A close-up photo of a worn-out Bible, with the book of Isaiah open, revealing the verse that mentions "NASB" as the translation used for studying biblical scriptures.

What Does Nasb Mean In The Bible?

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is one of the most popular and widely used Bible translations in the English language today. If you’ve ever picked up a Bible or done any research into different translations, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the NASB.

But what exactly does it mean and what sets it apart from other translations of God’s word?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The NASB or New American Standard Bible is an English Bible translation known for being very literal in its translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages.

The goal of the NASB translation is to be as word-for-word faithful to the original texts as possible.

History and Origin of the NASB

Development of the NASB Translation

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation was first published in 1971 by the Lockman Foundation. The goal was to provide a modern English translation of the Bible that was faithful to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.

The translation team consisted of 58 conservative, evangelical scholars from various denominations and backgrounds.

The NASB builds on the work of previous Bible translations like the American Standard Version (ASV) published in 1901. The ASV was well-regarded for its literal approach to translation, but its archaic language made it difficult for 20th century readers.

The NASB aimed to retain the accuracy of the ASV while using more contemporary English.

During the translation process, the scholars paid special attention to providing literal translations of terms, grammar, and word order from the original biblical languages. At the same time, they sought to produce readable English using vocabulary and language structures commonly used in the 1960s.

The result was a meticulously faithful yet highly readable translation.

Focus on Literal Word-for-Word Translation

A key aim of the NASB translation team was to create an essentially literal, word-for-word translation. This sets it apart from thought-for-thought or dynamic equivalence translations that focus on conveying ideas and phrases in natural target language idioms.

The NASB renders Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words and phrases as literally as possible into corresponding English words and phrases. It preserves features like verb tenses, conjunctions, prepositions, and word order.

The result accurately reflects the grammar and structure of the original biblical texts.

While very literal, the NASB is not an interlinear translation. The translators rendered the text into polished, readable English. They only utilized paraphrasing for words or phrases when no actual English equivalent existed or when readability required it.

Revisions Over the Years

The NASB translation has undergone several revisions since its original publication in 1971:

  • In 1977, the NASB was updated to improve readability and clarity. Various archaic word forms were updated to modern English.
  • In 1995, the NASB was revised again. This updated 46,000 text notes and expanded translators’ notes. It also included a system of capitalization and punctuation unique to the NASB.
  • In 2020, the NASB 1995 was revised again. This was the first full revision of the complete Bible text since the 1977 update. It aimed to enhance readability further through refined English updates.

Through the revision process, the NASB has retained its faithfulness to the original biblical texts while improving readability. Each update provided minor improvements without altering the essential literal word-for-word approach. The result is an English Bible revered for its accuracy and clarity.

Translation Philosophy and Approach

Very Formal Equivalence Style

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is known for its very formal equivalence translation style. This means the translators aimed to convey the most precise meaning of the original biblical languages into English with a high degree of accuracy and faithfulness.

For example, the NASB tends to translate Hebrew and Greek verbs into English verbs rather than nouns or other parts of speech when possible. The translators strove to preserve features like verbal aspect and grammatical voice from the source texts.

This allows readers to better understand some of the nuances of meaning conveyed in the original languages.

Concerned with Precision and Accuracy

In places where other common Bible versions may paraphrase or summarize, the NASB offers a more literal rendering. The translators were concerned first and foremost with precision and technical accuracy.

For instance, in Philippians 2:6, most English Bibles say Jesus did not consider equality with God something “to be grasped.” But the underlying Greek verb, harpagmon, has connotations of seizing or overreaching.

So the NASB preserves this nuance by saying Jesus did not regard equality with God a thing “to be used to His own advantage.”

Focus on Consistency of Translation

The NASB also focuses on consistency in how key terms are translated. For example, the Greek word sarx is always translated as “flesh.” Hebrew words like checed (“lovingkindness”) and shalom (“peace”) also appear consistently.

This differs from other versions that may translate the same term different ways in different passages. The uniform rendering in the NASB allows easier word studies and better understanding of concepts across Scripture.

Strengths and Advantages of the NASB

Staying Close to Original Word Meanings

One of the main strengths of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is its attempt to stay as close as possible to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek meanings. The translators aimed for a “word-for-word” translation rather than a “thought-for-thought” approach.

This allows readers to analyze the biblical texts very closely, often down to the level of individual words.

For example, in Romans 3:28 the NASB translates the Greek phrase “dikaiōthēnai pistei” as “justified by faith.” Many other modern translations render this as “justified through faith” or “justified by believing.”

The NASB choice emphasizes that the original meaning is about being justified by the means of faith, rather than through an abstract concept of faith.

Useful for In-Depth Bible Study

The NASB’s precision and attention to detail make it very useful for in-depth Bible study. Words or phrases that are added to smooth out the English are italicized, allowing students to easily identify them. Translators’ notes provide variant manuscript readings and explanations where needed.

In general, the NASB gives readers a close sense of what the original biblical texts meant. This allows advanced analysis of grammar, word meanings and theological concepts. No translation is perfect, but for careful exegetical study, the NASB has much to offer.

Well Respected By Many Scholars

The NASB is widely used and respected by many biblical scholars and theologians. Well-known pastors like John MacArthur and John Piper often refer to it. Dallas Theological Seminary, Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary are among several prominent evangelical institutions that utilize it.

In a recent survey, over 25% of biblical scholars named the NASB as their preferred English translation. Reasons given included its accuracy, precision and reliability in rendering the meaning of ancient texts.

While debate continues, the NASB is regarded by many academics as an excellent, scholarly Bible version.

Criticisms and Disadvantages of the NASB

Not the Easiest Translation to Read

One common criticism of the NASB is that it is not the most readable or understandable English translation. The translators strived for word-for-word accuracy rather than readability. As a result, some passages can come across a bit wooden, stilted, or awkward in English.

The syntax doesn’t always flow naturally compared to a translation like the NIV which aims more for dynamic equivalence and natural-sounding language.

For example, when Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3), the NASB renders it as “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” This is an extremely literal translation of the Greek, but “poor in spirit” is an unfamiliar phrase in English.

The NIV translates this as “Blessed are the poor in spirit” which is a bit more understandable for modern readers. So while very accurate, the NASB may not be someone’s first choice to just sit down and read cover to cover for sheer enjoyability.

Questionable Translation Choices at Times

The NASB translators made a few questionable choices from time to time that have brought criticism. One notorious example is in Isaiah 7:14 where the prophet predicts that “the virgin will conceive and bear a son…” The Hebrew word almah here technically means “young woman” although it strongly connotes virginity.

The NASB renders it “virgin” with a footnote saying the Hebrew is “young woman.” Meanwhile the RSV translated this non-literally as just “young woman.” This brought accusations of the RSV being “liberal.”

Another controversial translate choice was renewing the traditional term “propitiation” in passages like Romans 3:25 which is difficult vocabulary for most modern readers. So while the NASB is overall incredibly consistent and accurate in its formal equivalence approach, there are a few debatable choices.

Limited Usage of Gender-Inclusive Language

Unlike translations such as the ESV, NIV, NRSV, and others, the NASB employs limited gender-inclusive language when it comes to references to humanity. Male terms are predominantly used as generic like “man”, “men”, “brothers”, etc.

The updated 1995 edition made modest changes in a few places but overall remains tied to traditional masculine wording.

For example, in James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials.” Or John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” While the male pronouns and terms can be understood to include women, some argue alternate word choices should be used for better clarity and inclusion today.

However, supporters of the NASB defend maintaining historic wording which they say communicates core truths without confusion.

Key Things to Know About the NASB

Very Literal and Formal Equivalence Style

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is known for being one of the most literal and formally equivalent English Bible translations. The translators aimed to adhere as closely as possible to the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.

This makes the NASB a useful translation when someone wants to do careful study of the exact wording of the original scriptures.

The NASB stays faithful to the word order, grammar, terminology and sentence structure of the original biblical languages. This formal equivalence approach sets it apart from thought-for-thought or dynamic equivalence translations that focus more on conveying overall meaning and readability in modern English.

The result is that the NASB reads somewhat woodenly, but each word transparently reflects an underlying Hebrew or Greek term.

Emphasizes Precision and Consistency

The NASB displays a commitment to precision and consistency in how key terms are translated. For instance, the Hebrew word chesed is consistently translated “lovingkindness” instead of a variety of English words. Greek verb tenses are carefully maintained.

Pronouns and repetitious words from the original texts are preserved. The translators strove to create a concordance-friendly translation where Greek and Hebrew terms can be studied through consistent English rendering.

The dedication to formal equivalence means the NASB does not translate idioms or adapt the text for modern readers. Instead, translators adhered strictly to the original grammatical forms. For example, “And it came about in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” (Luke 2:1).

The result is English that often sounds stilted, but reflects the Hebrew or Greek precisely.

Well Suited for Detailed Study and Analysis

The NASB remains one of the leading literal translations preferred for serious Bible study and analysis. Its rigorous approach provides something as close to an “interlinear” English translation as possible. This makes it invaluable for word-by-word study of the biblical texts.

Terms can be looked up easily. Structural relationships between original language and English translation are tightly aligned.

The NASB is not as easy to read as thought-for-thought translations, but its transparency reflects the original languages in a way that allows deeper study. Many preachers, teachers and Bible scholars appreciate the NASB for its precision, accuracy and faithfulness to the ancient texts.

It serves as an indispensable research tool for all who wish to go beyond surface meaning and delve deeply into Scripture.


In closing, the New American Standard Bible remains one of the most literal and formally equivalent English Bible translations available today. Its meticulous approach to translating the original biblical texts word-for-word sets it apart from many other more dynamic or idiomatic translations.

While some criticize it for not being the easiest read, the NASB is widely respected for its attention to detail, consistency, and accuracy in conveying the formal intent and meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek.

So next time you pick up this popular translation, you’ll know exactly what NASB stands for and what its translators sought to accomplish.

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