Why I Prefer the NASB Translation + Some Notes on the Hebrew Names of God

The post I originally intended for today is still not ready, so I decided to write a (hopefully) somewhat quicker post on why I prefer using the NASB translation.

Let’s jump right in!

#1: A differentiation between Adonai and YHWH in the Old Testament

I LOVE this aspect of NASB sooooo much! The Hebrew word adon (אָדוֹן) is the word used for lord in the Bible for earthly masters or “lords”. The Hebrew word Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) is an emphasized version of adon, and as far as I can see is always used for either the Angel of the Lord or God (which are one in the same). God is our Lord. But He is so much more. The name Elohim for our God (which is actually cool in that the grammar is plural in one, you should study it for yourself) is actually NOT a unique word. It is used to refer to little-g “gods” in the Old Testament as well. So saying Elohim vs. OUR Elohim actually makes a difference.

There is one name for God that is completely unique: the unspeakable name of YHWH. When I say unspeakable, I am referring to the fact that we have no idea how to pronounce it, because it was only pronounced once a year in Israel by the high priest. With the crumbling and exile of the Israelites, the pronunciation of this Hebrew word was lost. We have two main guesses that you may recognize. Our two main guesses at the pronunciation of YHWH are “Yahweh” and “Jehovah”. The Israeli history of how we have completely lost the pronunciation of this word is a lot more complicated, and since I didn’t brush up on it, I would suggest that you look it up and study it for yourself if you want to learn more about it.

To put into perspective the Jewish reverence for God’s HOLY name, you could read this article. Also, note that there are varieties in spelling and some spell The Lord’s name YHVH instead of YHWH. They are, as far as I know, essentially the same thing, and I don’t know which is how it originally was in Hebrew. I don’t actually read Hebrew, you know.  🙂

And now I would like to talk about the Hebrew word and name for God, YHWH. This name is so unique, so packed with meaning, and it is actually the very name God has given himself. You know when God meets Moses through the burning bush? God called himself a very unique name in that passage which English does not do justice.

Here is the verse:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14 (NASB)

HAYAH is the name God uses for Himself in that verse. In English we translate it as “I AM”. Now it turns out that HAYAH is actually derived from YHWH which brings a huge depth to this name. The Jews know that to say you are “I AM” is to say you are God, because when Jesus claimed “Before Abraham was, I AM” they immediately began to pick up stones to stone Him (John 8:58-59).

English just doesn’t portray the meaning and depth of His name. I think I could just study the Hebrew name of God for the rest of my life and never scratch the surface of its depth.

The whole point of all this is that the only English equivalent word we have for YHWH is “Lord”. We actually get that from the fact that whenever the Jews read the scripture, when they came to the word YHWH, they would not say it out loud, so they replaced it with “Adonai” whenever they read or studied it.

For all other translations I’ve found, the word Adonai and the word YHWH appear completely the same in the text. It is so important to me to be able to tell the difference, because it just adds so much more to it …………..YHWH is so much more than just Lord or Master.

However, whenever the word YHWH comes up in NASB, it is capitalized so that you can tell the difference between “Adonai” and “YHWH”. It actually makes things a lot clearer.

For instance:

“I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.” -Psalm 16:2

With Hebrew words this would be more like “I said to the [YHWH], “You are my [Master or Lord], I have no good beside you.”. Isn’t that so cool?

Also on the names of God, when it says “The LORD God” it means “The YHWH Elohim” in Hebrew. I think that is so beautiful.

#2: Italics

You probably can’t notice this when I quote the Bible from NASB in my blog posts, because I like to italicize the whole verse so that you can tell the difference between just a quote and actual scripture, but some words in NASB are italicized.

Here is what the italics mean:

Italics: Words not found in the original text but implied by it.

[Source]

These italics are actually so helpful when I’m studying the Bible, because when you are translating the Bible, it is literally impossible to not apply some bias when it comes to Hebrew words that are not written but are implied in order for grammar to work out right.

But in order for things to make any logical order you need those connecting words in English. Otherwise it just sounds like you have really bad grammar. Here is an example. In order that you can see where the italics are, I will not italicize the rest of it.

“The waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan;” -Joshua 3:16a

What would happen if we took out the italicized “and” that isn’t in the original Hebrew?

“The waters which were were flowing down from above stood rose up in one heap,”

Just sounds like bad grammar right?

But sometimes you can wonder what it would be like without the italicized phrase and possibly compare it to other translations. Be very careful though, often it’s not that it is missing in the Hebrew text. Often there are actually things in the surrounding words that do really imply what is being said. The Hebrew scholars do know more than us about such things!

#3: It really is the most LITERAL translation you can find

“Well, what about ESV?” you may ask. ESV is also a very literal word-for-word translation. However, as for wording and sentence order and finding the closest possible word in English, NASB is better.

The downside to that is NASB has a lot harder grammar structure to try to read out loud, and it has very advanced vocabulary. Younger kids may have to have a dictionary at their side, for instance,  when trying to read the Old Testament in NASB. One example:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.” -Isaiah 40:28 (NASB)

Versus ESV:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.” -Isaiah 40:28 (ESV)

Unsearchable vs. inscrutable. Do you happen to know what inscrutable means?

Inscrutable:

a. not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood

b. difficult to understand causing people to feel curious or confused

(sourced from here)

In my opinion, the word ‘unsearchable’ does not have such a depth of meaning.

Unsearchable:

not capable of being searched or explored

Not readily investigated, interpreted or understood, vs. not capable of being searched or explored. The Hebrew word here can actually mean “A thing to be searched out”. I prefer NASB’s take on it here.

I think NASB is more literal and thus has more complicated and exact vocabulary. The first time I showed this verse to my dad in NASB, I had to look up an actual definition to actually explain clearly what “inscrutable” meant.

Another downside to using such literal translation and being closer to the original Hebrew grammar structure, is how hard memorization gets. I have so much trouble memorizing NASB. If you are trying to memorize something, it helps that you know the meaning of a word and can think of the what word comes next using what you know the first word means. I’m not really sure that made sense.

For instance, once I tried to memorize Psalm 139 in NASB. I ran into a problem once I got to the third verse which in NASB says:

You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” -Psalm 139:3

I would come to that part and I’d be thinking “It’s sort of like analyze or observe my path……what is the word……I think it has a ‘T’ in it………it’s like search out or something….what is that word?”

Sure, I know what the word means, but it’s not an everyday word in my vocabulary so I don’t automatically match it to the meaning.

Also, NASB does not have a whole lot of flow in the Psalms. It’s really hard to sing words like “inscrutable” or “scrutinize”. The grammar flow is also hard.

So I don’t memorize in NASB, instead I use ESV which is almost equally accurate and a whole lot easier to memorize.

I also think it is really good to memorize scripture in a different translation than you usually read scripture in. Why? Because if you are like me, when you read through a passage that you have previously memorized, your eyes sort of lose track of where you are and you can just think of what it is saying in your head.

When you read in a different translation than you have memorized, it really helps you think about what you are reading and to notice what differences there are. Same thing with when you are trying to study a passage in depth. Look it up in several translations.

#4: More balanced team of translators

This is more a reason why I prefer NASB over ESV than just why I prefer NASB.

If you have ever looked at the credits section in an ESV Bible, you may recognize a lot of names. All of the ones I have looked up are Calvinists, although some are more hyper-Calvinistic leaning than others.

Wayne Grudem actually oversaw the whole ESV translation. He also wrote “Systematic Theology” in which when teaching the “doctrine” of reprobation he said this:

“When we understand election as God’s sovereign choice of some persons to be saved, then there is necessarily another aspect of that choice, namely, God’s sovereign decision to  pass over others and not save them. This decision of God in eternity past is called reprobation. Reprobation is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest his justice”

-“Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem, pg. 684

I could go on and on about all the different ways and angles in which I disagree with this statement, but I will save that for another time. At least when he said that God unconditionally (aka randomly?) decided to “pass over some” intentionally punishing them for their sins (while randomly choosing elect few to save), he said that God did it in sorrow. Which means he is not a hyper-Calvinist per say which is a whole lot better than what he could be.

If you want more on Calvinism, try searching my “Calvinism” into my search bar, and about 6 different posts should come up. Although, I do warn you, my posts left a little to be wanted back then and are probably chock-full of typos.

Anyway the point is that he is definitely a Calvinist, (I’m not), and all of the people I’ve looked up who were on the team for ESV are Calvinist. And with how things work in Hebrew, Greek, and translation, it is quite natural that they give a little bit of a biased translation. As far as I have looked up, the NASB translating team was actually a bit more balanced theologically than the ESV team.

Consider this verse and compare the translation:

ESV:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” -Romans 9:22 (ESV)

NASB:

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” -Romans 9:22

I find a big difference between “desiring” and “although willing”.

While there is a little of a hard time translating this verse in any sensical way from the Greek into English, due to the confusing order of things, I’m pretty sure that what these two translations have translated “desiring” and “willing” from, is the word “theló” which can mean “being willing, desiring, or intending” depending on the context.

So from this definition, it is hard to say which of these translations are correct. 

However, I don’t find that the ESV makes much sense here. According to their translation, God desired to show His wrath, thus he endured with patience. Wait, what? I think the “although” in NASB makes a bit more sense. I think using the word “intending” would also work pretty well. If we did that it would read:

“What if God, although intending to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”

[Also, to understand this verse well, it helps to 1) understand that this chapter is primarily talking about Jews vs. Gentiles, God’s chosen ones vs. those outside who are now putting the chosen people to shame by accepting Christ, and 2) Understand that we must look at all of scripture. Consider this verse which brings a little balance to things:

“Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” -2 Timothy 2:20-21 emphasis mine]

I consider ESV very reliable, but I do find they have a large bias towards Calvinism, so if I memorized Romans, I would actually maybe want to do it in NASB. NASB has more of a balanced team of translators, so I consider it a little less biased.

Clarification: having zero bias is impossible, contrary to popular belief.

#5: Capitalization of personal pronouns referring to God

I actually just realized this. ESV does not capitalize “He” or “His” even when it is clearly referring to God. Now I know in the original Greek and Hebrew, there is no capitalization, but in English (and other languages) we like to use capitalization to reverence God, and I think that should be applied to the personal pronouns referring to God.

For example, the verse I just quoted above, Romans 9:22:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” -Romans 9:22 (ESV)

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” -Romans 9:22 (NASB)

NASB capitalizes “His wrath“, while ESV simply says “his wrath“. I prefer NASB in this instance. 🙂 I don’t think we can have too much respect for God. 


I will say one more downside of NASB: It costs a lot. You can get the kindle version of ESV on Amazon for FREE, because it doesn’t cost the printing. NASB costs money. I personally think you should do whatever is possible to make the Bible accessible, but I do understand that NASB is not as popular as ESV, and that the translators did do a lot of work to make it and want money from it.

It you are going to hand out Bibles for evangelism, I would probably recommend ESV, because it costs so much less and unbelievers may be discouraged from reading the Bible if it has such advanced vocabulary as the NASB does (I’m mean…….it’s not really that bad….but you know).

There is a joke that NASB is the “Nationally Acknowledged Superior Bible”. While it is a sorta funny joke, I most definitely don’t think that NASB is “superior” to any given translation. While I think “The Message” and the “Passion Translation” were simply sloppy jobs at translation and I don’t even really consider them “translations” per say, there are actually a lot of good translations out there, many of which I have never analyzed. Some other fairly good translations are NKJV, NIV, LEB, and CSB, to name a few. The Names of God Translation can be kind of fun, too.


That was it! I hope you enjoyed! Hopefully the other post I’m working on will be ready next week!

If you want to look up the Hebrew and Greek words in scripture you are studying, I would recommend BibleHub Interlinear. However, BibleHub is sometimes hard to navigate, so I would recommend, just searching into Google, DuckDuckGo, or whatever search engine you have, “Biblehub Interlinear {Insert verse you want to look up}” and you can go from there. I look up all my Hebrew and Greek in BibleHub where you can go straight to the Strong’s number. Hopefully this is helpful to you!

This week’s featured song is “As For Me and My House” by John Waller. I love this song! It also brings back a lot of good memories of when my dad has played this song on Saturday mornings. 🙂 You can look at lyrics here. Enjoy!

God be with you and bless you in your studies of His Word!

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” -Mathew 4:4 (NASB)

*All quotations are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted

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Author: Faith on the Farm

I’m just a Christian girl who’s striving to glorify God here on the farm. I love sunsets, roses, my dog, and about everything you can photograph on a farm. As you’ve probably guessed, I love photography. When I’m not reading my bible or working on schoolwork, you’ll probably find me cooking, practicing cello, or somewhere outside with my dog by my side and camera in hand. I also love to sing my heart out to my Saviour.