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Comparative Study Bible Review

Reviewed by Gary F. Zeolla

Comparative Study Bible: New American Standard Bible Update (NASB); New International Version (NIV), King James Version (KJV), and Amplified Bible.

I first purchased the Comparative Study Bible (CSB) shortly after I became a Christian in the mid-1980s. I utilized it extensively over the next few years. I thought it was great to be able to compare four different Bible versions at a glance. In my Bible studies, I also would utilize J.P. Green’s Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible .

In my studies I would compare the four versions in the CSB to the word-for-word interlinear translation in the interlinear, along with the marginal translation, Green’s own Literal Translation of the Bible. Also at this time I began studying the issue of Bible versions, including translation principles and Greek text types. As a result of these studies and research, I became convinced that there were serious problems with each of the four versions in the CSB.

First in the CSB is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Now the edition I had utilized the 1977 edition of the NASB (the NAS77), but more recent editions have the 1995 updated edition (NAS95). But whichever edition is used, as I compared the NASB with the other translation in the CSB and with the interlinear, it became obvious that the NASB was a fairly literal and accurate translation.

However, there were times that the NASB differed significantly from the interlinear and even from the also fairly literal King James Version (KJV), which is also contained in the CSB. As I would learn, the reason for this difference was that the NASB is based on a “Critical Text” (CT) type of Greek text while the interlinear and the KJV used the Textus Receptus (TR). And my studies convinced me that the TR was to be preferred to the CT, and slightly better than the TR was the more recent Majority Text (MT). So despite its literal accuracy, the NASB had a serious defect in being based on a less reliable Greek text.

Next in the CSB is the New International Version (NIV). This version is also based on the CT, so it has this defect. But even more serious is the translation principle. The NIV utilizes a thought for thought principle rather than the more literal word-for-word principle of the NASB or KJV.

When I would compare the NIV to these versions or to the interlinear, it would very often differ significantly. And when it did, it was would either be because the NIV was not translating words found in the Hebrew and Greek texts, or the NIV was adding words that were not found in the original texts. And even worse, these added words were not offset from the original God-inspired words by being placed in italics like the NASB or KJV did.

A simple example of the former can be seen in Joshua 1:8. In this verse, the NAS95 has 50 words while the KJV has 48 words, but the NIV only has 30 words. You don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to figure out that the NIV has left out quite a bit here! And a simple example of added words not being indicated can be seen in 1Cor 7:9. The NIV adds the words “with passion” at the end of this verse without any indication it has done so. Altogether, there are probably thousand of added and omitted words in the NIV. To me, this indicates serious problems with the NIV.

Next in the CSB is the KJV. As already indicated, it is a fairly literal translation, and it is based on the TR. So it is a very reliable Bible version. However, given its use of the Elizabethan English, the KJV can be a very difficult Bible version to read. For comparing an occasionally verse this is not a major problem, but I found it to be too awkward for extended reading.

Lastly in the CSB is the Amplified Bible. As with the NASB and NIV, it is based on the CT. So this is one problem with it. But more serious is its rather unique translation principle. It claims to express “nuances” of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

Now this idea does sound noble. There are many nuances of especially the Greek text that do not translate very easily into English. However, in trying to be so expressive, the Amplified can be even more awkward to read than the KJV. The extreme “amplification” of the word “blessed” in the Beatitudes demonstrates this problem. Each Beatitude begins, "Blessed-happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous [that is, with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation regardless of their outward circumstances]...."

But even more importantly, upon investigation, I found that many of the Amplified Bible’s “amplifications” were rather questionable. For instance, in Hebrews 1:4 in the Amplified, Jesus is said to have inherited "the glorious Name (title)." But Jesus' "glorious Name" is more likely merely a reference to His nature not just His title (see John 17:5). "Name" in Scripture often has this wider meaning.

So my studies showed me that the NASB, NIV, and Amplified were based on a less reliable Greek text. The translation principles of the NIV and the Amplified had serious problems with them, and the KJV was a difficult version to read. With these problems, and given how bulky it was to handle, I just didn’t feel the CSB was worth the hassle of using any more. So I eventually donated it to my local church.

But I will say that the CSB does have some value. If one is still investigating the issue of Bible versions, the CSB will give you a way to quickly compare four rather different versions. So for this use only would I recommend the CSB.

And to aid you in studying the subject of Bible versions, I would also kindly suggest my book Differences Between Bible Versions. It contains much more in-depth reviews of each of the versions mentioned above. It also discusses the important issues of translation principles and Greek texts types at length.

Note, the Comparative Study Bible, along all of the versions and books mentioned above are available at reduced prices from Books-A-Million.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above review was posted on this Web site March 9, 2002.

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