It seems that recently I have settled in with just a few translations for most of my reading and study. It’s been either the NIV/TNIV, the ESV, or the NASB. Those are the three you will find on my Bible Translation Preferences page. But more needs to be said about this, as my thoughts will gradually change over time.
I have a nice ESV, and I do read it, sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s certainly a good translation, a solid translation. It doesn’t have a whole lot of idiosyncrasies to make us wonder what they’re trying to say or to pull us up short unexpectedly. It’s written fairly well grammatically so that it almost seems to be a more classical-style of English. But I find it rather bland at times, very academic in feel, and I have a hard time continually using the ESV as my main Bible, not that it couldn’t be.
On the other hand, I have been a user and supporter of the NIV for quite a number of years. It is the first Bible that ever spoke to me clearly, so that I could understand ideas and concepts that are so important to understanding this great salvation that we have. I still go there first for clarification of a text when I have some difficulty in other translations. And I usually have been using the TNIV to get their most updated translation. And furthermore, I plan on purchasing a new NIV 2011 in the very near future.
But the NIV certainly isn’t perfect either. While it’s clear and easy to understand, I often find it to be a bit dry, and for some reason I am easily bored by it as I get a little bit tired in my personal study time. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it has been translated into a slightly simpler form of English. They often call it something like “sixth grade reading level” or “seventh grade reading level”. The more literally-accurate translations are usually rated at eleventh or twelfth grade reading level. So while the NIV is generally easier to read and comprehend, it just doesn’t challenge the reader enough at times.
I still love the NIV and will continue to read it and recommend it. But I often crave something a little more, and that’s why I seem to keep coming back to the NASB.
I have the NASB in both a text/reference version and a study Bible version; and even in the basic text/reference one the passages I read will often just reach out and grab me. I think it’s the combination of the more complete/more difficult vocabulary they use, the grammar and rhythm of the passages, along with the wonderful NASB text notes, that makes the NASB such a pleasure to use. Sure, the text can seem a bit wooden, as is the fashion these days for so many to complain about. They are right about that, but it’s mostly because the translators are trying to retain some sense of how the scriptures sounded in the original languages, not how they sound in Elizabethan English, or how they would sound if written in contemporary English today. And I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, so I can’t always see it myself, but I know enough that I can often spot it, especially with the help of the text notes.
My other NASB is the MacArthur Study Bible, which gives me not only the excellent NASB text, the text notes and cross references, but also John MacArthur’s and his team’s wonderful study notes. It makes for one excellent Study Bible! And of course there are a number of other fine study Bibles on the market that use the NASB text and text notes/cross reference system, so it shouldn’t be at all hard to find a NASB study Bible to suit your tastes.
Now I wasn’t raised on the NASB. The first Bible I can remember was the old Revised Standard Version, so you might think I would be more impressed with the ESV or the NRSV, but not so. Then I discovered the New English Bible, but it wasn’t long before I became a fan of the NIV. It’s only been over the past decade or so that I’ve become familiar with the NASB. But more than any other, when I come back to the NASB, I feel like I have come home.