A strong argument can be made that the 1901 ASV is the most literal and accurate English translation ever. The degree to which it consistently translates a given Greek word by a consistent English word is unequalled and helpful, as is the fact that it follows the often important Greek word order in the New Testament more than any other translation. But among the Bibles in print and more widely available the editions of the NASB, following in the tradition of ASV, carry forward its accuracy and general linguistic virtues with some modernization of language and improvements. Like every translation it has its shortcomings but on the whole it is more accurate than the rest of those currently in print.
Regrettably, few have the level of expertise in the original text to make evaluation of a translation’s relative merits. Too often judgments are made on the basis of subjective readability or popularity rather than the technical quality of the translation. It’s hard to take seriously those who would say a literal translation like the NASB is hard to read. If someone can’t read the NASB they need to go back to school. Their dislike is really against the original text not its literal translation.
But such is the consumer mindedness of our day even in direct relation to God’s Word. There must be “simplified” Bibles, we are told, for those who are intellectually challenged. With little thought they impugn the wisdom of God in giving his Word as He did.
Those furthermore who argue for the so-called “received text” theory of the “KJV only” school are off base to say the least- a subject we will not delve into here. The rational basis of that thinking often takes the form of statements like “if the inspired KJV was good enough for the apostle Paul is should be good enough for us all.” Let’s admit it’s not easy to argue with that kind of reasoning!
Those who argue for more periphrastic and interpretive translations along the lines of the NIV are putting linguistic theory against the fact that the original text is inspired in its actual words and grammar. Literalness therefore is the preeminent virtue in a translation.
Although many may balk at the statement, the fact is that exegesis, properly speaking, cannot be done on a translation since its words and grammar are not the ones that were inspired. Greek grammar and the semantic range of individual words simply do not equate to the English. Only to a degree therefore does an English Bible communicate God’s Word. Given that fact, the literalness, again, of a translation is far and away its most important attribute.
Recognizing each believer’s individual choice and responsibility in these things, we do urge the use of a literal translation, and among that select group of several in print we recommend the NASB.