I have been doing a lot of reading at the Better Bibles Blog lately, and have been checking out a lot of different Bible translations. As you are probably aware, there has been a veritable explosion of new translations of the Holy Scriptures over the past twenty to forty years, and especially since about 1990. The people who are getting into the Bible now are buying such letter combinations as the ESV, the NLT, the CEV, the HCSB, and a new one called the Message. I have made my views known on many of them; some seem to be excellent, others not so good. But this isn’t about them.
There are other, older translations out there, that are still being sold, though some are out of print. The NIV, while it’s still popular, has become passe’ in some circles. The venerable RSV, the Bible they gave me in third grade, is for the most part out of print, though it seems to be coming back among scholars. And the NASB, the New American Standard Bible, while it was updated in 1995, is still considered by many to be an “old” translation.
Over on the BBB, they talk a lot about translating the Bible into contemporary English, the English that you and I would speak today. They’re very concerned that it be good, understandable English without slang, and with proper grammar. And that’s what’s bothering me. One of the problems I have with the ESV is that the language seems to be TOO good. Oh, it’s a beautiful translation all right, but the Law and the Prophets were not written in classical English, neither were the Gospels and the Epistles. They were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, and not always the best styles of those languages. So why do we expect our Bibles to be in classical, “sacred” English?
That’s something that I have come to love about the NASB I use as my everyday Bible. It has clearly been translated from other languages. It doesn’t read like straight English, but more like the languages it came from, with all their idioms and ideosyncracies. Sometimes the word order confusing a little is. But you know, I realize it’s because I’m reading it as a closer translation than nearly any other translation. But for the most part, it really isn’t difficult to understand, though like any other translation, it isn’t perfect. But if you really want to get into good, deep Bible study, you could do much worse than the NASB. I recommend it highly.