Since the Tyndale Bible (the first proper English translation of the Bible) was published in the 1500s, there have been hundreds of other English translations including the famous King James Bible.
In this matchup, we compare two modern English Bible translations: the New American Standard Bible (NASB) vs the New Catholic Bible (NCB). We discuss the goals of each translation and the similarities and differences between them.
What You'll Learn Today
What You Need To Know About Bible Translations
You might be wondering why there are so many versions and translations of the Bible. One of the reasons is that there are numerous manuscripts from which the Bible is compiled from.
Different people and organizations may choose specific manuscripts to translate and leave others.
There’s also the issue of language. Even setting aside the many languages around the world that the Bible is written in, the English language itself varies geographically and changes with time. So you’ll find various English translations written for a particular style of English language.
Different translators also have varying approaches when it comes to translating from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages.
There are those who believe in a word for word translation, what’s known as formal or literal equivalence. The best known examples are the King James Bible (KJV) and the NASB.
There are also those whose focus is to make the Bible easier to read without necessarily sticking to a strict word for word translation. Rather, it’s more of a thought for thought (or message for message) translation or what’s known as functional or dynamic equivalence.
Examples of functional equivalence translations include the New Living Bible and the Good News Bible.
There are also translations that combine both literal and functional approaches. These are optimal equivalence translations.
New American Standard Bible
The New American Standard Bible was released in 1971. It has since been revised twice: in 1995 and most recently in 2020.
The NASB is probably the best example of a formal equivalence English Bible translation. It is one of the most literal translations available.
When translating the NASB, the Lockman Foundation – the nonprofit behind the NASB translation – wanted a Bible that stayed true to the original manuscripts, easy to understand, grammatically correct and one that centers the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the translators translated each word as literally as possible from the original texts.
Unlike the KJV Bible that some people struggle to read, the NASB uses contemporary English that’s easy for most people to understand.
The 2020 translation has been adjusted further to reflect the evolution of the English language.
You can see the differences in language between KJV and NASB in John 3:16.
KJV: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
NASB: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
Words like ‘begotten’ and ‘whosoever’ are replaced by more contemporary words that have a similar or close meaning.
Compare these two to an older (1862) literal translation of the Bible – the Young’s Literal Translation. It’s a great example of how language evolves.
YLT: for God did so love the world, that His Son — the only begotten — He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.
Important to note is that the NASB does not include the deuterocanonical books found in Catholic Bibles. So while it’s used by Christians from most denominations, including Catholics, it is not one of the Bible translations approved by the Catholic Church.
New Catholic Bible
The New Catholic Bible is one of the many Catholic Bibles available today. The main defining characteristic of these Catholic Bibles is that they include 73 books in their Canon. This is in contrast to the 66-book Canon that’s used in Protestant churches.
Catholic Bibles include the 66 books that are in all complete Bibles plus seven deuterocanonical books.
Similar to the NASB, the New Catholic Bible (NCB) is a literal or formal equivalence translation. The translators tried as much as possible to translate the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts word for word.
Since the NCB is translated specifically for Catholic faithfuls, it contains a lot of explanatory notes that reflect the consensus in the Roman Catholic Church.
The main edition of the Bible (called the Saint Joseph New Catholic Bible) is written in a very user-friendly style.
It uses a large typeface, includes lots of footnotes (with asterisks in the Biblical texts to direct you to the right footnote), and even includes introductions to the New Testament, Old Testament and individual books.
The NCB translation uses a modern language that’s easy to understand for English-speaking Catholics all over the world. So none of the obscure or foreign-sounding words you might find in older translations.
Here’s the NCB translation of John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may attain eternal life.
The NCB translation was published in 2019 by the same committee that translated the New Catholic Version of The Psalms (2002) and The New Testament (2015).
Notably, the NCB translation is yet to be officially approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). But the New Catholic Version of The Psalms is USCCB-approved.
That’s not to mean it’s bad or unreliable. Experts generally regard the New Catholic Bible to be highly accurate thanks to its literal translation. It’s also used in many Catholic Churches.
Similarities Between NASB and NCB Bibles
- NASB and NCB are both literal/formal equivalence translations. If you want a Bible that is as close as possible to the meaning and contexts in the original Bible manuscripts, both the NASB and NCB are great picks.
- The NASB and NCB translations are both written in easy-to-understand contemporary English. They are written to match the current style of spoken and written English in most parts of the world.
- NASB and NCB are both original translations. They are translated from the original manuscripts. They are not based on other versions of the Bible.
- Both translations go to great effort to remain faithful to the word of God. They don’t try to interpret the meaning of some sections or change their meaning to reflect a different environment. The only thing they do is adjust the language to make it more suitable for modern readers.
Differences Between NASB and NCB Bibles?
- The biggest difference between the NASB and NCB translations is that the NASB is a protestant Bible while the NCB is a Catholic Bible. NASB contains 66 books recognized as canon by Protestant churches while the NCB bible has 73 books, including seven deuterocanonical books recognized by the Catholic Church.
- The NASB translation is older (1971) than the NCB translation (2019). However, the style of language is very similar since the NASB has been revised twice with the last revision being in 2020.
- While both NASB and NCB translations use contemporary and easy to understand English, the NASB translation is a bit more challenging to read. The NCB Bible is written at a 7th grade reading level while the NASB Bible is more suitable for 11th graders and older. If you are getting a Bible for your kid or teen, the NCB Bible is the better choice between the two.
Comparison of Bible Verses Between NASB and NCB Bibles
NASB: The Lord is my shepherd, I will not be in need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
NCB: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall lack. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me to tranquil streams.
NASB: As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s office; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
NCB: As Jesus walked on from there, he noticed a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
NASB: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
NCB: Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
As you can see, the language in both translations is pretty close. But you’ll notice that the New Catholic Bible is a bit simpler to read.
But both are excellent and highly accurate translations. Which one you choose depends on whether you are looking for a Catholic or Protestant Bible.