HCSB changes in John

In my continuing work on the Gospel according to John (translating and now preaching) I have come across a couple of changes that are noticeable to those who have used a “traditional” translation. I use the term “changes” to indicate that the HCSB choices in translation differ from traditional renderings (i.e. KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV). Thus, it is not a negative term to describe HCSB choices.

John 3:16 (οτως — “so” vs. “in this way”)

Greek: οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν ⸆ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

ESV: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

HCSB: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

The Greek word (οὕτως) can be translated as “so” or “thus,” or “in this way.” Notice that ESV translates this as “in this way” in Matthew 1:19 and “thus” in John 5:21. So context is critical (as always) in determining the meaning of a specific word.

It appears that the traditional rendering comes from an antiquated understanding of the English word “so.” In contemporary English “so” used with “love” indicates “so much.”  Thus, the understanding is “God loved the world so much…” But is that consistent with the context?

In the preceding section Jesus tells Nicodemus that the person who is born again/from above (3:3) by the work of the Holy Spirit, namely this is how it is done. Nicodemus ushers in the next section with his question:  “How can these things be?” (3:9) In other words, he is not questioning the magnitude of what is being done, but “how” it will be done.

The example Jesus points out to Nicodemus confirms the manner in which God saved the people. Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness (3:14). Now the “Son of Man will be lifted up” [Jesus] (3:14b). John 3:16 continues that thought about “how” God will do this. Namely,  “For God loved the world in this way: …”

I think that HCSB (and GW) have a better translationjohn

John 11:33 (so also 11:38) ( νεβριμσατο —”angry” or “deeply moved”)

In BDAG* we see three possible glosses (translation choices) for ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato);

1. insist on something sternly, warn sternly Mk 1:43; Mt 9:30.

2. As an expression of anger and displeasure in Mk 14:5.

3. to feel strongly about something, be deeply moved J 11:33, 38

Note how the translations are divided on how to translate 33, 38

HCSB: He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.

NLT: a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

ESV: he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

NAS: He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

NKJV: He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

GW: he was deeply moved and troubled.

NET: he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed.

The NET has this footnote:

Or (perhaps) “he was deeply indignant.” The verb ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato), which is repeated in John 11:38, indicates a strong display of emotion, somewhat difficult to translate — “shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions.” In the LXX, the verb and its cognates are used to describe a display of indignation (Dan 11:30, for example — see also Mark 14:5). Jesus displayed this reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43, Matt 9:30. Was he angry at the afflicted? No, but he was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satan’s kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.

I struggle to see which is the best way to translate and understand this text. Both HCSB and NLT use the anger imagery. Studying the word and my research indicates the depth of emotion displayed by Jesus. But the question is: is “anger” appropriate in this text? For me, anger is definitely a negative emotion, while I also understand that God expresses His anger in Scripture. But is this the best translation choice in the text?. Further, the challenge is to determine where Jesus’ anger is directed. HCSB footnote has this explanation:

The Gk word is very strong and probably indicates Jesus’ anger against sin’s tyranny and death. (HCSB footnote for vs. 33)

While that is likely or may be true theologically, does that come from the context? There is no specific sin to which Jesus is angry. And death was around Him in other contexts, in some of them Jesus also raises them from the dead. Note that in John’s Gospel the second sign is healing the official’s son (4:46-53) while Jesus seems harsh, he is directing it to the unbelieving generation, not the son nor the official. So also John 9 with healing the man at the pool of Siloam.

Consistent with that, it seems better to have a more neutral translation for the Greek word, with the strong denotation (ESV, NAS, GW, NET), without the negative connotation of “anger.” Thus, Jesus’ response in 11:35 is weeping, which matches the others who grieve. This choice then follows #3 in BDAG.

*BDAG: Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon

Two New HCSB Bibles

During the past two weeks I purchased two more editions of the HCSB translation (both were on sale!). This review is only on the layout, design, workmanship, etc. In a later post I will cover the specifics of the notes and articles as well as references.

UltraThin Reference HCSB

I found this one on sale and thought I would check out the difference between this edition and the UltraThin Bible I had been using. I have had it about two weeks now. And actually prefer to read it to the UltraThin Bible (which I have given to someone else for now).


Typesetting was very different, using a sans serif font, with extremely tight line spacing. I have never been a fan of sans serif fonts for extended reading (even a paragraph). So I was disappointed, thinking that this would never work for me. But I tried it for 3 days (reading about five chapters a day) and found it much more comfortable and usable that I imagined. I am still a fan of serif fonts, but this font worked.

UltraThin HCSB Font
UltraThin HCSB Font

Bleed-through was more noticeable with this Bible as well. But again, not enough to be distracting.


The size of the Bible is good for reading in a chair, but I used it last Sunday for worship and Bible study and found it better than the smaller Thinline Bible.

The cover is Mantova Black Leathertouch. It has a nice feel in the hands. The binding seems weaker than the UltraThin Bible, that is, it feels more like a paperback binding. I have the sense that the binding will break sooner rather than later. The UltraThin never has given that feel (nor the Apologetics Bible, see below).

Page Numbers and Book Titles

Pg UltraThin Ref HCSB
Pg UltraThin Ref HCSB

The UltraThin Reference Bible has a double problem here. The page numbers are at the bottom—inside edge of the page. And the Book title is on also at the bottom on the outside edge of the page. I have never seen a Bible with the Bible book titles at the bottom.

It has been distracting and frustrating. I have used it for two weeks and I still look to the top of the page, as I do with every other Bible I own (about 30 of them). I would like to know the reasoning behind such placement. As it is it seems like it was designed by someone not used to using Bibles in study, devotion and worship.

A far better solution would have been to have the Book title at the top on the outside edge, and the page number at the bottom of the page on the outside edge.


UltraThin Ref Map HCSB
UltraThin Ref Map HCSB

As with all HCSB Bibles the maps do not use the entire page. It seems like extending the margins of the maps would allow the maps to be larger and especially place names more readable. Aside from that, the maps are serviceable.

Despite my frustrations with the page layout, I am now using this as my daily reading Bible, hospital/visitation, and teaching Bible. I gave away my copy of HCSB Chronological Bible—it was too cumbersome for my daily use.

The Apologetics Study Bible HCSB

HCSB Apologetics Duotone
HCSB Apologetics Duotone

I have looked at this Bible in the bookstore since it first came out. But I didn’t really see much need for it (for a variety of reason). However, when it came on sale three weeks ago, I decided to purchase it. I will not be addressing the Apologetics notes in this review.


Of all the HCSB Bibles I have owned, this one finally has the right font in the right size. Although I still prefer single column Bibles, this one combines the font, spacing, and kerning to be an excellent reading Bible.

There are two sets of footnotes. Immediately under the text are the text notes. They are very limited, and I’m not sure that the few that are included are necessary. These footnotes have a sans serif font and much smaller size.

The apologetic footnotes have the same font as the Biblical text but smaller, with appropriate line spacing. These are very readable.

Apologetics Article
Apologetics Article

The Apologetics articles are readable, but the background color (blue-gray) can make reading it more difficult.


While this is a larger Bible it is not cumbersome like other larger Bibles I have and have used.

The cover is Brown Duotone Simulated Leather. It has a nice feel in the hands. The binding is much more solid similar to the UltraThin Bible rather than the UltraThin Reference Bible. Even at its size and weight, it is still a workable Bible for most of my uses (home devotion and study); in the right circumstances I could even use it for teaching. However, this does not refer to the content. It is not helpful for a teaching/preaching environment. An extended reference Bible with the same design would be ideal.

Page Numbers

Finally a Bible that gets it right regarding page numbers and Book titles. The page numbers are placed at the top in the center. The Book titles are placed at the top on the outside margin. This is ideal for every user. All editions of HCSB should follow this pattern!

Maps and Timelines

Apologetics HCSB Timeline
Apologetics HCSB Timeline

As with all HCSB Bibles the maps do not use the entire page. It seems like extending the margins of the maps would allow the maps to be larger and especially place names more readable. Aside from that, the maps are servicable.

Since this is an apologetics study Bible, the publisher has included 11 color charts and tables of important topics. These are well done except the last two. The color combinations are bright, distracting and make the print barely legible.

Apologetics Chart
Apologetics Chart


Both of these Bibles are excellent and generally very usable. For longer term reading of the text, the Apologetics Study Bible is easier. But I am surprised at the UltraThin Reference Bible and its readability. I think if some of the features noted above could be combined from the two editions, the HCSB result would be close to ideal.

Inconsistent use of Yahweh

Another Call to Review HCSB and God’s Name

As I have been reading through HCSB for daily devotions I have discovered even more instances about the inconsistent use of Yahweh rather than LORD (or vice versa). In the Introduction to HCSB we read:

However, HCSB OT uses Yahweh, the personal name of God in Hebrew, when a biblical text emphasizes Yahweh as a name: “His name is Yahweh” (Ps. 68:4). Yahweh is also used in places of His self-identification as in “I am Yahweh” (Is. 42:8). Yahweh is used more often in the HCSB than in most Bible translations because the word LORD in English is a title of God and does not accurately convey to modern readers the emphasis on God’s personal name in the original Hebrew. (“Introduction to the HCSB,” p. xii, Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible)

That sounds good, and works in those specific instances. But I will note some inconsistencies with this in practice. I am selecting readings that I have come across in the last couple weeks of daily reading. And these are random; I have found many others in my daily readings, but these illustrate the issue.

Leviticus 22:3

Say to them: If any man from any of your descendants throughout your generations is in a state of uncleanness yet approaches the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person will be cut off from My presence; I am Yahweh.

Notice here that within the same sentence LORD and Yahweh is used. Would the reader make the connection such that they both refer to God’s personal name?

Deuteronomy 4:1

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you to follow, so that you may live, enter, and take possession of the land Yahweh, the God of your fathers, is giving you.

There is nothing distinctive about the name in the verse, yet throughout the rest of the chapter LORD is used 4:2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

Deuteronomy 6:3-5

3 Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow them, so that you may prosper and multiply greatly, because Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

In this case the exact same introduction (“Listen, Israel”) to both verses is followed by Yahweh in v. 3 and LORD in vv. 4-5. This does not even seem to follow the guidelines in the “Introduction.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

7 The LORD was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.

Again, no distinctive reference to the name, but the inconsistency of the use of Yahweh and LORD.

Deuteronmy 14:23

You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of Yahweh your God at the place where He chooses to have His name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the LORD your God.

Here the use of both in the same verse but both seem to refer to the name. Can the reader make the connection?



I know that I have written about this in other posts. But when reading through the daily readings (relatively quickly—four chapters a day) the inconsistency regarding Yahweh/LORD becomes even more apparent and frustrating.

I seem to remember some hint that HCSB will be edited and will use Yahweh consistently for יְהוָ֣ה. I think that is a positive move, and for readers, it can’t happen too soon.

Another positive change would be to remove the “Plan of Salvation” page in the introduction of every HCSB sold (not everyone agrees with the theology it represents). Instead include a one page summary of all names in the Bible that have Yahweh as part of the name: Isaiah, Joshua, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Jehoshaphat, etc. That would provide a connection between the use of God’s name in revealing salvation (Joshua) and spurning God’s name (Zedekiah) leading to destruction.

Further Thoughts on Judging

Leaders judging

Yesterday I posted about Numbers 35 and the role of judging in the life of God’s people (Who made you judge?). That is not the end of the story, however. Today’s reading included Deuteronomy 1, the farewell address by Moses. As he prepares the Israelites to move into the promised land, which he will not do but Joshua will, Moses includes directions for them to appoint rulers for various sized groups. Part of that instruction provides further insight for those who will judge issues in Israel.

Deuteronomy 1:9–18

9   “I said to you at that time: I can’t bear the responsibility for you on my own. 10 The LORD your God has so multiplied you that today you are as numerous as the stars of the sky. 11 May Yahweh, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times more, and bless you as He promised you.  12 But how can I bear your troubles, burdens, and disputes by myself? 13 Appoint for yourselves wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will make them your leaders.

14 “You replied to me, ‘What you propose to do is good.’

15 “So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and respected men, and set them over you as leaders: officials for thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and officers for your tribes. 16 I commanded your judges at that time: Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge rightly between a man and his brother or a foreign resident. 17 Do not show partiality when deciding a case; listen to small and great alike. Do not be intimidated by anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too difficult for you, and I will hear it. 18 At that time I commanded you about all the things you were to do.

Importance of Character

In 1:13 Moses identifies the characteristics that these new leaders should have: “wise, understanding, and respected.” In other words, these leaders cannot be just anybody in their midst. They must have demonstrated character qualities that will make them qualified for this critical work—leading and judging.

Those characteristics then result in actions that reflect the appropriate judgments that need to be made:

“judge rightly” (צֶ֔דֶק)

“do not show partiality”

“do not be intimidated”

For the leader to “judge rightly” means that the righteousness (צֶ֔דֶק) of God is critical. Negatively, that serves as a standard for judging, up to the righteous standard God had given them (i.e. the 10 commandments). But positively that serves as a reminder that God’s righteousness is most clearly seen in mercy, forgiveness, restoration, etc. (think cities of refuge).

We live in a world that seems paved with partiality. Friends, family, people of power or money seem to have an automatic “in” with someone in authority. Yet God, through Moses, sets the standard: “partiality” (or favoritism) is not a criteria for a leader/judge. Paul advises the same when writing to Timothy:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.  (1 Timothy 5:21 NAS)

In today’s environment the last criteria for judgment is needed: “do not be intimidated.” The goal of a bully or terrorist is the same: to intimidate someone or nation to do exactly as demanded or face consequences. For the people of God (Israel in the OT, the Church in the NT) such intimidation is not to be found.

Whose judgment?

Then Moses provides the basis for all of this activity of judging: “for judgment belongs to God.” While the appointed leaders will carry out aspects of judging for individuals and groups, the bottom line is that they are reflecting and representing God’s judgment.

So, now going back to Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus said: “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged.” Judging means you are put in the place of God’s judgment. The judgment needs to follow the same guidelines that Moses gave: “judge rightly”; “do not show partiality”; “do not be intimidated.” Thus, the care with which Jesus elaborates on judging in Matthew 7 reflects God’s very own concern that judgment be as He Himself would do.

And that suggests that the key aspect of the one who judges rightly is: found in the Son’s words “All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29 HCSB). If you judge, then reflect the character of the One who judges rightly, namely Jesus Christ.

Balaam, son of Beor

Do you ever read something several times over many years, but forget? Yeah, I do, too. As I am reading my way through the HCSB translation (via the Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible) I found myself in this position.ReadGodsStory

We first meet Balaam in Numbers 22-24. He is the man God uses to speak to Balak, king of Moab. Balak had sent messengers to Balaam to have him curse Israel.

God spoke to Balaam and instructed him on exactly what to do and say—“don’t go with the men, do not curse these people, they are blessed” (22:12) With this first invite from Balak, Balaam obeyed God and did not go with the men. But Balak sent messengers again, and Balaam goes. But the result was a mixed signal.

The Angel of the LORD blocked Balaam and even used the donkey to get his attention. In the end Balaam delivered the message God intended.

“Then Balaam got up and went back home, and Balak also went on his way” (Numbers 24:25). End of story —not!

Today I was reading the sequel. The Midianites were troubling Israel again. So, we read:

The LORD spoke to Moses, “Execute vengeance for the Israelites against the Midianites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” (Numbers 31:1-2)

They waged war against Midian, as the LORD had commanded Moses, and killed every male. Along with the others slain by them, they killed the Midianite kings—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:7-8 HCSB)

So, despite being used by God to send a message to Balak, Balaam did not change his ways. He continued his life with the Midianites, as an enemy of God’s people. And the people, Israel, were still blessed by God as He told Balaam originally.

Interesting that I had forgotten about his death, even after having read the Bible many times over the past 50 years.

Comment on GW translation

I often will compare translations at some critical spots. In Numbers 31:2 I think the HCSB does well as a translation. So I compared that with God’s Word (GW):

“Get even with the Midianites for what they did to the Israelites. After that you will join your ancestors ˻in death˼.” (GW)

I generally like GW, but in this case “Get even” sounds too much like a personal grudge, settling the score, almost a personal vendetta. Vengeance on the other hand often reflects God’s justice being executed on people for sin. I think the difference is important, especially in this context.

HCSB — Self-Denial

In my devotional reading recently I have noticed an unusual rendering in Leviticus and Numbers. The reading was jarring because I couldn’t remember that phrase.

Lev 16:29   “This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month you are to practice self-denial and do no work, both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.

Lev 16:31 It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial; it is a permanent statute.

Lev 23:27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly and practice self-denial; you are to present a fire offering to the LORD.

Lev 23:29 If any person does not practice self-denial on this particular day, he must be cut off from his people.

Lev 23:32 It will be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial. You are to observe your Sabbath from the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening.”

Num 29:7   “You are to hold a sacred assembly on the tenth day of this seventh month and practice self-denial; you must not do any work.

fn (in each case): “Practice self-denial” Traditionally, fasting, abstinence from sex, and refraining from personal grooming

The Hebrew phrase is תְּעַנּ֣וּ אֶת־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶ֗ם . The Greek LXX translates it ταπεινώσατε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, and both have traditionally been translated as “humble your souls.”

Acceptable Translation?

I am wrestling with whether the HCSB is an acceptable translation in this instance. Is it readable English? Yes. Is it faithful to the text? This is where I hesitate.

The Hebrew word, ענה, is in the Piel, which is often translated “afflict” or “be humilated.” In these cases, the affliction is done on/to the person, i.e. your nephesh, or “your soul.” This suggests that the sense of the Hebrew (and LXX) phrase is that it is an inner aspect of the person, obviously assisted by God. NAS  catches that understanding, even woodenly, literalistically “humble your souls.” HCSB translation (“practice self-denial”) seems to focus on the activities associated with that rather than the inner aspect of the heart. ProudToBeHumble

Checking other translations notice the subtle change that several provide, as does HCSB:

ESV: you shall afflict yourselves

NIV 2011: you must deny yourselves

NLT: you must deny yourselves

GW: must humble themselves

NET: you must humble yourselves

NET footnote adds:

Heb “you shall humble your souls.” The verb “to humble” here refers to various forms of self-denial, including but not limited to fasting (cf. Ps 35:13 and Isa 58:3, 10). The Mishnah (m. Yoma 8:1) lists abstentions from food and drink, bathing, using oil as an unguent to moisten the skin, wearing leather sandals, and sexual intercourse (cf. 2 Sam 12:16–17, 20; see the remarks in J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:1054; B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 109; and J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 242).

The references to Psalm 35 and Isaiah 58 have the added note about fasting in the text. While the Mishnah is helpful at times, we have to remember the limitations:

The Mishnah reflects debates between 1st century BCE and 2nd century CE by the group of rabbinic sages known as the Tannaim. The Mishnah teaches the oral traditions by example, presenting actual cases being brought to judgment, usually along with the debate on the matter and the judgment that was given by a wise and notable rabbi (from Wikipedia, yes, I know a quick reference overview is what I needed)

Thus, the Mishnah may not help us translate the Old Testament texts, because the focus is on outward behavior and judging of that behavior. That is reading back into the Hebrew text. Interestingly, the LXX translation of the Penteteuch in mid 3rd century BCE does not favor the Mishnah direction.

Given this, it seems that HCSB, and closely followed by NIV and NLT change the focus to outward behavior rather than a heart issue.

New Testament Use

Moving into the New Testament, the Greek word focuses on the inner aspect of the word, ταπεινός. Perhaps the most famous use from the following passage:

Matthew 11:29

NA-28 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ⸋ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ⸌, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν·

HCSB: All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

Note also that in James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5, (quoting Proverbs 3:34) each of the translations above use the word “humble.”

NA-27: ὅτι °[ὁ] θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν

HCSB: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

NAS: God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

ESV: for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

NIV 2011: because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

NLT: for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

GW: because God opposes the arrogant but favors the humble.

NET:  because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

At this point, I am not convinced that the HCSB translation of תְּעַנּ֣וּ אֶת־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶ֗ם, “practice self-denial” is the best translation. In fact, it seems to miss some connections with the LXX and certainly in the NT.



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.

Genesis 40-41 HCSB

Genesis 40:19, 22

Gen. 40:19 In just three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from off you—and hang you on a tree. Then the birds will eat the flesh from your body.”

Gen. 40:22  But Pharaoh hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had explained to them.

The footnote gives the alternate translation for “hanged” as “impaled.” NIV 2011 also opts for this translation in the text itself. I think in the traditional translations, the use of “hanged” has been so ingrained that at first glance it seemed a little odd to translate תָּלָה as “impaled.” But upon further investigation, the footnote makes sense.

As I looked at a few sources, I found that this sense of “impaled” makes some sense, even though several references are much later than the time of Moses. In TWOT the author references at least thee ancient pagan nations (Egypt, Persia, and Mesopotamia) and their use of impaling.

Since Herodotus (History, 3.159) indicates that impaling was a common method of execution in Persia (see also Ezr 6:11 ASV and RSV), perhaps תָּלָה עַל עֵץ, traditionally rendered “he hanged on a gallows/tree,” means rather “he impaled on a stake,”

 The same notion underlies Gen 40:19, 22; 41:3, reflecting Egyptian practice. A somewhat similar sense underlies Lam 5:12 reflecting Mesopotamian practice. (TWOT, para. 18613)

Other passages where “impaled” fits is Ezra 6:11 (even NAS95 uses “impaled”). One wonders why there is not a footnote then for Genesis 41:3, which is the same context as the original text above.

At first glance in checking other passages, HCSB seems inconsistent in translating this word. Then looking at the context, it appears that “impale” is used when the context is one of the three pagan nations, and “hang” is used for Israelite contexts (Deuteronomy 21:22, 2 Samuel 4:12; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:26). However, if that were the case, then HCSB did not follow that pattern in Esther 7:9 (“hang”) and Lamentations 5:12 (“hang”), which clearly take place in the pagan nations..

So, the footnote makes sense, and perhaps the text and footnote could be reversed, and update 41:3 to reflect the same.

Missing Emphasis

Genesis 41:29 (28–30 for context)

HCSB 28 “It is just as I told Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt. 30 After them, seven years of famine will take place, and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten. The famine will devastate the land.

NAS95 29 “Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt;

What is missing is at the beginning of v. 29. In Hebrew, the word הִנֵּ֛ה “ calls attention to the following noun.” In the older translations (and still in NAS95) the word “behold” (or occasionally “look” but which seems weaker, see HCSB Gen. 31:51) is used to function in this way. See also,

Genesis 15:15

HCSB When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals.

NAS95 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.

Genesis 31:51

HCSB Laban also said to Jacob, “Look at this mound and the marker I have set up between you and me.

NAS95 Laban said to Jacob, “Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me.

Genesis 22:7

HCSB Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

NAS95 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Genesis 34:21 (follows a noun to emphasize it)

HCSB “These men are peaceful toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and move about in it, for indeed, the region is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as our wives and give our daughters to them.

NAS95 “These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them.

Note that in each case, HCSB does not translate the Hebrew word, whereas generally NAS 95 does; and when it does translate the word, it does so with “look” or “indeed.” While “behold” is not commonly used in contemporary English, the role the Hebrew word plays is important, emphasizing the following in some way. To not translate הִנֵּ֛ה in any way seems to miss that point. “Look” does not seem to carry the emphatic role of הִנֵּ֛ה and suggests a visual action, which is not necessarily intended in the Hebrew. “Indeed” could work in certain contexts.

Bottom line: I have not found an adequate translation for הִנֵּ֛ה that is still understandable in contemporary English. In my mind I still prefer “behold” over nothing in the English text.

The Ten Words: HCSB and GW

As I have been reviewing both translations over the past seven months, I have found many good things about the translations. Interestingly, where I tend to disagree with one, the other does an admirable job. But reviewing Exodus 20 the past few weeks, I find that both HCSB and GW disappoint, specifically in how the verbs are translated. Here are some thoughts about that.

I will not include the entire text of 20:2-17, but the specific wording of the verbs (and I am not paying attention to how they are numbered, because the text doesn’t tell us). The Hebrew verbs in each case are Imperfect, except 20:8 which uses the Infinitive Absolute, and 20:12, which uses the Imperative.

Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments (Photo credit: glen edelson)


2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.

3 “Never have any other god.

4 Never make your own carved idols or statues that represent any creature in the sky, on the earth, or in the water.

5 Never worship them or serve them,

7 “Never use the name of the Lord your God carelessly.

8 “Remember the day of worship by observing it as a holy day.

12 “Honor your father and your mother

13 “Never murder.

14 “Never commit adultery.

15 “Never steal.

16 “Never lie when you testify about your neighbor.

17  “Never desire to take your neighbor’s household away from him.

 “Never desire to take your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that belongs to him.”


2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

3 Do not have other gods besides Me.

4 Do not make an idol for yourself,

5 You must not bow down to them or worship them;

7 Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy:

12 Honor your father and your mother

13 Do not murder.

14 Do not commit adultery.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 Do not covet your neighbor’s house.

Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor

Both translations give only a negative view of the commandments. Why is that critical?

1) Notice that I included 20:2 in both translations. That is a statement of Gospel: What God does for the saving of His people. What follows is a description of how “delivered people” live. Thus, it is a positive description of how they live.

2) These are not technically the ten “commandments” according to the usual understanding, but rather the “ten words.”

Exodus 24:28 And he wrote on the tablets the words ( הַדְּבָרִֽים) of the covenant, the Ten Words ( הַדְּבָרִֽים).

3) Notice that these are translated as straight imperatives, and rather strongly at that.

4) The Imperfect can be translated as an imperative, which it is in this case (see below).

Thus, both GW and HCSB give only one side of the ten “words”—negatively. And I think that does not do justice to the text, the use of the Imperfect, and the context of 20:2.

The Solution?

How should they be translated in light of each of these considerations? I suggest that the older form English future translates the Hebrew Imperfect rather well, and retains an element of command behind it: “You shall not…” (still evident in NAS, NKJV, NIV 2011, ESV, etc.). This appears to be the best option for translating this section of Exodus 20. Here is the translation from NAS 95.


3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol,

5 “You shall not worship them or serve them;

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;

you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Extending the “words”

Thus, the question really becomes “How do the words/commandments function? Notice that when someone sins, that person no longer is living as a “delivered person.” Thus, the positive impact of the “word” (commandment) of Exodus 20 changes, and the word functions in a condemning way. Often this is designated the 2nd use of the Law. So as a person is convicted under that 2nd use of the Law, the person is led to repentance (1 John 1:8-9). The solution to that predicament under the Law is forgiveness in Christ. Now the question for the person becomes:

“Now that in Christ I am free from sin, guilt I never want to be under that condemning Law again. But how can I please you, Lord? Not to earn Your favor, because I already have your favor.”

Now, the original intent of the Ten Words becomes significant. They describe how a forgiven person in Christ lives. And so, the Law functions as a description of life in Christ, much as the Ten Words/Commandments function in Exodus 20.

Does God visit? —HCSB

Visiting seems to be a lost art. When I was young we had no computers, no cell phones, no TVs, and the telephone was a nine-party line. We kept in touch and cared for one another in the farming/logging community by visiting people. Rarely, the visit was for a serious confrontation. Thus, a visit wasn’t a 30 minute drop-in, drive-by kind of stopping. No, the whole family would get in the car or truck, and we would spend hours at the other’s person’s house. Visiting was refreshing, many times soothing, and even a great aid when bad things happened.

Sunday I preached on Luke 7:1-17, which contained the word “visit.” It brought back many memories for me. When the people evaluate Jesus in light of what He has done, we read:

Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited His people.” (Luke 7:16 HCSB)

The people understood that Jesus’ miracles could only happen if God himself visited the people. And in this case, the visiting was positive, for healing and raising the dead.

The Greek word translated “visited” is ἐπεσκέψατο. From BDAG we find two likely meanings: a) to go to see a person with helpful intent, visit someone, b) to exercise oversight in behalf of, look after, make an appearance to help, of divine oversight. With the first of these, we also find this statement: “special suggestion in the context on care to be bestowed: look after widows and orphans ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν in their distress” (James 1:27). Most translations of Luke 7:16 reflect the latter option.

We find another significant use of ἐπεσκέψατο (“visit”) in the NT related to God visiting for saving purposes.

Luke 1:78–79: Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

In the Old Testament

Sadly I found that several Old Testament passages that have historically been translated “visit” are not translated that way in HCSB. It seems that an important connection with regard to this concept. Several Old Testament texts use the Hebrew word: פקד (paqad). According to HALOT, there are also three possible meanings, but essentially coming down to two: 2. to see something remarkable, 3. to seek, seek out, visit.

While the Greek and Hebrew words do not overlap in meaning everywhere, nor do they encompass the full range of the English word “visit,” in some contexts the best translation of both words seems to be “visit.” The LXX seems to confirm this connection; in the following texts (except Exodus 20:5), it translates the Hebrew with ἐπεσκέψατο (same word in NT).

God visiting His people would involve either visiting (God is present) for judgment or salvation. For the former situation consider

Exodus 20:5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing [“visiting”] the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me

For the latter salvation understanding in several contexts God “visits” in particular related to His saving, intervening purpose.

Gen. 21:1 The LORD came to [“visited”] Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised. (HSCB)

Gen. 50:24–25  Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid [“will surely visit you”] and bring you up from this land to the land He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Joseph made the sons of Israel take an oath: “When God comes to your aid [“visits you”], you are to carry my bones up from here.”(HCSB)

Ex. 4:31 The people believed, and when they heard that the LORD had paid attention to [“visited”] them and that He had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (HCSB)

Ruth 1:6 She and her daughters-in-law prepared to leave the land of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the LORD had paid attention to [“visited”] His people’s need by providing them food. (HCSB)

Jer. 29:10 For this is what the LORD says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to [“visit”] you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place.

Zeph 2:7 And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for [“visit”] them and restore their fortune.

1 Sam. 2:21 The LORD paid attention to [“visited”] Hannah’s need, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. (HCSB)

Overall it seems that something is lost by not translating each of these as “visit.” Sadly NAS in 1995 moved away from this, too. The 1977 NAS retained the word “visit” in most of these contexts. While “visit” may be an older term it is still understandable in today’s usage. I would recommend HCSB translation team reconsider this option.