PMI Blog header edge



Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Connect With Us:

Looking for Great Bible Study?

Visit Our eStore!

About US


Our passion is to help people discover Truth for themselves by using the Inductive Bible Study method. We strive to accomplish this by offering Inductive Bible Studies, Training Workshops, conferences, and events for men, women, and students.


Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

ESV? or NASB? - That is the Question!


ESV,NAS,study bible,inductive bible study,choosing a bible,what translation is best,bible translations,kay arthur

I have a New American Standard Bible, do I need to switch to an English Standard Version? What is the difference anyway? Is one better than the other?

When Precept Ministries offered the New Inductive Study Bible in the NAS and ESV those were the questions a lot of our friends were asking. But before we talk about the ESV versus the NAS we need to share a little background.

Bible Translations in general

  • Literal or Word for Word Translation

The goal of a Bible translation is obviously to help the reader understand the text. Until the twentieth century the philosophy of Bible translation was to translate the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words of the Bible into the closest possible equivalent in English. In other words the translator’s aim was to be as literal as possible and still be readable. This method is often referred to as a literal or word for word translation. However, the title is a little misleading because we cannot effectively translate exactly word for word from the Biblical languages into English without the end result being unreadable.

  • Thought for Thought Translation

In the mid-twentieth century the idea of a dynamic equivalent was introduced. This is commonly referred to as a thought for thought translation or a paraphrase. The goal is to translate the idea or thought in the original language to a corresponding thought in English.

“Briefly stated, the theory of dynamic equivalence in Bible translation emphasizes the reaction of the reader to the translated text, rather than the translation of the words and phrases themselves.”
Leland Ryken, The Word of God In English. (2002) Wheaton, IL: Crossway

  • Which is Which?

Translations like the King James Version, American Standard, New American Standard, and English Standard are on the more literal side of the spectrum. Bibles like The Message and The Living Bible are much more on the dynamic equivalent side of the scale. And scholars often place the New International Version in the middle of the scale.

What made the New American Standard so popular?

From the Preface of the NAS:
“Modern English Usage: The attempt has been made to render the grammar and terminology in contemporary English. When it was felt that the word-for-word literalness was unacceptable to the modern reader, a change was made in the direction of a more current English idiom. In the instances where this has been done, the more literal rendering has been indicated in the notes.”
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

The NASB has always been popular with serious Bible students because the translators tried to “render the grammar and terminology” of the original languages into English. And they worked at being as literal as possible. Serious Bible students have always wanted to know exactly what the text said so they could be the ones to determine for themselves the meaning. The NASB meets that need.

What about the English Standard Version?

From the preface of the ESV:
“The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

The ESV is popular, among other reasons, because it is translated in a “current literary English”. Or, to put it another way, the ESV is understandable and sounds like current English literature to most Americans. It sounds modern.

What are the differences between ESV and NAS?

Most scholars rank the NAS as a bit more literal word for word translation. Some think, but not all, that some of the Old Testament passages are a little "wooden", so literally “word for word”, that they are hard to read.

Many scholars and students, but certainly not all, think the ESV is smoother and easier to read. If this is true it is because the translators opted for readability over literalness in some passages whereas the NAS usually chose literalness over readability.

There is no one translation that will ever be universally accepted as the perfect translation. However, for the English speaking world, both the ESV and NASB are excellent translations directly from the original languages.

Should you buy an ESV?

Maybe. It is a very personal decision. Most of us on staff at Precept Ministries have a New Inductive Study Bible in the NAS. And yet many of us have already ordered a new ESV Inductive Study Bible. Even if you are perfectly content to keep studying from the NAS, the introductory sale of 40% off retail is too much of a good deal to pass up. Personally I may keep my NAS and give the ESV as a gift or I might just transition to the ESV.

English Bible Translation Comparisons

The following is a link is to an interesting chart from Zondervan Publishing giving you a comparison of the major English translations. You should know that Zondervan publishes the NIV so you will notice a distinct slant in that direction.

Wrap it Up

In the end the version you choose to study from is a personal choice. Both the ESV and the NAS will serve you well. The issue is will you study the one you have? No Bible is of any value if you do not open it and read it. There is nothing especially powerful about a Bible lying on a table. But once you open it and begin to study it there is nothing more powerful in the whole world. The Bible is literally the word of God. His words are powerful, sharp, penetrating, and very dangerous. The word of God changes cultures, tribes, cities, countries, and even individual lives.

Whichever version you choose, read it.

We have our New Inductive Study Bible available in both NAS and ESV. And, they are all 40% off for a limited time! 

Don’t miss this opportunity to purchase a Bible that will actually train you to study for yourself.


Examples of Differences in Translations 

Romans 8:38–39 

Literal or Word for Word Translations


For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thought for Thought Translations


For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The New Living Translation

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,* neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Message

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.


David Lawson has been involved with Precept Ministries since 1981, first as a student, then as a leader, and later as a Trainer. On staff with Precept he has served as Co-Director of Transform Student Ministries, as an author of various Bible studies, a featured teacher on several Precept videos and currently is working in Social Media. David is passionate about helping people learn to study the Word of God for themselves. He firmly believes the Word of God is what the Spirit of God uses more than anything else to mature the children of God.


This is a great explanation. I plan to use it as I explain to the ladies I teach who are incarcerated at Lockhart the differences between "translations." I have used NASB Inductive Bible for 13 years! Love it! 
But the intro price for the ESV makes it too attractive to pass.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 11:18 AM by Janice Kay Benkendorf
Thank you so much for this explanation. You answered the question beautifully!
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 11:26 AM by Linda
Your spelling a grammar mistakes distract from the content (i.e.--currant/current and though for thought)
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 1:54 PM by Brenda Lewis
Great explanation!
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 1:54 PM by Jeremy Lucarelli
One thing I do not like about the ESV is the fact that it does not capitalize the personal pronouns that refer to God or Christ. I would probably use it as my daily study Bible if it were not for that fact.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 2:05 PM by Gina Scott
Just a thought about SIZE ... I have one of the original larger format Precept Inductive Study Bibles ... how does the size of these new ESVs compare to the original larger NASBs?? .... Thank you!
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 2:53 PM by Dianne Ellis
I wish I had known before I purchased an ESV that the personal pronouns that refer to God and Christ were not capitalized. I would not have bought it had I known.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 4:07 PM by Alice Jordan
Capitalizing pronouns when they refer to God is a practice that historically was used in only a few translations. Among modern English Bibles only the New American Standard, the Holman Christian Standard, and the New King James Version use the practice today. Even the KJV does not capitalize pronouns referring to God.  
The Hebrew had only letters, no upper or lower case, so nothing was capitalized. The Greek had both upper and lower case, but the ancient manuscripts were all written in all upper case. So, again there was no special designation of pronouns or of God’s name in the original languages.  
It is a matter of preference and there is certainly nothing wrong with it.  
Posted @ Wednesday, July 03, 2013 8:14 PM by Precept Team
I study out of the KJV, because of all the omissions and changes in the other versions. I feel the KJv is very poetic & historic! I recommend the KJV to everyone, due to what it says in rev 22:18 & 19. I started studying out of the NIv years ago, but found out their is over 700 omissions in it! I've also weighed the other versions also, and it seems they have changes 7 ommissions also. I'l will always study from the KJV, I love the translation, and it seems to be proven the most acurate. God Love You, 
Posted @ Thursday, July 04, 2013 3:08 AM by John Duerwaechter
Thanks for an excellent explanation from David and the added info from the Precept Team and bloggers. I like having the personal pronouns for God and Christ capitalized. It sure helps me when marking the text. I have 2 of the original larger format Precept Inductive Study Bibles. ( The first one did not contain a concordance.) I love all the space for my lists and notes. I'm assuming this newer printing will be the standard size. I ordered a new NASB but was wondering if I should have ordered a ESV instead or one of each. Thanks for all the info and thanks to Precept for the wonderful discount.
Posted @ Thursday, July 04, 2013 10:56 AM by Debbie Nickeson
I have KJV, NKJV, NASV, ESV and I always find that I go back to my NKJV...I love the poetic lilt it is written in. 
Northwest chick
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 9:28 AM by Nortwest chick
Debbie, the size of the ESV will be the same as the current NAS. Not as large as the older versions.
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 10:32 AM by Precept Team
Is the NAS Inductive Study Bible available in large print. I am having problems with my vision. My latest copy is smaller with thinner pages...marking goes through. I have two of the larger NAS Inductive Study Bibles that I have used for years...would love large print! 
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 2:08 PM by Wanda McAllister
The New Inductive Study Bible is not available in large print. It would be helpful for many of us, but it would make the NISB even larger than it already is. Harvest House, the publisher of the Bible has not mentioned any plans to print one in large print.  
[Precept Team]
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 2:15 PM by Precept Team
Poor John, does he know about all the problems that are in the KJV?
Posted @ Monday, July 08, 2013 11:49 PM by Jimmy Fisher
Quick comment, hoping I don’t make any spelling/grammar errors enough to distract from the point I am attempting to make, which is: 
When choosing from the various ‘literal’ translations, keep in mind what the translators have done. They have used different nuances of particular words that they believe convey the idea of the writer the best. The doctrine(s) within the text have not been changed (this statement is in reference to ‘literal’ translations not paraphrases). 
If personal pronouns hold a high priority in your thinking and you like to mark the text, capitalize them as your read/study. It will slow your reading speed down as well as sharpen your observation skills. 
Comparing translations can be beneficial and there are many different tools available, Bible software, on-line sites, parallel Bibles, etc. Sometimes having too much serves to be a distraction verses an aide. I often think of those spiritual giants of previous centuries. They had a Bible (KJ) a copy of Pilgrims Progress and possibly one or two other classics; yet they experienced great movements of God. Proving it is not the translation of the original text but rather the spiritual receptivity of the children of God. The chief purpose of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever. The way we do this is to love, trust and obey, the means that God has made available to us is the revelation of Himself, found within the Holy Writ. 
Respectfully, a fellow disciple. 
Posted @ Thursday, July 18, 2013 1:22 PM by Cindy Radford
Well stated Cindy, well stated. Thank you!
Posted @ Thursday, July 18, 2013 1:38 PM by Precept Team
I am wondering if some or all of the Precepts Bible studies are going to include the ESV in the lessons? I don't want to have a problem using the ESV if the lesson is using NASB. However, I might buy the ESV anyway. :-)
Posted @ Thursday, July 18, 2013 4:12 PM by Suzy Finigan
Yes, the Precept courses will be offered in both NAS and ESV. 
Posted @ Friday, July 19, 2013 7:47 AM by Precept Team
Does the NAS Inductive Study Bible retain all the textual notes of the NAS translation at the bottom? Does it have a full set of cross references as well?
Posted @ Monday, July 22, 2013 5:57 AM by Andrew
My ESV came last Thursday, I spent the afternoon looking through and it strongly resembles my NASB from Precept. I don't know that I'll change but I might.
Posted @ Monday, July 22, 2013 10:22 AM by Willi
Thank you for this understandable explanation of ESV/NASB. I bought the ESV as it WAS too good a deal to pass up. I've been using the ESV for almost a year and love it. Thanks.
Posted @ Wednesday, July 24, 2013 3:21 PM by Mitzi White
The NISB retains all of the notes and cross-references of the NASB or the ESV. We have not, and actually would not be allowed to, change the notes or references. [Precept Team]
Posted @ Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:17 PM by Precept Team
The structure of the New Inductive Study Bible is the same as it has always been with the notes, charts, maps and all the other bells and whistles.  
The text of the NAS and the ESV are different. Many places they seem the same because they are both reliable word for word translations but there are significant differences. However, both are good translations. [Precept Team]
Posted @ Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:21 PM by Precept Team
I am a new to the Bible, which should I order NAS or ESV??
Posted @ Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:52 PM by Kathleen
Both are excellant translations. ESV is growing rapidly in popularity. Many pastors are now preaching from the ESV. So, on a personal note, you might be happier with the ESV in the long run. [David with the Precept Team]
Posted @ Wednesday, July 31, 2013 4:13 PM by Precept Team
@Jimmy Fisher said "Poor John, does he know about all the problems that are in the KJV?" 
Please can you list out ALL the problems (except thees, thous and archaic words). I would be much obliged to you as it will help me in my study. 
I have been studying over 10 translations of which I have concluded only 4 (four) to be worthwhile to compare. 
KJV (old) NKJV (modern) translated with Greek based on Textus Receptus 
ASV (old) NASB (modern) translated with Greek based on Critical Text 
And NKJV for my personal study. 
Posted @ Tuesday, October 01, 2013 12:06 AM by Joseph
take good care of my bibles but 2 have broken at front taking a small portion of Genesis. I am very fond of the charts and maps in front but do not like changing Bibles. Have you thought of offering the charts and maps separate? I don't like changing my study Bible, but I don't like it to be broken.
Posted @ Sunday, February 23, 2014 6:47 PM by M Kay
Many thanks to the Precepts team for providing a wonderful blog of information! I have decided to order the ESV. I love the Milano Green, but I would like to know if the Genuine leather is of significant quality difference? Will the genuine leather be published in optional colors in the future? 
Again, many thanks Precepts. Continued blessing for what all of you do for the Kingdom. I trust and learn a lot from Kay A.
Posted @ Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:35 PM by Estella
Hi - Can you tell me why the inductive study Bible is no longer available in NIV? I'm trying to figure this out to no avail. Thanks!
Posted @ Friday, May 09, 2014 10:14 PM by Desiree
Should I throw my KJV away because 
it has corrupted the word of God  
with so many additions,  
like John 7:53-8:11.  
I guess I am asking if that portion 
in John 8 is scripture or not.
Posted @ Monday, July 21, 2014 10:38 AM by David Wiseley
I hope you are kidding about throwing away your KJV because "it has corrupted the word of God".  
But, to answer your question about John 8, yes John 8 is in the Bible. The story of the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53-8:11 is not in the most ancient Greek texts or manuscripts. The KJV translators did not have access to those manuscripts and so would have had no idea. But, the NAS,ESV, Holman Christian, and even the Message all contain the story. The modern translators leave the passage in and let you know it is not in the most ancient texts so you can make up your own mind about the authenticity of the passage.  
As for me, I read it, study it, and use it as a sermon text sometimes. I have no problem with the story being in John.  
Since I am not sure what you were getting at, I hope this helps.  
David Lawson 
Posted @ Monday, July 21, 2014 11:08 AM by Precept Team
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics