We never wrote a review of the NASB as it’s certainly not the worst of the modern translations, but if you’ve examined NASB lately you’ve probably noticed what you thought was a NASB was really NASB version 2.0, or 3.0, or…
The NASB appears first on some lists as the best Bible translation; some even place it above the venerated KJV as more literal and accurate. The question arises, which NASB is referred to? At the very least, when referencing the NASB a year or version must be appended — NASB77, NASB95, NASB20, etc.
Lockman foundation describes the various flavors of the NASB:
After completion in 1971, the NASB was updated in 1977, 1995, and most recently in 2020, according to the best scholarship available at the time. The purposes of the updates have been to increase accuracy, clarity, and readability. **Every aspect of vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and meaning was carefully reviewed** during each update.
NASB 1995 …updated edition from the NASB 1977 increases clarity and readability as well as updates vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure so that the text is more easily understood. A **major change from the 1977** edition is the removal of archaic English, such as “thy” and “thou”,
NASB 2020 is an update of the NASB 1995 that further improves accuracy where possible, modernizes language, and improves readability.
The Lockman foundation disclose new editions aren’t simply printing corrections, they are completely new editions. Considerable information exists on Lockman’s site, so anyone desiring to dig into specifics are invited to do so. The main point being the NASB77, NASB95, and NASB2020 aren’t all the NASB as they have different teams, philosophies, textual foundations, and methods.
2 Timothy 2:15 remains a pivotal verse in discovering how translators view their task. First, in the KJV:
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
How do various NASB versions translate this? Notice difference in translation and mission over the years.
- 1977 — Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.
- 1995 — Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
- 2020 — Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
NASB Textual Foundation
The Alexandrian texts (Westcott-Hort) can’t compare to the Texts Receptus which provides the solid foundation of the KJV.
NASB follows some of the horrible Westcott-Hort edits, but not all, and changes from edition to edition. Examine Luke 24:51; versions omitting the final phrase “carried up into heaven” will likely be influenced from the corrupt Alexandrian textual line.
Why? Luke himself in Acts says “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which He was taken up…“
Luke says his former work (Gospel of Luke) contained until the day he was taken up. So does Luke’s Gospel mention Jesus taken up to heaven? It all depends on which version you look at, the textual basis for the translation (Westcott-Hort/Alexandrian or Textus Receptus), and how closely the translation team follows the poor Alexandrian edits.
- And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (KJV)
- And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. (Ryrie Study Bible NASB, 1978)
- While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. from biblegateway.com)
- While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. from biblegateway.com)
NASB 1977 removes part of Luke’s Gospel. NASB 1995 and 2020 restore it to the text.
Various editions of the NASB treat the “critical” or modern (Westcott-Hort) corrupt Alexandrian texts differently, which shouldn’t be a surprise as different translators used different criteria for each edition.
As another example, on biblegateway.com searching for Matthew 18:11 returns the verse “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” While the more recent “NASB 2020” returns “no results found”; Westcott-Hort deleted it from the modern critical text. Note that Matthew 18:11 does appear in the original NASB 1977 text.
Two verses revealing different influences from the corrupted Alexandrian line — in one NASB77 was wrong, later versions corrected it, in another NASB77 and NASB95 are correct, and NASB2020 is wrong.
Not surprising, as the NASB 1995 Textual Basis is the 26th edition of Eberhard Nestle’s NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE, while the NASB 2020 Textual Basis uses “NA28 supplemented by the new textual criticism system that uses all the available Gr mss. known as the ECM2.”
Obviously various groups editing the NASB didn’t follow a consistent translation philosophy or textual foundation, so it’s not surprising the result differs considerably from version to version.
NASB isn’t the worst translation. Various edits of the three editions present problems if you’re a person who likes to memorize verses (and you should); as you wear out your trusty 1977 NASB and look for a new Bible, you may get the 1995 version … or the 2020 version … or something Lockman decides to edit later.
All your memory work down the drain, as what you thought was the NASB isn’t anymore.
In fairness, NASB isn’t the only alphabet-soup translation suffering this problem, it affects the NIV, CSB, and probably others as “modern” translations continually edit God’s Word to suit the latest wind of doctrine blowing around. Reading why various translations pop up, it’s admitted up front they edit the text due to some new doctrine they want to chase.
If a claim is made the NASB is the “best” translation, or most literal (above the KJV), you must ask, which NASB are they referring to? Obviously it’s not possible for three different Bible translations to all be the best or number one. Multiple NASBs exist, and they’re not simple spelling or minor corrections.
Stick with the KJV/NKJV.