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The ESV or the NASB?

As you can note from my blog, I use the English Standard Version for my posts.  This doesn’t mean that I am a “ESV only” guy.  I do use other translations on this blog as well as in my own reading.  I will even shock you by letting you know that I sometimes even read from the New Living Translation (actually the NLT Study Bible).  My personal favorite translation is the ESV but I do enjoy also reading from the NASB, the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New International Version (NIV).  Modern books (other than theology) often use the NIV so I keep an NIV near for that purpose.

From a scholarly perspective, which translation is better to teach and study from: the ESV or the NASB?  Here are my thoughts on both translations.

1.  The ESV Reads Easier.

I find that the ESV is easier to read than the NASB.  I used the NASB as my only translation for about three years while in college and while I do still enjoy the NASB, I find the ESV is easier to read from.  To me, the ESV reads smoother like the NIV.  It’s not as wooden in its reading especially in the Psalms.

2.  The Use of Italic Words.

The NASB is to be applauded for placing words not found in the original texts in italics.  The ESV doesn’t do this and its troublesome.  The NASB (as does the KJV and the NKJV) places words that the translators added to the text for clarity purposes to show the reader that these words are the words of the translators and not the original text.  This helps us to discern the translation process in a small way.  Unfortunetly the ESV doesn’t do this.

3.  The NASB Capitilazation of Deity.

By this I mean that the NASB capitalizes “He” for example when referring to Deity.  The ESV follows the traditional English translation of placing references to Deity in normal letters (“he” instead of “He”).  I don’t personally mind this but I do know that some believers find it helpful that the NASB or the NKJV place the references to Deity in capital letters.

4.  “Behold” is Translated by Both.

The word “behold” is largely missing in most modern translations (the NIV rarely translates the word) despite being part of the original texts.  An example is seen in Matthew 1:20 in both the ESV and the NASB.  The NIV doesn’t translate the word “behold” here nor in many other places.  Why?  The NIV translators, I assume here, feel that this word doesn’t help the text.  It is a word that the writer is simply wanting his readers to notice what he is about to write.  So why not translate the word “behold” if it’s in the original text?  Is this not the work of the translator, to be as faithful to bringing an essentially literal translation from the Greek to English?  I am glad that both the ESV and the NASB translate “behold”.

5.  The Deity of Jesus Christ.

Clearly both the ESV and the NASB teach the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Despite the KJV-only claims that modern translations attack the deity of Jesus, the truth is that modern translations are often stronger in their defense of Jesus’ deity than the KJV is.  An example is found in Romans 9:5.  Romans 9:5 clearly teaches the deity of Jesus Christ in the ESV or the NIV but not so clearly in the KJV.  The NASB is somewhere in-between.  When we examine major passages about Jesus’ deity, both the ESV and the NASB are accurate and clear in their defense of Jesus’ deity (see Colossians 2:9 for example) but I do believe that the ESV is superior to the NASB in defending Jesus’ deity.

6.  Preaching the Gospel.

Both the ESV and the NASB are good translations for preaching the gospel.  I use an ESV pitt minion Bible that is perfect for taking with you when you hit the streets to evangelize or when you go into the prisons to preach.  It’s small, compact, well made, and very durable for preaching, reading, and studying.  I also own an NASB pitt minion.  Both translations translate 1 Timothy 1:8-11 well or Exodus 20:1-17 so that we can turn to these passages when preaching to sinners the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Romans 10:9-10 is soundly translated when preaching on the Lordship of Jesus.  Luke 9:23-25 or Luke 14:25-35 are soundly translated when preaching repentance and discipleship.  Acts 2:38-39 are soundly translated when preaching repentance and baptism.  Romans 4:5 is soundly translated when refuting “works-salvation” such as with Catholics or cults.  Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-7 are also well translated in the ESV and the NASB for refuting “earning our salvation” or works-righteounsness.  Philippians 3:9 is soundly translated when preaching on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  And so many others.

6.  Praying the Scriptures.

Which Bible translation do I find useful in praying the Scriptures?  Again, I find the ESV more fluid in its reading such as in Psalms (where I pray from often) or Proverbs so I often use the ESV to pray from.

7.  Trustworthy Translations

Both the NASB and the ESV are very useful and worthy translations.  Both are essentially literal translations and follow in the pattern of John Wycliffe and William Tyndale and seek to bring together the oldest Hebrew and Greek texts and translate them as best as possible for reading and studying.  I enjoy the fact that the translators of the ESV and the NASB do not follow the pattern of dynamic-equvilent translations such as the NIV or the NLT.  While some interpretation is inevitable when translating from another language to another language, I am thankful that the ESV and the NASB seek to be faithful to the texts and allow the reader to just read the text and make their own observations.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/08/2011 at 8:18 PM

Posted in Bible Translations

Tagged with , ,

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