An Open Letter to the Lockman Foundation – Revisited

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Two years ago on my previous blog I wrote one of my most popular posts,  ‘An Open Letter to the Lockman Foundation,’ regarding the state of the New American Standard Bible. That post generated over 800 WordPress views, 25 WordPress comments, and a great deal more discussion and debate on Facebook, Twitter, and another couple forums dedicated to Bible design and translation. Despite the agreement and debate generated, I haven’t seen much any change.

I recently went to a Christian bookstore to peruse children’s Bibles that my wife might use in her Sunday School curriculum. Naturally, I couldn’t resist checking out all the other Bibles as well. While mainstays like the NIV, KJV, and ESV had their own shelves, I found my beloved NASB tucked away amidst other pretenders to the throne on the “other translations” shelf. Quelle tragédie! What I had long regarded as the pinnacle of English translations, and what I formerly and arrogantly referred to as the “Bible for smart people,” now seemed to have fallen further out of favor. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to revisit my thoughts on the subject.

The original open letter:

Dear Lockman Foundation, I believe you are missing the potential of one of the greatest resources available in all Christendom – the New American Standard Bible. You hold the copyright to the most literal, literate, and literary translation of the Holy Bible in the English language. Despite this treasure, the NASB placed 8th on the list of most units sold per translation in 2012. Here are a few humble suggestions from a lifelong NASB fan and loyalist:

IMPROVE YOUR MARKETING: Crossway has 30+ different editions and permutations of the English Standard Version currently on the market, with more popping up all the time. They are aggressively expanding in all markets and have Celebrity Pastors hawking their goods left and right.

EMBRACE THE LITERAL: Being the most literal of all mainstream translations is a commendable feat and a selling point, but you can go further. Why not translate LORD in the Old Testament as Yahweh? Why not avoid capitalizing divine pronouns when there is no manuscript evidence to support this practice? Also, there are numerous instances where a word will have a footnote that gives an even more literal translation than actually used – why hold back?

CHANGE THE ‘AMERICAN’: Christianity is booming in the ‘Majority World.’ Crossway recently released the ESV GLOBAL STUDY BIBLE. Wouldn’t it sound strange to have a NEW AMERICAN STANDARD GLOBAL STUDY BIBLE? I love my country, but the word ‘American’ is unnecessarily limiting your customer base – even in regards to other English-speaking nations.

Thank you for allowing me to share my concerns. I hope for a bright and lasting future for this excellent translation. In the meantime, I will continue to use and enjoy my ‘77 NASB Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, my Cambridge NASB Pitt Minion Reference Bible, my Cambridge NASB Wide-Margin Reference Bible, my Cambridge NASB Clarion Reference Bible, and hopefully at some point in the future a Schuyler Quentel NASB!

Two years later, I have more to add. Unless something changes at Lockman, I believe the NASB is headed for extinction. Competition is fierce – they missed the opportunity to sell their copyright to Holman, there are countless English translations flooding the market, and Crossway is continuing to beat Lockman up and take their lunch money. The breadth of marketing, design, diversity, and quality of Crossway products is undeniable. I emailed somebody at Lockman suggesting the creation of a Reader’s Edition-style NASB, similar to the ESV Reader’s Bible. I was met with a cheerful response claiming that they already had one, and a link pointing me to something that in no way, shape, or form resembled a reader-friendly design philosophy.

The New American Standard Bible needs to find its niche, even if it does not adapt and evolve in the ways I suggested above. One strategy could be to place a high-quality NASB into the hands of as many seminary graduates as possible. This would help produce translation loyalty in generations of Church taste-makers.

But the biggest red flag of all… is me. Lockman? I’ve met someone. Yesterday I discovered the Lexham English Bible, or LEB. A new translation from Logos Bible Software, the LEB can be read online and is included with the free Faithlife Study Bible app (and presumably other Logos products). The clear downside is that the LEB is not available in print – yet. But, after two days with the translation I may have found what I have always wanted. In fact, so far it seems that the LEB checks every box I was advocating for the NASB to adopt! Lockman… maybe sell your copyright to Logos?

http://www.lockman.org/nasb/

http://lexhamenglishbible.com/

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3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Lockman Foundation – Revisited

  1. I’m tracking with you all the way up until you bucking the version’s title “American.” The Lockman Foundation published this Bible version for American-English readers, not British-English readers. (ie. In the NASB, Joseph did not wear a coat of many COLOURS. And, Moses didn’t command the Israelites to HONOUR one’s father and mother (or MUM, for that matter). Jesus did not get BAPTISED by John the BAPTISER.)
    The Lockman Foundation did this same labeling in their La Biblia de Las Americas (LBLA), a Spanish Bible translated into Latin-American-Spanish (as opposed to European-Spanish).
    However, in the ESV Anglicised Version (ESVUK) (https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/English-Standard-Version-Anglicised-ESV-Bible/) is another matter. The distinction is made to target an audience with language nuances unique to their country’s version of the English language. It is comical to me that the word “anglicised” refers to the process of making something English or more English. So, instead of literally calling it the “More-English English Standard Bible,” we could called it the “If It’s Good Enough for Paul Bible” (GEP). -Oh, wait that title already is used among the KJV-only indie baptists. Cuss words.
    Perhaps the Lockman Foundation didn’t make their American distinction specific enough. Maybe you should ask them to have a southeastern Bible version (New Dixie American Standard Bible) which demonstrates the southeast’s progressive syntax that exceeds that of the “Union” Bible, demonstrating the prowess of southerners’ ability to invent a second person plural pronoun, as demanded by the Greek texts (ὑμεῖς). The Dixie version would also, no doubt included various sayings and idioms (ie. “Y’all do not belly-ache, brothers, amongst y’rselves, so that you’ns ain’t gonna be judged; looky, the Judge is standing right there at the door.” (James 5:9, NDASB))
    Then again, if we made such provisions for Southerns, the Northerners would feel left out… as would the Canadians. The NCSB (New Canadian Standard Bible) would end all questions with “eh?”.
    Toodle-loo

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  2. Well played, brother Corey. Let me give you some context for my point – I belong to a church that is very much multi-ethnic / multi-cultural (and even multi-linguistic) in focus. From a Great Commission standpoint, ‘American’ as a cultural descriptor can be a barrier for adopting the NASB as the translation of choice for my church, but it makes more sense thinking of it properly as the New American-English Standard Bible.

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  3. You have articulated many of the things that I have appreciated about the NASB for years–and some of my disappointments about the Lockman Foundation’s stewardship of that translation. I first learned to read/study Scripture with the NASB decades ago. But I don’t think my fondness for it is merely nostalgia. With multiple advanced degrees in Biblical studies and many, many years of teaching and preaching, I still find the NASB to be imminently valuable for understanding what God inspired the Biblical authors to pen. As much as I do appreciate the ESV (and a few other newer formal equivalent translations), I still find that the NASB serves me better in: calling attentive to the way the original writers put their thoughts together, helping me see and grasp the linguistic relationships between sentences and phrases and paragraphs, and following the original author’s thoughts by preserving the words originally used (as much as possible). It would be a huge disappointment to me–and I believe a loss to the body of Christ–if the NASB faded from view.

    The argument that is sometimes raised–that the NASB is too “wooden” for regular use–seems to be to be a kind of special pleading. Shakespeare is “wooden” for contemporary English readers but no one suggests that we “smooth out” Shakespeare’s English to accommodate to the tastes of contemporary readers–at least no one who actually hopes people will read Shakespeare. If were looking for fidelity to Shakespeare’s writing, I would think that a current edition of his works would not read like the most modern of English. So, to feel a bit of a rub in reading the NASB seems to me to be more of a help than a hinderance.

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