The American Standard Version (You’ve Probably Never Heard of It)

If you were to survey a wide variety of Christians as two which Bible translation they used or which translation they preferred, I am convinced the high majority of the answers you would get would be limited to the King James Version (KJV; also known as the Authorized Version, AV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the NIV (New International Version), the ESV (English Standard Version), the NASB (New American Standard Bible), the New Living Translation (NLT), or even possible the Revised Standard Bible (RSV) or the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). But one translation that has seemed to slip through the cracks is the American Standard Version (ASV). Interestingly enough, the ASV is actually the basis of three rather well known translations–the RSV (1971), Amplified Bible (1965), and the NASB (1995).

Allow me to introduce you to this version.

The American Standard Version was published in 1901. It is a formal equivalent translation (which basically means it is incredibly literal). Many claimed it to be the most literal translation since the King James Version; some claim it is the most literal translation ever produced. Because of this, it is great for someone who would like to get as close as possible to the original languages but doesn’t know the languages (or doesn’t want to take the effort to check them out). This is something many modern translations that are more dynamic translations (i.e., the NIV and certainly the NLT, which is more a paraphrase than a translation) can’t necessarily offer.

The ASV has a lot of similarities to the KJV. First of all, it is, as noted, a formal equivalent translation. Second, it tends to read like a King James Bible (i.e., “thee,” “thou,” “haveth,” etc.) But personally, I think it is still readable and much easier to understand then the KJV (which probably has something to do with the fact that it was published in 1901). Also, although some individuals like to make fun of the “thee”/”thou” language (myself included at times), the ASV retains the “ye”/”you” distinction which is extremely helpful. If you are unaware, this is because “ye” represents the plural form (“you all,” “ya’ll”) and “you” represents the singular. This is rather significant in some texts.

One significant difference between the ASV and the KJV is the manuscripts they are based on. The ASV is based on manuscript readings that are more accepted in today’s scholarship due to better knowledge, more understanding, and better manuscripts. In other words, the manuscript basis of the ASV is more so in line with that of most modern translations than that of the KJV, which is a plus.

I recommend you check this translation out alongside your current translation, especially if you are interested in doing more detailed analysis of the Biblical text. Unfortunately, I do not believe they print this version anymore, although I know you can still buy it online (I’ve checked). It never really became extremely popular (to my knowledge) and so it tended to get replaced by its predecessors (especially the RSV and NASB). But, you can buy it on kindle for a dollar!

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