Rethinking HCSB

Over the past 3-4 months I have been reflecting on translation issues especially related to HCSB. This hasn’t been systematic study, but percolating ideas as I encounter the texts.

Yahweh or LORD?

I had posted previously (three years ago) about the HCSB sporadic use of Yahweh as a translation of the Hebrew יְהוָה֙. At the time I suggested that HCSB translators adopt Yahweh consistently throughout the Old Testament.

But in practice I am beginning to rethink this. It seems that the connection with the Septuagint (LXX) where κύριος is used for both יְהוָה֙  (YHWH) and אֲדֹנָי֮  (Adonai) would be strengthened. Further, the quotations in the NT follow the LXX, so there would still be a problem.

It seems that the better solution is to retain LORD as the consistent translation of God’s name. I think some kind of footnote could be used to indicate the difference between LORD and Lord. Obviously that does not help an oral reading, but the greater good would seem to be served by using LORD.


I know that several translations (NLT, GW, HCSB) use contractions because “it is accepted English.” Originally I wasn’t opposed to the use of contractions. But as I reconsider this point, I realized that contractions work well when reading (by yourself). But with oral reading, contractions seem a little awkward. I also realized if the text has a contraction, when I read orally, I will use the non-contracted form without even thinking about it. So I will read, “I cannot” not “I can’t.”

Therefore, I would recommend HCSB consider replacing all contractions. I don’t think (notice you are reading this from a screen, not reading out loud to someone!) there is any benefit of using contractions, especially for an oral text.

Author: exegete77

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

5 thoughts on “Rethinking HCSB”

  1. I still think there is a difference between using God’s Name (see the 2nd Commandment and Luther’s explanation thereof, and using His title.

    Just because the LXX did it, doesn’t mean we have to, any more than the KJV’s transliterations of baptizo and diakonos should be followed today. Remember, those who read it are not just those who know the scriptures and the English language well, but those who are new to both.

    That was part of your original discussion as well, if I remember.

    As to contractions, how does the dissonance between oral and written language serve?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Understood, that is why this a reconsideration. Interesting that I am all for what Luther wrote about the commandment and God’s name. But Luther translated YHWH as HERR, in Gen. 15:6 Abram glaubte dem HERRN. So Luther followed the LXX practice. But he, like later English translations, used capital letters for God’s name. So perhaps we have that same freedom he himself used.

      In regard to new people, there is also the concern about what I can “continuity of faith expression” (in translation as well as liturgy). Thus, new people coming to faith and reading/hearing the Bible with “new ears” is okay, but how then do they relate to the faith community outside the confines of the local congregation? Not an easy way beyond this.

      When using contractions orally, there is a tendency to downplay part of the contraction, often the negation part of the contraction.

      Thanks of the comments, Dustin. As always we challenge each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting that your observations on contractions are the opposite of what I’ve found. It seems to me that people use contractions all the time in verbal communication.

    However, when putting things into writing, they take out the contractions because it sounds more formal, or they were taught not to put them in papers in school.

    I don’t automatically read out loud the non-contracted form when I read out loud. Perhaps your tendency is to speak formally when reading things out loud, but not when communicating otherwise.

    The question, then, is do we want the Bible to sound like a written book, or do we want it to sound like common speech? I think that may answer the question of whether to use contractions.


    1. Thanks for your comments.

      It might be my age that affects this too. I have been publicly speaking since 1963, then teaching school 1971-1973. And then I was a briefer as a Naval Intelligence Officer for 9+ years, prior to going to seminary. So it may be that my 50+ years of habits of oral reading were formed when contractions were not considered acceptable for public speaking

      At the same time, as I mentioned to Dustin above, the contractions, particularly the ones with negatives tend to be muffled and thus obscured in oral reading. Not so with the written word.


  3. I am a Baptist and know that the Southern Baptist Convention endorses the HCSB. My pastor, however, usually uses the NKJV, which is my favorite translation. Our Sunday School materials use the HCSB. Even though I’ve tried, I just don’t totally like the HCSB. It seems to change the wording just for the sake of change. (Maybe something to do with requirements for getting a copyright?) What are your views on the accuracy of the HCSB? (I’m googling so this is how I wound up here! LOL) Thanks.


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