This post will wrap up the part of this series that has focussed on the translations of the Tyndale tradition.
As you know by now, the NASB is the Bible I have become most comfortable with; the Bible I have used almost exclusively for the past three years or so, and so it’s probably the translation of which I can most easily write my impressions. Except it’s hard to find anything I haven’t already said!
The version of the NASB that I am writing about is the 1995 update. I understand it is not quite as literal a translation as the earlier NASB, but it is an easier read. The people at the Lockman Foundation willingly sacrificed a little of that literalism for more readability. Indeed, much of the NASB 1995 update is as easy to read as the NIV. But there are spots, sometimes whole passages, that are still quite difficult to fathom in the NASB, and for some time I often found myself going back to the NIV for help in understanding something I read in the NASB. (I’ll tell you about the opposite problem that I encountered with the NIV when I get to that review.)
My good friend ElShaddai Edwards, in a comment on an earlier post, said that a lot of NASB people tend to view the NASB almost as if it were the original manuscripts. (I thought that was the KJVO people, ElShaddai!) We must keep in mind that our English translations are just that — translations! And that means that the translators have had to deal with all the various idioms and incompatibilities that go along with the process of translating between the different languages. But this is one area in which the NASB shines, as far as I am concerned. I really enjoy seeing a Greek idiom shining through in the NASB. Here’s a quick example from John 7:47-52:
47The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you?
48“No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?
49“But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.”
50Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them,
51“Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?”
52They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.”
In my mind this is just a little peek into the way the event actually happened, and the way the scriptures were actually written. Most other translations have smoothed it out and made it more typical of standard English usage. Much of the word order in the NASB hearkens back to the original, at least as far as it is understandable in English. While this all works just fine in a Bible intended for study and devotional reading, it can unfortunately make for a real mouthful if one tries to read it out loud in a public gathering or before a classroom. I speak from experience. About a year ago I was teaching from John 16, and found myself getting very tongue-tied as I would read that passage to the class. I finally gave up and went back to the NIV for the rest of the class time. This is one place where the other Tyndale versions definitely outshine the NASB.
So what will be the future of the NASB? Is it just going to continue as the darling of certain Bible scholars and end up as just a blip on the radar screen of English Bible history? I hate to say it, but that wouldn’t surprise me. It’s just not well-suited to public reading in church, and it’s not marketed in a similar manner to the Zondervan-Crossway-Tyndale translations. But I have seen some sign that Foundation and its contractors are going to push it a bit better than they have in the past. I think the NASB will be around for a while yet. There are enough teachers and scholars who like it. But I am curious as to whether they will ever do another update like they did in 1995. I think it will be a while before that ever happens.