There are several significant dates in the history of the NASB. In 1960 the NASB first appeared as just the Gospel of John. This was followed in 1962 with the translation of the Four Gospels. The completed New Testament was issued in 1963, the Psalms in 1968, and the entire Bible was published in 1971. But the history of the NASB does not begin with any of these dates.
According to the original preface to the NASB New Testament, the NASB is a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. The reason for the production of the NASB was because "the producers of this translation were imbued with the conviction that interest in the American Standard Version should be renewed and increased." The "chief inducement" for the publication of the NASB "was the recognized value of the version of 1901 which deserves and demands perpetuation." The "most weighty impetus" for the production of the NASB "can be attributed to a disturbing awareness that the American Standard Version of 1901 was fast disappearing from the scene. As a generation which knew not Joseph was born, even so a generation unacquainted with this great and important work has come into being." The responsible party for the NASB, The Lockman Foundation, because of a perceived "responsibility to posterity," sought to "rescue" the ASV "from an inevitable demise" and to "preserve it as a heritage for coming generations."
The preface to the NASB New Testament then listed six "observations" about the ASV:
1. The American Standard Version of 1901 has been in a very real sense the standard for many translations.
2. It is a monumental product of applied scholarship, assiduous labor and thorough procedure.
3. It has enjoyed universal endorsement as a trustworthy translation of the original text.
4. The British and American organizations were governed by rules of procedure which assured accuracy in the completed work.
5. The American Standard Version, itself a revision of the 1881-1885 edition, is the product of international collaboration, invaluable for perspective, accuracy and finesse.
6. Unlike many modern translations of the Scriptures, the American Standard Version retains its acceptability for pulpit reading and for personal memorization.
In view of all that the preface to the NASB New Testament said about the ASV it would seem like the simple solution would have been to merely republish the ASV. But obviously, this was not done, or we would not have the NASB.
The reason the ASV was not reprinted is two-fold. First of all, The Lockman Foundation did not own the copyright to the ASV. And secondly, even if The Lockman Foundation had the copyright, it would have soon expired thereby allowing anyone to publish the ASV. Under pre-1978 copyright law, the copyright on a work endured for twenty-eight years from the date of publication but could be renewed during the twenty-eighth year.1 This is what happened to the ASV. In 1928 the copyright of the ASV, held by Thomas Nelson and Sons, was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education.2 This council is now a part of the National Council of Churches.3 The Council then renewed the copyright and established the American Standard Bible Committee.4 Under the law at that time, copyright renewals lasted for another twenty-eight years.5 But soon after the Committee was formed, work was begun on what was to become the RSV.
After the NASB New Testament was published in 1963, the emphasis on the ASV in the forward, preface and other introductory material was toned down considerably over the years. The forward to the 1963 New Testament states: "It has been the purpose of the Editorial Board to present to the modern reader a revision of the American Standard Version in clear and contemporary language." Later editions change this to: "This translation follows the principles used in the American Standard Version 1901 known as the Rock of Biblical Honesty." But beginning with the forward to the 1975 edition, reference to the ASV in the forward is dropped completely. The preface to the 1975 edition is likewise amended. Gone are the six observations about the ASV and the adulation predicated toward it. In fact, the preface is omitted entirely and the heading "Principles of Revision" is changed to "Principles of Translation." Then in the 1977 edition we are told in a brief preface that The Lockman Foundation only recognized "the values of" the ASV and that the ASV "has been highly regarded for its scholarship and accuracy." And this time, instead of "revising the ASV," we are told that "The Lockman Foundation felt an urgency to update it by incorporating recent discoveries of Hebrew and Greek textual sources and by rendering it into more current English." The NASB was now only "based on the ASV" as it sought to "preserve" the "lasting values of the ASV." And in a outburst of self-adulation peculiar to the editions, one paragraph under the heading "Principles of Revision," in the 1971, 1972, and 1973 editions, states that "it is enthusiastically anticipated that the general public will be grateful to learn of the availability and value of the New American Standard Bible. It is released with strong confidence that those who seek a knowledge of the Scriptures will find herein a source of genuine satisfaction for a clear and accurate rendering of divinely-revealed truth."
Another notable difference between the preface of the 1973 and earlier editions and those appearing later is the mention of other versions of the Bible that were not mentioned in the original one. Besides the ASV, the only translation mentioned in the original preface is the Revised Version of 1885. But in the 1977 preface, the King James Version is mentioned in the first sentence. There it is lauded as "time-honored" and "the most prestigious" of English Bible translations. However, we are informed that the KJV is "itself a revision of the Bishops' Bible of 1568." Moreover, it is also announced that "in the preparation of this work numerous other translations have been consulted along with the linguistic tools and literature of biblical scholarship."
The preface that appears in the NASBU contains even more changes. Reference to the ASV is reduced from even the 1977 preface. And this time, instead of a new translation "based on the ASV," the preface states that the NASBU is "based on the time-honored principles of translation of the ASV and KJV," as if the KJV and ASV were actually alike in that respect.
No matter which preface to the NASB that one reads, the fact remains that the history of the NASB goes back to the ASV. But since the ASV is merely the American edition of the RV published in England in 1885, the history of the ASV must necessarily begin with the RV. Yet, one still cannot jump from the ASV straight to the NASB, for there is one other version that likewise claims to be an authorized revision of the ASV.
The Revised Version
Although the translation of the RV officially began with a resolution in 1870, culminating in the publication of the New Testament in 1881 and the complete Bible in 1885, the impetus can be traced to the appearance in 1832 (re-edited in 1836 and 1849) of Hints for an Improved Translation of the New Testament by James Scholefield, a professor of Greek at Cambridge. This was followed in 1856 by William Selwyn's Notes on the proposed Amendment of the Authorized Version. This in turn initiated Archbishop Trench's work in 1858: On the Authorized Version of the New Testament, in connexion with some recent Proposals for its Revision. Meanwhile, in 1856, five scholars, among them C. J. Ellicott and Henry Alford, agreed to privately undertake a revision of the Authorized Version New Testament beginning with the Gospel of John. This revision was first published in 1857 as The Authorized Version of St John's Gospel, revised by Five Clergymen. Subsequent translations of Romans and Corinthians appeared in 1858, while Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians were issued in 1861. Alford later produced his own translation of the New Testament. As the work of the RV was commencing, Ellicott brought forth Considerations on the Revision of the English Version of the New Testament and in 1871, Lightfoot, one of the translators, added On a Fresh Revision of the English New Testament. In America, a volume edited by Philip Schaff appeared entitled The Revision of the English Version of the New Testament, which contained the essays by Lightfoot, Trench, and Ellicott.
On February 10, 1870, Bishop Wilberforce introduced a motion to the Upper House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury:
That a Committee of both Houses be appointed, with power to confer with any Committee that may be appointed by the Convocation of the Northern Province, to report upon the desirableness of a revision of the Authorized Version of the New Testament, whether by marginal notes or otherwise, in all those passages where plain and clear errors, whether in the Hebrew or Greek text originally adopted by the translators, or in the translation made from the same, shall, on due investigation, be found to exist.6
By an amendment, the Old Testament was included in this proposal and a committee was appointed.7 On May 3, 1870, the following report was issued consisting of five resolutions:
1. That it is desirable that a revision of the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures be undertaken.
2. That the revision be so conducted as to comprise both marginal renderings and such emendations as it may be found necessary to insert in the text of the Authorized Version.
3. That in the above resolutions we do not contemplate any new translation of the Bible, or any alteration of the language, except when in the judgment of the most competent scholars such change is necessary.
4. That in such necessary changes, the style of the language employed in the existing version be closely followed.
5. That it is desirable that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong.8
These resolutions being adopted, another was proposed and approved:
That a Committee be now appointed to consider and report to Convocation a scheme of revision on the principles laid down in the report now adopted, and that the Bishops of Winchester, St. David's, Llandaff, Gloucester and Bristol, Ely, Lincoln, and Bath and Wells, be members of the Committee. That the Committee be empowered to invite the co-operation of those whom they may judge fit from their Biblical Scholarship to aid them in their work.9
A joint committee of sixteen then convened and separated into two companies, one for the Old Testament and one for the New.10 Invitations to become members of the Revision Committee were sent to the leading scholars of the day, including Trench, Hort, Lightfoot, Milligan, Moulton, Scrivener, and Westcott.11 Tregelles declined on account of failing health. The Roman Catholic, John Henry Newman, likewise dissented. A Unitarian, G. Vance Smith, also served on the committee.12
The general principles to be followed during the work were eight in number:
1. To introduce as few alterations as possible into the Text of the Authorized Version consistently with faithfulness.
2. To limit, as far as possible, the expression of such alterations to the language of the Authorized and earlier English versions.
3. Each company to go twice over the portion to be revised, once provisionally, the second time finally, and on principles of voting as hereinafter is provided.
4. That the Text to be adopted be that for which the evidence is decidedly preponderating; and that when the Text so adopted differs from that from which the Authorized Version was made, the alteration be indicated in the margin.
5. To make or retain no change in the Text on the second final revision by each Company, except two thirds of those present approve of the same, but on the first revision to decide by simple majorities.
6. In every case of proposed alteration that may have given rise to discussion, to defer the voting thereupon till the next meeting, whensoever the same shall be required by one third of those present at the Meeting, such intended vote to be announced in the notice for the next Meeting.
7. To revise the headings of chapters, pages, paragraphs, italics, and punctuation.
8. To refer, on the part of each company, when considered desirable, to Divines, Scholars, and Literary men, whether at home or abroad, for their opinions.13
The work on the New Testament began on June 22, 1870, with Bishop Ellicott as the chairman.14 On July 7, 1870, it was voted by the Convocation of Canterbury "to invite the co-operation of some American divines."15 An American committee was formed in December of 1871 with Dr. Theodore Woolsey elected chairman of the New Testament and Dr. William Henry Green of the Old.16 Dr. Philip Schaff was chosen president of the whole committee.17 Work actually began in October of the following year after copies of the precursory revision finished by the English revisers were circulated to the Americans for review.18 The American scholars who worked on the revision included James Strong, J. Henry Thayer, and the Baptist T. J. Conant.19
The completed New Testament was published on May 17, 1881:
The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Translated out of the Greek: being the Version set forth A.D. 1611. Compared with the most ancient Authorities and Revised A.D. 1881. Printed for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford, at the University Press, 1881.
The same was also published at Cambridge, at the University Press. The demand for the new revision was great, both in England and America.20 It was called "the best version of the New Testament ever made."21 But soon after its publication, the new revision was opposed in England by the textual scholar, Dean Burgon, in a series of articles for the Quarterly Review of 1881 and 1882. These articles were published in 1883 as The Revision Revised. Millions of copies, however, were still quickly sold in England and the United States.22
The Old Testament was concluded four years later, and on May 19, 1885, the complete revised Bible was published:
The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments. Translated out of the Original Tongues, Being the Version set forth A.D. 1611. Compared with the most ancient Authorities and Revised. Printed for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford, at the University Press, 1885.
The same was also published at Cambridge, at the University Press, as both institutions had the sole copyright and paid for the expenses of the British Committee.23 After the arrival of the complete RV, some of the revisers began work on the revision of the Apocrypha. It was made available in 1894 and bore its own title:
The Apocrypha, Translated out of the Greek and Latin tongues; being the Version set forth A.D. 1611, Compared with the most ancient Authorities and Revised A.D. 1894. Oxford, at the University Press, 1894.
Although Westcott and Hort supplied to the Revision Committee the readings of their forthcoming Greek Testament, the New Testament text was an eclectic one.24 Not only were the various editions of the Received Text available, but also all the critical editions of Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, and Tregelles. The readings adopted by the revisers were published in the Oxford Greek Testament of 1881. The Old Testament revision was not as severe as the New since it was based on the same Massoretic Hebrew text as was the Authorized Version.25
Besides containing many differences from the KJV because of the Greek texts it followed, the RV as a whole is characterized by a revision and reduction of italicized words, a revision of the punctuation, the omission of page and chapter headings, a listing of alternate renderings and variant readings in the margin, and an attempt to render each Greek and Hebrew word uniformly. The text is divided into paragraphs and the verse numbers are put along the edge of the text. In their preface to the New Testament, five types of alterations from the text of the KJV are delineated: the adoption of a different underlying text, where the rendering seemed to be wrong, where the text was ambiguous, where the KJV was inconsistent with itself in the renderings of two or more passages confessedly alike or parallel, and those rendered necessary by consequence of changes already made, although not in themselves required by the general rule of faithfulness.
Philip Schaff, the head of the American Committee, claimed that the RV was "the most faithful and accurate version ever made for popular use, and that it brings the English reader far nearer to the spirit and words of Christ and his Apostles than any other version."26 And although he could say in 1891 that "the Revision has been steadily gaining ground among scholars and thoughtful laymen who take the trouble to compare the rival versions with the Greek original,"27 he admitted that "to the great mass of English readers King James's Version is virtually the inspired Word of God."28 So despite the initial euphoria over the RV, it has been relegated to the dustbin of history and copies can scarcely be found in antiquarian bookstores.
The American Standard Version
The ASV is not an entirely new translation but a simply an American edition of the English RV. The recommendations of the American Committee of the RV had to be approved by a two-thirds margin by the English Committee to be included in the RV.29 It was then agreed that any of the American suggestions for revision that were rejected be made known:
If any differences shall still remain, the American Committee will yield its preferences for the sake of harmony; provided that such differences of reading and rendering as the American Committee may represent to the English Companies to be of special importance, be distinctly stated either in the Preface to the Revised Version, or in an Appendix to the volume, during a term of fourteen years from the date of publication, unless the American Churches shall sooner pronounce a deliberate opinion upon the Revised Version with the view of its being taken for public use.30
The introductory note to an appendix to the RV that was to contain the American Committee readings was given to the English Revisors in the following form:
The American New Testament Revision Company, having in many cases yielded their preferences for certain readings and renderings, present the following instances in which they differ from the English Company as in their view of sufficient importance to be appended to the Revision, in accordance with an understanding between the Companies.31
This appendix was not meant to contain every reading preferred by the Americans but only those deemed most important.32 Dr. Schaff suggested "a small Appendix for the authorized edition of the Revision, and a separate publication of all our changes, which shall perpetuate the results of our ten years' labor for the use of scholars."33 The appendix consisted of two parts. The first contained classes of changes while the second contained specific changes.
For reasons never given by the English Revisors, the actual heading of the published appendix to the 1881 Revised New Testament was merely:
List of readings and renderings preferred by the American Committee, recorded at their desire.
This abbreviated heading led the public to believe that the appendix contained all of the places where the two Committees differed.34 The appendix to the 1885 Revised Old Testament likewise consisted of two parts but the heading affixed to it was much longer:
The American Old Testament Revision Company, while recognizing the cordial acceptance given to many of their suggestions, present the following instances in which they differ from the English Company, as of sufficient importance to be appended to the Revision in accordance with the original agreement.
The English revisers who produced the Revised Version disbanded their committee at the conclusion of their work. According to the preface to the ASV, the American Committee viewed the appendix to the Revised Version containing their preferences as "prepared under circumstances which rendered fulness and accuracy almost impossible." Therefore, the Committee continued its work and resumed full activity in 1897 when Thomas Nelson and Sons was secured as the publisher.35 The leader of the American effort, Philip Schaff, had died in 1893, and after other deaths and resignations, the New Testament Committee was reduced to just three in number: Dr. Dwight, Dr. Thayer, and Dr. Riddle.36 The Americans held their last committee meeting on April 19, 1900, and as the fourteen-year period previously agreed upon had expired, the complete American revision was released on August 26, 1901.37 The title page reads:
The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments translated out of the original tongues, being the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1881-1885. Newly Edited by the American Revision Committee A.D. 1901. Standard Edition. New York, Thomas Nelson & Sons.
The Bible was copyrighted and on the verso of the title page was certified the statement from which its name was drawn:
This Standard American Edition of the Revised Version of the Bible, and editions in conformity with it published by Messrs. Thomas Nelson & Sons and certified by this endorsement, are the only editions authorized by the American Committee of Revision.
The New Testament also carried its own title page:
The New Covenant commonly called the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, translated out of the Greek, being the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised A.D. 1881. Newly Edited by the New Testament Members of the American Revision Committee. A.D. 1900. Standard Edition.
Unlike the English Revisors, the Americans did not include the Apocrypha in their endeavor.
The changes made in the ASV did not merely consist of transferring the readings of the Revised Version appendix to the text. Many of the alterations were "originally adopted by the American Old Testament Company at their second revision (and so by a two-thirds majority), but waived when the Appendix was prepared."38 Some renderings consist of a "return to the readings of the Authorized Version."39 Where possible, certain changes were also "made for the sake of euphemism," since in modern times some terms "have become offensive."40 Furthermore, the general intention "to eliminate obsolete, obscure, and misleading terms" from the Authorized Version has "been more fully carried out."41 Other specific corrections were made "which have seemed to be required by regard for pure English idiom."42 Considerable attention was also paid to the paragraph divisions and punctuation.43 One of the most distinctive features of the ASV, besides the use of American spellings for many words, is the use of the word "Jehovah" for "the LORD" in the Old Testament. Another peculiarity of the ASV is the usual substitution of "Sheol" for the words "grave," "pit," and "hell." Thus, the ASV leaves the word "hell" in the Bible only thirteen times--all in the New Testament. The text of the ASV is divided into paragraphs, but unlike the English RV, which put the verse numbers along the edge of the text, the ASV inserts the verse numbers in the text making it more difficult to read and look up references.
The reception accorded the ASV was generally favorable and for years it was acknowledged by scholars as the most accurate English version of the Bible. Matthew Riddle, the last surviving member of the American New Testament Revision Committee, claimed that in the theological seminaries "there was an immediate welcome" of the ASV and that it received no scholarly opposition.44 The American Bible Society emended its constitution to enable it to publish the ASV.45 One reviewer from the University of Chicago insisted that "with regard to the work as a whole, one can have no hesitation in saying that the American Standard Edition is by far, and in every respect, the best English translation of the Bible in existence, both for scholars and for people."46 Benjamin Warfield of Princeton considered the ASV as "more modern, more scholarly and more reverent" than the RV.47 One ad in 1911 called it "the best version in any language."48 It is significant to note that although one writer esteemed the ASV to be "the most perfect English Bible in existence," he recognized that "the people in general still cling to the Authorized Version."49 John R. Rice recommended the ASV in his 1969 book on the Bible and claimed that the ASV "corrects some mistakes in the King James Version."50 But like its English cousin the RV, the ASV has likewise been relegated to the dustbin of history and copies can scarcely be found in antiquarian bookstores.
The Revised Standard Version
The NASB is not the only version that claims to be a revision of the ASV. The Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Testament of which was published in 1946 and the complete Bible in 1952, claims to be an "authorized revision of the American Standard Version, published in 1901, which was a revision of the King James Version, published in 1611."51 The title page reads:
The Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, Revised Standard Version. Translated From the Original Tongues, Being the Version Set Forth A.D. 1611, Revised A.D. 1881-1885 and A.D. 1901, Compared With the Most Ancient Authorities and Revised A.D. 1952.
The 1946 New Testament title page had a slightly different reading:
The New Covenant Commonly Called The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Revised Standard Version. Translated From the Greek, Being the Version Set Forth A. D. 1611, Revised A. D. 1881 and A. D. 1901, Compared With the Most Ancient Authorities and Revised A. D. 1946.
If the RSV is a revision of the ASV, then two questions need to be answered. Why did the NASB translators undertake a revision of the ASV when it had already been done? And secondly, why did the NASB translators completely skip over the RSV and go directly back to the ASV? As will presently be seen, the controversial readings of the RSV and the character of many of its translators provide the answer to both questions.
When the copyright of the ASV was acquired in 1928 by the International Council of Religious Education, the Council renewed the copyright and established the American Standard Bible Committee with fifteen members.52 The Committee was authorized to further revise the text of the ASV if deemed necessary provided that "all changes in the text shall be agreed upon by a two-thirds vote of the total membership of the Committee."53 Although the work of the Committee began in 1930, the lack of funds halted their plans in 1932.54 In 1937 the work of the Committee was again resumed after securing a contract with Thomas Nelson and Sons, the publishers of the ASV, to finance the work in exchange for the exclusive right of publication for ten years.55 According to the International Council of Religious Education:
There is need for a version which embodies the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of the Scriptures, and expresses this meaning in English diction which is designed for use in public and private worship and preserves those qualities which have given to the King James Version a supreme place in English literature. We, therefore, define the task of the American Standard Bible Committee to be that of revision of the present American Standard Bible in the light of the results of modern scholarship, this revision to be designed for use in public and private worship, and to be in the direction of the simple, classic English style of the King James Version."56
The RSV was produced by thirty-two scholars from various denominations. Like the RV, the Committee was divided into Old and New Testament sections, with the work on the New Testament completed first.57 Luther Weigle served as chairman, while James Moffatt, who himself made his own translation of the Bible, served as executive secretary until his death in 1944.58 After the publication of the complete Bible in 1952, a section of the Committee was designated to translated the Apocrypha and it was issued in 1957.59 Some changes were incorporated into the text of the previously released New Testament when the completed Bible was published.60 In 1962, the Revised Standard Version was again slightly revised.61 In 1965 and 1966, Catholic editions of the RSV appeared.62 The official second edition of the RSV New Testament was issued in 1971.63 In 1989 the New Revised Standard Version was published under the editorship of Bruce Metzger. It is a radical revision of the RSV that seeks to "continue in the tradition of the King James Bible, but to introduce such changes as are warranted on the basis of accuracy, clarity, euphony, and current English usage."64 So like the NASB, the RSV has its own "update."
The reasons given by the American Standard Bible Committee for undertaking a revision of the ASV are threefold. The first is because the RV and ASV "lost some of the beauty and force which made the King James Version a classic example of English literature."65 The second is that "scholars are better equipped today than they were sixty years ago, both to determine the original text of the Greek New Testament, and to understand its language."66 And finally, the Bible "must not be hidden in ancient phrases which have changed or lost their meaning; it must stand forth in language that is direct and clear and meaningful to the people of today."67 The preface to the RSV further adds that the RSV "is not a new translation in the language of today. It is not a paraphrase which aims at striking idioms. It is a revision which seeks to preserve all that is best in the English Bible as it has been known and used through the years."
Although the Old Testament of the RSV is claimed to be based on the traditional Hebrew text, departures from the text were adopted "based on the ancient versions."68 Variants have been settled by "the best judgment of competent scholars."69 The New Testament text is an eclectic one, although the final readings can, for the most part, "be found either in the text or the margin of the new (17th) edition of Nestle."70 A notable difference between the RSV and the ASV in the Old Testament is the change of the word "Jehovah" back to "the LORD" as it appears in the KJV. And throughout the entire Bible, the old pronouns "thee," "thou," "thy," and "ye" have been replaced with the modern "you," except in language addressed to God. But like the ASV, the RSV puts the verse numbers in the text. Quotation marks are used for direct speech. And although the preface to the RSV claims that the KJV has "grave defects," and the Greek text upon which it was based is said to be "marred by mistakes, containing the accumulated errors of fourteen centuries of manuscript copying," the RSV was still advertised as being in the tradition of the KJV.71 When the RSV first appeared in 1952, full-page ads by Thomas Nelson in The Christian Century announced the arrival of "a new authorized version--more accurate and easier to read--that preserves the timeless beauty of the beloved King James translation."72
The RSV was warmly received by denominational churches and liberal preachers and theologians, including official endorsements by Norman Vincent Peale and Harry Emerson Fosdick,73 but it also met with severe criticism. There was a rash of pamphlets written against the RSV with such titles as The Bible of Antichrist and The New Blasphemous Bible.74 The ashes of a burned RSV were sent to Luther Weigle, the chairman of the American Standard Bible Committee.75 There are several reasons for the bad reception given the RSV in some circles. The first is the acknowledged theological liberalism of many of its translators. Some of the translators were also accused of being "communists or fellow travelers."76 Secondly, the fact that the RSV was published under the auspices of the National Council of Churches, known as being infiltrated with communists, was cause for concern. Thirdly, the presence of a non-Christian Jew, Harry M. Orlinsky, from the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, on the Old Testament section of the Committee was especially troubling. The fourth reason for the attacks on the RSV stems from some of its corrupt readings. The two notable examples being the substitution of "young woman" for "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 and the removal of "begotten" from John 3:16. And finally, the extremely ecumenical spirit of some of the translators was another nail in the coffin of the RSV. In 1965, as a result of his work on behalf of a Catholic edition of the RSV, the head of the Committee, Luther Weigle, was named a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Paul VI.77 It is because of these factors that the NASB claims to be directly related to the ASV and never even mentions the RSV.
What is interesting about many who have denounced the RSV is that the same men and organizations have no problem recommending the ASV or NASB even though they are both based on the same type of Greek text as the RSV and contain many of the same corrupt readings. Three examples would be: Stewart Custer, head of the Bible department at Bob Jones University, Robert Sumner, an evangelist, and former editor of the Biblical Evangelist, and John R. Rice (deceased), an evangelist, as well as the founder and editor of the Sword of the Lord. In Custer's book Which Translation? he denigrates the RSV but recommends the NASB.78 When the complete RSV first appeared in 1952, Robert Sumner issued a scathing attack on the RSV,79 but in his book Bible Translations, he calls the NASB "reliable" and "translated by competent, evangelical men who revere the Word of God."80 In Rice's book Our God-Breathed Book--The Bible, he faults the RSV for being a liberal translation while at the same time praising the ASV.81 The corrupt readings that are followed by the NASB and RSV against the KJV will be thoroughly documented in part two of this book.
The New American Standard Bible
Although the history of the NASB begins with the RV and encompasses the ASV and RSV, there is one other version of the Bible that the NASB is related to: the Amplified Bible. Both of these translations are the product of The Lockman Foundation of La Habra, California, a non-profit, interdenominational organization founded by F. Dewey Lockman in 1942. The stated objective of The Lockman Foundation is the "translation, publication, and distribution of the Bible throughout the world."82 The fourfold aim that guides all of the translation work of The Lockman Foundation is as follows:
1. These publications shall be true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
2. They shall be grammatically correct.
3. They shall be understandable.
4. They shall give the Lord Jesus Christ His proper place, the place which the Word gives Him; therefore, no work will ever be personalized.83
The doctrinal statement of The Lockman Foundation declares that "the entire Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God; the only infallible rule of faith and practice."84
F. Dewey Lockman (1898-1974) was converted in Garden Grove, California, in 1927.85 After his citrus farm prospered and he had acquired much land, he began to turn over his vast land holdings to The Lockman Foundation which he formed in 1942.86 By 1960 he had deeded the last 10 percent of his land to the Foundation.87 Although Lockman's home church was the First Baptist Church of Anaheim, California, he was also a member of the Masonic Order.88 After developing a Bible study program for servicemen in Southern California and establishing summer Bible schools at many Orange County churches, Lockman and his wife Minna turned their attention to the development of Christian literature.89 This culminated in the 1954 release of the first translation produced by The Lockman Foundation: the Amplified Gospel of John. This was followed by the complete New Testament in 1958. The Amplified Old Testament was issued in two parts in 1962 and 1964, while the complete Bible appeared in 1965. It was produced by a committee of "qualified Hebrew and Greek scholars."90 The Amplified Bible "amplifies" the text by supplying alternative renderings or additional words "to reveal, together with the single word English equivalent to each key Hebrew and Greek word, any other clarifying shades of meaning that may be concealed by the traditional word-for-word method of translation."91 It is further maintained that "possibly for the first time the full meaning of the key words in the original text is available in an English version of the Bible."92
But after the publication of the Amplified New Testament, Lockman still saw "the need for a translation of the Bible that would be clearly readable in current English language, but without sacrificing ANY accuracy in the translation from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic."93 Therefore, he "organized a group of scholars and pastors in 1959" to begin the translation of the NASB.94 After beginning with two Bible scholars and two pastors, more members were added to the translation committee until more than forty-five "pastors and scholars had helped in the work" by the time the completed NASB was published in 1971.95 For years the names of the translators were withheld, but since the publication of the NASBU, they have been readily available. The names of the original translators, as well as those who worked on the update, will be found in appendix 2. Most of the original translators "hold doctoral degrees in the Biblical languages and actively teach these languages in universities and seminaries."96 The denominations that were represented included: Presbyterian, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Nazarene, American Baptist, Fundamentalist, Conservative Baptist, Free Methodist, Congregational, Disciple, and Independent Baptist.97
The NASB has several distinctive features in its format that set it apart from the ASV and the KJV. The "Jehovah" of the ASV is replaced with "the LORD," thus matching the KJV. The old pronouns "thee," "thou," "thy," and "ye" have been replaced with the modern "you," except "in the language of prayer when addressing Deity."98 Personal pronouns are capitalized "when pertaining to Deity."99 Quotes from the Old Testament are printed in small caps in the New Testament. The text is divided into paragraphs and indicated by a bold verse number. Quotation marks are used for direct speech. The Greek historical present is "translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage."100 The Hebrew text employed by the NASB was "the latest edition of Rudolph Kittel's BIBLIA HEBRAICA."101 This was supplemented by "the most recent light from lexicography, cognate languages, and the Dead Sea Scrolls."102 The Greek text followed for the New Testament "in most instances" was Nestle's 23rd edition.103
The New Testament of the NASB was published in 1963 with extravagant advertising claims. It was advertised as "the literary masterpiece of this generation" and "the major contribution of our generation to Biblical literature."104 It was also further advertised that "for personal reading and public worship, the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE--NEW TESTAMENT is destined to surpass all other versions and translations of Holy Scripture."105 Full-page ads touted the endorsement of Earl Kalland of Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Merrill Tenney of Wheaton Graduate School, and Stewart Custer of Bob Jones University.106 Wilbur Smith lauded it as "certainly the most accurate and the most revealing translation of the New Testament that we now have."107 When the complete Bible appeared in 1972, Theodore Epp recommended it as "one of the very finest translations," one that "you can trust, because it is a very accurate translation."108 In a review of the complete Bible in Moody Monthly, the NASB was "highly recommended for any kind of serious Bible study."109
Not everyone, of course, accepted with open arms the NASB. When the New Testament first appeared, Zane Hodges, writing in Bibliotheca Sacra, declared that the NASB was unfaithful to the Greek text and concluded that "though more accurate in many places than other versions, there are probably just as many new faults introduced as old ones removed."110 Since the publication of the complete Bible in 1971, several tracts and books have been written against the NASB.111 F. F. Bruce (certainly no friend of the KJV), in his book on English Bible history, perceptively said about the NASB: "If the R.S.V. had never appeared, this revision of the A.S.V. would be a more valuable work than it is. As things are, there are few things done well by the N.A.S.B. which are not done better by the R.S.V."112
The mention by Bruce of the RSV brings us back once again to the motive behind the production of the NASB by The Lockman Foundation. As was seen in the previous section on the RSV, the controversial readings of the RSV and the character of many of its translators are the reasons why the NASB claims to be directly related to the ASV and never even mentions the RSV. But although the prefaces to the various NASB editions (including the update) all connect it with the ASV, the NASB differs in many significant passages from the ASV and actually has much in common with the dreaded RSV.
The first thing to be noticed is the places where the NASB differs significantly from the ASV. In the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah contains thirteen passages where the NASB differs from the ASV because it follows the reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls.113 In addition to these, the NASB often follows the readings found in "ancient versions" that the ASV did not.114 And on several occasions, the NASB follows a textual conjecture.114 In the New Testament, the NASB likewise departs in many instances from the ASV. As has been mentioned, the Greek text followed in the New Testament of the NASB (as stated in the preface) was the 23rd edition of Nestle. Therefore, it was inevitable that the NASB would differ from the ASV. In the Gospels alone, the NASB differs substantially from the ASV in over forty places.116 But even though the NASB was supposed to follow Nestle's text, there are a number of passages where the ASV reading was retained against the reading of Nestle.117 There are even some places where the NASB disagrees with both Nestle and the ASV.118
Many of the differences mentioned that exist between the NASB and the ASV were prerecorded--in the RSV. In the Old Testament, the RSV corrects the Hebrew text in eleven out of the thirteen places where the NASB followed readings in Dead Sea Scrolls.119 The RSV likewise often follows the NASB in correcting the Hebrew text with the readings found in "ancient versions."120 And the RSV also agrees with many of the same textual conjectures that the NASB does.121 In the New Testament, the NASB often unites with the RSV against the ASV.122 And on occasion, the NASB unites with the RSV against both the ASV and the Greek.123
So although the RSV is not mentioned in the preface to the NASB, it is evident that the NASB has just as much in common with the RSV as the ASV. The controversial readings of the RSV and the character of many of its translators are the reasons why the NASB claims to be directly related to the ASV. But even though the NASB corrects the two most egregious readings in the RSV ("young woman" instead of "virgin" in Isa 7:14 and the removal of "begotten" from John 3:16), it introduces some of its own, most notably "the only begotten God" for "the only begotten Son" in John 1:18. And even though the NASB and the RSV used differing Greek texts, they still used the same type of critical Greek text and therefore differ substantially from the KJV. Therefore, to recommend the NASB while at the same time criticizing the RSV is nonsensical since they both contain many of the same corrupt readings.
The conclusions drawn in this book about the relationship between the NASB and the RSV are not just held by those who advocate the KJV. William Lane, who worked as a critic-consultant for the New Testament of the NASB,124 reached similar conclusions. After an in-depth examination of selected portions of both versions, Lane concluded: "First, that the excellencies in style and diction found in the New American Standard Bible are primarily those already found in the Revised Standard Version, and secondly, that the existence of the Revised Standard Version imposed pressure on the Editorial Board to differ from its modern counterpart."125 He also stated about the NASB: "When compared with the Revised Standard Version of 1946 it represents no major incidence of revision. To the contrary, its changes represent slight transpositions of word order, or conflation of the renderings in the American Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version, or a straining for an English equivalent to the rendering in the Revised Standard Version."126 And another reviewer, who goes on to say that "the NASB may indeed be the contemporary English translation for which we have been waiting,"127 says that "it would seem that members of the committee were dissatisfied with the RSV, which was intended to be the successor of the American Standard Version, and that theirs is now an attempt to retain the more conservative aspects of the ASV while up-dating its language to contemporary English."128 And finally, Robert Bratcher (certainly no friend of the KJV), who would later translate Good News for Modern Man for the American Bible Society, recommended the RSV as "an excellent revision of the traditional Authorized--English Revised--American Standard versions of the Bible" and dismissed the NASB because "there is no need this revision will meet that has not already been met in a more satisfactory manner by existing versions."129
The relationship between the NASB and the RSV has not changed with the publication of the NASBU. But before examining the NASBU and documenting the major departures of the NASB and the NASBU from the KJV, it will be necessary to investigate the "updates" of the NASB that have occurred before the NASBU.
Footnotes Chapter 1
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