SINCE THE 1960s, THE NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE has been the go-to translation for many seminarians because it adhered closest to the original Greek. We used it to check our own translation work. Periodic translation updates are necessary for all translations to stay current with word usage. The NASB’s last update was released in 1995.
The Lockman Foundation Translation Committee is currently in the process of updating the NASB. This update was originally slated for release in the 2018–2019 time-frame, but as of September 12th, 2018, the Lockman Foundation is posting passages on their Facebook page identified as NASB 2020. So, you can go there, check it out, and thoughtfully join in the discussions. Be gracious, especially if you disagree with a decision they made.
In this article, we will examine NASB 2020 passages released as of November 29, 2018. The new changes are in bold text for easy identification:
Capitalization of Divine Names and Pronouns
Earlier this year, I was pleased to learn that the NASB 2020 will continue to capitalize pronouns and names pertaining to God, few translations still do. For example, when the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation was updated to the Christian Standard Bible in 2017, they dropped the capitalization (see my: The “Christian Standard Bible” 2017 Review).
The reason often cited for not capitalizing the personal pronouns pertaining to God is that some references are ambiguous. However, there aren’t many of these. Instead of not capitalizing any, I would prefer that these pronouns not be capitalized when their is doubt, but capitalized when the reference clearly is to God. I find this practice gives God more respect, and it helps the reader to more easily understand the verses.
One of the big, emotionally charged issues in Bible translation today is how to translate the Greek word ἀδελφοί (brothers). Updated releases of the New International Version (2011), the Christian Standard Bible (2017), and others have, in many instances, changed the historical translation of “brothers” or “brethren,” to “brothers and sisters.” The NASB 2020 is doing the same. We’ll look at 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and Micah 6:8.
Detractors of this practice see it as an effort to force a gender-neutral inclusiveness upon the Scriptures where non-exists. The defenders say the practice is more accurate to the original in cases where ἀδελφοί is not gender specific and is, instead, a reference to all believers. One example is 1 Thessalonians 5:14:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 1995
We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. NASB 2020
Personally, I prefer “brethren” in these instances because it reflects ancient unity among Christians, whereas “brothers and sisters” subtly perpetuates a modern division. However, I understand our times and the challenge that translators face.
A second example is Micah 6:8. A comparison of the 1995 and 2020 versions shows that “O man” was changed to “a human”:
He has told you, O man, what is good… NASB 1995
He has told you, a human, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? NASB 2020
The Hebrew word here is “Adam.” In this verse, and elsewhere in Scripture, the word Adam is being used collectively to represent all of fallen humanity. The verse emphasizes God as the divine and holy Creator, over against the created and fallen Adam and his descendants, particularly Israel. For this reason, I believe the original “O man” is clearer. Interestingly, the New International Version reads “O mortal,” which may be the best word choice of all. I think “a human” is noticeably awkward.
A Wordy James 5:16
On November 1, 2018, James 5:13–18 was posted. In this wonderful passage, only verse 16b has been changed. Compare:
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. NASB 1995
A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much. NASB 2020
The 2020 is unusually wordy for the NASB. The Greek, although a little difficult, is rather simple. The New Revised Standard Version captures it best, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
A Clearer Isaiah 53:4
On October 3rd, the Lockman Foundation posted their updated Isaiah 53:4–6 passage. Verses 5–6 have not been changed, but verse 4 has. It’s a minor change, but it’s clearer and aligns with most other translations. Compare:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. NASB 1995
However, it was our sicknesses that He Himself bore, and our pains that He carried; Yet we ourselves assumed that He had been afflicted, struck down by God, and humiliated. NASB 2020
A More Accurate Luke 1:26–38
Lockman posted the 2020 version of Luke 1:26–38 on November 8, 2018. Four words have been changed and two have been added. Due to the passage’s length, I have included the original 1995 words and put them in brackets. The two that were added are “but,” the first word in verse 34, and “also,” used in verse 35. The changed words make the passage more accurate. However, the added ones seem unnecessary, especially the “also.” Check it out:
26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed [engaged] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and was [kept] pondering what kind of greeting this was.
30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
34But Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God. 36“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth herself has conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called infertile [barren] is now in her sixth month. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38And Mary said, “Behold, the Lord’s slave [bondslave]; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38 NASB 2020
It’s interesting that they changed “engaged” to “betrothed” because the word engaged is common usage in our culture. However, our engagements are not the same as their betrothals. The betrothal period was usually a year. During this time the husband prepared a place for them to live, then the couple would marry. It was a legally binding relationship that required a divorce to end.
The use of “infertile” instead of “barren” in verse 36, makes the condition immediately clear to today’s reader.
The change from “bondslave” to “slave” is an interesting one. “Slave” is more accurate to the Greek, but the English term “bondslave” helps us to better understand Mary’s meaning. Slavery in the Mosaic Law was limited to the repaying of debts, and it was limited to a period of six years. At the end of the six years, if the person was well treated, he could decide to stay with the “employer” for life. In calling herself a slave, Mary considered herself a servant of God for life.
What’s particularly interesting is that the NASB 2020 is switching from “bondslave” to “slave,” while the 2017 [Holman] Christian Standard Bible update switched from “slave” to “servant.” Slave is most accurate to the Greek word. However, from our perspective “bondservant” is closer to the practice of the culture.
A Mixed Deuteronomy 31:1-6
I have mixed views on the 2020 version of this passage. Some changes are welcomed, some unnecessary, and others are wordy. Again, I have put the 2020 translation in bold and bracketed the current version. You can make up your own mind about them.
1So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.
2And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to go out and come in [come and go], and the LORD has told [said to] me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’
3It is the Lord your God who is going to [will] cross ahead of you; He Himself will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who is going to [will] cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken.
4And the LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them.
5The LORD will turn them over to [deliver them up before] you, and you will [shall] do to them in accordance with [according to] all the commandments which I have commanded you.
6Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or in dread of [tremble at] them, for the LORD your God is the One who is going [goes] with you. He will not desert [fail] you or abandon [forsake] you.”
The welcomed changes are: “told” in v. 2; “And” in v. 4; “turn them over to,” and “will” in v. 5; and “abandon” in v. 6.
The unnecessary changes are: “Himself” in v. 3; “in dread of” and “desert” in v. 6.
The wordy changes are: “will” to “is going to,” twice in v. 3; “according to” to “in accordance with” in v. 5; and “goes” to “is going” in v. 6. I hope these wordy changes will not be made throughout the NASB 2020, as these are inferior choices.
The 2020 update looks to be a more significant release than their 1995 update. This post is a work-in-process. I will continue to pass along news of the upcoming release. So check back regularly.
While you’re here, check out my latest blog posts.
November 14, 2018: Deuteronomy 31:1-6
November 8, 2018: Luke 1:26-38, was posted.
November 1, 2018: The Lockman Foundation posted the 2020 James 5:13–18 translation. It’s identical to the previous translation, except for the second half of verse 16. The updated verse is unusually wordy for the NASB. I comment above.
October 15th, 2018: I examined the NASB 2020 Isaiah 53:4–6 passage posted by Lockman on the 3rd.
October 10th, 2018: Today I checked and found that the Lockman Foundation has started to post passages on their Facebook page using the designation NASB 2020.
March 22nd, 2018: I was pleased to discover that the NASB 2019 version will continue to capitalize names pertaining to God. Out of reverence, I always capitalize names and pronouns that refer to God. Their continuation of this practice is good news for me.
January 12th, 2018: The Lockman Foundation reported that they are still working on the next release of the NASB, and that their current estimate is sometime in 2019. I’m sure they’ll announce a more precise date later in 2018.
On July 21, 2017, the Translation Committee made the following statement on their Facebook page:
Our primary concern is that NASB remain the best English Translation available. To that end, we are still working hard in the Old Testament and this means that the publication, at this point, will be late 2018 to early 2019. We do not want to rush the update because, so many faithful pastors and scholars depend on the NASB and we want to make sure that you have the best translation of the Holy Word that can be put in your hands. Thank you so much for your patience while we work.
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Rob Oberto, D.Min., is the award-winning author of “Intimacy With God.” The second edition is now available from Amazon. ©2017, 2018 Rob Oberto, All Rights Reserved.