Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the December issue of The Mustang Connection magazine.
In January 2020, Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Abner Chou had a conversation.
The topic? The New American Standard Bible. The idea? Taking the NASB, which they believed to be the best English Bible translation available, and refining it.
This idea soon developed into a plan, and translation work began in March of that year. In November 2021, the first print edition of the full translation, titled the Legacy Standard Bible, started shipping to the public.
Now complete and available online and in print, the LSB was a labor of love by faculty at The Master’s University and The Master’s Seminary who hope it will become a useful tool for those who love Scripture and want a fresh glimpse into the precision and depth of its language.
Chou, president of TMU, remembers one of the initial conversations he had with MacArthur about the project.
“We brainstormed some names of people who had expertise, would work well together, and could get the job done,” Chou says. “Within 10 or 15 minutes, we figured out who we wanted.”
The team included Dr. William Varner (professor at TMU) and Dr. Iosif Zhakevich (associate professor at TMS), who would help Chou shoulder the majority of the work for the New and Old Testaments, respectively. Dr. Paul Twiss (instructor at TMS), Dr. Mark Zhakevich (associate professor at TMS) and Jason Beals (assistant professor at TMU) were brought on as consultants to help problem-solve difficult issues.
From March to July 2020, the team worked at breakneck pace to finish the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. And once they sent that section of the LSB to the typesetters, they immediately transitioned to the rest of the Old Testament, which they finished translating in January 2021.
“It was really intense,” Chou says in describing the pace of the project. However, the gravity of what the group was doing made the work worthwhile.
Beals, who teaches biblical studies at TMU, remembers, “I was thinking that even just being a minor player in this would be something that would outlive me, Lord willing, in terms of its benefit and profound impact on believers.”
So, what was the motive behind the LSB project? It was not, as MacArthur made clear during a May 2020 interview, any lack of love or respect for the NASB. Quite the opposite.
“The NASB was a landmark moment in Bible translation, because it took into account better manuscripts that had been discovered since the traditional texts that were used for the King James Version,” MacArthur explained. “Here we have this incredible tool that has always recognized inerrancy, and we’ve said, ‘Let’s just refine it a bit.’ That is just a marvelous, providential gift of the Lord. I don’t know that any of us have ever had a more serious stewardship.”
In Chou’s words, the changes that the LSB makes to the NASB are “principle-focused,” applied consistently throughout the translation.
One principle was to use “Yahweh” when the original manuscripts use God’s covenant name, rather than replacing it with “LORD.” Another was to consistently translate the Greek word “doulos” as its more literal English equivalent, “slave,” rather than “servant.”
In fact, consistency of word choice was one of the team’s primary goals while translating.
Many English translations have a tendency to use synonyms for the sake of style, even when the original text uses the same word repeatedly. But the LSB team believed that the use of repetition within and across books of Scripture is actually one of the ways the Bible conveys meaning.
Chou says, “Consistent translation allows the reader to see what I see when I read my Greek and Hebrew Bible, and what the original readers saw when they read what the author had written. That’s what we want.”
Varner, a professor of biblical studies and Greek at TMU, pointed out an example in Judges that illustrates the power of consistency. The final verse of the book is translated in the LSB this way: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
“That’s literally what the Hebrew says, and many translations have it that way,” Varner says. “However, there is a statement by the inimitable Samson when he has his eyes on a Philistine girl, and he tells his parents in Judges 14:3, literally, ‘Take her for me, for she is right in my eyes.’
“Most translations, including the NASB, say something like, ‘She looks good to me.’ Well, that’s what Samson means, but if you don’t translate it, ‘She is right in my eyes,’ you may miss the connection, which is that Samson is an epitome of the Book of Judges.”
Connections like these can be found all throughout the translation by careful readers.
Beals says, “What I’m really excited about with the LSB is that if the average reader picks it up, and they simply work on their observation skills as they’re reading, they will see these repetitions by virtue of the consistency of translation, and they will begin to pick up on themes that the author intended to communicate.”
Even for those working on the translation, who already knew the original languages and have careers as Bible scholars and teachers, the process of creating the LSB was one of discovery.
“There’s a reason for everything,” Chou says. “That’s what you start to discover when you work on translating the Bible. You start to discover the intense level of precision that Scripture has.”
And then there was the joy of finally holding the finished LSB in print. Late last year, all six members of the translation team were presented with a goatskin copy of the full handy-size LSB.
“We looked like kids on Christmas morning,” Varner says.
Even though the complete translation is now available online and in print, a few things still remain to be done with the project. Perhaps the most important of these is the online release of the translators’ notes, which will allow readers to click on a word or verse and see the team’s rationale for their translation.
“The idea is to help laypeople have a better understanding of how to use the translation as a tool,” Chou says. “Because that’s what it is; it’s a tool to understand the original.”
In the meantime, what has already been accomplished is a remarkable feat.
“I am stunned by the kindness of the Lord in allowing this to happen,” MacArthur said in the May 2020 interview. “I can’t think of a greater legacy than handing off to this generation a refinement of the very best English translation available.”
To learn more about the LSB, read the full text online for free, or order a print copy, see lsbible.org.