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I've read both the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version for some time now. I frankly can't tell which one I'm reading; they're that close. Many passages are translated with the exact same wording.

What are the differences between the translation ideologies of the two?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

From the ESV Wikipedia link (emphasis added):

The result is a translation that is more literal than the popular New International Version, but more idiomatic than the New American Standard Bible.

That's probably the main difference. So ESV is going to be more literal, less figurative and free from exaggeration/embellishment in it's translations and is going to "use, contain or denote expressions that are natural to the native speaker" (idiomatic as defined by dictionary.com).

(My opinion) From what I've read from each of them, the NASB seems to be smoother and more easily understood in modern English. However, with the ESV, it's nice sometimes to get a more clear look at the original meanings/translation.

The most updated version of the NASB was 1995* and the most recent version of ESV is a 2011 edition*.

"[...] on occasion the ESV translates 'person' or 'one' where previous translations used 'man' [however] it keeps gender specific language [as-is] in the original [text]."*

*from Wikipedia links provided.

Good question, I learned a bit through this short bit of research :)

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+1 Welcome to Christianity.SE and thanks for the answer! Makes me feel a little dumb to not have noticed that in Wikipedia though I did look at those articles... –  dancek Oct 10 '11 at 20:38
    
@dancek Thanks and no worries! Thanks for the votes! –  joshmax Oct 11 '11 at 14:54
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The NASB follows more of a formal equivalence model of translation. They try to translate every Greek/Hebrew word with the same English word in each occurrence. They also try to be consistent in how they express grammatical constructions. This is great if you are using the translation to talk about Greek words and grammar because you can pretty much guess what Greek/Hebrew words and constructions are being translated. However, this benefit comes at a cost. You will find the NASB to be a little less clear if you don't know Greek/Hebrew.

The ESV follows a little more of a functional equivalence model. They still try to remain consistent with how they translate words and grammatical constructions. However, the RSV translators (the ESV is an update of the RSV) are a little more willing to translate words differently based upon context.

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