A Study of Translations: The New American Standard Version

By Bobby L. Graham

This was a purported effort to revise the American Standard Version of 1901, because of the conviction of the members of the revising committee that the American Standard Version was valuable and deserving of perpetuation. While the purpose of the committee might be recognized by many as noble and commendable, the end product is inferior to the version of 1901 because the principles and procedures used are, to some extent, faulty.

The “Principles of Revision” noted at the beginning of the NASV state that “a change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom” (manner of speaking is what they mean, B. Graham) when the committee felt that the literal translation of the American Standard Version was not acceptable to the modern reader. It would be interesting to know those literal passages that were thought unacceptable to the modern reader and the reasons why they were so judged. This very principle of getting away from literal translation is justified only when the literal translation does not carry the thought of the original into the English language. Where was this the case in the American Standard Version of 1901? This faulty principle of revision is possibly responsible for the bad rendering of 1 Pet. 3:20, “brought safely through the water,” instead of “saved through (or, by B. Graham) water.” The rendering of the NASV makes it appear that the water was not God’s means for saving Noah and his family from the destruction, but rather the thing they needed to be saved from. This is not the point of this passage in its context!

The premillennial bias of the revision committee shows through in Rev. 11:17 (“has begun to reign”) and possibly other passages.

Just as the producers of the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and Today’s English Version (also called Good News for Modern Man), so do these ruin Matthew 5:17 by having Jesus say that he did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, although Paul said that He did do this very thing in Eph. 2:15.

A grave mistake occurs in Acts 10:43, where the idea of salvation or forgiveness even before believing finds support (“every one who believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins”). Acts 15:11 puts eternal salvation too soon through the rendering “are saved,” for the text reads “to be saved” to “shall be saved”.

Acts 15:14 indicates that God’s first concern was for the Gentiles, whereas the text actually says that God at first (of the events being rehearsed) visited the Gentiles with salvation.

Romans 4:9 aids the idea of salvation by faith alone in its use of the word as, instead of the actual word unto. Abraham’s faith was counted to him unto (in order to obtain) righteousness, not as righteousness. God’s justification of him did not coincide with his faith, but followed it.

1 Corinthians has at least three faulty passages: 5:1, 911 (immorality, not the equivalent of fornication); 7:25, 40 (opinion, not the same as judgment); and 16:2 (put something aside, not the same, especially in view of Paul’s stated purpose.

Other bad renderings include 1 Pet. 3:19 (unjustified addition of the word now, though it is italicized); 2 Jn. 9 (“goes too far”-permits going beyond but not too far beyond); and Rev. 1:1 (communicated instead of signified, meaning “to set forth in symbols”, as the word really means.

Even this version is undesirable, as we can see.

Truth Magazine XXII: 30, pp. 484-485
August 3, 1978