I have reviewed the HCSB over the past 4+ years. I have anticipated the update to HCSB for the past year. Holman recently published online the update to the HCSB translation, now renamed as CSB (Christian Standard Bible). Printed versions are due out this month. I have not received a preview copy CSB17, so this comparison is based on the electronic version. I am comparing CSB, ESV, and NET. The reason I used NET as it seems very close in purpose and translation style to CSB.
This is a first step in evaluating Christian as a translation. I am looking at specific verses to see how it translates words/phrases. Further study will focus on readability and oral comprehension.
The traditional (ESV/NAS/NKJV) translation of οὕτως as “so.” CSB and NET (and GW) translate the Greek word as “in this way” or “this is the way.” There is debate about which is the better way to translate. Note how each translation handles the same Greek word οὕτως, in John 21:1. ESV seems inconsistent in its translation.
1 John 1:9
The key translation issue is how to translate the Greek word, ἵνα. Here is the NET note regarding this:
The ἵνα (hina) followed by the subjunctive is here equivalent to the infinitive of result, an “ecbatic” or consecutive use of ἵνα according to BDAG 477 s.v. 3 where 1 John 1:9 is listed as a specific example. The translation with participles (“forgiving, …cleansing”) conveys this idea of result.
I think it better to use the infinitive form (“to forgive … to cleanse”) because it could be infinitive of result or infinitive of purpose. The use of participles can be confusing (attendant circumstances, etc.). The NIV confuses even more, because it is no longer clear whether there are two characteristics of God (faithful and just) or four (faithful and just and forgive and cleanse).
1 Peter 3:21
The primary challenge here is how to translate (and interpret) the Greek word: ἀντίτυπος; the sense is that the first item (type) points to the second item, the greater thing (antitype). NKJV does not translate the word, but transliterates the Greek: ἀντίτυπον as “antitype.” Here NIV is the most confusing. People read “symbolizes” and interprets this to mean that baptism is a symbol of something. However, the symbolizing goes back behind that.
And the greater thing is saving in baptism. Thus, it is not that baptism symbolizes , but rather actually does what it says, namely saves.
I again have the privilege of teaching Matthew this quarter in our seminary. As part of my preparation I read four chapters a day, hence the entire book of Matthew every week. Each week I use a different translation. So this week (starting on Friday) I began reading in God’s Word (GW) Matt. 1-4.
Appropriately I read the section that fits with the Epiphany (January 6), namely the visit of the wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem. I noticed something different about this verse:
Matt. 2:3 When King Herod and all Jerusalem heard about this, they became disturbed. (GW)
So, it appears according to this translation that King Herod and all Jerusalem were together in hearing and reacting to what they heard. But is that accurate? Looking at the Greek text,
The first word is an aorist participle, nominative singular (“having heard” implying “he” or a singular noun of the sentence). After the conjunction, δὲ (“now” “when”) we find the subject of the sentence: “[The] King Herod,” which is followed by the main verb (ἐταράχθη) which is aorist indicative, singular, “he was troubled.” So we could easily translate the first part of the sentence:
“When having heard [about the wise men] King Herod was troubled.”
The second part of the sentence is an additional clause, not a complete sentence, which can be translated:
“and all Jerusalem with him.”
This suggests that “all Jerusalem” did not hear [the report] but was reacting to King Herod who heard and was troubled. When the king is troubled, then all Jerusalem is troubled with him. Thus, the threat of a king-challenger is of immediate concern to Herod. It is a troubled Herod that is of immediate concern for the people.
I could find only one other translation that was even close to GW, namely NLT:
NLT King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately the way the sentence is awkwardly constructed in NLT, the additional clause at the end is closely connected with “hearing” and not “deeply disturbed.” Yet the helping verb (“was”) suggests a relationship with “deep disturbed.” But who would stop and analyze that structure?
The following translations catch the sense of the Greek sentence, that Herod heard the report, and that was troubling to him, and that then as troubling to all Jerusalem, contrary to GW (and NLT).
NAS When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
NET When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him.
NIV When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
HCSB When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
NAB When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
NJB When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.
REB King Herod was greatly perturbed when he heard this, and so was the whole of Jerusalem.
It seems that GW (and somewhat NLT) confuses the problem by making Herod and the people as the ones equally who heard and are troubled.
MEV: Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?
Note that same Greek word in a parallel construction is translated two different ways. NKJV does the same as MEV.
NKJV: Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?
Consider other translations
NAS: Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?
NET: Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?
ESV: And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?
HCSB: Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?
NIV: Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?
GW: Shouldn’t you have treated the other servant as mercifully as I treated you?
Other uses of the same word (“have mercy”) in Matthew in MEV:
5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy
9:27 “Son of David, have mercy on us!”
15:22 Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David
17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son
20:30 Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David
Every occurrence of ἐλεέω in MEV in Matthew is translated as “have mercy.” It is even more strange then, in this passage (18:33) that it be translated two different ways, and neither consistent with the way it was translated throughout the book. Since the intent of the entire pericope (Matthew 18:21-35) is the parallel response between the master and the unforgiving servant, it would make better sense to translate the word the same way in this context (“have mercy”) especially within the same sentence.
This verse has been a sort of litmus test. How do we translate the future perfect passive participles?
ἔσται δεδεμένα (bind)
ἔσται λελυμένα (loose)
The MEV translates as simple future passives, as do most other translations
MEV Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven
NKJV Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven
HCSB I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.
(with footnotes: earth will be bound… earth will be loosed. The text version catches the passive sense and prior action by God, “already done”)
ESV Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
(with footnote: Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed, which indicates future perfect passive)
NIV Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
(with footnote: Or will have been, in both uses, which indicates future perfect passive)
I think NAS offers a consistent translation of the verb forms:
NAS Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
What difference does this make?
In one sense it doesn’t seem to make much difference. As we explore the options, notice that most translations offer a future passive sense (“will be bound” “will be loosed”). Such a translation makes the authority rest on the person making the declaration. “I declare it… it will be done.”
Looking at NAS (and ESV and NIV with footnotes) the the focus of authority resides with God and His prior action, not the person making the declaration. In essense, when the person declares “it is bound,” he or she can do so because “it will have already been bound in heaven (by God) prior to the declaration.” Likewise, when the person declares “it is loosed” he or she can do so because “it will have already been done in heaven (by God) prior to the declaration.” It is God’s prior authority and declaration that is being announced, not the individual’s own authority. The person announces God’s already determined response.
This frees the person making the declaration from being the source of authority. And it let’s God Word be determinative.
I didn’t think much about it until I read it in NAS as well. The challenge was Psalm 11:7 (“His countenance beholds the upright” MEV and “The upright will behold His face” NAS). Who is the subject of the sentence (doing the action) and who is the direct object (receiving the action)? It depends on which translation you use.
God is the subject, “upright ones” are the direct object and hence “His countenance beholds the upright” (MEV joins KJV, NKJV, KJ21, REB)
People (“upright”) are the subject and God is the direct object and thus: “The upright will behold His face” (NAS joins most modern translations: ESV, NIV, HCSB, NET, etc.)
Some textual observations
Robert Alter (The Book of Psalms) offers this as an explanation for why he favors the second translation:
With the wicked disposed of in the previous verse, the psalm ends on this positive note of the upright beholding God—even as God from the heavens beholds all humankind. In the Hebrew, the noun is singular and the verb is plural; presumably one of the two (probably the verb) should be adjusted. The Masoretic text reads “their face,” with no obvious antecedent for the plural, but variant Hebrew versions have “His face.” (p. 34)
Leopold in his commentary (Expoistion of the Psalms) offers a different view of the data and favors the first option.
Since the whole emphasis lies in what God does and is, and that alone constitutes the solid basis of comfort, we have translated the last clause: “His countenance beholds the upright,” implying that same watchful care that was stressed above. The words could have been translated: “The upright shall behold His face.” But panemo, which equals panaw, His countence, being plural, can readily take the verb in the plural, yechesu, which is easier to construe than to regard the singular yahsar as a collective plural and so make it the subject of the verb. (p. 128)
As both authors note, the text is not as clear or simple as we would like. As I reflected further, I noticed that in Psalm 11:4-7, the emphasis on God’s actions, especially as He “examines mankind” (v. 4) and “tests the righteous ones” (v. 5) [God is the subject]. The wicked receive the crush of God’s disfavor (vv. 5b-6), and then the Psalm ends with a return to the “righteous ones.” The subject is God in vv. 4-6. It makes sense now in v. 7 that the same God who examined and tested the righteous now looks upon the righteous (“upright”) [same Hebrew word: צַדִּ֪יק [tzaddiq] used in v. 5 and v. 7.] without any judgment.
At this point I find that either option can work, but the first option (“His countenance beholds the upright/righteous”) seems more consistent with the flow of the entire Psalm. I think it also reflects the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26), specifically v. 25: The LORD make His face shine on you.”
An another point in favor of the first option is the application. What is more comforting? To look upon God’s face or to have God look upon us? From the prospective of God looking at examination of us (v. 5), it carries more weight that God looks again at us with no judgment attached.
Almost two years ago I purchased an Modern English Version (MEV) Bible. Then I provided serveral posts about the translation itself. See: MEV Part 1, MEV Part 2, MEV Readability. One of my criticisms was the size of the print: small print size is not exaggerating. I could not use it on a daily basis.
So two weeks ago I purchased the Large Print MEV. What a difference in reading! It is readable even in low light environments. I have been reading it every day for 10+ days. The size of the Bible is not a burden to carry. I could also use regularly in teaching/preaching without the size or weight being a problem. My preference is a single column text, but MEV does not come with it. But I will happily read this large print Bible.
The bleed through seems less of a problem, not being a distraction at all (it looks worse in this photo than in real life). I also noticed that the red letter in this font works well. I am not a fan of red letter editions due to readability problems. But this is one of the best red-letter choices (font design, size, and red color choice). The paper color is a faint off-white, which makes reading easier.
There is one drawback to making it as large print, the editors removed all cross references (see above photo). In an ideal world, a little smaller print with those retained would be best. But that is a technical publishing issue.
Now that I can read it easily, I am reading it daily for devotional reading. But I am also reading to see if there are any translation issues. One stuck out immediately (reading John 1-3).
Translation Choice: Only or Only-begotten
The Greek word, μονογενής, had been traditionally translated as “only begotten” (KJV, NKJV, NAS) while many more contemporary translations have used one of the following translation choices: “one and only son” or “unique son” or “only son” (NRSV, TSV, NIV, NET, HCSB, NLT, GW).
BDAG (2000) offers this about the divided view of which is the best translation choice:
μονογενὴς υἱός is used only of Jesus. The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences here
[Several scholars] prefer to regard μονογενὴς as somewhat heightened in mng. in J and 1J to only-begotten or begotten of the Only One, in view of the emphasis on γεννᾶσθαι ἐκ θεοῦ (J 1:13 al.); in this case it would be analogous to πρωτότοκος (Ro 8:29; Col 1:15 al.)
NET has an translation note:
Or “of the unique one.” Although this word is often translated “only begotten,” such a translation is misleading, since in English it appears to express a metaphysical relationship. The word in Greek was used of an only child (a son [Luke 7:12, 9:38] or a daughter [Luke 8:42]). It was also used of something unique (only one of its kind) such as the mythological Phoenix (1 Clem. 25:2). From here it passes easily to a description of Isaac (Heb 11:17 and Josephus, Ant., 1.13.1 [1.222]) who was not Abraham’s only son, but was one-of-a-kind because he was the child of the promise. Thus the word means “one-of-a-kind” and is reserved for Jesus in the Johannine literature of the NT. While all Christians are children of God, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique, one-of-a-kind sense. The word is used in this way in all its uses in the Gospel of John (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, and 3:18).
Since MEV follow the KJV text base and generally its translation choices, I discovered it wasn’t as clear-cut as I thought.
μονογενής in MEV
The Greek word appears 9 times in the NT. I am comparing MEV choice in translation to NKJV since they share a common heritage
NKJV: a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother;
MEV: a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother
NKJV: for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
MEV: for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.
NKJV: saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.”
MEV: saying, “Teacher, I beg You, look upon my son, for he is my only child.
NKJV: and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
MEV and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
NKJV The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
MEV The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known
NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
MEV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son
NKJV because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
MEV because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God
NKJV he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son [Isaac],
MEV he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son [Isaac]
1 John 4:9
NKJV God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.
MEV God sent His onlybegotten Son into the world
The two that stuck out in mind are John 1:14, and 18. Why change in those two verses to “only Son” and yet in John 3:16, 18 use “only begotten Son”? It would seem that when dealing with the same author and there are four verses that deal with the same concept, and Greek word, why not translate all four the same way “only begotten” as in NKJV, or “one and only” as in most modern translations.
I would question both NKJV and MEV in translating Heb. 11:17 as “only begotten.” It would be more consistent with the translation decisions in the Lukan passages listed above.
Overall, I am still impressed with the translation choices. Even a small change in John 1:14 seems like a positive using “and we saw His glory” rather than “and we beheld His glory.”
In my morning reading the text was Isaiah 6:1-7:9. I have read it many times. But today I read the text in the ESV. One verse stood out as awkward English.
Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
The bold words are the ones in question. It seems like something is missing, i.e. “cities lie in waste” or “cities lie wasted.” The exact same phrasing occurs in ESV at the following places:
The highways lie waste;
the traveler ceases.
Covenants are broken;
cities are despised;
there is no regard for man.
Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.
Other English Translations
So I checked Isaiah 6:11 in other translations (none of ~30 translations I checked had what ESV has).
NAS (Is. 6:11)
Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,
“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
NKJV (Is. 6:11)
Then I said, “Lord, how long?”
And He answered:
“Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant,
The houses are without a man,
The land is utterly desolate,
HCSB (Is. 6:11)
Then I said, “Until when, Lord?” And He replied: Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants,
houses are without people,
the land is ruined and desolate,
NIV (Is. 6:11)
Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
NET (Is. 6:11)
I replied, “How long, sovereign master?” He said,
“Until cities are in ruins and unpopulated,
and houses are uninhabited,
and the land is ruined and devastated,
NLT (Is. 6:11)
Then I said, “Lord, how long will this go on?” And he replied,
“Until their towns are empty,
their houses are deserted,
and the whole country is a wasteland;
I have studied the issue of English in translation in many contexts. I think that translations such as God’s Word offers a good example; the translation team had a full time (qualified) English advisor. The task of this advisor was to examine both written and oral choices and offering editing changes. Any of the above translations provide adequate good English style for this text.
I would recommend that the ESV translation team revisit these three Isaiah texts to produce a more meaningful English rendition.
Reading the daily lectionary, I have found some odd translation choices in terms of English usage in some different translations. The following readings come from today’s (Sep. 21) readings. With earlier readings from other days I noticed other odd or awkward phrasings. My goal is not to extensively deal with each text, but look at the English word choice and style used to translate the Hebrew.
Hebrew: וַיִּמָּלֵ֨ךְ לִבִּ֜י עָלַ֗י, roughly “my heart was counseled upon me.”
NAS I consulted with myself
ESV I took counsel with myself
NRSV After thinking it over
NAB After some deliberation
HCSB After seriously considering the matter
NIV pondered them in my mind
NET I considered these things carefully
NLT After thinking it over
GW After thinking it over
Lutheran Study Bible using the ESV has this alternative in a footnote: “mulled over in his mind what to do” (p. 745).
NAS and ESV maintain the Hebrew sense, but in the process provide an awkward/unusual rendering in English to do so. Most of the other translations adapt the thought into common English usage.
NRSV (so also RSV-RCC) fell greatly in their own esteem
NAB our enemies lost much face in the eyes of the nations
HCSB lost their confidence
NIV lost their self-confidence
NET they were greatly disheartened
NLT they were frightened and humiliated
GW lost their self-confidence
Note that ESV/NRSV/RSV-RCC use an odd way to express the Hebrew text. Most of the others show the reflexive (Niphal) sense, with “lost confidence.” NAB is unique in that the focus is not their own eyes that matter, but the eyes of the nations.
Hebrew: יִשְׁמַ֤ע ׀ אֵ֨ל ׀ וְֽיַעֲנֵם֮, roughly “God hears and will afflict them”
NAS God will hear and answer them (footnote: “afflict them”)
ESV (so also RSV-RCC) God will give ear and humble them
NRSV God…will hear, and will humble them
NAB God…will hear me and humble them
HCSB God…will hear and will humiliate them
NIV God…he will hear them and humble them
NET God,…will hear and humiliate them
NLT God…will hear me and humble them
GW God will listen. The one…will deal with them
Most translations offer a readable and understandable English rendering of the Hebrew. But notice ESV and RSV-RCC “God will give ear.” Aside from the original RSV and now lately ESV, I have never heard the use of “God will give ear.” My first humorous thought is “how many ears does God have.” With some practice, a reader might catch what is written. But what of an oral reading (i.e. in worship), will that communicate clearly and easily?
This is not an academic exploration but a simple look at translation choices and how that fits the register of understandable (and primarily oral) English. Over the past several years as I have reviewed translations, I have found that ESV is problematic in this specific area. And it follows the RSV, NRSV, and RSV (RCC) pattern. This also makes me more aware of how I preach and teach and at what level (vocabulary, etc.) I do so.