Posted On October 16, 2020

NASB 2020 Review (and GIVEAWAY!), part 1 — Gender, Slaves, and Lovingkindness

by | Oct 16, 2020 | Theology

NASB 2020 Large Print Ultrathin. All photos taken by the author. Poorly.

I now have two copies of the recently released NASB 2020. I’ll give you a short preview of the physical editions, and then we’ll dig into the translation.

The Lockman Foundation is selling two primary offerings: the Large Print Ultrathin edition and the Giant Print edition. I initially made the mistake of ordering the Giant Print edition, which doesn’t include all of the translators’ footnotes. The Large Print Ultrathin edition has all of the cross-references and translators’ footnotes. If you want cross-references and footnotes, the Giant Print is not for you.

The most obvious difference when one opens the actual text is paragraphs in non-poetic texts (as opposed to having a line break for every verse). With this in mind, the verse numbering remains reasonably big and easy to search through. In the Large Print Ultrathin edition, the footnotes are organized by bold chapter and verse number followed by footnote numbers that reset to ‘1’ in each verse. The Giant Print also prints direct quotations of Christ in red, whereas the Large Print Ultrathin does not.

NASB 2020 Giant Print edition

NASB 2020 Large Print Ultrathin edition

I’ll likely evaluate the physical print aspects of both editions in a later post. But now that I actually have the translators’ notes, let’s evaluate the translation a bit. A few classic aspects of the NASB translation remain the same. It retains the capitalization of divine pronouns, a major point of emphasis among fans of the 1995 edition. New Testament quotations of the Old Testament are written in small caps like this. Supplied words in English with no Greek equivalent are denoted with italics. Unlike the Lexham English Bible and upcoming Legacy Standard Bible, the tetragrammaton YHWH continues to be translated as Lord except in the case of YHWH Adonai, which is translated “Lord God.

As for differences that we won’t cover in too much depth, the textual basis has been updated based on the latest available critical texts. In the Old Testament, “Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia and, where available, Biblia Hebraica Quinta have been employed, together with the LXX, the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient versions, and the most recent scholarship from lexicography.” In the New Testament, the text follows the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 28th ed. and the Editio Critica Maior where available, though the translators did sometimes choose alternate readings where preferred. If you didn’t understand anything in this paragraph, don’t worry about it.

In this post, I’ll review a few aspects of gender, doulos (“slave”), and chesed (“lovingkindness”).

Gender

Gender is one area where skepticism has been running high. The Lockman Foundation has been releasing selected translations on their Facebook page, and these have included verses where adelphos gets translated “brothers and sisters.” Has the NASB 2020 really done an NIV 2011 and translated “brothers and sisters” where the original just says “brothers”?

Yes…and no.

To me, and probably many others, it began to look bad here where the NASB 2020 translation of 1 Thess 5:14 read like this:

1 Thess. 5:14 as depicted at Opened Heart Ministry

However, as we all should have expected from the NASB, “and sisters” is italicized in order to indicate supplied words. Moreover, the previous gender-neutral term “brethren” is phased out. Here are some representative examples.

Matthew 25:40 — A standard example of supplying “and sisters”

Here’s a plain example where NASB 2020 supplies “and sisters.” It also features a different translational take on τῶν ἐλαχίστων (tōn elachistōn, “the least”).

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Acts 6:3 — “Brethren” no more

The foreword to the NASB 2020 says this concerning “brethren”:

This word was used in past editions of the NASB as the plural of the greek “brothers” (adelphoi) because it can still be used in a formal setting to address members of a profession, society, or church, regardless of gender. However, most people today would seldom use “brethren” informally and not often in most churches. This created the challenge of choosing a replacement that would have the same meaning that led to the original use of “brethren,” and only “brothers” was deemed adequate.

Here, we have a standard example. “Brethren” is replaced with “brothers and sisters.”

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
Instead, brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them

“Brethren” appears 206 times in the NASB 1995. Comparing every single instance to the NASB 2020 is a task I will not be undertaking for now, but the next example sticks out as a weird one.

Acts 1:15–16 — A weird one

The first two Greek words in verse 16 are άνδρες ἀδελφοί, andres adelphoi, literally “Men, brothers.” The LEB translates this, “Men and brothers.” You would think the NASB 1995 would have translated, “Men, brothers,” but it actually read “Brethren.” NASB 2020 supplies “and sisters” in verse 15 but leaves verse 16 as just “Brothers.” None of these three translations directly translates “men.”

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
15 At this time Peter stood up among the brothers and sisters (a group of about 120 people was there together), and said,

16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.

15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,

16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)

16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as a guide for those who arrested Jesus.

Joshua 6:23 — Were Rahab’s sisters spared?

We read in Joshua 2:13 and its surrounding context that Rahab begs the spies to deal kindly with her father’s household and to “spare my father and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters, and all who belong to them, and save our lives from death.” There’s no postmodern gender-neutral translation here, as the Hebrew actually does have the specific word for “sisters.”

Later in Joshua 6:23, we read:

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives, and placed them outside the camp of Israel. So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives and placed them outside the camp of Israel. So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

Rahab obviously had sisters, so the NIV 2011 isn’t exactly getting “and sisters” out of thin air because of #meToo. It perhaps would have been consistent for NASB 2020 to include “and sisters” here, but the editors declined to do so.

NASB 2020 Large Print Ultrathin

Doulos

Given the popular excitement over the Legacy Standard Bible and John MacArthur’s pronouncement that it will consistently translate doulos as “slave,” it’s worth examining the NASB 2020 to see how it does the same. Doulos appears 118 times in the NT, too many to go through here manually for the time being. However, the NASB 1995 translates doulos as various forms of “bondservant” 28 times (Luke 1.38, 48; 2.29; Acts 2.18; 4.29; 16.17; Rom 1.1; 2 Cor 4.5; Gal 1.10; Phil 1.1; 2.7; Col 4.12; 2 Tim 2.24; Titus 1.1; 2.9; Jas 1.1; 1 Pet 2.16; 2 Pet 1.1; Jude 1.1; Rev 1.1; 2.20; 7.3; 11.18; 15.3; 19.2, 5; 22.3, 6). An examination of these 28 instances reveals the following.

Acts 2:18 — My male and female servants

Despite the conservative sentiment against reverting doulos as “servant” because it’s not a strong enough translation, the NASB 2020 actually takes “bondslaves” from the 1995 and makes it “servants” here.

NASB 2020 NASB 1995
And even on My male and female 1servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days,
And they will prophesy.
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit

And they shall prophesy.
1Or slaves

Titus 2:9 — Slaves or bondslaves?

Those who advocate the Legacy Standard Bible and Lexham English Bible practice of always translating doulos as “slave” will like the direction the NASB 2020 took here. The footnote appears to be a means of reminding the reader that Titus was not written in the 19th century.

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
Urge 1slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be pleasing, not 2argumentative, Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not 1argumentative, Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,
1I.e., slaves in first-century Roman culture
2Lit contradicting
1Lit contradicting

1 Pet 2:16 — Bondservants of God

NASB 2020 switches to a hyphenated “bond-servants” from “bondslaves,” whereas the NIV 2011 uses plain-old “slaves.”

NASB 2020 NASB 1995 NIV 2011
Act as free people, and 1do not use your freedom as a 2covering for evil, but use it as bond-servants of God. Act as free men, and 1do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
1Lit not having
2I.e., a way to conceal
1Lit not having

Lovingkindness

One of the more archaic terms in the NASB 1995 was translating the Hebrew chesed as ‘lovingkindness.’ Out of 251 instances of chesed in the Hebrew Bible, the NASB 1995 translates forms of ‘lovingkindness’ 177 times, which is about 71%. Forms of just ‘kindness’ come in second place with just 40 times.

251 times is a bit much for me to go through manually right now. I’ll wait until the 2020 is available in Accordance. But in the instances of chesed in the Pentateuch, we find the following respective translations in the NASB 2020 and 1995.

NASB 2020 NASB 1995
Gen 19:19 lovingkindness compassion
Gen 20:13 kindness kindness
Gen 24:12 lovingkindness kindness
Gen 24:14 lovingkindness kindness
Gen 24:27 lovingkindness kindness
Gen 24:49 kindly kindly
Gen 32:20 lovingkindness favor
Gen 39:21 kindness kindness
Gen 40:14 kindness kindness
Gen 47:29 kindness kindness
Exod 15:13 lovingkindness faithfulness
Exod 20:6 lovingkindness favor
Exod 34:6 lovingkindness faithfulness
Exod 34:7 lovingkindness faithfulness
Num 14:18 lovingkindness mercy
Num 14:19 lovingkindness mercy
Deut 5:10 lovingkindness favor
Deut 7:9 lovingkindness faithfulness
Deut 7:12 lovingkindness faithfulness

It certainly appears that ‘lovingkindness’ is out of the NASB 2020 completely, but more research is needed within various contexts to make further conclusions. I suspect many loyal readers of the 1995 who appreciate being able to key in on “lovingkindness” while understanding the underlying nuances of chesed will not be happy.

NASB 2020 Giant Print edition

We Urge You Brothers and Sisters: Ignore Facebook

Ignoring Facebook might be really good general advice in the first place, but I speak more specifically of the various NASB 2020 translation samples on The Lockman Foundation’s Facebook page. For example, they released this translation sample of 1 Thess 5:12–22 back in 2018, but it differs from the final printed product.

NASB 2020 printed NASB 2020 Facebook (2018)
12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you instruction, 12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you, and direct you in the Lord, and give you instruction,
13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 13 and that you think of them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the 1unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.
16 Rejoice always, 16 Rejoice always
17 pray without ceasing, 17 pray without ceasing,
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit, 19 Do not quench the spirit,
20 do not utterly reject 1prophecies, 20 do not despise prophetic utterances
21 but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good, 21 but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good,
22 abstain from every 1form of evil. 22 abstain from every form of evil.
5:11 1Or comfort
5:12 1Or care for you 2Or admonition
5:14 1Or undisciplined
5:20 1Or prophetic gifts
5:22 1Or appearance
(footnotes not included on Facebook)

With that in mind, it is fairest and best to evaluate the NASB 2020 based on the printed edition and not upon The Lockman Foundation’s Facebook posts over the past few years. Previous evaluations such as this one from Opened Heart Ministry may need to be updated or otherwise checked against the actual published text.

Want One?

I will have more thoughts on the translation as I evaluate it further. For now, I suspect that many loyal NASB 1995 fans will not be satisfied with the changes we’ve observed here.

But just in case I haven’t turned you completely off, I am giving away my Giant Print edition!! If you want it, leave a comment below and let me know what else you would like to have evaluated in the translation. One commenter will be selected randomly. Then I’ll ship it to him or her!

(See part 2 here.)


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15 Comments

  1. John Boyer

    I love the NASB ’95. Ought to be interesting discussing the ’20 version with my pastor.

  2. Micah F

    Solid review. I imagine the 77 folks will still think > the 95, who will still think it’s > this new 2020 version.

    I’d love the giant print version!

    And as far as additional content, perhaps a comparison of the terms Jesus, Christ and their combination and-or a look into comparing the usage of paraclete.

  3. Jackson Sia

    Not going to be my primary bible, but for supplement when studying.

    • Garrett O’Hara

      You win! Please check your email. 🙂

  4. Chris Land

    Nice to know that the final printed edition is a lot different that what has been seen online. I would like to know how they translated Hebrews 4:13, which says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” in the 1995 NASB compared the ESV, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” I always found it strange how the NASB and other translations translated that particular verse.

    • Garrett O’Hara

      And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom 1we must answer.

      1Lit is our word

  5. Jeffrey E. Sams

    Great review. Thanks!

  6. Elaine Triplett

    I would love to have a giant print edition. Maybe evaluate some nuances from Genesis since I’m in BSF and learning more about things I thought I knew.

  7. Alan Jones

    You can’t go wrong with the NASB, not matter which edition; it has withstood the test of time! As a senior citizen I’d appreciate the giant print edition. Thanks for your generosity.

  8. Harout Mardikian

    I’ve been a big fan of the NASB, especially as one who does a lot of translating from the original languages, and I’m delighted to hear that it’s been updated. If you haven’t already given one away I’d love a copy! Blessings, and thanks for the review!

  9. Bette

    Enjoy reading my 95 NASB, but my old eyes get blurry as the day goes on. Sure would appreciate the large print edition!

  10. Dennis Lucero

    I’ve read NASB online only but on in parts. I have a CSB but would like have a NASB. Thanks for the resource.

  11. Kasey Ingram

    I would be interested in your thoughts as to whether the changes are significant enough to justify updating. I currently use the NASB 1995 and would love a 2020 version to compare against. But, I often wonder whether the new translations really add substantive value, or are they just marketing gimmicks. I would be interested in your thoughts on that.

  12. M Hopkins

    This was a thoughtful review, and helpful. I’d been following the Facebook updates, and I’m a bit disappointed that they’re already making changes to their own update before print. Not that fixes are a bad thing, but it just lends creates a lack of confidence in the translation.

    Interesting point about the italicized brothers “and sisters”, as well. If they’re including “and sisters” because that’s what adelphoi means, then why are they italicizing “and sisters” as if it’s not included in the word adelphoi? This seems like a sloppy oversight, but perhaps they did have hours of debate over how to handle it, and this is what they arrived at. *shrug* I wish all their notes were available so we could see how the cake was made.

    Anyway, I’m holed up in a hotel for a while, and my favorite print bible (HCSB minister’s) is not accessible for a few weeks. If I do end up randomly selected, I assure you I’ll be giving that thing a fair amount of use. Until then, I’ve been using Literal Word on my phone, but I much prefer print.

  13. John

    Thank you for this review. Could you please comment on 1 Corinthians 14:26, where brothers and sisters” are now encouraged to verbally participate in assemblies of believers? Part of this passage, verses 33b-40, enjoins silence for women in the churches. Also, what do you think of some of the 2020 NASB word choices in Psalm 19, particularly when Scripture is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman? John 1:18 is a textual matter, but it seems to me that whenever a translation chooses theos instead of the also well-attested huios, the result, however cleverly worded, is still illogical if not nonsensical (as in the ESV). It is nice that one of the first printed editions of the 2020 NASB is in giant print, because that is all that some us can comfortably read anymore!