In September 2012 we began using the Narrative Lectionary. My plan was to use HCSB and GW as the translations printed in the bulletin and read orally in worship. I used one translation for one month, then the other for the next month. In one case the Sunday reading for Jonah, was extended (chap. 1, 3, 4). I had planned to use HCSB. But its inconsistent movement between Yahweh and LORD in the same verses did not help in an oral environment, and so I switched to GW for that Sunday. As it turned out, I continued to use GW through December (they are already completed).
We have a wide variety of translations used in Bible study. NAS, NKJV, ESV, HCSB, and GW are the most common.
This fall something interesting has happened in Bible study (I am using Sunday morning experiences, not the midweek studies). Several people who had used formal equivalence translations (i.e. NAS or ESV) had begun using GW translation and found it very refreshing and helpful. Others who had used NLT began using HCSB and found it much better for their use.
One Bible student who went from NAS to GW, and now uses the combination, commented last week that the further study of the text reveals how hard it is for translators to communicate adequately. And thus, the two translations are almost a “must-have” environment for study. I thought that was very perceptive.
What is missing?
With both HCSB and GW, we have noticed a major problem in using these translations; they both have limited varieties for Bibles. Neither has an adequate pew Bible, and large/giant print options are very limited. Study Bibles are also limited in HCSB and non-existent in GW.
One negative (or limitation) of the HCSB has been the “Plan of Salvation” page found in every edition of the HCSB. While that might work in a Baptist situation, that causes some issues within a Lutheran context. Note: This is not to say we have a problem with salvation! On the contrary, salvation is so important, that the HCSB presentation skews the salvation message. I would rather not have that page included and use references to a broader and more fully developed understanding of salvation.
Just a note on all HCSB editions: be sure to check the printing date of the edition. If it is prior to 2010, then it will use the 2004 translation; if it is 2010 or newer, then it is “normally” the 2009 edition. Make sure to purchase the 2009 revision.
The HCSB Study Bible and The Apologetics Study Bible. Unfortunately I have not had time to check out either one. My guess is that the notes in the HCSB Study Bible would reflect more of the generic Protestant view on Baptism, Lord’s Supper, etc. rather than giving the options (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran positions on these topics). I briefly glanced at the Apologetics Study Bible and it looks interesting. I may be examining that one in the coming months. Another available edition is the HCSB Minister’s Bible. I have not examined it yet, but I like the fact that it is single column. For oral reading and teaching purposes, single column works best for me.
The Ultrathin and Ultrathin Large Print editions of HCSB (genuine leather and duo-tone available for both) seem to be the best options for general use, along with the same in Reference editions. Straight text bibles work well for reading and devotional reading. For my teaching purposes, the Reference editions of most translations is the most useful. Sometimes I just need a quick look at the maps or specific cross-references while teaching in class. Study Bibles can be overwhelming in that context.
There are hardcover Pew Bibles available. It is critical to check the text date, for even some sold in 2011 used the 2004 text, not the 2009 text. One advantage of the Pew Bibles is the continuous text without section headings. I did not find a font size mentioned for any of the Pew Bibles. That could be a limiting factor.
The Super Giant Print Thinline is a large Bible with truly large-sized font (16 or 18 pt). This satisfies those with the needs for easier reading fonts. One of our members uses it and finds it ideal for reading and study purposes.
HCSB offers a Kindle edition and special children’s editions.
The choices for GW are even more limited. There are no study Bibles available. My guess is that unless a major denomination or parachurch organization backs this translation, there may never be a study edition using this translation. Also, the single column format requires more space, which may limit how much study material could be offered.
GW seems to focus on “Speciality Bibles,” such as Promises from God’s Word, God’s Word for Girls (Boys), God Girl Bible/God Guy Bible, and then some selected topics, one which is excellent is: Hope for Today: John’s Account of the Life of Jesus; we use this for giving out to people. Simply Jesus His Life and Teachings in Historical Order, works well for an overview of the Bible, and I have used the passion portion of this for Holy Week readings. Finally, The Names of God Bible Black, Hebrew Name Design, which I reviewed, and am currently using for my daily devotional reading, using the reading guide in the back.
Focus on speciality Bibles can be both good and bad. The good is that what Baker has already published meets a specific need. The Hope for Today booklet has proven to be an ideal tool for outreach in our community. I have not seen the Promises from God’s Word Bible, but my guess is that it will be equally valuable in specific contexts.
The bad part is that these Bibles are complementary to the main work in the church with regard to Bibles. That is, I have not found an adequate Bible with GW that meets the three prime uses of a Bible:
1. Text Bible:
The thinline Bibles are nice, but the print is too small.
I realize that the single column format (for the poetic sections) takes more space than double column, and thus increases the size of the Bible. But there is considerable room for improvement. Even the Large Print GW is not a handy size.
What I have in mind is the size and font used for the NIV Thinline Large Print Bible. I have a 2011 edition of it, and our congregation had used the 1984 edition until this fall. It was an ideal size for carrying: 10.1 x 6.9 x 1.6 inches and weighs less than 2 lbs, with 11 point font. It made an excellent teaching tool, easy to read, hold for long periods of time, etc. I kept several copies in the office for counseling—an ideal resource. I think Baker is missing the mark by not publishing a similar GW Bible like this.
2. Reference Bible:
Sadly there is no reference Bible available for GW. Textual notes, substantial cross-references, and maps would be sufficient to make this an ideal combination. Again, NIV is available in this combination.
3. Study Bible:
It would be good to have at least one study Bible with GW. Obviously I would prefer one not slanted toward Reformed theology. But timelines, maps, charts, cross-references, can be a valuable tool.
Of these three, I think the first two are doable and very necessary for GW to be considered as more than a peripheral Bible. We are using GW printed in the bulletin and it works well for worship. But for study and general purpose use, then #1 and 2 have to be seriously considered and offered. The study Bible option may not happen until a major denomination or parachurch organization moves to use GW as a primary translation.