Why I prefer the NASB over the KJV
by Daniel Stanfield
Both the NASB and the KJV Bibles are very accurate literal translations, of excellent scholarship, using the best copies of the original languages which were available to them. Both works clearly and accurately represent the Word of God. Literary quality is excellent for both works, and style is identical. In many places the NASB reads exactly or nearly the same as the KJV. When choosing between these two versions, there are various areas of contrast which I have listed in order of significance.
1. Readability - NASB
The New American Standard Bible uses contemporary language and punctuation, the King James version does not, being written almost 400 years ago, and virtually unchanged for about 120 years. The crux of the matter of readability is the difficulty of the Elizabethan English of the KJV, which is laborious to read even for those who are well educated and familiar with the texts, when compared to reading the same texts in the clearly written NASB in it's familiar modern format and natural vocabulary. Other readability issues include the use of quotations and poetic stanzas, small caps for Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, and capitalization of pronouns referring to deity. The NASB also recognizes Greek translations of Hebrew names and translates the names consistently, as opposed to the KJV which gives us multiple names for the same person; for example, the KJV calls Judah, the son of Israel, "Judas" in Matthew 1:2, because that's how it is in Greek. The NASB simply calls him Judah in both the Old and New Testaments; this is simpler to understand and just as accurate.
2. Quality of language translation - NASB
The King James version is excellent, but we have since learned a great deal about both ancient Greek and Hebrew. Our understanding of Greek has grown significantly, particularly with the discovery that the Greek Bible was in common Greek, but our understanding of Hebrew has vastly improved since the 17th century, during which time the ancient Hebrew was very poorly understood. The NASB clearly benefits from a better understanding of the languages, and presents not only closer translations, but provides notes for certain aspects of translation, as discussed above. When the NASB and KJV differ on the rendering of a text, which is not based on variance in the manuscripts, the NASB is usually more favorable to the original languages. Also, slight variations in words chosen and sentance forms used throughout the NASB reflect our current understanding of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, which has improved dramatically in 400 years.
3. Quality of manuscripts - NASB
The KJV was based on the manuscripts which were few in number, local in geography, and late in date. Archeology has, since the KJV, made almost all important manuscript discoveries - everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls back to the Rosetta Stone, all occur after the KJV. These new manuscripts can be found in conclusive families, based on history and geography, with standardized variations of content and recognizable progression of modifications. Today's critical texts are very broad based and careful reconstructions of the original writings, and cannot be reasonably discounted out-of-hand, nor can the published arguments of those who would demand the exclusive use of the Textus Receptus be validated, or even accepted as reasonable. To suppose that the much older, much more widely distributed manuscripts, in many languages, which have been discovered over the last 390 years are all corrupted and inferior to the sources for the KJV is incredible, to say the least.
4. Quality of Notes - NASB
While almost all KJV Bibles are published with some kind of notes, none are version inclusive. The NASB does include a particular set of notes with the text which pertain directly to the rendering. The first example of these notes is the notation of the literal translation in those instances where a word or phrase is not literal. A second set of notations identify certain passages as being included or excluded in various manuscripts, or giving readings found in alternate mss. Other advantages of text notes include the use of the small-capitals font when the New Testament is quoting the Old Testament, the marking of the Greek historical presents tense, and the capitalization of personal pronouns which refer to deity. The fact of the matter is that the English Bible is a translation, and as such, justifiably calls for adequate translation notes, notes which are bountiful in the NASB and completely absent from the KJV.
(C) Copyright Daniel Stanfield, December 28,1999, updated 2007. This document is public domain and may be distributed freely, but may not be sold or modified.