This post will point out something that both the NASB and the ESV are “guilty” of. It’s nothing major; just a few style issues that remind us that English translations are . . . translations.
1 Chronicles 16:8-22 and Psalm 105:1-15 consist of David’s song of thanks after the ark of the Lord was brought to Jerusalem. The Hebrew text is almost identical in both passages; yet both the NASB and the ESV contain variations in the way they translate each passage. I’m not saying the NASB and the ESV differ in how they translate the passages (of course they do, they’re different versions); I’m saying that the NASB, for example, renders verses from 1 Chronicles and Psalms that are identical in Hebrew with different English translations. The ESV does the same thing. Let me illustrate, beginning with the NASB:
- In 1 Chronicles 16:12, the Hebrew word נִפְלְאֹתָיו is translated “wonderful deeds”; whereas in Psalm 105:5, the same word is translated “wonders.”
- In 1 Chronicles 16:12 we have “judgments from His mouth,” whereas in Psalm 105:5, the same Hebrew phrase is translated “judgments uttered by His mouth.”
- 1 Chronicles 16:17 begins, “He also confirmed it”; whereas in Psalm 105:10, the same Hebrew word is translated “Then He confirmed it.”
- The end of 1 Chronicles 16:21 sets up the quote in v. 22 with “And He reproved kings for their sakes, saying,”; whereas in Psalm 105:14, with no difference in the Hebrew, the quote in v. 22 is set up with a simple colon: “And He reproved kings for their sakes:.”
- In 1 Chronicles 16:13, בְּנֵי is translated “sons”; whereas in Psalm 105:6, the same Hebrew word is translated “children.”
- In 1 Chronicles 16:17 we have “which he confirmed as a statute to Jacob, as an everlasting covenant to Israel”; whereas in Psalm 105:10, with identical word order in Hebrew, we have “which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.” So, the English word order is different in both verses although the Hebrew word order is the same in both verses.
- In 1 Chronicles 16:18, the English translation has a comma after “Canaan”; whereas in Psalm 105:11 there is no comma after “Canaan.”
- 1 Chronicles 16:19 has “and of little account,” whereas Psalm 105:12 translates the same Hebrew word just “of little account” (without the “and”).
So, once again, we have a passage of Scripture that appears in two places in the Bible (1 Chronicles 16:8-22 and Psalm 105:1-15). There are places in these two passages where the Hebrew is identical, and yet the same version translates certain words and phrases differently in one place than it does in the other. Why? The answer is probably this simple: for both the NASB and the ESV, the person who translated 1 Chronicles was not the same person who translated the book of Psalms. In other words, whoever translated 1 Chronicles for the NASB just had a slightly different translation style than the person who translated the same passage in Psalms. Two different people with two different translation styles = two different translations of the same Hebrew text. The same is likely true for the ESV.
In one sense, these differences don’t really matter at all. They are very small and insignificant, and the different ways of translating the identical Hebrew words and phrases mentioned here don’t affect the meaning of the texts. It does remind us, though, that translations are just that—translations. The NASB and the ESV are English translations of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek originals. This shouldn’t cause us to doubt the reliability of our English translations. After all, the examples in this post show that a Hebrew text can be translated into English in more than one way while still being reliable (though slightly different) translations. It’s just interesting to note the variations in style that exist even within a single English translation of Scripture. So, if you think that identical Hebrew passages ought to be translated identically in English, then neither the NASB nor the ESV get this one exactly right.