Evaluation of Updated HCSB translation

Wow, it has been three weeks since I blogged here! A lot going on. I am working on the second installment of “Cry of the Broken.”

In the meantime, I recently received two updated issues of Bible translations: HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) and NABRE (New American Bible Revised Edition). Today’s review focuses on HCSB.

HCSB 2009

You might ask, why is this “new”? I had the original release hardbound, 2004, I think, and had used it occasionally. I was generally pleased with the translation, but had not been in a position to test it in real-life ministry. Having recently taken a call to serve a congregation, and with the changes in NIV, I decided to look at other translations.

Externals and Format

So I bought the HCSB 2009 revision, Ultrathin Black and Pearl Gray Simulated Leather edition. I like the this Bible; the size is good for teaching and preaching purposes, sufficiently flexible but not drooping over the hands. For laying on a lectern or pulpit the hardbound would be acceptable, but I have found for public work like this, a hardbound Bible is awkward. This binding is just right for me. I also like the feel of the binding in my hands; time will tell whether it will stand up well.

HCSB Thinline—Simulated Leather

The font size works well for me. As I saw the size of the Bible in the box I began to doubt whether the font would be readable in preaching/teaching. The 9 point font is readable, and the design of the font makes it even easier. It is one of the better new fonts for Bible publishing. Bleed-through is evident, but not distracting. I am not a fan of red-letter editions; they are either distracting or printed more faintly than the black. In this case, the red printing is okay.

One thing surprised me (also in the first edition) was the bold of Old Testament quotations. I understand the need to avoid italics because of its other uses, but bold draws so much attention to itself that the quotes dominate the pages. Notice the quote in Mark 1 at the bottom of the page. I would much rather have them in regular font (or if available semibold), since they are marked off by indentation already. Page 1043 (Romans 9-10), the quotes are almost overwhelming.

Old Testament quotations in New Testament

The maps are usable, but a little small. If you examine the map pages (all color), they do not take up the whole page. To me expanding the maps and making the print larger would have been a much wiser decision.

Generally I like single column texts better than double column, but this is not a deal-breaker for me, since most translations are double column (see God’s Word for the single column approach, which is very well done). I like that lists (i.e. Matthew 1:2-16, Revelation 7:4-8) are written in list styles and not continuous paragraph style (see NRSV, NAS, NET). The list style aids in quickly reviewing and catching specific names, etc.

The Translation

The New Testament was translated by Baptist scholars, and the Old Testament by Baptist and Presbyterian scholars. It is tempting to say that such bias would be reflected in translation choices. Of all the critical passages I checked (Baptism and Lord’s Supper), there does not seem to be any bias evident in the translation. That means the scholarship was more important than theological agendas. Well done!

Most of my current teaching involves the New Testament (and also my specialty), so most of my comments relate to that. However, I have started teaching Genesis in the congregation recently, and this fall I have been teaching the seminary course “Introduction to the Old Testament.” I have been using both HCSB and ESV for these purposes.

The one feature of the Old Testament that stands out is the sporadic use of Yahweh for the name of God (YHWH— the tetragrammaton from Exodus 3:14). Almost all English translations have followed the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic Scriptures), namely using κυριος (Lord) for this name. In English to distinguish this, this means that “LORD” (technically, small capital letters) translates יְהוָֽה YHWH (name) and “Lord” translates  אֲדֹנָי֮ Adonai (title). But HSCB is inconsistent at best and confusing. For instance, the claim is “…the HCSB OT uses Yahweh, the personal name of God in Hebrew, when a Biblical text emphasizes Yahweh as a name” (from introduction, p. viii). But compare these two examples and see what difference there is:

Genesis 1

I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!” (Psa. 116:3b-4)

I called to the LORD in distress… (Psa. 118:5)

The only difference is the use of “name” (שֵֽׁם Shem); but the essence of each is to call on the name in distress. To me that is artificial, and leads to a disconcerting confusion, especially when in 116:5, the text continues:

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.

Now the reader has to mentally convert, and remember that Yahweh in v. 4 is identical to LORD in v. 5. To me, the translators would have rendered a better service to completely convert to Yahweh (as did NJB) or stay with the majority of English translations. What I thought might be a good move with using Yahweh, in practice, has been confusing for the average Bible reader.

In the New Testament, the HCSB goes for the use of “churchly” translations including “righteousness” (root δίκαιο-). I think this is a positive step. I have read and heard all the arguments about not using such words in English translations, but I find all alternatives less helpful, especially for liturgical use and Bible study. Pastors teach the meaning when new people take new member classes; equip members to understand and use it. In Romans 3:21-28 there is a slight inconsistency. In 3:26, HCSB maintains the consistency of translating the roots δίκαιο- “righteous” for both nouns and verbs (God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.) But then in 3:28, the translation uses “justify” (For we conclude that a man is justified by faith). So, will someone understand that it is the identical verb as used in v. 26? If v. 26 has been modified to reflect “righteous” then v. 28 should as well.

In Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 I think that HCSB is okay in translating the future perfect passive.

[Jesus said:] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19)

[Jesus said:] I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)

I would prefer the NAS translation (“will have been forgiven”), but at least this translation emphasizes that God’s declaration of forgiveness precedes the announcement of forgiveness by disciples (which is proper Biblical authority).

I will note that HCSB has taken the “traditional” approach to pronouns and gender issues (using “he” for both masculine pronoun and gender-non-specific uses). By doing so, the translation avoids some awkward phrasings or changing singulars into plurals. Some might debate whether this is a fault or a benefit. For my use and work, the approach of HCSB seems appropriate and better than what NIV 2011 has done.

Overall, this a very good translation and I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone interested in reading and studying God’s Word. I have not used it in a liturgical setting, so am reserving that for further evaluation.

The Cry of the Broken: Part 1

I return to the topic of the broken/wounded (I may use them interchangeably, even though they have slightly different referents and meanings). Three previous blog posts have generated interest, not necessarily in number of hits, but through interactions, both online and in person.

Liturgy —Brokenness, Forgiveness, and Praise 

God has amnesia

How deep the wound — How much deeper the healing 

Who does this apply to?

Some might think that “cry of the broken” is more a woman’s issue, or something they can readily talk about, “since women can cry easier than men,” or so we have heard. This is not referring to emotional crying, although that may be part of it. We also hear “Certainly men don’t talk about this!”

In many years of ministry and through personal experience, I have learned that this is not a man or woman issue, it is a human issue. Both men and women are affected by the brokenness, both encounter the cry from within. Yes, they may react differently, they may speak differently, but the brokenness is common to all. The cry of the broken does not segregate nor discriminate.

Where does it come from?

Now, the cry of the broken. By this, I refer to the unspoken, un-screamed desperation that we find hidden behind our thick protective veil. The veil protects us from outside attacks, and it protects us from reaching out to someone outside our world (me!). The brokenness can be something I caused through sin, something someone else caused by sin, or by the sinful reality of the world we live in. Each issue is approached differently for resolution, but the cry of the broken seems consistent.

When the cry is stifled, the sense of alienation increases. We sense that people pull away from us. We become tentative in responding to other’s needs. “How can I respond to them, when I am broken?”

The cry varies form person to person and from time to time. The immediate questions are often emotion driven — this is not to put it down or minimize them, just an observation. Then as time moves forward, the deeper cry comes to the surface.

Why is this happening?

What will happen next?

Why can’t I stop feeling this way?

Why doesn’t anyone understand?

Didn’t I just go through this last year?

God, where are you in this?

Is there an end to this?

Who can I turn to?

Who can I trust?

This post will not deal with the specific questions, but rather the reality of asking and what is behind that reality. Note that some of these questions come spontaneously and soon. Others take time to evolve and reach the lips.

The Law and Theodicy?

If anyone in your circle feels courageous enough to approach you in the midst of your cry of the broken, the attempt usually comes from a sense of Law. That is, “if you only would do this…” or more subtly but just as Law oriented, “if you only believed this, then…” As one who struggled through the cry of the broken, the last thing I wanted to hear was someone telling me what to do. I don’t mean something like “Don’t sin!” That’s an obvious “do.” But I am referring to the “steps to solve your problems” theology—whether with regard to spouse, children, parents, jobs, relationships, you name it, there is someone who had the steps laid out for me!

As a broken person, who has experienced the cry of the broken, the Law had already crushed me. One more command, one more demand, a proven program of ”seven steps to a better marriage,” even a “tough love” word would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or in this case, my brokenness was complete.

Quite often, pastors and churches will offer a theological solution called “theodicy.” Theodicy “is literature that seeks to justify the way God has dealt with people; it vindicates divine nature in the face of evil” (Tremper Longman, III and Raymond Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, Zondervan, 2006, p. 182.). Job is the premier example of theodicy.

To be honest, theodicy leaves me short when I am experiencing the cry of the broken. I really don’t care whether God needs to be justified. That may not sound very “religious” but it is the truth. It’s like I have one more example, and one more exhortation, “If only you were more like Job!” “I’m not like Job, my world is falling apart, I am broken, and I don’t need another reinforcement of my brokenness.” And so goes my cry.

Is there another view?

As a Christian who confesses the faith as a Lutheran, one of the richest treasures of our heritage that I have discovered over the past 30 years, and re-discovered more in actual experience is the theology of the cross.

The next post will address what is the theology of the cross and what it means for someone in the midst of the cry of the broken.

Prayer Focus:

Amy Thornton (at Daily Weaving)

Lord God, you are gracious and loving, with wonderful patience. You demonstrate that in our lives and you continue to work in them. Today we ask that you continue your work of forming and growing Amy. We give thanks for your ability to use her talents and gifts to bring hope, peace, joy, and love even in her weaknesses. We pray for her family as well. Draw them all closer to you. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen