Why the HCSB?

A couple of weeks ago I made a change to the Holman Christian Standard version of the Bible as my main preaching text.  I had been using the English Standard Version for the six and half years that I had been pastoring at Grand.  So why the change?

The HCSB and the ESV were published very close together, the ESV in 2001 followed by the HCSB in 2004.  Both are excellent translations.  I latched onto the ESV almost immediately when it was published.  I was finishing my doctorate at Southern Seminary and the translation garnered the endorsement of Dr. Al Mohler.  I have loved and still do love the ESV.  In recent years, I have begun to take notice of the HCSB as well.  In my sermon study and prep time, I found myself drifting from the ESV to the HCSB for alternate readings and nuanced translation differences.  We live in a wonderful day as English speakers where we have multiple translations of God’s Word to help us discern exactly what God has said to us.  Of all the translations available today, the ESV and HCSB are at the very top of my personal list.

That’s a little background, but I still have not answered the question of why a switch.  So let me break it down in a few bullet points.

  • The HCSB is a new translation from the original languages, not a revision of a previous translation.  This is a BIG deal because so much has been learned from recent publications of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other newly discovered manuscripts.  The HCSB takes advantage of the latest in manuscript discovery.
  • The HCSB is a formal equivalence translation (word-for-word) which is very important when studying God’s Word.  BUT it employs a dynamic equivalence (meaning-for-meaning) approach when the formal translation is too stilted for English understanding.  It does this very sparingly but effectively in my experience with the translation.
  • When the HCSB does employee a dynamic equivalence approach to translation, it provides extensive footnoting with the most literal translation.  This is fantastic for the biblical student, because you get the best of both worlds.  In fact, the HCSB does the best job of any translation I have seen in footnoting for the sake of providing the best possible understanding.
  • The publishers of the HCSB have gone to great lengths to publish a visually appealing text.  This may sound trivial, but it is no small thing.  The choice of font, layout of the text, etc. are outstanding.  I have never worked with a Bible that is so easy to visually engage with.  As one example, in the New Testament, every time there is a quote from the Old Testament, those quotes are bolded.  They really pop visually. It drives home in a clear way the amount of Old Testament references that appear in the New Testament.
  • Our church in particular, is embracing The Gospel Project as our Bible study curriculum for all our age groups.  The primary translation of The Gospel Project is the HCSB.  By adopting the HCSB in the pulpit, we are marrying together a common translation across the board for our people.
  • Holman is doing more than any Bible publisher I am aware of with digital content as it relates to the Bible.  In the world we live in today, digital publishing is critical.  I wanted to engage a translation that would be backed with a strong and progressive digital platform.

So when you put it all together, the HCSB fits like a glove for me and for the church I pastor.  I was able to work a great deal with Lifeway and we have offered the HCSB in a leather bound edition to our people at special pricing.  In the last two weeks we have sold over 300 of these Bibles.  The feedback I am getting from young and old is that they love the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Of course the most important thing to remember about God’s Word, regardless of which translation is your favorite, is that you take time to read it!


24 responses to “Why the HCSB?”

  1. hydroman5771 says :

    I absolutely love it. It is so easy to read. I’ve got a reading comp problem, and it has opened my eyes to misunderstood parts. It is a miracle that I’ve read the volume I have so far. Thanx to you, and the church for providing it to me.

  2. betty jo carpenter says :

    Formatting has made this one of the most efficient reads, in speed and comprehension. My plan was to use the HCSB for daily reading, not for my bible study. Imagine God’s pleasure when I completed Isaiah to Amos in 2 weeks with eye opening understanding and growth.

  3. Thom Rainer says :

    Thank you for your kind words about the HCSB. We are excited about how God is using this translation. Your review was very well written; I could not have done better myself.

    Thom Rainer
    President and CEO
    LifeWay Christian Resources

    • James Davies says :

      I recently bought a HCSB (Black leather indexed) after being introduced to this translation by a lady friend after being a life long reader of NASB, it is a really beautiful bible. The study sections really are such a huge help in understanding the scriptures in a modern time

    • Betsy Ross says :

      How do you get the HCSB,? This sounds like just what I’m looking for, I’m trying to find a bible I can understand, some of these bibles are confusing, Are these bibles expensive? we are retired, and living on S.S. I can’t afford to spend alot on this bible, but, I don’t know who sells them, everyone I ask, tell me they don’t carry them.

  4. Dan Phillips says :

    You could add at least one more plus — although it points straight to a characteristic minus. That is the fact that the CSB uses “Yahweh” about 476 times, and Yah another 2X — as opposed to the ESV’s resounding ZERO.

    But that’s only 476 out of nearly 7000 occurrences. So, having taken a step towards accuracy, why not go all the way? Why not really break from the pack and be true to the text?

    Similarly, there is the CSB’s absolutely baffling use of “Messiah” to retransliterate Christos in the NT. That is, of course both Messiah and Christ are transliterations, not really translations: the former from the Hebrew, the latter from the Greek. So, rather than translating both by “Anointed One” or some such, on a number of occasions in the NT, the CSB apparently randomly gives “Messiah” for Christos, rather than “Christ.”

    They attempt an explanation, but it makes no sense whatever. What is worse, on many occasions “Christ” and “Messiah” occur right by each other, both resting on a Greek text with Christos (e.g. Matt. 1:1, 16-17; Rom. 15:19-20; Eph. 2:12-13; etc. ad inf.).

    While the CSB is occasionally simply brilliant, it features a number of idiosyncrasies that have stopped me from thinking to adopt it for our church.

    • C says :

      I hadn’t thought about the matter of the HCSB’s translation of “christos,” but I certainly have noticed the matter of translating only some — apparently a rather small portion — of the occurrences of YHWH as “Yahweh.” I hope someone at LifeWay will take notice of comments such as these and consider going , as you say, “all the way.”

      • Craig Beard says :

        Sorry . . . I hit the ‘post’ button to quickly. That last comment is mine, and my name is Craig Beard rather than “C.” 🙂

  5. BJ Hoff says :

    I’ve been using the ESV since its publication and the HCSB more recently. Both have become my favorite translations and the ones I use regularly. I do tend to favor the HCSB, in part because of the translation itself, but also because it’s so visually “readable” and engaging. Grateful for both of them.

    BJ Hoff

  6. Lee Bossert says :

    I have relied on the ESV and the NASB for years when doing in-depth Bible study, and have now added the HCSB to the group because of verses like Luke 18:13. Both of the older translations have the tax collector saying “…be merciful to me…”, the “traditional” rendering. But the HCSB has “…turn Your wrath from me…”, which is the more accurate rendering of the Greek.

    I have also begun to use the HCSB in my devotional reading because of a certain quirk — archaic language attracts my attention in a negative sense, and I get off track from what the message is. An ESV example is Joshua 10:21b — “Not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.” Those Canaanites certainly had a high regard for public health!

    I, too, praise God for the wonderful variety of English translations in helping us hear from God!

  7. Lloyd Holden says :

    Lloyd Holden
    Thank you for this blog posting. I’m comfortable with the HCSB use of Yahweh where a name is specifically inferred, but still very uncomfortable with vocalizing it ( I say “the LORD” when reading those verses aloud). I may have trouble with it because of my advancing age. When God revealed His covenant name to His covenant people, His omniscience knew that hallowing the Name by not verbalizing it was the one reverence that His people wouldn’t break during millenia of repeated rebellion, idolatry, and failure.

    • Chris O'Keefe says :

      I have a little disagreement with you here. Scripture tells us to use the name, bless in the name, even to swear by the name.

      Deu 6:13 Yahweh your God is the one you must fear, him alone you must serve, his is the name by which you must swear. ( NJB )

      • Noel says :

        Chris, Matt 5:33 ” But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all…” and then in verse 37 ” But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything more than this is from the evil one” We as Christians should not swear in anything, as Jesus said.

  8. Sandra Dobnikar says :

    What is the explanation for the HCSB translating in John 1:39, 10th hour as 10 in morning; in John 4:6, 6th hour as six in evening; John 4:52, seventh hour as seven in morning; and John 19:14, sixth hour as 6 in morning? Surely this question has been addressed but I have not found reference to it in any comments by reviewers.

    • John Klink, Jr. says :

      I know you asked this question many months ago, so I don’t know if you’ll get a notification. However, I would like to point out that the translators notes at Jn 1:39 explains the situation that John probably used a different system than the other gospels. (His was the last written after the Greek time reckoning became the norm.). Basically the older Hebrew system called the “first hour” what would be “6 AM” (or daybreak) on our modern clocks. The Greek system worked like ours starting the 12 hour count at midnight and noon. Using contextual clues from the whole book, it appears that Matthew, Mark and Luke, all used the Hebrew time reckoning, and John used the Greek.

      So if indeed John was counting from midnight or noon, (and I believe he was) then in John 1:39 has Jesus meeting up with the two disciples at either 10 in the morning or 10 at night. Given the context of the whole passage, 10 at night would not make any sense. Therefore, the HCSB translates it as 10 in the morning. The same reasoning is then used to figure out if it is morning or evening in the other places.

  9. Timothy says :

    Thanks for pointing that out Sandra. It helps with my research on recent translations. That’s one reason I still prefer the NKJV, or even the NASB, as the questionable passages, or concerns with the text (translations) are well documented and addressed appropriately for study.

  10. Hollis says :

    Well I have had both books and the ESV I ripped, the HCSB my dog sadly ripped. I loved the HCSB a lot because it was visually stunning and readable, I love the use of YHWH, and noticed not one verse was extracted but was put in brackets unlike the ESV. The ESV was good and readable, I loved the articles of faith and salvation in the back but the image of a pyramid, and missing verses were taunting me. After a while I just got fed up when a KJV onlyist shown me in both books that Elhanan killed Goliath and not David so I had to make a tough decision and went with HCSB. I just wish HCSB could use variables of Yahshyah like how they did YHWH.
    Besides that I think a little leaven leavens the whole lump, if one verse is missing how many else are missing.

  11. James T Sparks says :

    The HCSB is bias because it is the Baptist version.

  12. James T Sparks says :

    The MEV is the Pentecostal version so it will be bias also.

  13. Nathan says :

    Thanks for the post. I have a few favorite translations HCSB is one of the best. Some of the more formal translations to me are more clunky and awkward. I think HCSB does an excellent job (probably the best) of being accurate. There are a couple very minor issues that I’ve had with it but overall I really like it.

    Personally, I prefer when a translation capitalizes pronouns referring to deity. Not only do I feel like it is more respectful of Him but it also adds clarification. (For example, Luke 12:5 in the HCSB makes it clear Whom we are to fear, whereas when I was younger, I was uncertain as to whether “him” (NIV or ESV) referred to God or Satan). Also, there are many other passages in the NIV (Gen 41:17 and 2 Sam 5:25 to name a couple – there are many others) where it is unclear as to who “he” is referring to.

    I also prefer when translations leave passages that do not occur in early manuscripts in the body of the text within brackets instead of removing them completely and maybe putting them in the footnotes. I counted 16 full verses that the NIV took out of the New Testament (17 in the ESV) because they don’t appear in the earlier manuscripts. Some people prefer this because they believe this to be more accurate – which is fine, that’s their prerogative. But I prefer how the HCSB (among others) leaves these in there in brackets with an explanation in a footnote.

    I know there is much debate over these issues – not trying to pick a fight – just stating that these are my preferences and I like how HCSB does this.

  14. James T Sparks says :

    There are two passage that they got it dead wrong that I will mention. Malachi 2:16 is translated badly. Divorce and putting away are two different things. The Priests was not divorcing their wives but just literally putting their wives aside. Also Daniel 3;18 change all together. They was not doubting God, They was saying in essence “if you throw us in”…

  15. B. Phillips says :

    I wish the HCSB would pay much more attention to English style. Another update should come soon! This is such a fresh, readable translation!

    A Few Examples:

    Matt 4:19 & Mark 1:17 – Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
    – sounds like he’s magician who will turn the disciples into fish so that people can eat them.

    Matt 5:26
    “I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!”
    – perhaps we’re a little too eager to introduce unending hell in this passage that would seem (to some) to negate eternal conscience torment. Using “never” with “until” is just poor English style. That poor choice could be overlooked if that were what the Greek meant, but “ou me” doesn’t mean “never”, rather it’s just a very strong negation, i.e., “you really won’t get out of there until …”

    Phil 3:7-8
    “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ”
    – here “everything” is used twice when the Greek uses two different words, hatina in v.7 and panta in v.8. Hatina is something indefinite and panta is all things. In this passage there is an escalation – “those things” that Paul was just writing about and then he goes on and considers “everything [else] / all things”.

    Gal 1:7
    “not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah.”
    – here the English unnecessarily closes the reader off to a debatable point – that there are other gospels, and what Paul meant was that the one the Galatians were accepting now was one that is not the “same kind” as what he preached to them. It would be more accurate to say “different gospel” in v.6 and “another [of the same kind] in v.7. The bracketed words are only my explanation, they wouldn’t be required in the translation.

    1 John 3:4
    “Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law.”
    – the problem here is that “breaking the law” is not what John is writing about. Rather, he’s writing about a denial of sin, which is lawlessness. The word lawlessness should just be left as is. By translating as “breaking the law”, the HCSB introduces a hefty amount of theological baggage. Certainly every true believer breaks the law, but no true believer denies the law. (Like the heretical leaders that John wrote about in the introduction: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us”, and “If we say we don’t have any sin, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us”). True believers (the “little children”) are not like the deceivers in the church that John was writing about.

    These are just a few examples that highlight why (I believe) the HCSB can’t be taken seriously [yet]. Others have already noted the problem with translating Xristos as Messiah (If the apostles wanted to use Messiah, they had a Greek word for that, and the argument that people now think of Christ as Jesus’ last name falls flat, because anyone who is so uneducated would also not understand the word “Messiah” – this choice comes off as being partial to the idolatry of Hebrew Language Worship found in many so-called “Messianic Jewish” congregations). And of course, the translations of the Tetragrammaton as “Yahweh”… let’s “use it or lose it”. This in-between thing just makes the HCSB appears as if it isn’t committed to the concept. If “His Name is Yahweh” – and we’re going to use that as a bullet point in marketing material, then let’s translate it consistently as Yahweh.

    • Nathan says :

      Good points Mr. Phillips.

      • Brian says :

        I understand what you’re saying. I personally think it’s a very good translation over all. I still find this translation easier to read and understand. I take it seriously. I feel blessed to have a clear accurate translation. I’m not a minister but the single column ministers edition with wide margins is the one I use. It has good paper and font. I love how there are no references to distract me while having room to write notes.

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