Skip to content

ESV vs. NASB

August 10, 2012

I have been engaged in a survey and evaluation of many current English Bible translations. The ESV and NASB are part of this analysis. The following is a summary of my comparison between these two fine translations. I will admit that it is subjective and I stress that this is strictly my opinion based upon what I have learned thus far.

General Comments about the ESV:
The ESV is a relatively new translation developed by a team of scholars over several years. It is a revision to the RSV from half a century ago. As such it stands in the time-honored tradition of Tyndale, Geneva, and King James. It is a highly accurate and readable translation while maintaining a literal standard with the original language. For a thorough analysis of the essentially literal philosophy I highly recommend Leland Ryken’s book “The Word of God in English.” He makes a compelling case for the essentially literal philosophy over and above the more popular dynamic equivalent philosophy used in many more contemporary translations such as the NIV and NLT. Also, the ESV has as its goal to maintain the literary nature and quality of the original. Since the Bible contains many different forms of literature (poetry, narrative, didactic, etc.) the translators attempted to maintain this literary form and structure within the English language. This is good and helpful to the reader of Scripture in that you can read the Bible in the same sense in which the original readers would have read it.

General Comments about the NASB:
The NASB is a conservative revision to the ASV and is widely regarded as the most literal translation in English. Though it has never seen wide distribution due to its perceived “woodenness” of the translation it has been widely used in seminaries and by those seeking to have an English Bible that reflects the Greek and Hebrew grammar and style. To be fair to the NASB the charge of being “wooden” is not really an accurate assessment especially since the 1995 update. In my opinion and experience it is every bit as readable as the ESV and perhaps better than the NKJV and KJV.

Pros for both the ESV and NASB:
1) Both are accurate and reliable translations.
2) Both are essentially literal.
3) Both are readable English.
4) Both stand in the tradition of Tyndale, Geneva, and King James.
5) Both use the best manuscripts to translate the NT.

Pros for the NASB:
1) Regarded as the most accurate Bible in English.
2) Excellent translational notes. All areas where there is a significant variation in the text or translation you will find a footnote with the alternative translation.
3) OT quotes in the NT are in all capital letters making them very easy to find.
4) Pronouns referencing deity are capitalized. This may not be great use of English grammar but it is appropriate and makes the discussion easy to follow in areas where many pronouns are used.
5) Makes a sincere effort to not function as the interpreter of the text. Thus allowing the reader to function as the interpreter. In a day and age when dynamic and even paraphrase translations are on the rise in popularity this is a serious plus.

Cons for the NASB:
1) Follows Greek and Hebrew word order closely. This can make for some difficult readings in English. Though the charge of “wooden” English is a bit unfair, there are areas of this test which are difficult English and do not flow well when read aloud. The 1995 update went a long way to help this but it is still an issue with the translation.
2) Not all translational decisions take advantage of modern scholarship. Traditional readings are sometimes favored over more accurate readings. For example the use of the term “inspired” rather than the more accurate “God-breathed” in 2 Timothy 3:16 (thought this is footnoted.)
3) The NASB retains some archaic English terms even though they do not best represent the clear translation of the original text. For example, the use of the term “begotten” in John 1:14, 18, and 3:16 is an attempt to translate a Greek term meaning “one and only” or “unique.” Begotten does not mean this and is an improper translation of the Greek. I am not a Greek scholar by any means but this opinion is supported by many scholars. The NASB footnotes the more accurate translation but chooses to use the other term. Why this was done is only known by the translators.

Pros for the ESV:
1) Maintains a balance of accuracy with good readable English. The ESV can easily be read aloud and understood by both the reader and those hearing.
2) The English used in the ESV is of a higher quality that we normally see in our everyday life. This is actually a good thing. I know people assert the fact that the NT was written in the common form of Greek as support for making translations sound more like our everyday speech. I sympathize with this viewpoint but there is a difference between making a translation understandable to modern people and making it in the base vernacular of the day. I believe that there is a place for translations at a lower level of English but this is frequently done at the expense of accuracy and results in a much more dynamic and interpretive translation. Also, the vernacular English of our day is typically devoid of reverence and awe. The English Bible should call Christians to a higher standard and allow the teachers and pastors to interpret the text. It is difficult to worship a God who is referred to as “Dude” (no translation currently does this but there is a decided lack of respect for the Almighty in many of the more paraphrase-leaning translations available.)
3) It has been embraced and endorsed by many Christian leaders. (RC Sproul and John Piper to name two.) This is not a reason by itself to embrace this translation but it is significant when knowledgeable and godly Christian leaders agree on a Bible translation.
4) The footnotes are very helpful. They not only explain translational issues but the offer some explanatory notes as well. (Ref: Matt. 27:26 which footnotes the word “scourged” to offer an explanation as to what this means.) This is well done and not overdone.
5) The ESV is easy to follow along with when in church services or Bible studies where either the NIV or NASB is being read. In our church the main preaching Bible is the NASB but every now and then the NIV is used. I have found that it is much easier to follow along from the ESV to these than from the NASB to the NIV.

Cons for the ESV:
1) There are a few areas where the use of English is not quite as elegant as it could be and other areas where accuracy was seemingly sacrificed for readability. A good example of this is Romans 8:28 where the word order of this text is very different from what most other translations use. There is no clear reason as to why this was done. Most translations would say, “all things work together for the good to them that love God,” (KJV). The ESV translates this, “for those who love God all things work together for good.” Read these two out loud and see which one feels more natural. The ESV changes the word order but there is no logical reason I can see to do this.
2) Some textual decisions that should be footnoted are not. (Ref: Matt. 18:15 which includes the variant in the phrase “If your brother sins against you.” “Against you” is not in the earlier MSS but no footnote is provided explaining this. This slightly changes the direction of the argument and should be noted. In my opinion the textual evidence is stronger for not including “against you” than for including it so it should not be there in the text. The NASB recognizes this and properly footnotes the “against you” phrase.
3) Pronouns referring to Deity are not capitalized. Not an essential element, and not proper use of English grammar, but I happen to prefer it. It can also assist with following pronouns in some passages. Though, to be fair this is a form of interpretation.
4) OT quotes in the NT are not as clearly marked as in the NASB. In fact, they are not clearly marked at all. The footnotes are helpful for this.
5) The ESV has a history of relatively frequent revisions. It is a good thing to update a translation but the ESV is now on its third major revision in ten years. It was originally released in 2001 and revised in 2007 and then again in 2011. This makes the “one Bible for life” difficult to keep up with. Some people are not bothered by this but I am one who prefers the most up to date version and frequent changes like this are somewhat frustrating. I would recommend avoiding purchasing a high-end edition of the ESV until they stop the 5-year revision schedule. I understand the desire to keep up with English use and correct issues in the translation but 5 years is far too frequent to maintain stability for the usage of the translation in the church. I admit that this frustrates me and almost makes me want to reject the ESV out of hand. However, I will admit that the most recent changes have been minor and there are no further plans that I have heard to make further modifications.

All in all I would say that either translation is good. Both effectively communicate the word of God in our language and both are readable for those who make an effort to do so. We should be grateful that we have either one of these much less both. I tend to find myself switching back and forth between these two fine translations but my normal reading Bible is the ESV. My reason for this is simple. I prefer to read something in English that flows well in literary form and yet provides clear and accurate translation. While there are problems with the ESV (as with any translation) they are minor in my opinion. I still use the NASB and still appreciate it but I tend to think of the ESV as the NASB that went back to English class. The NASB is still a wonderful resource for serious Bible study but only marginally better than the ESV and the ESV more than makes up for the margin in other areas.

Whatever translation you choose please make sure to read it. The best translation of the Scripture is little more than a doorstop and dust collector if it is not read.

Update (October 2012):
I feel I must amend my comments here. Having been reading from the NASB the last several weeks, I have to retract my comments about the English style. I have found that the ESV and NASB are close enough to being equal as to be insignificantly different in this area. The ESV is still marginally better in English but only marginally in my opinion. Given that, I would have to recommend the NASB since it is more accurate and contains better footnotes. Several passages highlight the NASB footnotes but a good example of this is found in John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The footnote is on the phrase “only begotten” and says, “Or unique, only one of His kind.” This is actually a better translation of the Greek word and, while the NASB chooses to translate with the traditional phrase, at least the better translation is available to the reader. By contrast the ESV translates this with, “only Son” which is not as accurate and no footnote is provided.

This is one example among several. Another can be found in Matthew 18:15 and I leave the reader to look that up. This is not to say that the ESV is inferior but I think the better study tool is found in the NASB. If you want a translation that is easier to read you can choose one of the more dynamic translations (NIV, NLT, HCSB, NET, etc) for that purpose (my combination right now is the NASB and NET). However, I would encourage you to give the NASB a try before you assume it is “wooden” English. You may find that it is not as bad as you have been told.
God bless.

About these ads
61 Comments leave one →
  1. Geoff permalink
    August 16, 2012 10:14 am

    Actually, the ESV has not had a “major revision” since it’s inception in 2001. The last round of updates in 2011 address about 250 items, including punctuation, small word changes, etc. Previous updates were to a similar extent, as compared to a “major revision” like what was recently done to the NIV 2011. Completely different categories.

    • Knight permalink*
      August 16, 2012 10:38 am

      Fair enough. You are correct in that it was not a major revision. Poor choice of words on my part. They have still continued to tweak and modify the text on a fairly frequent schedule. If that continues I would not suggest that anyone invest a lot of money in a Bible until they decide to let the translation “simmer” awhile.

      • Craig permalink
        April 1, 2014 9:13 pm

        Mr. Knight I’m currently getting back to really delving into the word and well I’m so use a kj or NKJV but I have been interested in the NASB john Macauthur study bible and the ESV study bible but I’m leery have picking one that is not a trustworthy translation. I was wondering as a laymen which one would you recommend that is easy to read but is highly respected and can be my everything everyday bible?

      • Knight permalink*
        April 2, 2014 6:44 am

        I would recommend the ESV Study Bible. No disrespect to MacArthur but the ESVSB is very comprehensive ( and very heavy.)

      • Craig permalink
        April 2, 2014 10:07 pm

        Mr. Knight when getting a study bible do you think it’s better to get the book itself or do you think getting it for a kindle or ipad is just as good?

      • Knight permalink*
        April 3, 2014 6:51 am

        No need to call me Mr. As for what to buy I cannot be much help to you. Get whatever works best for you. I have used both iPad and print study bibles and they both do the job.

      • Craig permalink
        April 2, 2014 12:50 am

        Mr. Knight what’s your thoughts on HCSB?

      • Knight permalink*
        April 2, 2014 6:45 am

        I am planning a future article on the HCSB. In short, I like it. It reads well without sacrificing accuracy.

      • Craig permalink
        April 2, 2014 6:35 pm

        I can’t wait because it’s got my attention but all the reviews I have seen seem to think it’s only for people of a southern baptist denomination and theology but I really can wait to hear your view on it because it looks like it might be the one I pick over the ESV

      • Knight permalink*
        April 2, 2014 8:24 pm

        I will try to get to it soon. I have heard the same things but I think they are unfounded.

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 6, 2014 2:51 am

        I have to ask would you still say the NASB is a better option over the ESV? I ask because I’ve been reading from both and for me It seems the NASB flows better but the ESV is fine although I do not like how deity pronouns are not capitalize which can make following along somewhat confusing. Would love to hear your thoughts and if they have changed at all. Thank you

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 6, 2014 3:37 am

        I wish I could edit my previous comment so I apologize I wanted to ask after reading your comments on the ESV and I happen to agree I really don’t want to invest in a study bible that’s always changing so I’m wanting to get a reliable bible translation and I’m seriously looking at NASB, NKJV and ESV of course finding a lot of material for the NASB is hard to come by but if it’s a better translation it’s worth it to me but out of these 3 any recommendations? If you do recommend the NASB I happen to come across a life application study bible in NASB I’d also like to know your thought on that as a good investment but before I buy anyone of them I most definitely will be checking to read your reply and recommendation

      • Knight permalink*
        July 6, 2014 8:14 am

        It is the ESV translation that has gone through multiple revision, not the ESV Study Bible. Minor point. As for a recommendation I still think I would recommend the NASB. While I still have a soft spot for the ESV, I think the NASB is the better translation for the serious student. For general reading I am finding myself drawn to the HCSB lately. But that is another article.

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 7, 2014 1:21 am

        You know I have to agree the NASB draws me in I don’t know why really. I do find it hard to find a good NASB study bible so far the only 2 I’ve come across is a life application and a john Macauthur I mean I’m a fan of Mr. Macauthur but I don’t won’t a study bible that’s to bias from one persons point of view. So the ESV study bible is a better choice the just the ESV. Know of any great NASB study bibles and if I can’t would going for the ESV study bible be the next one up and am I losing a lot or is the ESV study bible be on par with the NASB ? Apologize for harping on this one question but I’ve been trying to get some sound advice and you’ve been the only one willing to help so I appreciate it. Thank you.

      • Knight permalink*
        July 7, 2014 8:56 am

        Honestly, you cannot go wrong with the ESV so if you are basing your decision on the availability of a study Bible then don’t feel like you are compromising by using the ESV Study Bible. It is excellent and the translation is very good. That being said, I would recommend the following study Bibles in the NASB (in no particular order):
        * NASB Study Bible – Based on the NIV Study Bible, this is a version of the same study Bible only in the NASB translation. The notes have not been updated as often as the NIV version but it is still quite good.
        * Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible – This is probably the one Study Bible I think belongs on every Christian’s bookshelf. The catch here with the NASB is that the TCR is only available in the 1977 version of the NASB. Still good if you don’t mind the “thees and thous” in the Psalms.
        * Macarthur Study Bible – A good, reliable analysis of the scriptures and commentary. Don’t worry too much about the source being one person. First, the commentary is consistent with Macarthur’s teachings but it is not all penned by him. Second, Macarthur is a faithful expositor of the Scriptures. I do not share his view of end times, and I happen to think he pushes it too hard, but everywhere else it will be very good.
        * Hebrew/Greek Keyword Study Bible – I have seen this one but do not use it personally. It is very good to dig to the source languages.

      • July 7, 2014 9:26 am

        For NASB study Bibles, take a look at the Ryrie Study Bible in NASB. Ryrie was a well respected professor at Dallas Theological, and I’ve always enjoyed this version.

      • Knight permalink*
        July 7, 2014 11:00 am

        I had forgotten about that one. Thanks. Ryrie is one of the good dispensationalists and while I do not share his views in that area he is still very good.

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 7, 2014 7:07 pm

        Well I’m glad to hear the ESV study bible is a reliable translation because I might have to go with that after looking at the NASB and all the study tools that are offered. I really appreciate the help because after looking at so many articles I was frighten to get a ESV study bible because I kept hearing how the ESV study bible is not as reliable and then I’d read how the NASB is not that reliable either I always thought they were based on the RSV but after reading so many articles I got to the point I didn’ know which eway to go. I do have two questions and I’ll leave you alone on this subjecte. One what exactly is dispensationalism? And I hate to ask but on one of you previous replies you said you would still recommend the NASB over the ESV do you mean plain ESV or the ESV study bible? I assumed you meant you personally like the NASB but the ESV study bible is just as good as the NASB. Ok I’ll try and not ask any more on this subject thank you and a God bless

      • Bryan permalink
        July 7, 2014 9:53 pm

        Gonzo,

        I have been following some of your posts. I recently went back and forth between a new ESV vs NASB for many of the reasons you have outlined.

        I just received a new R L Allan ESV. Love the cover. I am happy with the ESV. I chose an ESV text and cross reference-indexed version. I also bought the small Crossway ESV NT and Psalms in Genuine Leather. Great for portability.

        I wanted a Bible which I could prayerfully read and apply to myself. I wanted to listen to God as I read it together with Him.

        I did not want the distraction of the Study Bible Articles. The Allan ESV meets that criteria.

        I chose the larger font size available with the non Study Bible Variety.

        Final Thoughts:

        Decide how you want to use it. Either NASB or ESV will be fine. You will have more choices I think with ESV. Do you want to use it as a Devotional Tool or as a Information Study Tool.

        I think you are ready to make your decision… I am sure you will be happy with your choice.

        May God Bless Your Decision!

        Bryan Field

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 7, 2014 10:02 pm

        Bryan thank you very much for your time and for the knowledge you have imparted on me. I will be using it as a devotional tool but I also want to dive deeper into God’s Word and even though I have come across some very negative things stated about J. I. Packer the general editor of the ESV I’m not sure that means the ESV should be thrown out.

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 14, 2014 12:48 am

        Well brother I have to say thank you very much as for your recommendation are these just regular NASB bible or are they like study bibles and also are these easy to find online just by googling them? And if possible if someone cannot afford a real expansive one would Macauthur NASB study bible be a good choice or charles ryrie NASB study bible? Thank you for all the help

    • Gonzo permalink
      July 10, 2014 8:12 pm

      Ok so I’ve been my bible study using both the ESV and NASB and I have to ask everyone but it seems that the NASB and ESV are pretty close in how they translate the Scripture and by being so close I’m lead to believe that both translations are both very reliable and well respected translations and as a new Christian I should not be concerned that if I pick one over that I will have to worry about it not being a trustworthy representation of Gods Word and that in the end my choice comes down to do I like the ESV and how it flows or do I like the NASB and how it flows? Am I right or am I missing something? God bless to all

      • Bryan permalink
        July 10, 2014 8:37 pm

        Gonzo,

        I am not aware of any major translation flaw for either translation which impacts major Biblical Doctrine. Over time you may find that you end up using both translations.

        Whichever one you select, may our Lord greatly bless your reading of the Word and speak to you through it.

        This past month I read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I wanted to get an overall picture of the Gospels. You might want to try it.

        Bryan Field

      • Gonzo permalink
        July 12, 2014 1:31 am

        Hi Bryan thank you for the input I guess what I was trying to say is that both of these translation are great trustworthy translations and in the end it might come down to personal preference and what style you enjoy between the two but from my very limited time they seem to be pretty similar just using different words to explain the same thing and like you said I might end up using both a lot. I hope that explains myself better and I hope my assessment if the two are correct and as a babe in Christ it’s just nice to know that both translations can be trusted and plus when you don’t have much money making a wise choice is always important. Any other suggestion or help you have for me is greatly greatly appreciated God bless

      • Bryan permalink
        July 12, 2014 8:30 pm

        Gonzo,

        I have been studying the Greek New Testament since 1974. Over there past month, I just finished reading the Four Gospels in the current standard Greek Text NA 28 as well as the ESV. I am currently working through the Greek New Testament. A wonderful experience. I use both NASB and ESV for verification of difficult Syntax in the Greek Text. I find both translations to be fairly literal. I use them both.

        I do think the NASB is slightly more accurate in some passages. People often say, the ESV flows better. But, that is not the real question. If the underlining Greek text doesn’t flow well, the most correct translation will also appear to not flow well. The NASB does a good job of translating idioms, also I like their choice of key words in the Psalms better than the ESV.

        I had purchased a new R A Allen ESV two weeks ago, but returned it for Schuyler Quentel NASB this was due to a flaw in the print quality. For me it was the best available with the highest quality binding and paper. In October, the Schuyler Quentel ESV will be released. I will probably buy one as well.

        So ultimately my recommendation is buy both!

        If you can afford a high end bible, you want a Goatskin Leather and print block printed by Jongbloed in the Netherlands, with as thick of paper as possible. Most text blocks these days are printed in China. They do a nice job, but I like the ones printed in the Netherlands best.

        My top two manufacturers are Shuyler Quentel or Cambridge Clarion.

        Brother, the important thing here is to read the text, apply it to yourself 1st and foremost. The minor translation differences between the two will have no bearing on your ability to read and listen to God speak to you!

        Let me know what you decide?

        Bryan Field

      • Knight permalink*
        July 13, 2014 11:33 am

        I don’t think I can add much to this. Thanks Bryan for providing your experience and expertise.

        Gonzo,
        The only other thing I would comment on is there appeared to be some confusion between the ESV and ESV Study Bible. This is not a different translation of the Biblical text. The study bible adds study tools and commentary bound in a single volume. It is very good and worthy of your bookshelf but understand that the commentary is not on equal footing with the actual Biblical text. Nor is it meant to be.

        As has been said, between the ESV and NASB, choose the one that works for you and that you feel most comfortable reading and understanding. Do not feel like you are missing anything by preferring one over the other.

      • Bryan permalink
        July 14, 2014 1:15 am

        Gonzo,

        Yes, I think either of those would be fine. I used to have a Ryrie Study Bible and liked it.

        I nearly bought the MacArthur Study Bible last month. Oddly enough, I went to John MacArthur’s church for a several years in the late 70’s and he was one of my Seminary Instructors at that time.

        The bibles I had mentioned in the last post were fairly expensive. You will do fine with either of the two you mentioned.

        Bryan

  2. Hal permalink
    October 5, 2012 6:38 pm

    You need to read “How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth” by Mark Strauss. It’ll change your mind about “essentially literal” translations.

    • Knight permalink*
      October 5, 2012 8:28 pm

      Why? What is wrong with essentially literal?

      By the way, I do read and use other translations.

      • Hollis permalink
        December 21, 2012 2:37 am

        A essential literal translation isn’t really the best translation the reason behind it is, is because one word in hebrew would need to be expounded upon. Example the term “I am that I am” ( Ehyah Asher Ehyah) would need to say I will be that I will be and then I am that I am both in the same paragraph. Now lets say where Jesus comes in and says Ehyah the way, Ehyah the truth, Ehyah the life, you’ll have to say I will be the way, I will be the truth, I will be life, I am the way, I am the truth, I am life. What I’m doing is I have to bring that one word into its fullness I can’t simply blow it off and just say I am. Another thing you’ll need to change is the Greek terms and find the hebrew root and expound on that word in order to give the bible that essence of it being pure and true to the original hebrew manuscripts. Jesus is a hebrew messiah not a Greek, so it’ll take as much time or probably even more to give the people a good thoughourgh bible. Even if people have the bible only a few people will give it a good read, less than half will read a little every now and then, and most will just shelve it. That is why creating a bible takes a whole lot of effort, you need to distort a little and sale then over the years you’ll have enough bibles to give you a good taste/accurate taste of the ancient Hebrews.

      • Knight permalink*
        December 21, 2012 8:33 am

        Hollis,
        You are entitled to your opinion but I happen to disagree with you. As do many, many Bible and language scholars.

        Again, the focus of my article was to compare and contrast the ESV vs. the NASB, NOT to debate Bible translation methodology. This is the last post I will approve dealing with that. If you want to post about these translations, fine, but no more about the translation methodology.

  3. Richard permalink
    January 5, 2013 12:36 am

    In reading both the ESV and the NASB, I admire both versions and I am happy that we have some excellent “word- for- word” translations to choose from. Having said that, I wish that more people would give the NASB more respect. Maybe it’s the Theological background of the translation team or maybe it’s the powerful marketing by the publishers of the ESV (Crossway). At any rate, while I admit that the NASB can be a little “wooden” in some places, the nuances of the language in the text and the variety of supplemental study material makes it superior (my opinion) to the ESV -albeit slightly- for the serious Bible student. I do wish that the NASB materials would have more variety in the Bibles that are out there. Having said this, which ever you choose would be a great choose and much superior to the NIV (2011 edition) and the Message paraphrase.

  4. January 15, 2013 12:46 pm

    I love both the NASB and ESV; the NASB was the Bible used by my preacher at the church I attended when I first became a Christian and I used it for many years until finally switching to the ESV, which I usually preach from. Something you failed to discuss as a con (or at least I see it as the only major con for the ESV) is that it tends to footnote entire verses that are viewed as likely not in the original manuscripts. Now they may be right about that, but I think the way the NASB does it is better by simply bracketing off the unlikely text is better because you don’t completely skip a verse that other people will have. This gets awkward in Bible studies with people and they wonder why they are missing a verse or why somewhat else skipped a verse and often a person can read right over it without even noticing they skipped what is included in other versions. In the NASB, you quickly see that this is not included in some mss (if you know what their bracketing means), but not so with the ESV because at first glance you do not know why there is a footnote without inspecting and then you realized you missed an entire verse that may or may not be in the originals.

    Still a big fan of the ESV, but I prefer the way the NASB does this, so you can readily see the verse in question.

  5. March 18, 2013 8:35 pm

    The NASB is a useful translation. One of the reasons some reject it outright,
    or use it as a secondary translation is the fact that many times the most
    “accurate” rendering of a Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word is found in the
    marginal notes/footnotes.

    The NASB is not as “modified-literal” in translation form as the ASV-1901.
    The ASV is a very accurate version, and it generally reflects what is found in
    the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Many scholars still use it as a point of
    reference when doing exegesis. The main problem with the ASV is the archaic
    language. It is extremely difficult to read.

    The NIV-2011 is not as bad as is often alleged. The English language has
    “advanced.” Words have changed meaning and yes, to the distress of some
    folks, words that were formerly understood to include both males and females
    (words like “man,” “he,” and “him”) are increasingly being confused with
    male gender. The words they translate often are not so limited. I have also
    found the NIV-2011’s policy of using “they,” “them,” “themselves,” as
    replacements for the masculine generic singulars “he” “him,” etc. has been
    a part of English use for about two decades.I remember it from the 90’s.
    Tradition often influences ones translation choice rather than simple accuracy.

    The ESV is a good translation. It, like the others I have mentioned has
    translation errors. As a general rule, when I use an English translation, the
    ESV is the one I select. Nevertheless, I must be honest, fair, and forthright
    and say that the ESV is in some ways a “politically” correct version. One
    prime example is the choice of placing “brothers” in the text for the Greek
    word ADELPHOI, yet in the footnote the admission is made, “or brothers
    and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers
    to siblings in a family. In New testament usage, depending on the context,
    adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are
    siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.” Like it or not,
    but when a congregation or mixed group is addressed by the biblical writer
    or speaker, ADELPHOI has to mean “brothers and sisters,” The authoritative
    Greek lexicons indicate this. It’s not a matter of gender inclusiveness, but it is
    a matter of gender accuracy; reflecting what the ancient biblical manuscripts
    say. There are other places where the ESV has shifted to an unnecessarily
    conservative posture. What we need are translations that accurately translate
    God’s will in our own language. Honestly, many of the strengths of the ESV
    are derived from the RSV, the translation that was used as the base for the
    ESV.

    Conclusion: A person can learn what to do to be saved from sin by reading
    the NASB, NIV-2011, and the ESV. All of them can be easily understood in
    the places where God’s directives for salvation are found.

  6. June 15, 2013 1:45 pm

    I found this post when doing a search for NASB vs ESV, and am glad to have done so. I started using the NASB IN 1973, having just accepted Christ, and it was the “latest and greatest” at that time. I used it for the next 12 years or so, and memorized whole letters of Paul, which I would now wish to revisit 35 years on. In the intervening time I’ve used the NIV and and now the ESV, but my Scripture memory work has languished because of having done so much hard work in the NASB. Do I revisit the NASB or move on to the ESV, since I need to basically re-memorize what I did years ago?

    This isn’t a trivial question, because in many cases, say Psalm 139, Philippians or James, I remember just enough to be confusing and wish to make the most of my efforts. Has anyone else dealt with this issue?

    I try to use a different version every year for my reading program, and have been very blessed doing so, but when it comes to Scripture memory, I want to be consistent.

    • Brian Phillips permalink
      August 21, 2013 1:37 pm

      What did you decide to use for memory, Tony? I too struggle with this, because on the one hand, I want the most literal and accurate text in my memory, so the Holy Spirit can use the words (which are often important) to reveal things to me in His time. On the other hand, I want to memorize from a loose translation (like the NLT) so that, when I’m sharing the Word with someone in conversation, that person won’t struggle to make sense of things as I quote a text.
      I want to like the ESV! I even bought a high-end (R.L. Allan) bible in verse-by-verse format with wide margins, and now that really motivates me to use that version (or else it’s a waste of money). I have problems with some places where the ESV translation blocks off three of four possible translations while using the one that pleases the translators theology. Example: 2 Cor 3:18, where the phrase “from glory to glory” could be interpreted a few different ways – and I like the interpretation that says “only in glory”. But, the ESV chose “from one degree of glory to another”.
      Similarly, Rom 1:17 uses the phrase “from faith to faith”, and the ESV is really inconsistent and translates it as “from faith for faith”. Here I prefer, again, “only in faith”. At least I’m consistent / concordant with my translation of Paul’s “from / to” construction. The NASB leaves the interpretation alone, and this is my preference. BUT, I’ve recorded whole books of the bible from the NASB, so that I can listen to them in my own voice, and there are a few places where it’s really rough to get the words out.

      • March 31, 2014 6:04 pm

        To Brian: I will stick with NASB for memorization. :-)

      • Knight permalink*
        March 31, 2014 7:11 pm

        Brian: Have you looked into the HCSB? I think it reads pretty well and is close enough to the NASB to follow along. It is just different enough from traditional readings to be interesting. I am planning a review of that one as well if I ever get back into writing.

      • April 1, 2014 10:21 am

        Knight, thanks for the suggestion. My wife and I have already settled on HCSB when reading together. We’re both repeatedly and pleasantly surprised to find how accurate it is – even when, at first glance, we assume it’s inaccurate.

        I love how the HCSB reads and had contemplated making it my “walking and talking” bible. It does an absolutely fantastic job in several places… Romans 8 comes to mind where “mind-set” is used in place of the NASB’s “mind”. Then in verse 12, I was surprised to see the HCSB pick up on something that has always bothered me: The Greek says, literally, “Debtors we are not to the flesh” – and the HCSB did an honest job here, instead of inserting a comma to make it look like “we are debtors, but not to the flesh”, they rolled out with “we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh”. This is (arguably) important.

        But the there are these little “nags” in the HCSB that keep me from fully adopting it. For example, Phil 3:7-8. Most versions show a contrast where Paul says “those things that were gain, I’ve counted loss…. much more, I count everything to be loss”. But the HCSB uses “everything” twice and it just doesn’t make sense:

        “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

        Even the Greek uses two different words in the above verse.

        A few more:

        Hebrews 4:1 – “…let us fear that none of you should miss it”. Huh? I just can’t get that to make sense to me. It would be much better as, “Let us fear that any of you should miss it”, or “let us take care that none of you should miss it”.

        Heb 4:11 – “… so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience”. This makes it sound like Hebrews is talking about “repetitive sins”. The word ‘into’ should by ‘through’, and ‘pattern’ would be better as ‘example’…. “so that no one will fall through the same example of disobedience” (which is unbelief).

        Rom 7:24 removes the ambiguity / word-play and says “from this dying body”.

        I can find problem verses in any translation, so it’s no surprise to find them in the HCSB. But more than the verses, there seems to be an attitude in the HCSB to translate as often as possible in an ‘exhortative’ manner. Where the ESV or NASB might say “Let us …”, the HCSB likes to use “We must…”.

        Then there’s the inconsistency of LORD / Yahweh, and also that funny thing they do by sometimes translating Christos as Messiah instead of Christ. Boggles my mind, that one.

        BUT… those are the negatives (in my opinion). I’m amazed at how well this translation reads. So, I’ve been using it to read along with my wife, and will use it in preliminary study.

        Until something new and phenomenal appears, I’m sticking to NASB for my main text – for study and memorization. I just wish I could find a 10 or 11 point font, wide margin NASB!

  7. August 7, 2013 11:42 pm

    I preached for 8 years from the ASV of 1901 and currently preach from the NKJV (started in 1989), and some from the ESV. But I ordered a NASB95 today. I had been thinking on it for some time and this article pushed me to go with it, Thanks! But I like what Tony said about Scripture memory, for that is important to good teaching and preaching.

    • Knight permalink*
      August 11, 2013 2:26 pm

      Thanks. I’m glad it was helpful to you.

  8. Joann Phillips permalink
    September 28, 2013 5:49 pm

    I am a little late in coming to this page. I am deeply grateful to the author and those who have commented on the article.
    1. I prefer the capitalized pronouns for God because it helps to make references clearer to me. As a child i remember being told that it was out of respect (and therefore required) that we do this. It is good for me to know that it really is against the conventions of the English language to do this. Lack of capitalization for pronouns referring to God was one of the things i had against the ESV, since i was being dogmatic about it and now i can lay it to rest.
    2. I appreciate the difference and thoughtfulness in viewpoints. It points out to me that we do have freedom and that the translations i choose to use have different purposes and i should not be snobby/judgmental about it.
    3. Most importantly, i need to be in the Word and memorizing the Word daily.

    Thanks to all of you for your examples and encouragement.
    A sister-in-Christ,
    joann phillips

    • Knight permalink*
      October 1, 2013 4:06 pm

      Joann, you are most welcome. I am hoping to get back to writing again soon.

  9. October 2, 2013 8:59 pm

    I appreciate this article as it seems to be a fair and unbiased assessment by the writer. Good point by Damien about ‘extra’ verses being more obvious with the NASB’s use of brackets, too. I grew up on the KJV due to my age and geographical influences, but began using the NASB in 1972. For many years it was about all I used. I’ve always thought the charge of ‘woodeness’ over-stated – and that was with the pre-Update original. At the time, after having been reading the KJV, the NASB struck me much as do paraphrases for some people – ie, it breathed new life into the text for me. So I love the NASB, still have the old one and the Update, too.

    However, I also went for a year with the old ASV almost exclusively, and often still reach for the good ole KJV, as well. I tend to read the ESV a lot these days due to having bought a single-column text layout that reads well – I like the version a lot, probably because of its KJ tradition – as all these versions are. I never warmed to the NIV, probably because it doesn’t follow in that tradition.

    I’m happy we have all these great versions. When I run across a difficult verse or concept, though, I find myself checking the NASB.

    One other plus for the ESV. The publisher deserves credit for sharing this excellent version more freely than do most – eg, e-Sword’s great, free software for Bible study. Most recent bible versions require a fee to the Publisher for the download which incorporates their version with the program, but Crossway made it a freebie. Very nice; Christian-like, I’d say.

  10. Howard permalink
    December 28, 2013 4:29 pm

    Excellent analysis. Thank you.

  11. Knight permalink*
    January 8, 2014 6:15 pm

    Just so everyone is aware. I wrote this article simply to compare and contrast these two versions. I will not permit the discussion to turn to translation methodology or arguments about manuscripts. I review all comments and any that stray off topic in this direction will be rejected. You are welcome to your opinion on these issues but I have no responsibility to provide you an outlet to voice them. If this article was about those things then this would be fair game. However, it is not.

    I am sorry if this offends anyone. You are free to start your own blog and write whatever you like.

  12. January 9, 2014 11:45 am

    I have been keeping a spreadsheet with (somewhat subjective) entries highlighting which version is better at certain points – ESV or NASB.

    To my surprise, the ESV often outshines the NASB with it’s accuracy in many places. But when it does a better job, it’s only marginally better.

    But the clincher is that when the ESV loses, it loses *big*.

    For example, in Romans the ESV translates ‘katargeo’ differently each time it is used – nullify, overthrow, is void, brought to nothing, released (okay, ‘released’ was used twice in Chapter 7). The reader is bound to never tie the theme of ‘severance’ together, and probably will never make the connection to Paul’s use of the word in Galatians (‘severed from Christ, fallen from Grace’). Paul teaches that we are ‘severed’ from the law in Romans 7 when we are joined to Christ, and in Galatians he teaches the opposite – we are severed from Christ when we put ourselves back under the law. Huge! Huge! Huge! (Now the NASB is only slightly better in this example, but it is more consistent).

    An unbiased observer might wander if the theology of the translating team – with their two (or three) over-arching covenants existing throughout all scripture, played a role in this obfuscation!

    In 1 Cor. 9:27 the ESV chooses to translate ‘doulagogeo’ as ‘keep it under control’, which serves to obfuscate the slave metaphor that Paul is using along with the ‘games’ metaphor (and therefore obscures the fact that this passage does not teach that one can lose their salvation, rather Paul is trying to win souls and not be ‘disqualified’ from winning souls). The NRSV’s “enslave it” is probably best, but the NASB’s “make it my slave” is very good too.

    Those two examples and a few others are “Big Hot Tamale Warning Signs” to me.

    Aside from those big issues, the ESV chooses awkward English so many times, that one gets the feeling the so-called ‘wooden’ NASB is in fact the NIV !! Examples like 1st John 2:7 “I am writing you no new commandment” abound in the ESV. (Compare NASB’s, “I am not writing a new commandment to you”).

    Having said all that, I’ll comment again – the ESV is surprisingly more true to the original in many places – and often has simpler and/or better english vocabulary. But for me the choice comes down to this: If I were stuck on an island with only one translation, which would it be? The NASB of course!

  13. Debra Kuron permalink
    January 13, 2014 12:54 pm

    I purposely googled NASB vs ESV because I’m unhappy with NIV’s most recent revision. I really do want to read a scripture translation that is in keeping with original manuscripts. I found the article and some of the comments to be very useful. I had decided in December to read the NASB translation in my 2014 reading program. After reading what you and others have to say, I’m not unhappy with my decision. I still have a small ESV translation and I may read it for 2015’s reading program.

    One last thought, I also like it when God pronouns are captialized.

    Thank you and God Bless,
    Debra

  14. Anita Hunt permalink
    March 23, 2014 5:22 pm

    Great analysis!! This has been so helpful in my decision about a new Bible. I had begun using NIV as a teenager, right after the translation came out. As an adult, and attempting to become more of a student of the Word, I switched to NASB95 and have used that version for about 15 years now. I love the translation; one reason is that, when a Bible teacher is explaining the Hebrew/Greek meaning of text, the translation is usually close to the wording in the NASB. However, with the rise in popularity of ESV, I thought I might switch and give it a try. Upon reading your analysis, though, the pros for NASB are generally just the things I love about the translation, and the cons for ESV are things that would peeve me in a Bible. Therefore – I’m sticking with my tried and true friend! Thanks so much with saving me time and money to figure this out!

  15. Aldrin Roy permalink
    March 31, 2014 10:18 am

    Hi,

    I do really like to have a copyright free – simple, good and right English translation which is ideal for daily reading and not just for reference.

    I love to see the pronouns referring to God – capitalised – which makes it easier to understand in some passages that it’s referring to God, my creator.

    God bless,
    Aldrin

    • Knight permalink*
      March 31, 2014 11:47 am

      I do not know of any copyright free English translation.

    • Damien Barber permalink
      March 31, 2014 5:13 pm

      King James Version is the only copyright free version that I know of that is in regular use today and it is not really that simple. Oh and just so you know the pronouns for God being capitalized in various versions are just a judgment call by the translators as to whether the pronouns are referring to God and sometimes they may be wrong if it is in a section of Scripture where it is hard to tell if the pronoun refers to God or someone else.

      • Knight permalink*
        March 31, 2014 5:23 pm

        The KJV is copyright free in the US. I believe it is still under copyright in the UK. As for the capitalized pronouns, no one ever said they were not part of the translator decisions just like many other things in any translation. I still happen to like it.

  16. March 31, 2014 6:01 pm

    Copyright law varies from country to country as noted above. As regards a “copyright free” English Transaltion, one might consider the NET (New English Translation). The NET Bible is technically not “copyright free”, in that the publisher still retains the right to control the CONTENT of the published work, but the DISTRIBUTION and use is in practice and function, essentially copyright free. It can be quoted freely. It can be downloaded at no cost. It CANNOT be modified an redistributed in a modified form.

    I personally paid for a copy with full notes when it first was released, as I believe authors and publishers should be compensated for their work. That said, the goal of the publishers of the NET Bible is, “The NET Bible’s approach towards copyright comprises a full copyright license which is explained in its “Ministry First” statement, both of which emphasize its openness and freedom. The publishers claim that “after 10 years, the NET Bible is still the only major modern translation that can be downloaded free in its entirety and used seamlessly in presentations and documents.” However, as of October 2010, the NET Bible’s copyright statement is over 1500 words long, and contains different conditions for generic copyright, diglots and bible quotations in multiple formats, including commercial and non-commercial publications.” [From Wikipedia]

    I don’t know if this advances the argument or not. I too like capitalized pronouns for Diety. Blessings and Peace in Jesus’ Name.

    • March 31, 2014 6:09 pm

      I think the WEB (World English Bible) was produced specifically for the purpose of putting it in the public domain. It’s an updated version of the American Standard 1901. The entire text can be found online and downloaded or used with ebible software.

      • Knight permalink*
        March 31, 2014 7:09 pm

        I do like the NET and I am planning on eventually writing an article about that one too. It is enjoyable though not my favorite translation. As many people have said before me, “It is worth it for the notes alone.”

        Don’t know much about the WEB though I have heard of it.

  17. Bryan permalink
    June 12, 2014 6:49 am

    Regarding your comment above:

    Cons for the ESV:

    “There are a few areas where the use of English is not quite as elegant as it could be and other areas where accuracy was seemingly sacrificed for readability. A good example of this is Romans 8:28 where the word order of this text is very different from what most other translations use. There is no clear reason as to why this was done. Most translations would say, “all things work together for the good to them that love God,” (KJV). The ESV translates this, “for those who love God all things work together for good.” Read these two out loud and see which one feels more natural. The ESV changes the word order but there is no logical reason I can see to do this.”

    Comment:

    I reviewed the Greek Text ( Nestle- Aland 28) for Romans 8:28, to my surprise, the ESV follows the Greek Text word order, the NASB does not. (I would have expected the reverse!) The clear reason in this example is that the ESV translators followed the exact Greek text word order for the words. NASB converted it into correct English word order.

    I have been trying to decide between the two translations as well. Just when I think I made up my mind, I change it again.

    However, I should say, although the NASB modified the word order to a more correct English sentence, all of the words are accurately represented. My issue with the ESV is that the translators will occasionally select a definition choice which is not as accurate. (i.e Ps 25:7 NASB uses the word ‘lovingkindness’, ESV uses ‘stedfast love’. The NASB translation most closely matches the Hebrew word and is the definition of both leading Hebrew Lexicons.
    (HALOT/BDB)

    Bryan

  18. Joseph permalink
    June 25, 2014 5:24 pm

    One thing worth mentioning is that the NASB puts words added by translators in italics. This is also true for the KJV and the NKJV, but unfortunately not with the ESV.

    Often the italics are very useful. Because verses like John 8:26 (I’m pretty sure this is the verse… I’m on my phone so I can’t check) affirm Jesus’ deity when He says, “I am He”. But the “He” is not a part of the original, but it was added so that it would read easier in English. Hence the reason the NASB, KJV and NKJV put “He” in italics. So Jesus was identifying Himself as “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). But since the ESV does not italicize words, the “He” looks as if it is a part of the original and takes away the significance of the verse.

    It is for this reason mainly that I have not abandoned my NASB for the ESV. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the ESV doesn’t italicize words added by the translators. Especially when the KJV and NKJV do.

    And I have to agree, that I don’t find the NASB wooden at all. I find it equally as readable as the ESV. I think NASB’s readability gets a bad wrap from the 1977 edition and because for a long time, the NIV completely dominated the evangelical market. And compared to the NIV, the NASB is wooden… but then again, so is the ESV.

  19. Gonzo permalink
    July 27, 2014 1:05 am

    So I’m back first I would like to give a very special thanks to Bryan and the Christian knight for there help and especially their patience. I’m happy to say I have both a ESV and NASB study bibles and love them. I also have gotten myself a HCSB study bible kindle version for only $7.99 so I couldn’t pass it up. So this is what my question is about and it has to do with Matthew 21:32 in how the scripture us translated I have heard some folks knock it because they feel it doesn’t convey regret in changing one’s mind. I feel it did a fine job of translating the scripture but maybe I’m wrong love to hear others opinion on this. God bless

    • Bryan Field permalink
      July 28, 2014 3:19 pm

      Gonzo,

      I offer the following on the passage…Repentance can be either ‘Repentance with Remorse’ or just simply a ‘Change of Mind’ as in the Parable of Matt 21:28-32

      Extract from TDNT Article -“The only NT instances are Mt. 21:30, 32; 27:3; 2 C. 7:8 and Hb. 7:21 In the parable of Jesus in Mt. 21:28 –32 μεταμέλεσθαι” ( Repentance or Change Mind) “occurs twice. The son who has rejected his father’s request rues his answer and goes to work in the vineyard. The publicans and harlots believed John, but the high- priests and elders, who saw this, did not think better and believe him. The formulation of the reproach in 21:32 refers back to the parable (μεταμεληθείς “( Repentance or Change Mind), “21:30). The son changed his mind…but the elders of the Jewish people maintained their resistance. The reproach has in view the concrete rejection of the message and person of the Baptist. “

  20. Bryan Field permalink
    July 28, 2014 7:02 pm

    One last point…There are numerous examples of Repentance with Remorse which I can think of (i.e. The most notable ones in my mind are “The Prodigal Son” Luke 15:11-30; “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” Luke 18:9-14.) These are both clear examples of Repentance with Remorse.

    There are many locations where Repentance means a change of mind.

    The example you provided appears to be one which could be either a change of mind or repentance with remorse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 188 other followers

%d bloggers like this: