Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 24, PAGE 3,9b,12

Reviewing The New American Standard New Testament

Kenneth A. Sterling

For well over three centuries now, the King James Version of the Bible has enjoyed the widest acceptance and broadest use of any translation ever produced. Many almost regard it as divine, and any other translation or rendering of a passage as a perversion of the scripture. With them it practically comes to the point of believing, as someone suggested, that---"if the King James Version was good enough for the apostles, it is good enough for me!"

Admittedly the King James Version is the most beautiful in language, expression, and literary style, of any translation ever produced, and/or probably that ever will be produced. The beauty, sparkle and vigor of the English language as it was spoken during the Elizabethan-Shakespearian period, when the King James translation was produced, will probably never again be matched. This is part of the reason for the tremendous success of the King James Version, and, for that matter, partly why we continue to enjoy the works of Shakespeare. Notice I did not say this was the only reason for the popularity of the King James Version or the success of Shakespeare. Certainly I would not seek to minimize the fact of Shakespeare's genius any more than I would the reliable (for the most part) nature of the King James translation, as a vital factor in acceptance, popularity, and enjoyment. Many of us have used the King James Version most of our lives, and still do, including this writer. And indeed it is highly significant that after over three and a half centuries, it is still the most popular and most purchased English translation.

However, despite this wide-spread popularity and acceptance, it is not the most accurate translation ever produced, and does contain mistakes in translation, and, of course, many archaic words and phrases. Again, I would hasten to state that everything necessary to one's eternal salvation is plainly and unerringly stated in the King James Version (else we had better quit preaching from it!), but it does contain, as stated, mistakes in translation and a number of archaic words and phrases. A complete listing is beyond the scope of this article, but we might notice a few.

In Acts 12:4, the King James Version uses the word "Easter" whereas it actually should be rendered "Passover". It is so rendered in the American Standard translation. This is one well known and recognized mistake in translation. This is not to imply that the King James Version is "just full of mistakes," for that is not so. But there are others. Too, inasmuch as a living language such as ours is constantly in a state of flux and change, there are many, many archaic words and phrases in the King James Version. For example, in the Old Testament (II Chron. 21:20), it is said of Jehoram, the wicked son of Jehoshaphat, 'Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired." (KJV) At one time the word "desire" meant "regret." In the New Testament the use of the word "meet" in the KJV we know carries the idea of "fitting; proper," though we do not so use it today. We must recognize too, if the passage is to make sense, that the word "prevent" in I Thess. 4:15, not prevent them which are asleep..." at one time meant "precede" — it is so translated in the American Standard. Hence, then, inasmuch as words do change in meaning, and continued study and research of the original language of the scriptures (Hebrew and Greek) reveal new insights, there is both a need and a place for new translations. Let us consider a few of them:

The American Standard Version

The first real attempt to revise the KJV was by a joint committee of English and American scholars which resulted in the English Revised Version of 1885. and later the American Standard Version of 1901. The American Standard has long been recognized by conservative scholars and by those of the Restoration Movement as the most literal and accurate of any translation produced. However, it has not by any means been widely accepted by the public as the KJV. It lacked the beauty of style of the King James as it was a more literal rendering and in more modern speech, though it still retained much of the King James language — "Thee" and "Thou" in personal address etc. Before the copyright ran out, its owners were working on a revision.

The Revised Standard Version

This version, published by the owners of the American Standard, appeared first in 1946 — the New Testament. The Old Testament appeared in 1952. It was and is quite readable, but frankly, in this writer's opinion (and that of most Christians and gospel preacher's of my acquaintance), quite "modernistic," to put it mildly. I remember that in some places throughout the country, in 1952 when the Old Testament appeared, they held "Bible burnings" as it were and burned this version because of its modernistic renderings. Isaiah 7:14 was rendered, "Behold, a young woman shall conceive..." (prophetic reference to Mary, of course), instead of "virgin," even though they render the word in Matt. 1:23 as "virgin." This is only one example as a complete review is again, beyond the scope of this article. For those interested in a more complete comparison, there is a little booklet entitled "RSV AND KJV COMPARED" by Oliver B. Greene, and which used to be available through most of the brotherhood book stores. If not, it might be obtained through the Gospel Hour broadcast, Box 2024, Greenville, So. Carolina (that is the address given in the booklet).

There were and are other things objectionable about this translation, at least to this writer. Whereas the KJV and the ASV had always italicized interpolations (words supplied by the translators in any given passage to give clarity to the English translation), the RSV completely omitted this practice. This is true in many other modern translations also, but I feel it is a serious omission.

While I understand the RSV has surpassed the ASV in sales, it is not as uniformly accurate in any respect as the ASV. It has not begun to equal the KJV in popularity, which was the hope of the translators, but which to my mind, is indeed fortunate.

The New English Bible

In Great Britain The New English Bible — New Testament, Was Published In 1951. The Old Testament Has Not Appeared As Yet. It Is Hoped That This Will Supplant The English Revised Version (1885) And The Kjv, By It's Translators. It Purports To Be A Completely New Translation — Not A Revision Of Any Existing Version — Into Completely Modern, Contemporary English. While It Has Many Good Renderings, It Is Not, Again According To This Writer's Belief, An Accurate Translation. Liberties Have Been Taken With The Original Text That The Ltv And Asv Scholars Never Dreamed Of. For Example, The Word "Christian" From The Greek "Christianos" Appears Many Times In This Translation, And Not Always As A Noun, Though It Only Appears 3 Times In The Original (Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Pet. 4:16), And Always A Noun. There Are Many, Many Other Things About This Translation Which I Find Objectionable, And Like The RSV, All Italicized Words Have Been Omitted. But Again, A Complete Review Is Beyond Our Scope Just Here. Suffice It To Say That While The Rsv And New English Bible Nt Might Be Used As One Would Use A Commentary, They Would Certainly Not Be Recommended By This Writer To Anyone To Use As His Or Her Only Text.

For any who might be interested in a more comprehensive comparison of the ASV and the New English Bible NT might be used as one would use a article entitled "New English Bible — Another Disappointing Translation," which appeared in TRUTH magazine, June, 1961.

The New American Standard Bible New Testament

This is a complete revision of the ASV of 1901, by a large group of conservative "Protestant" scholars, purportedly involving twenty-five thousand hours of research. It has just been made available a few months ago by the Lockman Foundation of La Habra, California. One paragraph in the FOREWORD 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. The attempt has been made to adhere to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures as closely as possible and at the same time to obtain a fluent and readable style according to current English usage." The publishers also state: "Perhaps the most weighty impetus for this undertaking 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 important work has come into being, Recognizing a responsibility to posterity, THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION felt an urgency to rescue this noble achievement from an inevitable demise, to preserve it as a heritage for coming generations, and to do so in such a form as the demands of passing time dictate."

It is the opinion of this writer that, at least as far as I have currently been able to ascertain, this is a truly outstanding work, and appears to be the most accurate translation since the original 1901 ASV. There are many things much more desirable than the original American Standard. For example, verses are indented like the KJV (which is particularly handy for quick reference in preaching), and paragraphs are marked by bold-face numerals. The marginal references are on the side of the page with each group of references numbered to correspond with the verse to which they relate; an excellent arrangement. Italics are used for interpolations and copious marginal references to the original Greek, definitions, variant readings etc. appear throughout. Modern English expressions are used -- "you" and "yours" instead of "thee" and "thy" except when addressing Deity. It is unquestionably reverent, even pronouns referring to God or Christ are capitalized. Modern punctuation is used throughout, including quotation marks. Small caps are used to indicate OT quotes.

Quite significant too, is the fact that more attention is given to the tense of Greek verbs than the original 1901 ASV. For example, in I Jno. 3:9 the text reads: "No one who is born of God practices sin...." This is a better rendering than the "...doeth no sin..." of the KJV. Also significant is the fact that any changes in the literal rendering of Greek verbs is clearly marked in the context by an asterisk. The translators explain that "...verbs marked with an asterisk represent historical presents in the Greek which have been translated with an English past tense in order to conform to modern usage. (e.g. John 1:38 - "Jesus...beheld...and says" has been changed to "Jesus...beheld...and said.")." general format, this appears to be the finest translation since the original ASV of 1901. It may be that further examination will reveal mistakes, inconsistencies or hurtful weaknesses, but at the present writing it certainly appears to be an outstanding piece of work. It is currently available in a hard-back binding, with large, easy to read type, on good quality paper. Price is $4.95. It may be ordered from the GOSPEL GUARDIAN.

1510 Aspen Street Selma, California