Formal equivalence comparison #4: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV – Acts 2

The comparison between formal translations of the Tyndale tradition continues with Acts chapter 2. This is the last of this comparison series between the NASB, ESV and NRSV.


Acts 2:22-23

ESV:
v.22: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—
v.23: this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

NRSV:
v.22: “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—
v.23: this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.

NASB:
v.22: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—
v.23: this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

NET:
v.22: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know –
v.23: this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.

v.22: the NRSV’s gender-inclusive rendering of ἀνήρ (anhr) has curiously become “You that are Israelites.” This is a rather loose handling of gender-inclusive language. This is not literal, nor accurate. I prefer the rendering of “people of Israel” of the TNIV and NLT.

v.23: it is interesting to see the contrast between the NASB’s use of “predetermined plan” and the ESV and NRSV’s use of “definite plan.” Is there a difference between “predetermined” and “definite”? I think so. Merriam-Webster defines the word “definite” as: “having distinct or certain limits” or “clearly expressed as to leave no doubt about the meaning.” In today’s modern English, “definite” does not accurately express the intent of the writer. The rendering here should express the idea of a pre-determined plan. The word “destined” would be better than “definite.” “Predestined” may cause readers to presume the doctrine of double predestination. The TNIV uses “deliberate” and the NLT “prearranged.” I prefer the NASB’s rendering of “predetermined.”


Acts 2:25

ESV:
For David says concerning him, I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

NRSV:
For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;

NASB:
“For David says of Him, ‘I saw the Lord always in my presence; for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.’

NET:
‘I saw the Lord always in front of me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken.

v.25: the NASB’s rendering of “in my presence” is overly interpretive and is not characteristic of its hallmark of literalness. “Before me” (ESV, NRSV) or “in front of me” (NET) is more accurate.

Acts 2:29

ESV:
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David…

NRSV:
Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David…

NASB:
“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David…

NKJV:
“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David…

v.29: The NRSV’s rendering of “fellow Israelites” is inaccurate. This is a case where the NRSV has mishandled its gender-inclusive language in its rendering of ανδρες αδελφοι (andros adelphoi). The NASB’s “brethren” is also more acceptable than “fellow Israelites.” But for gender-inclusivity, TNIV’s “brothers and sisters” is better. It is interesting to note that the NKJV used “men and brethren.” The NKJV can sometimes be gender-inclusive in some places and perhaps this may be an attempt to translate ανδρες αδελφοι (andros adelphoi, men brothers) to include men and women in its rendering of brethren. Many will say that Peter is referring to male brethren, as opposed to female brethren because the Greek word andros traditionally means male. In our gender-inclusive bible-reading community, we have accepted ἀνήρ to mean both men and women. It is interesting to note that the NLT used “brothers and sisters” in v.22 but used “brothers” in v.29. I’m not sure why this is so.


Acts 2:40-41

ESV:
v.40: And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.

v.41: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

NRSV:
v.40: And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

v.41: So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

NASB:
v.40: And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

v.41: So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

NET:
v.40: With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!”

v.41: So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.

v.40: The NRSV’s rendering of “arguments” is supposed to add clarification but it has a different meaning from “words” (ESV, NASB). But do we know for certain that it was with arguments that Peter was speaking, or could it have been just plain speech? Can one testify with just words or plain speech without making an argument? It seems to me that “argument” might be overly interpretive. The gospel does not necessarily have to present a rationalistic argument in order to testify or bring witness to the living Christ. The gospel is powerful because it is Holy Spirit who brings witness to Christ—not necessarily a rationalistic argument as our philosophical humanistic culture would suggest. This might be difficult concept for us today since it is popular to believe in a rationalistic Christian worldview.


v.41: The NRSV uses “welcomed his message” rather than “received his word” (ESV, NASB), or “accepted his message (T/NIV, NET). The original intent was to express a welcoming response to the word of God. “Received his word” does not necessarily express a willingness to receive the word or message. “Accepted his message” might be slightly better; and “gladly received his word” (NKJV) is interpretive but better still. “Believed what Peter said” (NLT) is overly interpretive because it connotes that it was a matter of receiving by believing. I prefer the NRSV’s rendering of “welcomed his message” may be closer to the original intent but even the use of “message” is interpretive because the Greek uses λογον (logon). We can safely assume that the word is inclusive of a message. I would prefer “welcomed his word” because this is literal yet accurately expresses the intent of the writer.


This concludes this comparison series on a search for a formal equivalent translation (NASB, ESV and NRSV). I will provide a conclusion in my next post.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

10 thoughts on “Formal equivalence comparison #4: NASB vs ESV vs NRSV – Acts 2”

  1. I look forward to your conclusions. In regards to arguments vs. words I prefer the latter, since the Greek seems pretty simple there. I’ve really enjoyed your little series and the way you’ve gone about it. Always fun to compare translations, and I think I’ve become convinced that there really is no right translation.

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  2. I’m looking forward to your conclusions too.

    The original intent was to express a welcoming response to the word of God.

    How do you know this?

    It brings to my mind times when I’ve proceeded down a certain path because it was the right thing to do, even though I would have welcomed something with less responsibility.

    (That was a sincere question, btw. I’m wondering what I may have missed.)

    Valerie

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  3. Kevin,

    I like the TNIV on 2:22. I think andres has the sense “people” here. Me too on “predetermined.”

    On 2:25 I like “before me,” but the NASB should not be slighted.

    On 2:29 I’ll go with the TNIV.

    On 2:40 I like “words.” NRSV is too interpretive here. I agree.

    On 2:41 I’m not too picky, either “welcomed” or “accepted.”

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  4. Valerie,

    The word in the Greek is apodexamenoi and is rooted in Strong’s number 588. According to various lexicons it’s meaning could be:

    welcome
    receive favorably
    receive gladly
    to take fully
    approve
    accept

    So take from that what you will. Lexicons aside, the easiest way to gauge meaning is to compare translations to see how they interpret a word’s meaning in context. Hope that helps.

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  5. Thank you, Nathan. Yes, that helps.

    I would still rather err on the side of caution and would choose accept over welcomed. I think the first 3 options in Nathan’s list imply an eagerness, whereas the last 3 options have an element of neutrality that allow them to be open to interpretation.

    I suspect that many/most WERE eager but I cannot imagine that somewhere in all of those thousands there weren’t some that acted out of conviction rather than eagerness. Of course my outlook is colored by my own experiences, and today I am especially conservative. 😉

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  6. I also like accepted the best I think; welcomed doesn’t bother me too much. When it comes to received, I’d probably prefer if they prefaced it with favorably received though I’m sure the translators assumed that the reader will pick up on the implication.

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  7. [ oops! My last comment doesn’t read quite right. *blush* ..I was referring to choices involving a difficult family member, not my conversion. ]

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  8. Nathan, thanks for the clarification.

    Valerie, it’s also in the Greek interlinear. Regarding your last comment, I know what you mean. 😉

    …and thanks Anon for the correction on the NLT, not HCSB.

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  9. I am very interested to see the results of this, and would love to see it taken even further at some point in the near future, as these, IMHO are three of the very best translations available. I wonder though sometimes, if we have collectively become overtly critical of every minute detail of a translation due to the fact that today we have so many choices of excellent ones (spoiled brats are we!).

    One thing we MUST remember is that the textual footnotes of a translation are every bit as important as the words chosen by the translators to use in the actual text.

    I also think something important for a main translation is having study materials (i.e. lexicons) keyed to it, which is my problem with my two favorites, the NRSV and ESV.

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