One year—GW and HCSB

It has been a year since we converted to using GW and HCSB for our worship readings. Initially we alternated every month, but about six months ago I switched to using one translation for three months.

Observations on GW

The general consensus is that GW is an excellent oral reading translation. Most of the time that worked well for me when preaching. The times that brought up the difference between GW and most other translations involved words such as “God’s approval” instead of “righteousness.” In one case I used the HCSB translation for Romans 3. Aside from that, GW is a good choice for our congregation. This Sunday we begin the second year of the Narrative Lectionary, which means that this fall, the preaching text is the Old Testament readings. GW works well as a translation the Old Testament and will be used this fall.

Thinline GW
Thinline GW

For Bible study, we have a few people who use GW (plus, ESV, NKJV, NAS, NIV, HCSB). This has been helpful in Bible classes because often the users of GW will ask, “But this says…” That allows us to dig further and for the participants to see that it is not always a case of “this translation is accurate” and then judge all others by that. Rather, I remind them each translation is helping the read to better grasp what the original language text says. In a few cases we have found that GW does better than any other. (See Dave Brunn. One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? IVP Academic, 2013 for more. Soon I will be posting a follow up review of his book.)

I tend to use NAS for several reasons: 1) I have used NAS since 1978, and so my memorization of Scripture has been with that translation. 2) My method of study and recall includes knowing where on the page something occurs. That is, if I work with a specific passage, and it is on the left-hand page, ⅔ of the way down, then that becomes part of my visual recall and memory pattern. 3) The edition of NAS I use is single column (which I much prefer) and it has cross references in the outside margin. This allows a larger font size for the text and references. The size of print is critical, and I have been very disappointed with recent study Bibles that offer notes and references in sizes that are impossible to read. This is specially important in a teaching environment where I want to quickly glance at something.

For my own personal reading, I began reading GW for daily devotions. For 30+ years my primary devotional Bible was also NAS. I have used a few other translations for short periods of time, but always came back to NAS. This time I maintained my reading in GW for six months. With GW, I discovered that it was an inviting translation for devotional reading. Many people begin reading and do well for 2-3 weeks or perhaps longer. But then the person finds some barrier to continuing, whether habit, translation choice, schedule conflicts, etc. But using GW for this devotional time was refreshing. I didn’t run into the challenge of drifting away from daily reading. The style made it easier. But I think the single column layout and the indentation patterns used in the poetic sections encouraged reading, and reading for understanding.

General Observations on HCSB

For the most part, HCSB has served us well for worship readings. We just finished last week the summer schedule where it was the translation. But we ran into the opposite side of the issue with translating that was the case with GW. For one Sunday the reading was 1 John 2:1-2. I substituted GW for HCSB. Notice which word is the problem for an oral reading:

HCSB Ultrathin Bible, Black/Gray Duotone Simulated Leather
HCSB Ultrathin Bible, Black/Gray Duotone Simulated Leather

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2 HCSB)

My dear children, I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father. He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2 GW)

So the choice was: In 2:1 do we use HCSB where it uses “propitiation” or GW which uses ” the payment for our sins”? In 2:2, do we use GW which has “who has God’s full approval” rather than “the Righteous One” (HCSB)? That is the trade off in this use of translations.

But overall, HCSB worked well for worship.

In Bible study, I have been carrying the HCSB as well as NAS (of course, my Greek NT). At times I will use HCSB (obviously, in preparing the session, I have already checked it out) because the rendering of a passage will be useful in teaching the class. Only one regular Bible study participant uses HCSB.

For personal reading, I began using HCSB when we moved into the summer schedule. I had just received a copy of the HCSB Chronological Bible, which became my reading Bible. The challenge was seven weeks of travel during the summer, and the size of this Bible was prohibitive. I would take the HCSB Ultrathin Bible on my trips. For the summer then I managed to read Genesis–Leviticus, plus Job, plus the sermon prep texts.

I have grown to like the HCSB, but it has been an uneasy relationship. Some critical passages are very well done (i.e. John 20:23). At the same time I encountered the frustration of alternate use of LORD and Yahweh in the same passage, and throughout the readings. One example is Leviticus 22:26–33

26 The LORD spoke to Moses: 27 “When an ox, sheep, or goat is born, it must remain with its mother for seven days; from the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as a gift, a fire offering to the LORD. 28 But you are not to slaughter an animal from the herd or flock on the same day as its young. 29 When you sacrifice a thank offering to the LORD, sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It is to be eaten on the same day. Do not let any of it remain until morning; I am Yahweh.

31 “You are to keep My commands and do them; I am Yahweh. 32 You must not profane My holy name; I must be treated as holy among the Israelites. I am Yahweh who sets you apart, 33 the One who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh.”

Notice that in vs. 26, LORD speaks to Moses, and refers to himself as LORD in vs. 27 and 29. But then ends the statement in vs. 29, HCSB has “I am Yahweh.” And then in vss. 31-33 the reference is to Yahweh throughout. But the question is for the reader and hearer is: Do I understand that LORD and Yahweh refer to the same entity, with identical connotations and denotations? Not hardly. So, my urging to the HCSB translation team is to use Yahweh consistently in translation.

It has been an interesting year. I have grown to appreciate both translations. And Brunn’s book (One Bible, Many Versions) has been a helpful tool in working through the “accuracy” arguments about translations.

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

5 thoughts on “One year—GW and HCSB”

  1. GW is an interesting translation that I have used on occasion, such as for chapel devotions at Concordia University. A local LCMS pastor has been using it exclusively for the last couple of years; and since I frequently attend his Saturday evening service, I have been exposed to quite a bit of it. In my way of thinking, it is a bit too “coffee and doughnuts” to use as a regular translation for worship services. I have the same opinion of the Beck’s translation (AAT).

    Romans 9:5 is one of the references I use to judge a translation. Is it one sentence or two? The more liberal transations tend to make it two sentences, which separates the Messianic reference from the Godhead. GW indeed has two sentences here; but in doing this, they have not separated the Messiah as some have, but have rather stated the connection even more firmly. So Kudos to them for doing that!

    Personally, I started with the NIV when it first came out, and then bought the NIV Thompson Chain later on. That’s the translation I still use, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest the newest revision. I was brought up on the KJV, then moved to the RSV for a short time, and then settled on the NIV. They should have left well enough alone, as I really enjoyed the NIV as have my congregations.

    For the last several years we have been using the ESV for worship services, which I think reads a lot like NKJV (we have NKJV in the pews). ESV certainly isn’t perfect, and the wording is clumsy in places, but overall it works well. That’s what most of the LCMS congregations in the area are using, so I’ve followed suit.

    I’ve used NASB for text study over the years, but I think it is far too wooden for use in the worship service. It seems “choppy,” and it simply doesn’t flow well. It reminds me a lot of the way students would translate in Greek class.

    Just my $0.02 worth!

    Serving Him,
    Dan S.


  2. Once again, thank you for the careful review and feedback of the HCSB! The consistency issue for the use of YHWH is something that our translation committee is working through as we speak. Thank you for the commendation to demonstrate consistency.

    Also, I agree with your final statement and recommendation of Dave Brunn’s book. Brunn seems to view the HCSB favorably, as I recall.

    Blessings to you and your readers. Thanks again for taking a fresh look at the HCSB.


  3. Thanks for following up on your long-term reviews of both GW and HCSB. I’ve used both extensively through the years and have been the HCSB as my primary bible for over a year now. I think it is a brilliant-but-not-perfect translation and recommend it highly.

    I too am frustrated by the inconsistent back and forth between Yahweh and LORD in the OT…hopefully, as Micah hints, a revision will come in the not too distant future to correct that (I hope in favor of consistently using Yahweh, e.g. NJB). That revision in a black-letter, single-column format less gargantuan than the current minster’s edition would be an awesome edition…listening still, Micah? (grin)

    Great writeup, thanks again!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: