Update on HCSB

Over the past 5 years I have reviewed, studied, and made recommendations to the HCSB translation team. WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) had formed their own committee and review team for suggestions to the same translation team. And soon HCSB will change… for the better. Earlier this summer B&H Publishing announced the changes.

March 2017 CSB launch

That is the scheduled time for the latest updates. Here are a few notes about this update (combining B&H and WELS items):

Name is changed to: Christian Standard Bible

Major revision of text, plus two confessional Lutheran scholars were added to the translation oversight committee

Adopted many of the recommendations submitted by WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)

Removed Yahweh from the Old Testament, using LORD (as almost all other English translations have done)

All of these are significant improvements for CSB. I can’t wait to receive the new translation. Once it is in hand I will offer more comments about the updates.

Thank you to B&H Publishers for this effort.

Thank you to WELS for offering valuable input on the translation.

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.

HCSB Thinline

I am in my final preparation for this Sunday’s Pentecost sermon I was reviewing Acts 2 in HCSB. I found some printing problems in the Thinline Bible.

In the HCSB translation, quotes from the Old Testament use bold font and are indented. But notice in this passage in Acts 2:36



Also, I noticed the problem of the Old Testament references repeated with two separate footnotes. Here is another example in Acts 2.

I remember Dr. Carter mentioning something about this. Couldn’t remember if this was specific to the Thinline Reference Bible, though.


HCSB and WELS Translation Liaison Committee

The WELS Translation Liaison Committee just posted their latest comments regarding the HCSB translation. (http://www.wels.net/about-wels/synod-reports/translation-liaison-committee/translation-liaison-committee) Overall, the work is solid and the committee is to be commended for its diligent work. For the most part I agree with everything they have noted. In a couple cases I will offer additional thoughts. I will not comment on the Plan of Salvation page because previously I have advocated that it not be included. If I don’t address a specific passage it means that I support the WELS Committee suggestions.

Six Translation Suggestions for Some Key “Sacramental Verses”

I am very much supportive of the points made in these texts. I came across this when I was preparing the Maundy Thursday worship service. I had intended to use the HCSB but stopped short because of the use of “established” in the words of institution. τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ⸂ἐμῷ αἵματι (1 Cor. 11:25 “This cup is the new covenant in My blood” NAS).

In Matthew 3:11 HCSB has [John said:] “I baptize you with water for repentance” which is a fine translation. However, the footnote skews the text considerably with “Baptism was the means by which repentance was expressed publicly.” The problem is that there is nothing in the text to support anything that the footnote suggests. It is a case of imported theology from one specific group. I noticed this same kind of imposition of this kind of theology in the translation the Voice Bible, but even stronger: “I ritually cleanse you through baptism*…” with the footnote: “Literally, immerse in a rite of initiation and purification.”

Although not technically a Sacramental verse (although it is in the context), Acts 8:37 needs clarification. I agree with the suggestion to put the entire verse in a footnote. Even the footnote that is used is not clear; HCSB makes it appears as if the textual evidence is equally split on the inclusion of the text. The reality is that the manuscript evidence leans far toward the side of not including the verse (see NET footnote below).

NET footnote: A few later MSS (E 36 323 453 945 1739 1891 pc) add, with minor variations, 8:37 “He said to him, ‘If you believe with your whole heart, you may.’ He replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Verse 37 is lacking in {P45, 74 ℵ A B C 33 614 vg syp, h co}. It is clearly not a part of the original text of Acts. The variant is significant in showing how some in the early church viewed a confession of faith. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.


This extended discussion relates to my own frustration with HCSB. Either go fully with Yahweh or LORD, but don’t switch back and forth. The WELS Committee makes a strong case for using LORD, based on the LXX, NT, and early church usage of those texts containing the tetragrammaton. In light of that I would opt for their solution.

Slave or Servant

I think the Committee makes some good observations and this translation of δουλος needs attention. At the same time, I don’t think a wholesale change should be made. One of my book reviews last fall was by Joseph Hellerman. Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why it Matters Today. Kregel Ministry, 2013 provides additional information on this topic. One of the key insights is that the class-conscious people of Philippi would understand the nuance of titles. There were two levels of society: Elite and non-Elite. The lowest level in the non-Elite status was not household servants, but slaves.  The expectation in that culture is that Paul would be Elite, in fact, the highest level of Elite, and so the expected title would be “apostle” in the greeting. But Paul uses δουλος, the only time he uses it unadorned. That seems intentional to separate even from household servants.

My suggestion then is to follow the WELS recommendation except that the nuance of each use must be carefully considered. It’s not an absolute: either servant or slave, but context would determine the specific translation choice.

Christ/Messiah in the New Testament

I wholeheartedly support this position of the WELS Committee. See my posts here and here.

The Use of “Should” and “Must” in the Translation of the New Testament

Although I have not addressed this issue on my blog, I am right in synch with the Committee regarding the changes. At times the use of “should” and “must” almost has the sense of a ruler-entrenched teacher waiting to snap my knuckles. Not exactly what the Biblical text has in mind.

Capitalization of Pronouns for God

I have used primarily NAS and NKJV for the past 37 years. Capitalization of divine pronouns seemed like a natural. Of course as I began translating I realized that it was English editor/publisher decision and nothing more. In the last 20 years I have used many other translations that do not capitalize divine pronouns.

The WELS Committee makes an excellent case for not using capitalization for divine pronouns. Another problematic text is Genesis 32:24-32, in which the Hebrew doesn’t indicate even by specific names, but pronouns are used throughout. Compare how HCSB and NAS deal with this.

NAS 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

HCSB 24  Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip.  26 Then He said to Jacob, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” He said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.”

Even capitalization doesn’t help identify the players. “Jacob” isn’t in the Hebrew in v. 25 for instance.

“Man” and “Men” in Contexts where Women are Included

I was glad to see this issue addressed. Generally HCSB does better than ESV, and HCSB does okay in some places, but as the WELS Committee noted, they are inconsistent. In addition to the WELS suggestions on changes I would add Psalm 1 and Psalm 32:2 (especially 32:1 has it correct).

Psalm 4:1 How long, exalted men, will my honor be insulted?[change to: How long, people, will my honor be insulted?]

It seems odd that בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ  (“sons of man”) would be translated as “exalted men.”

Many other examples can be cited. It appears that the WELS Translation Committee has done a fine job of highlighting changes that could make HCSB an even better translation. Well done!

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.

4 Translations: “You got rhythm” Part 2

In the last post I looked at NIV 2011 and ESV regarding oral reading and public use in worship. Now I turn to HCSB and GW. As a starting point, I want to provide the introduction to the previous post:

So far in this discussion about the four translations we have examined word choices, sentence structure, “meaning,” etc. But another critical aspect of translation usage for a congregation involves memorization and liturgical use. Let’s be clear, all four translations can be memorized and can be used in liturgical worship. There is nothing special or unique about them. Some might be easier to memorize, some hard. But all can be memorized.

There are actually several parts to this whole memorization issue: broader scope, familiarity from the past, and “feel.”

For both of these translations, I include visual layout because they affect the oral reading of the text, one negatively, the other positively.

HCSB and GW Design/Layout

I have almost developed a love vs. not-so-loved sense about HCSB. There are many things to commend it. But in this particular area of oral suitability, it is actually a visual stumbling block. Obviously oral readers should practice reading the texts before standing in front of the congregation; sadly many do not. This is not a translation issue but rather an editorial and design layout issue.

HCSB Sample
HCSB Layout: Isaiah 64

HCSB follows the NKJV in layout (two-column pages) for poetic sections. In the process, the choppiness of the layout leads to many short phrases on different lines. See this example in which many lines have between two to five words, and that makes it difficult to read silently and orally.





In contrast, GW design layout favors a very good approach to oral reading, and even personal reading. Notice in the photo, how the single column allows the reader to follow the entire pattern and sentence structure visually. For me, that has been one of the best features of the GW translation.

GW Layout Design: Isaiah 64




HCSB and GW Texts

HCSB falls on the more traditional side in many texts, but avoids the reverse order of words that plagues ESV; GW is more innovative in its approach to some texts (that is not necessarily a negative criticism). I am using the same verses that were used in the NIV 2011 and ESV post

After these events, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great.(Genesis 15:1 HCSB)

Later the Lord spoke his word to Abram in a vision. He said, “Abram, don’t be afraid. I am your shield. Your reward will be very great.” (Genesis 15:1 GW)

Both translations offer acceptable contemporary English. The slight difference is that HCSB uses some contractions, but often not in direct discourse by God, whereas GW tends to use the contractions often. From an oral reading standpoint, GW is more consistent. Even in more formal settings, contractions are not uncommon, and contractions certainly do not change the text meaning.

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! (Psalm 1:1 HCSB)

Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. (Psalm 1:1 GW)

Both HCSB and GW avoid the ESV problem, but they also the improve the second phrase as well. ESV and NIV 2011 have “stands in the way of sinners.” But in current English usage, the ESV/NIV 2011 rendering has more of a blocking sense, “get in the way of someone” whereas the text is referring to “following the way that sinners take.”

But HCSB translates the word אַ֥שְֽׁרֵי as “happy” rather than the traditional rendering “blessed.” “Happy” suggests something internal that is sensed because of circumstances, whereas “blessed” seems more focused on the external reality declared by someone outside the circumstances, namely God. “Happy” also seems more limited to a feeling dependent on what happens, rather than the “blessedness’ regardless of what happens. GW keeps the word “blessed” which reversed the predecessor translation (Beck’s Bible) which had “happy.”

Next consider Isaiah 22:17, where ESV especially had the awkward “seize.” These two translations avoid the awkward phrasing, but perhaps a little too much.

Look, you strong man! The LORD is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you, (Isaiah 22:17)

Look, mighty man! The Lord will throw you out. He will grab you. (Isaiah 22:17 GW)

Here the HCSB translation seems weaker than the Hebrew, עָטֹֽה. According to BDB, it carries the sense of wrapping or enclosing (and HALOT follows somewhat the same sense), and parallels the previous “violently.” Looking at the other three translations, they supply a stronger word, even GW has “grab” which is more than “hold.”

Looking at another passage which the ESV mangles, let’s see how these two translations render the passage:

But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He became their enemy and fought against them.(Isaiah 63:10 HCSB)

But they rebelled and offended his Holy Spirit. So he turned against them as their enemy; he fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10 GW)

Again both translations offer a readable text for the second part of the verse. It might be interesting to see how or whether people see a difference between “grieved” and “offended” in the first part of the verse. In the last decade or so, “offended” can most often be seen as “hurt feelings” which is not often interpreted as a big deal, as expressed in “If I have offended you, I’m sorry,” which is clearly not an apology, and different than this particular Biblical text.

Regarding split quotations in speech, HCSB has its own share of these. Thus, while it doesn’t have as much as ESV, it still does in other texts.

 “Who are You, Lord?” he said.
“I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6 HCSB)

Saul asked, “Who are you, sir?”
The person replied, “I’m Jesus, the one you’re persecuting. Get up! Go into the city, and you’ll be told what you should do.” (Acts 9:5-6 GW)

In this text, HCSB splits the verbal response, whereas, GW moves the indicator phrase “the person replied” to the beginning, and so that the response is complete in itself. Again, this doesn’t change the meaning, but in oral reading it would be easier to follow GW than HCSB.

In looking at Matthew 15:16, we see that HCSB and GW offer a good translation that is more accurate than the NIV 2011.

“Are even you still lacking in understanding?” He asked. (Matthew 15:16 HCSB)

Jesus said, “Don’t you understand yet? (Matthew 15:16 GW)

Interestingly HCSB translates καὶ as “even” whereas most translations would use “also,” or in this case subsume it under “yet” (as does GW).

The last text is where NIV 2011 had “all who make spoil of you I will despoil.” Both translations provide a good parallel structure and verbal connections without resorting to odd or out of date language.

Nevertheless, all who devoured you will be devoured, and all your adversaries—all of them—will go off into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered, and all who raid you will be raided. (Jeremiah 30:16 HCSB)

That is why everyone who devours you will be devoured, and all your enemies will be taken away as captives. Those who looted you will be looted. Those who stole from you in war will have things stolen from them. (Jeremiah 30:16 GW)


Since this is only a cursory look at the four translations in very limited selections, I do not propose that this is the definitive guide for translation choice based on oral readability. However, just from the few examples given, and much more in actual use over the past few years (except NIV 2011), I can say that these are indicative of the translations in total.

ESV remains a solid translation, but from an oral reading and public worship use, it is the most difficult of the four translations. Despite some recent electronic changes, the basic flaws noted here remain. For me the surprising one was NIV 2011. For years I had heard how people praised the NIV for its readability, even if they did not approve of the translation as a whole. However, I suspect readability for many making that claim has to do with private (silent) reading; and so the claim may have been true. But as I have listened and read orally the NIV, and now NIV 2011, I find that its oral sense can be a stumbling for readers and listeners.

HCSB is a solid translation, and I think in many cases better than ESV and NIV 2011. But the layout design and some sentence structures do hinder its oral presentation. GW has from its inception been a translation with always an eye on readability, and especially oral comprehension. The design layout for GW is by far the best thought out among all translations, not just these four.

And what about memory work? My sense is that if the majority of the congregation comes from a traditional background, then ESV would be the choice. For those in the tradition of the last 30+ years with the NIV, then NIV 2011 makes sense. Even the HCSB is close enough to the KJV tradition that it might be acceptable, but would take some work on some familiar passages. GW is the most different of these, so memorizing is possible, but there would not be any confusion about “Is this NAS, NKJV, ESV?” This translation makes sense in the environment in which most of the congregation and its surrounding mission field is unchurched background. There is nothing to compare. The challenge for those memorizing GW is if the person moved to a new congregation in which a more traditional translation is used.