Is the NASB a Good Bible Translation?

Choosing a Bible translation can be a personal and complex process, as the “best” version often depends on one’s individual needs, language fluency, and the purpose of reading.

Among the numerous translations available, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) frequently sparks interest due to its reputation for strict fidelity to the original texts. But what exactly makes it stand out, and is the NASB indeed a good Bible translation?

Let’s explore the NASB’s distinctive features, strengths, and potential challenges to help you make an informed decision.

Also, see NASB vs. NKJV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Holy Bible
Is the NASB easy to read? See below

The New American Standard Bible is a Literal Translation

The NASB prioritizes “formal equivalence,” meaning it strives for a word-for-word translation from the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek).

This makes it one of the most literal English translations available, which can be particularly useful for close reading, in-depth study, and exegesis.

The NASB stays true to the original manuscripts

The NASB aims to provide readers with a translation as close as possible to the original wording and structure of the biblical texts.

This can sometimes result in a less fluid or more difficult reading experience, but many appreciate the translation’s commitment to maintaining the structure and terminology of the original languages.

It leverages contemporary scholarship and incorporates updates

The NASB was first published in 1971 by the Lockman Foundation, with the most recent update in 2020 (known as NASB 2020).

A team of conservative scholars translated it and aimed to reflect the latest linguistic research and archaeological findings.

Readers favor the NASB for Bible exploration

Due to its literal approach, the NASB is often recommended for Bible study, particularly when readers wish to closely examine the text.

However, for casual reading or for those new to the Bible, its more complex language structure might be challenging.

Also, see NASB vs. NLT: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Christian Bible
How does the NIV compare to other translations? See below

How Does the NASB Compare to Other Translations?

Evaluating the New American Standard Bible (NASB) alongside other well-known translations can offer a better understanding of its distinctive characteristics and advantages:

King James Version (KJV)

The KJV is revered for its poetic language, but its use of archaic English can make it difficult to understand for some readers. The NASB, in contrast, uses more modern language while still maintaining a literal translation, making it potentially easier to understand without compromising the integrity of the original text.

New International Version (NIV)

While the NIV aims to balance literal translation with thought-for-thought translation to enhance readability, the NASB leans more towards formal equivalence (literal translation). This can make the NASB feel less natural to read, but it offers a closer reflection of the original languages.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The ESV and NASB are similar in their formal equivalence approach. However, while the ESV prioritizes a somewhat smoother reading experience, the NASB aims for the highest level of word-for-word accuracy, which might make it a little more challenging to read.

New Living Translation (NLT)

The NLT follows a dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) translation approach, making it more readable and contemporary but less literal than the NASB. For in-depth study or exegesis, the NASB’s word-for-word approach may offer more detail.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The NRSV also uses a blend of formal and dynamic equivalence, with an emphasis on inclusive language. It might be more accessible than the NASB for general reading, while the NASB may be preferred for detailed textual analysis.

In summary, the NASB is particularly respected among translations for its commitment to maintaining a high degree of literal accuracy.

It might be less fluid or accessible for casual reading compared to some versions, but for in-depth study and understanding of the text in a way that’s as close as possible to the original, the NASB is a strong choice.

Also, see NASB vs. ESV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

New American Standard Bible
What is the history of the NASB? See below

What Is the History of the NASB Translation?

The history of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) traces back to the mid-20th century when the need for a modern literal translation of the Bible became apparent.

The inception of the Idea: The Lockman Foundation, a Christian nonprofit organization, took on the ambitious project of producing a fresh English translation of the Bible that aimed to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages.

The purpose was to create a translation that was highly accurate and suitable for in-depth study and personal reading.

Translation Work: The translators embarked on this rigorous task, using the latest available manuscripts of the biblical texts in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The translation philosophy of the NASB prioritizes formal equivalence, which emphasizes a word-for-word rendering of the original text.

Publication and Updates: The New Testament of the NASB was first published in 1963, and the complete Bible was released in 1971. The NASB has been updated since then to reflect changes in English usage and advances in biblical scholarship, with significant updates in 1995 and 2020.

The 1995 update, known as the New American Standard Bible Update (NASB95 or NASBU), maintained the literal translation while improving readability. The 2020 revision, referred to as NASB 2020, aimed to enhance clarity and readability further while preserving the translation’s literal approach.


In conclusion, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) appeals to readers who value a close, literal translation of the Bible’s original texts.

Its emphasis on formal equivalence provides a meticulous, word-for-word translation that is prized for in-depth study and exegesis.

While its language may be less fluid than some translations, its fidelity to the original languages and commitment to rigorous scholarship make it a favorite among many Bible students.

By maintaining the integrity of the original texts in modern English, the NASB helps readers gain a detailed understanding of the Bible’s message.

Also, see NASB vs. NIV: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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