In the godly, fear and love embrace...

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[Tim: These past few years, Mary Lee and I have become quite fond of Josh Congrove, a doctoral student in classics here at Indiana University. Recently, Josh sent this E-mail to Church of the Good Shepherd's pastors.]

During the Scripture reading this past Sunday, I noticed that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) renders Acts 2:43 in a way that was quite surprising to me:

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.

The word in this passage is, as you might have guessed, phobos, and though it may sometimes be interpreted as "awe," I do think that to actually translate it this way (esp. with "a sense of"--see below) substantially weakens the stark force of the text as well as the impact of the conviction seen earlier in the passage...

I have not extensively looked into how the NASB usually translates phobos, but this does make me wonder. For curiosity's sake, I checked some other renditions of this verse. Here's how they stack up:

KJV:  "And fear came upon every soul..."
ASV: "And fear came upon every soul..."
ESV: "And awe came upon every soul..."; "fear" is listed in a footnote as another option.
NIV: "Everyone was filled with awe..."
The Message: "Everyone around was in awe..."
NASB: "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe..."

The KJV and ASV follow (as often) the text most closely; the ESV comes in second, though it chickens out a bit. The NIV and The Message are pretty similar, though I have to say (but hate to say) that I think here The Message actually captures the force of the Greek better. 

I find the NASB's translation the least satisfactory. It
tries (unnecessarily and rather inelegantly) to express the imperfect
verb by saying "kept feeling," but it weakens phobos by
expressing it as "awe"; what's worse, by adding the phrase "a sense
of," it ends up being both more jargony and less precise (quite an
achievement) than The Message.

All translations have problems, of course, but this is one I didn't expect to find in the NASB. Interestingly, as far as this verse, I find no translations that translate phobos as "awe" until the 20th century (John Wycliffe chose "dread"!).