NASB 2020 Review, Part 2 — Direct Comparisons in John, Hebrews, and Psalms

In part 1 of this NASB 2020 review, I dove a bit into major passages concerning gender, the Greek term doulos (slave), and the Hebrew term hesed, which is mostly translated as “lovingkindness” in the NASB 1995.

In the time between part 1 and now, my wife gave birth to our fourth child (hence the delay) and the entire NASB 2020 text has become freely available on Bible Gateway and YouVersion*. While I had been approaching this review from the standpoint of being an only-point-of-access for anyone who had not spent the money to purchase a physical volume, that’s clearly no longer the best approach. What this means now is (1) I don’t have to type the NASB 2020 manually, and (2) we can place the texts in parallel, highlight the differences, and explore from there.

In this post, I’ll present some typical examples that should help you get a feel for the 2020 translation in general. This has more to do with just organizing what I’ve compared so far versus trying to avoid controversy. Controversy may be greater in the next post when I look at 1 Corinthians 14.

These links are not the normal automated Blue Letter Bible links. They will open PDFs where I’ve handwritten comparisons between the 2020 and 1995 in parallel view. 

John 3 — This chapter gets fairly marked up. We see the oft-feared gender neutrality change from “man” to “person,” “the man” into “the one,” etc. Monogenes in v. 16 becomes “only” instead of “only begotten.” Treatment of the Greek conjunction kai when connecting sentences and paragraphs is improved in my opinion.

Hebrews 1 This chapter receives a much lighter edit. We see some work done on prepositions and correlative pronouns. You’ll also notice in v. 8 where “O God” becomes just “God,” a change that appears throughout the 2020.

Hebrews 2 We see a bit of the gender-neutrality motif here along with some changed translations of individual words, a change of decision in a large textual variant, and some language modernization in verse 6 that I just don’t think sounds good. “But one has testified somewhere” becomes “But someone has testified somewhere.” I get that people generally don’t use “one” as the subject of a sentence as a pronoun anymore, but “someone” sounds like just any random person at some point in time until the context narrows it down. I would not characterize the change from “him” to “the one” in verse 14 under the gender-neutrality issue, as this is actually a substantival participle with an article rather than a simple male pronoun.

Hebrews 3 Here we see two strange examples of lack of literality. In vv. 8 and 15, we see “Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,” when a literal translation of as in the rebellion” like the ESV would have been perfectly fine and readable. This was one aspect of the NASB that I thought would improve between 1995 and 2020. A similar situation happens in v. 9, where tried Me by testing Me” becomes “put Me to the test.”  Here, the 1995 was more literal. This is also a text-critical issue. The inclusion of “me” has solid external evidence, but canons of internal evidence generally favor the shorter reading, and the NASB editors sided with the latter both times. The LEB, by comparison, reads “tested me by trial.” Sticklers on soteriology may also raise an eyebrow at v. 14, where “assurance” is changed to “commitment.” This one will require more digging.

Psalm 19 A commenter from part 1 pointed this chapter out. In my opinion, it’s a good example of changes made for the sake of modern language that need not have been. The judicial imagery in v. 13 gets lost. The traditional English metric rhyme of v. 11 is gone, though it survives in v. 9. Most strangely, the “strong man” in v. 5 is now a “strong person,” strangely enough coming right after the imagery of a groom (changed from “bridegroom”) coming out of his chamber. The tent for the sun in verse 4 is now like a groom and a gender-undetermined “strong person.”

Psalm 25I chose this chapter because of its three instances of hesed / ‘lovingkindness’ in the 1995 now being replaced with “faithfulness.” We also have many instances of “O Lord” replaced with just “Lord.” Verses 15 and 20 lose some imagery. Most will likely agree that the changes, while more modern, are neither helpful to understanding nor appealing to the ear.

* YouVersion is operated by a multi-site megachurch with prosperity gospel connections. Pick something else.

More posts on published Bible versions

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