Examining the Positive & Negative Qualities
Of Various Versions & Translations
Of God's Holy Scriptures

A Critical Analysis

by Al Maxey


The New Testament writings were published in 1963, and the entire Bible came out on July 31, 1970. The translators worked for ten years before they felt this translation of the original Greek and Hebrew was ready for publication. These scholars, among whom were members of the churches of Christ, have been called extremely conservative theologically. It was their expressed goal to "give the Lord Jesus His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him." They were committed to emphasizing in this work the "full deity of Jesus Christ." The majority of these translators held doctoral degrees in biblical languages and literature, and had devoted their lives to the study of the biblical text. Some of the strengths of their work of translation are as follows:

#1 --- The NASB is extremely literal in its rendering of the Greek and Hebrew. Some have even claimed it is "unequaled in its faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew texts." Others have labeled this tendency "severely literalistic" (Bruce M. Metzger, Theology Today, April, 1976). As a result of the effort to translate the original as literally as possible, the NASB is almost completely free from "paraphrasing tendencies" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis). The NASB has kept the original word order of the Greek and Hebrew wherever possible, as they believed this was "a means the writer used to accent and emphasize what he deemed most important." Even conjunctions occurring in the original language texts have been retained, although they may be unnecessary in English, "because the Holy Spirit led men to write that way." The NASB translators write, "Words are faithfully rendered in the NASB even to conjunctions such as 'and' in the belief that these, too, helped mirror the writer's style and manner of expression. These are often ignored in free translation." Warren Wilcox writes, "The NASB renders the Greek verb tenses the most accurately of any modern translation!" He further writes that it is to be commended for being "at its very center and heart, true to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts."

#2 --- It has made an effort to place God's Word in easy-to-read, modern American English. However, because of its extreme emphasis on being literal to the original text, "it has failed to attain current English style and vocabulary in many instances. Its language is not contemporary and its English is not idiomatic" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis). Although it does not reflect current English style and idiom, it certainly does reflect the original Hebrew and Greek better than any other translation. To its credit, it considered faithfulness to the original style more important than achieving current English style. It certainly does not "flow as well" as the NIV or the Living Bible, but for those who are looking more for accuracy than style and flow, the NASB is hard to beat as a good study Bible. It is a good scholar's Bible.

#3 --- "It is a dignified translation; it is not colloquial; it does not use slang words; it does not use things that you would be ashamed or embarrassed to use in a worship service or devotional reading" (Warren Wilcox, Versions of the Bible: Their Strengths and Weaknesses).

#4 --- It has made extensive use of all the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts available, in order to try and arrive at the best original text for its translation. It has also made full use of all recent archaeological discoveries, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. Like the RSV, thirteen changes have been made to the text of Isaiah alone based upon evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls.


#1 --- Some feel that the NASB reflects a premillennial preference in some passages of Scripture. For example: Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1 read, "Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it." The word "as" is not actually in the text; it is the word "on" (which the NASB admits in a footnote in both places). Some have regarded this as reflecting a premillenial bias.

Additionally, when the word "genea" (meaning "a generation of mankind") appears, the NASB will often place in a footnote an alternate meaning of "race." Mark 13:30 reads, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." The implication of the footnote is that the Jewish race is really intended here.

#2 --- Like many translations and versions of the Bible, the NASB has fallen into the trap of seeking to interpret, rather than translate, I Corinthians 7:36-38. They have added the word "daughter" to the word "virgin," thus stating their belief that the passage is referring to a father and daughter relationship. To their credit, they have placed the word "daughter" in italics, thus indicating that this word is not in the original text, but that it has been added by the translators. Another example of interpreting instead of translating is found in I Corinthians 2:13 ..... "combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." Again, the NASB uses italics to show words which have been added to the text. Although their understandings of these passages may well be correct, they are nevertheless interpretations, and not simple, uncommented upon translations. This makes it more commentary than translation.

#3 --- There are times when a Greek word or phrase may have more than one meaning. The NASB has at times made this less clear by consistently translating a particular Greek word with just one English word. Just as rendering a single Greek word with a wide variety of English words can cause confusion (as in the KJV), so also can a lack of any variety at all be the cause of confusion in certain cases. For example: The word "sarx" is consistently translated "flesh" in the NASB, even though Paul in his writings uses this word in several different senses. In Romans 3:20 and 4:1 it is used to refer to the physical body. In Romans 8:4, however, he uses it to denote the seat of one's sinful passions (i.e.: a fleshly nature rather than a fleshly body). By selecting different words, one could perhaps convey this distinction better.

#4 --- There are other occasions where the NASB will render two different Greek words with just one English word, thus creating confusion. For example: The word "abolish" appears in both Matthew 5:17 ("Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill") and Ephesians 2:15 ("...by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances..."). These are two different Greek words, but this distinction is lost on the reader by using only one English word. This lack of distinction has also led some to suggest that these two passages actually contradict one another, when in fact they do not.

A similar problem occurs in the KJV in Galatians 6:2, 5 where the word "burden" is used in both verses ("Bear ye one another's burdens" ....... "every man shall bear his own burden"). These are actually two different Greek words. The NIV and NASB, as well as other translations, have corrected this by translating the first word as "burden" and the second word as "load." The NASB, like most translations, also fails to make a distinction in John 21:15-17 between the words "agapao" and "phileo," both of which appear in the text. It translates both words as "love," and in so doing the reader misses out on the true meaning of this important exchange between Jesus and Peter.

#5 --- The NASB is not consistent in its use of "KJV pronouns" versus those of 20th century America. Pronouns such as "Thou," "Thine," "Thee," and "Thy" are retained in the Psalms, in prayers, or whenever someone is addressing Deity. However, these are dropped in the majority of the text for the more common "you" and "your." By continuing the use of these archaic forms in certain places in the Bible, the NASB carries on the illusion that these words are somehow "holier," when in fact such a distinction in pronouns was never made in the original Hebrew or Greek ..... or even in the KJV, for that matter!

#6 --- Some have criticized the NASB for its elaborate system of quotation marks (demonstrating quotes within quotes within quotes, etc.). For example: Isaiah 36:10 ends this way: "The Lord said to me, 'Go up against this land, and destroy it.'"'" II Kings 19:7; II Chronicles 34:28; Haggai 1:2 all have three sets of quotation marks at the end.


Dr. Jack P. Lewis writes that the NASB "represents a step forward in the communication of God's Word, and it supplies many insights into obscure passages." V.E. Howard, who is extremely critical of almost all new translations, has not criticized the NASB, and in fact lists it as one of the only three translations he will accept (the KJV and the ASV being the other two). Of all the modern translations, the NASB seems to be the one people have the least difficulty accepting.

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