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 starting on 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 December 22, 2018. That last update was in 1995. The new changes are in bold text for easy identification:
Capitalization of Divine Names and Pronouns
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 those. Instead of not capitalizing any, I would prefer that these pronouns not be capitalized when there 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:
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed [engaged] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and was [kept] pondering what kind of greeting this was.
30 And 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; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
34 But Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 The 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 And 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 legally binding as was their betrothals, which required a divorce to end one. The betrothal period was usually a year. During this time the husband prepared a place for them to live, usually by adding a room onto the husband’s father’s house, the couple would marry after the room was ready. This is why Jesus said: “I go to prepare a place for you…and will come again to receive you to Myself,” (John 14:2-3 NASB).
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.
1 So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.
2 And 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.’
3 It 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.
4 And 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.
5 The 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.
6 Be 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. However, it does appear, from Colossians 2:8-15 below, that a blanket change throughout the update from “according to” to “in accordance with” is being made.
Disappointing Choices in John 1:14-18
14 And the Word became flesh, and made His home [dwelt] among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only 𝘚𝘰𝘯 [begotten] from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testified about Him and called [cried] out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who is coming [comes] after me has proved to be my superior [a higher rank than I], because [for] He existed before me.’”
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has seen God at any time; God the only 𝘚𝘰𝘯 [the only begotten God], who is in the arms [bosom] of the Father, He has explained 𝘏𝘪𝘮. John 1:14-18 NASB 2020
In verse 14, the change from “dwelt” to “made His home,” is both a poor choice and a missed opportunity. The Greek word is “tabernacled,” and that is the word that all translations should use here. John is referring to the powerful Old Testament significance of God’s presence in the Tabernacle of Moses, but now, John says, God is incarnate among us in the divine/human person of Jesus of Nazareth. To say He “made His home,” is empty of significance. Everyone makes a home somewhere, but only God tabernacles among His people. They should have kept “dwelt.”
The changes in verse 15 are weak. Someone “calling out” has a less intensity than one “crying out.” “Is coming,” has a less prophetic emphasis than the original “comes after.” “Proved to be my superior,” is weaker than emphasizing rank because God the Son didn’t prove anything by being eternal in divine nature. He ranked higher because of it.
The Lost Poetry of Psalm 27
1 The Lᴏʀᴅ is my light and my salvation; Whom should I fear? The Lᴏʀᴅ is the defense of my life; Whom should I dread?
2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
3 If an army encamps [Though a host encamp] against me, My heart will not fear; If [Though] war arises [arise] against me, In 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘰𝘧 this I am [shall be] confident.
4 One thing I have asked from the Lᴏʀᴅ, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lᴏʀᴅ And to meditate in His temple.
5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; He will hide me in the secret place of His tent; [In the secret place of His tent He will hide me]. He will lift me up on a rock.
6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer sacrifices in His tent [in His tent sacrifices] with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lᴏʀᴅ.
7 Hear, O Lᴏʀᴅ, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me.
8 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “I shall seek Your face, O Lᴏʀᴅ.” [Your face, O LORD I shall seek.]
9 Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lᴏʀᴅ will take me up. 11 Teach me Your way, O Lᴏʀᴅ, And lead me on [in] a level path Because of my enemies [foes].
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my enemies [adversaries], For false witnesses have risen against me, And 𝘵𝘩𝘦 violent witness [such as breathe out violence].
13 I certainly [would have despaired unless I had] believed that I would see the goodness of the Lᴏʀᴅ In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lᴏʀᴅ. Psalm 27 NASB 2020
The translation choices here miss the poetic placement and strength of the 1995 translation. For example, verse 5 originally emphasized God’s personal protection of the psalmist, the new wording emphasizes the tent. I don’t think the psalmist is as interested in being in a tent as he is in being protected by God. If you want to emphasize something, especially in poetry, you place it last in the sentence. The correct emphasis is also lost in verse 8. The change in verse 12b also blunts the original wording: “such as breathe out violence.” And verse 13 also loses poetic power. And the change from “enemy,” in several verses, has less poetic punch than “adversary” or “foe.” However, I do like verse 3 where “host” is changed to “army.” That’s the only change I’d keep.
“Transgressions” to “Offenses” in Colossians 2:8-15
8 See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition [according to the tradition of men], in accordance with [according to] the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with [according to] Christ.
9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every [all] ruler and authority;
10 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ,
11 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised [up] with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your offenses [transgressions] and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our offenses [transgressions],
14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮, having triumphed over them through Him. Colossians 2:8-15 NASB 2020
There are few changes in this passage. I would have preferred that only “human tradition” in verse 8 and “every” in verse 9 were made. In current culture, the word “offense” has little significance as people are offended by almost anything, and the latest offenses are determined at the speed and whimsy of Twitter. The original word “transgression,” or as most all translations read “trespasses,” is more accurate to the legal perspective of our wrongdoing against God’s Law. We don’t offend the Law. We are dead in our sins because we broke or transgressed the God’s Law.
A Few Good Changes to Joshua 1:1-9
1 Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lᴏʀᴅ, that the Lᴏʀᴅ spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying,
2 “My servant Moses is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.
3 Every place on which the sole of your foot steps [treads], I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.
5 No one [man] will 𝘣𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘰 oppose [stand before] you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not desert [fail] you nor abandon [or forsake] you.
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve [have] success wherever you go.
8 This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve [have] success.
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified [tremble] nor [or be] dismayed, for the Lᴏʀᴅ your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:1-9 NASB 2020
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.
When I checked The Lockman Foundation’s Facebook page on December 12th, 2018, I saw that they had posted John 1:14-18, Psalm 27, Colossians 2:8-15, and Joshua 1:1-9 since November 14th.
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.