A Case for the NASB (best translation available)

(This is a post that I made for a friend’s blog, so I figured I would share it here)

Why I read the NASB and I think you should too:

1. It is a literal translation, attempting to take each word or phrase and give it the most literal word for word counterpart available.

2. The NASB footnotes and side-margin references have been praised by many for being extremely helpful.

3. It is a readily available translation, offered at all Christian book stores and pretty much every Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores I have visited.

4. It is quite readable.

5. It does not take the modern politically correct route of making all references to God, men, and women ‘gender-inclusive’ (as the NRSV is known for).

6. Compared to the other more popular translations, the NIV and the NRSV, the NASB time and time again offers the better translation. Please consider the following examples:

Matt. 25:31 NIV When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. (note: ‘heavenly’ is not in the Greek, but is certainly theologically suggestive from the perspective of the translator)
Matt. 25:31 NASB But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 

Phil. 3:14 NIV I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (note: ‘heavenward’ is certainly not the direction of believers, since Paul is talking about the future resurrection of the faithful)
Phil. 3:14 NASB I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 16:28 NIV “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (note: the Greek does not say ‘back’, which suggests preexistence when it is not in the text)
John 16:28 NASB “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John 20:17 NIV Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. (again, the Greek does not say ‘going back’ – pushing the preexistence issue)
John 20:17 NASB Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father”

Romans 10:16 NIV But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. (‘Israelites’ is not in the Greek)
Romans 10:16 NASB However, they did not all heed the good news.

Note also how the NIV translates sarx, the Greek word for ‘flesh’:

-by human effort (Gal 3:3 NIV)

-the sinful nature (Gal 5:13 NIV)

-in the body (Phi 1:22 NIV)

The NIV takes the liberty to allow its translators to flex their theological muscles in these renderings of the Greek, while the NASB is more consistent, allowing the reader to make up their own mind in interpretation.

NIV continually translates euangellion in the Gospels as ‘good news’ while translating the same word in Paul as ‘gospel’. Does this not feed the evangelical doctrine of dispensationalism? The NASB, on the other hand, is consistent in how it translates euangellion.

The NIV constantly, constantly leaves out the important word gar (‘for’) in the epistles of Paul while the NASB keeps them all.

The NIV translates dikaiousune theou (‘God’s righteousness’) as ‘the righteousness from God, and thus important a very narrow Lutheran perspective (Rom. 1:17, 3:22, 10:4).

The NIV brackets off Rom. 2:14-15 wrongly, again importing a narrow Lutheran perspective upon the text. The NASB does not.

Both the NRSV and the NIV add words to the Greek preposition ev in Rom. 2:17. The NASB keeps to the Greek.

The NIV omits the Greek nomos (‘law’) in Rom. 3:28 and the word ‘or’ in the very next verse! The NASB retains both.

Both the NRSV and the NIV make the choice for the reader about what the ‘love of God’ actually is in Rom. 5:5. The NASB leaves it for the reader to decide.

The NRSV and the NIV omit the first word in the Greek text in Rom. 7:1. Kept in the NASB.

Both the NRSV and the NIV completely ignore the Greek text in Rom. 9:31 and add their own rendering to the text. The NASB remains faithful.

Gal. 3:23 NIV Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

Gal. 3:23 NRSV Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.

Gal. 3:23 NASB But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. (Note how the law is given a negative function in the NIV and NRSV, while the Greek does not indicate a negative meaning (nor do any of Paul’s other usages of the same word)).

I’m sure that I have scribbled in my Greek New Testament a few other places where the NIV or NRSV have off-translations. But for now, this will have to do. I don’t claim that the NASB is without its flaws, or even that the NRSV doesn’t have some very good traits to it. I just feel that the NASB has been an enormous help in studying the Bible, both academically as well as spiritually. I highly recommend it =)


23 thoughts on “A Case for the NASB (best translation available)

  1. Thanks for the great blog. I am just now reading it, as I have sought info on accurate contemporary translations for study. I too have used the NASB (1977 version) for years, and so far, have preferred it overall to other contemporary translations that I have sampled.

    Do you use the 1977 version or the 1995 version? Are there any significant differences? Have there been any revisions between 1977 and 1995, or from 1995 until now.


      1. NIV is terrible though. The contest is between KJV, NASB, and ESV. I go with the KJV. Because fear of God issues. I really think the bible NT should be textus receptus based. Only the KJV uses the TR. I’m not a jerk about it. I just know that the KJV is legit and that most of the arguments against it are pretty weak. The KJV isn’t that hard to read at all, for one thing. Also the argument about “oldest and best” manuscripts is kind of dumb. Older doesn’t at all mean better, and the textus receptus has much weight in how much the manuscripts all agree with each other. Anyways, my two cents. Hey man, I really respect that you stand by your bible tho. The “textual critics” out there are really hurting things, making it seem as though we are still waiting on scholars and archaeologists to reveal God’s word to us.

      2. Cmon man.
        Thee and thou was to indicate a singular person. Ye was to indicate a plural body.
        It makes it clearer to have those in there. It’s not like people walked around saying thee and thou back then, the reason it’s in the text is to make things clearer for the reader. So, changing it all to ‘you’….that’s not helping things.

    1. Dear Jim,
      The 1977 edition of the NASB is definitely more “form
      accurate” than the 95 Update. The NASB-77 retains
      most of the “connectives” and “inferential particles”
      contained in the Hebrew and Greek texts. The 95
      Update tends to omit the inferential particles in some
      places. The 95 Update also omits a frequent phrase
      found in Hebrew and Greek…”and it came to pass,”
      or “and it happened.” Some scholars see such phrases
      as unnecessary redundancies, but they, like the
      conjunctions are often key to correct exegesis.

  2. Dustin,
    I love you, but I feel like you have so many much more important things you could be discussing. I just don’t feel like arguing about which translation of the Bible is the best is really the best use of your resources or that brilliant teacher’s mind that God gave you. Challenge me, don’t throw opinions (or whatever you want to call them) about Bible translations at me.

    Plus, I bet a lot of people are a lot more interested in what God is speaking to you through His word rather than which version of His word you’re reading out of.

    Just a thought for the night.
    I miss you, my friend.

    1. Have you ever played a game of telephone? One person whispers something into another person’s ear which they in turn whisper what they think they heard into another person’s ear and so on. By the time it gets to the last person and he announces what he thinks the first speaker said it is often quite different from what the speaker, in fact, said.

      When I sit down and read it is because I want to read what God has said, not man’s opinions. Thus having an accurate Bible is very much appriciated.

    2. I totally disagree. For any serious student of the word of God, this issue is of utmost importance and this post was extremely helpful.

    3. I disagree Jaymin. Just because you are not interested in bible translations, doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t. This post has proven to be EXTREMELY helpful! Probably the MOST helpful when it comes to picking a bible translation, than any post I’ve ever read! Lol. He’s not arguing. This a good discussion. People have layers so we shouldn’t force them into our box. For the serious bible student who doesn’t rely on man to tell him/her what God is saying, this thread is a godsend.

    4. Jaymin,
      I disagree. Having more translations simply gives more opportunity for the reader to “get it right”. We all know we only NEED one bike, one car, one jacket, one shelter over our heads, one serving of food each time we sit down to eat. But think of how one dimensional and harsh our environment becomes if we only allow ourselves one of everything. One pair of underwear, one pair of socks, one hat (if you wear hats), one flavor of soda (if you drink soda), one pair of shorts, one purse (for the women out there), one bible translation (ahhh, there it is…..yes, I’d like to have many translations in my language so I can see how different translators view God’s Word. Perspectives do affect language.) It really is a beautiful thing to compare translations. You see the Bible from so many angles and they all point to God’s majesty in one way or the other (well, at least the ones that qualify as translations). No, having more than one translation is not frivolous, or a waist of a good intellect. On the contrary, it encourages more focus by the student on God’s Word, and the intent of the Speaker through the men who wrote those words down…

  3. In the market for purchasing a new bible and found your article to be very helpful. As they say ‘the devil is in the details’.

  4. I agree that the NASB is very useful as a study text. I favor
    the more modified-literal translations because of their
    closeness to the Hebrew and Greek. I have found that the
    ASV-1901 is more literal than the NASB, but it is also very
    archaic and difficult to navigate. If a person can
    work through the old English, it makes an excellent text
    for study purposes.

    1. I would like to make everyone aware that AMG Publishers has made
      the 1977 edition of the NASB available once again in the Giant
      Print Handy Size format. It has a crisp 11 point type, concordance,
      maps and comes with a 100% satisfaction guaranteed! The print is
      wonderful and it is a very hand friendly size in black or burgundy
      bonded leather!

      1. I have the AMG large print Bible. It is made in Bonded Leather and the binding seem to be pretty good. The only problem for me personally is that, unlike most NASB study bibles, this Bible does not have ALL the margin references but only lists a few on the bottom of the page. Other than that, it is a great Bible. The size is convenient, print size excellent and each Book gives an introduction that it often helpful. Overall, it is a very good Bible, Some pretty good 1977 NASB Bibles can still be found in print through AMG and also Thompson Chain Reference. You can get some great deals on 1977 NASB Bibles on Ebay too.

  5. Dustin-

    I happened across your post while making the case to a friend for the NASB being an excellent study tool for some of reasons you mentioned. However, I was deeply concerned for you over 2 of the points you made.

    Do you mean to say that Christ had no “preexistence” (re: your John 16:28 point)? For John 3:13 & Philippians 2:6-7 make plain that Christ “descended from heaven” and “existed in the form of God” prior to having “emptied Himself”

    Secondly, why call God crediting “righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) a “Lutheran” doctrine, rather than the doctrine of the very Gospel itself? For we cam either “submit to the righteousness of God,” as did Abraham (Rom. 4:1-9; 10<

    1. Romans 10:3, or we seek to establish our own righteousness, unlike Abraham, the “man of faith” who “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

      For, Dustin, and all who read this post, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved; 4 with the heart a person believes resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation.” According to the Lord’s own word, if you view salvation any other wise, you are left, unlike Abraham, “with something to boast about,” unsubmissive to God’s righteousness and in imminent danger of being consumed by “the wrath to come.”
      (Romans 4:2 & 1 Thes. 1:10)

      1. I call it a Lutheran doctrine because they have misunderstood what Paul (and 2nd Temple Judaism meant by works). Paul meant the laws which designate a Jew over and against Gentiles, such as circumcision, Sabbath keeping, food laws, etc. See 4QMMT where the phrase “works of the Law” shows up meaning the works that define one group against another. Luther took works, divorced them from their Jewish meaning, and though they meant merit-earning deeds.

        Paul argues in Romans 3-4 that covenant membership is based upon faith, and not on ethnic identity. I’d recommend NT Wright’s commentary on Romans in the NIB series.


    2. Hi Randy,

      Jn 3:13 speaks of the descent, yes. But in the language of the Johannine literature, one is either “from above” or “from below,” meaning they are on God’s side or against him. The disciples themselves are “not of this world” (15:19), but that does not mean they have descended from heaven literally. In fact, every good and perfect gift is from above – James 1:17 (figuratively, not literally). John the Baptist was “sent from God” in 1:6, but this also does not convey an origin in heaven. Therefore, I think there are sufficient reasons to interpret 3:13 figuratively instead of literally. Not to mention the fact that both Matthew and Luke record birth narratives which speak of the begetting (coming into existence) of Jesus.

      Phil 2:6 does not say that he “existed” in the form of God, as in the past tense. The Greek verb is a present participle, meaning existing in the present. This has nothing to do with prehistory. It is referring to the human historical Jesus (2:5) and his life of giving up his privileges so as to serve others. The imitation Paul makes in 3:4-14 shows the same ethical trend of giving up present privileges for the sake of service towards others.

      Hope that helps.


    3. Jesus was the son of God, not God. He was not a mature being who turned into a baby. He was born to a woman named Mary after she was impregnated by the holy spirit. Constantine and the reformers decided the doctrine of the trinity would be the doctrine of the church, which they stole from pagan religions.

  6. Justin-

    Thanks for taking time to answer my question in such short order. However, do you really think the context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is really whether or not he is on God’s side? Note that Jesus says,

    “No one has ascended (anabebeekan, “has gone up”) into heaven, but He who descended from (ek, “out of”) heaven: the Son of Man.” (John 3:13)

    Either way, what’s really cool about what Jesus says here is his reference to himself as “the Son of Man,” a clear allusion to the One spoken of in Daniel 7 whom “all peoples, nations and men of every language” will serve forever, for his “dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away.” (13-14)

    Speaking of this exalted title which Jesus attributes to himself, I would love to hear your thoughts on Stephen’s prayer to “the Son of Man” just prior to being stoned to death.

    “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said,

    Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said,

    “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

    (Acts 7:55-60)

    Since Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit” when he prayed to Jesus, echoing Christ’s prayer to the Father for mercy on his own executioners just prior to asking God to receive his spirit, we must conclude that Jesus is the eternal God, and thus has always existed. Otherwise, why would a man “full of the Holy Spirit” be found praying to him.


    1. There is just no way anyone can honestly read the New Testament and deny that Christ is God in the flesh. That He is eternal. He created all things. By Him all things hold together. Anyone who claims to read the New Testament and says other wise, makes me doubt they have really read it. There is no way around the fact that Jesus Christ is LORD.

  7. One item that hurts me regarding the revised NASB is the fact the translators replaced long-suffering with tolerant. God is not tolerant of sin. He hates all sin and this is why Christ died on the tree of crucifixion. Long-suffering it true to the Greek and tolerant is not. God is long-suffering desiring none perish. Thank you for listening.

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