at John 5:4 which says, ” older manuscripts do not contain this verse.”
And yet, here’s how the NASB deals with it.
[waiting for the for the movement in the waters; an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
So the NASB committee decided to leave it in……with a bracket around it.
As Biblical archaeology unearthed more and more ancient manuscripts throughout the 20th century, culminating with the astonishing finds contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were unearthed in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert between 1946 and 1956, many Bible scholars felt it was high time that a new translation of the original Hebrew and Greek tongues be constructed which benefited from these new insights. Thus, in 1959 work began on a new translation which honoured both the ASV and KJV under the aegis of the Lockman Foundation, which called upon an international team of Bible scholars and pastors from a broad cross-section of denominations to create the New American Standard Bible (NASB), which say first light as a complete work in 1971. Another revised NASB appeared in 1977(still with the old ‘thees’ and ‘thous’) Still, as good as the original NASB was, an updated and improved version of the NASB appeared in 1995(with the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ were modernised). This is the version I wish to discuss in this blog, though it is understood that the Lockman Foundation is currently at work producing yet another updated version of the NASB, which will appear in print in 2020.
Some Unique Attributes of the NASB
One of the first things you will notice when you start to read the New Testament in the NASB is that it highlights quotations or citations from the Old Testament in small caps. Consider 1 Peter 3:14-15
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And Do Not Fear Their Intimidation, And Do Not Be Troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1 Peter 3:14-15.
The small caps, ” Do Not Fear Their Intimidation……” immediately informs the reader that this is a direct citation from the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 8:12, but if you were reading the much more popular ESV Bible, for example, you would never know this, since the same text is not presented in small caps. In line 3 of the above Scripture, you also see the word, “being,” is presented in italics. This indicates that the same word is not found in the original Hebrew but was an educated guess(based on the context) by Biblical scholars to render the implied meaning as accurately as possible in modern English.This comes with the territory in any endeavour to translate one language into another.
In this way, I feel the NASB gives proper due respect to the words of Scripture, showing the reader where Biblical scholars have given their interpretation of the text in contrast to many more popular translations where such wording is not highlighted and so the student is left none the wiser.
In studying the NASB New Testament I have also come to appreciate Jesus’ own knowledge of the Old Testament. While many liberal scholars erroneously avoid prophetic texts such as Daniel and Ezekiel, the NASB reminds the reader that Jesus knew and believed on these writings, using them to assert His own position:
So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, And The Birds Of The Air Nested In Its Branches.”
The small caps indicate that our Lord was quoting directly from the Book of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 17:23), the prophet and priest who was taken into captivity in 597 BC during the second deportation which was imposed on the Jewish leaders and aristocracy by their Babylonian overlords.
Or consider Matthew Chapter 24, when Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the returning Messiah;
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man Coming On The Clouds Of The Sky with power and great glory.
The small caps in this tract is a citation from Daniel (see Daniel 7:13).
The many Christian denominations that avoid such books are, in a very real sense, depriving their congregations of the importance Jesus placed in these writings. The words of St. Paul seem especially prescient here;
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
Yet another feature of the NASB 1995 edition is the use of capitalised personal pronouns properly ascribed to deity;
God said to Moses,”I AM WHO I AM”: and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Many Bible commentators have expressed the opinion that compared to other good word for word translations of Holy Scripture, the NASB reads and sounds a bit “wooden.” I understand this position, as the NASB can indeed come across as a bit awkward and hollow in places, but this was deliberately done so as to maintain the highest degree of one-to-one correspondence with the original tongues. And while no translation of the Bible in English can be said to be wholly word-for-word, since this would make the text essentially unreadable, I have personally appreciated the strident efforts the NASB translators made to anchor their choice of words in the original texts. On my own personal journey studying God’s word, I have come to admire the academic excellence that went into creating the NASB, as it was a thoroughly enriching experience, and look forward to seeing the new edition when it finally becomes available. It will not replace my personal favourite translation, the NKJV, for general use, but for serious study, the NASB will most certainly be top of my list.
A Few Examples of NASB Bibles
Good quality Bibles don’t need to cost the Earth. I personally avoid overly ornate Bibles as they are largely impractical to use on a regular basis and my rule of thumb is simple; if the Bible is too beautiful to soil, don’t use it.
That said, like many of the more popular translations, the NASB comes in a variety of convenient forms. For example, below is shown a compact large print edition of the NASB with the words of Christ in red. The cover is synthetic (leathertex) and has a lovely gold gilding as well as a smyth sewn binding:
My own personal NASB is also a 1995 edition, with a good, large font size, and wide side margins replete with copious cross-references for in-depth study;
It is not a red letter edition, but does have an 82-page concordance and a series of full-colour laminated maps of the Biblical world. The print quality is very good, with adequate line matching, although some ghosting is apparent. The 833W volume has a durable leathertex cover with a paste-down lining. It also has a good Smyth sewn binding and a beautiful gold gilding but only comes with one ribbon marker. It was not expensive.
I am also fortunate enough to own an excellent NASB study Bible which I actually acquired second-hand. It is published by Zondervan.
The Importance of Remaining Anchored in the Word
The modern world is rapidly unlocking itself from Judeo-Christian values with disastrous consequences. Ironically, even outpsoken atheists are increasingly expressing the same concerns. Morals and values we held as ‘self-evident’ for centuries and millennia are no longer adhered to, and the consequences are all too easy to see; just look at the confused and depraved world we now live in. That is why remaining anchored in the inspired word of God is more important now than at any other time in history. Its wholesome words ground you in absolute truth and is an enduring source of comfort in a lost and dying world.
The prophet Isaiah writes;
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Ultimately it’s a choice everyone needs to make. I pray that those reading this will not end up on the wrong side of history!
Eternity is an awfully long time!
Neil English is the author of several books on amateur astronomy.