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First Look: 2010 HCSB Minister's Bible

I received my copy of the brand new 2010 HCSB Minister's Bible a couple of days ago from Amazon (I'd had it on pre-order since January of this year).

My previous copy of the HCSB Minister's Bible (2005) has been my most used Bible in the last five years for public teaching. I've even used the contemporary wedding ceremony in the ministerial helps section twice in wedding ceremonies I performed. I've also used this Bible for a couple of funerals I've led, although I didn't use the funeral messages provided in the back.

The original HCSB Minister's Bible wasn't perfect, but it was the best wide margin Bible available in the handful of translations I'm willing to use publicly. And the more I used it, the more I liked the HCSB. Again, the original edition wasn't without its flaws, but overall, I thought very positively toward this Bible as detailed in my original review back in 2007.

My chief complaint about the original edition (I was not the only one complaining) related to the very thin pages that often tended to curl after writing in the margins. Although I haven't written in this Bible yet (that will change before Sunday), I can report that the new HMB is indeed thicker than my original edition but contains essentially the same number of page (1806 for the original edition and 1824 for the new edition). But there's more to the difference in thickness than I originally thought. I learned just today that my original 2005 copy of the HMB had thinner paper than the later printings of the same edition. The 2010 HMB takes advantage of that same thicker paper in the later print runs.

Original HCSB Minister's Bible shown on top of 2010 edition. The new edition uses thicker paper than first and second run printings. Click to see larger image.Not only does the 2010 HMB have better paper, it has slightly wider margins for taking notes—always a welcome addition. Slightly is the keyword here. I am certain that these are officially considered one-inch margins in both editions. But when applying a standard ruler to the margins, I find that the 2005 edition is slightly less than one inch, while the 2010 edition is slightly more than one inch. The difference is only about a two to three milimeters. No doubt print runs could affect such small degrees of change, too. Nevertheless, I welcome even a little bit of extra space.

Slightly wider margins (in my measurements): 2010 edition on top.

When comparing the two editions, the text of the 2010 HMB has print that is much easier to read as well as subject headings that are slightly more bold than the original edition.

Of course, those of us who appreciate the HCSB had been waiting for was the updated 2009 biblical text most of all. The publishers are not calling this a second edition HCSB text, but from my examination of it—comparatively speaking—changes seem to be more extensive than the 2007 ESV text was to its original edition, but less so than the 2004 second edition NLT to the 1996 text. It's fair enough to say that there are at least minor improvements to the HCSB translation on every page and many major changes as well. I posted a preliminary survey of the changes to the text a few months ago, and I hope to write more on this in the future.

Note 2010 copyright for the HCSB Minister's Bible and 2009 copyright for the HCSB text.I continue to prefer the HCSB over other very good English translations due to its translational precision and willingness to break from tradition for the sake of accuracy (i.e. John 3:16). The 2009 text has not only made stylistic improvements, but it has also fixed odd translations such as in Eph 2:2 and the use of deluge in the original edition's passages of the flood story.

In spite of my praise of the updated translation, there are some passages I wish were rendered differently. For example, in contexts where Paul is clearly addressing men and women, I would prefer the HCSB render ἀδελφοί as "brothers and sisters" (or at least acknowledge such in a footnote as the ESV does). And I'm not wild about the masculine universal man in Gen 1:26 having seen firsthand it's potential to cause misunderstanding of the text among those who don't understand the generic use of the word. However, the benefits of the HCSB elsewhere are so great that I'm willing to use and even adapt the translation on the fly when I need to. And I believe I've earned this privilege when I've taken the time to study a passage in the original languages beforehand in my preparation for teaching it.

In my review of the original edition, I mentioned my hope that the publishers might consider moving the ministerial helps to the center of the Bible. When performing a wedding with this Bible in a more traditional, nearly one-hour service a couple of years ago, the lopsidedness of keeping it open to the back grew awkwardly heavy in my hands after a while. Unfortunately, this very helpful section of materials remain in the same place.

All of the ministerial helps that I listed in my original review remain in the 2010 edition. A new article has been added: "Eight Traits of Effective Church Leaders" by Thom Rainer. The concordance in the back has been updated to reflect the 2009 text; the full-color maps are the same.

The bonded leather cover of the original HMB was good quality for what it was, but many of us had requested a nicer cover. A couple of years ago, Lifeway released a "Limited Edition" HMB that included a handcrafted cowhide cover (see my pictures of this edition here), but to my knowledge, these were never sold in stores.

The 2010 HMB comes in two bindings: a genuine cowhide leather that looks identical to the limited edition cover and an edition with imitation leather. My copy, as can be seen in the pictures on this post, is the nicer cowhide edition. However, although I have not seen the imitation leather binding, I'm told that it is of very high quality polyurethane which has become a popular alternative to real leather in recent years. From what I understand, the imitation leather is actually more supple than the genuine cowhide and has the potential to outlast real leather. Surely, for the more budget-minded, the imitation leather will be a perfectly suitable choice, and most seeing it will probably believe it's actually leather.

This post isn't just another review for me. Beginning this Sunday, I am adopting the 2010 HCBS Minister's Bible as my primary teaching Bible. It's a bit sad to retire my previous edition, especially since it was the first Bible that I adopted when I stopped using the NASB for public use after nearly two decades. I've got quite a few notes in the margins of the previous edition, but I don't know that I will transfer them (unless I just transfer them to Accordance and BibleReader). There's something nice about starting fresh with a wide-margin Bible. In spite of the ability to make more extensive biblical notes electronically, I still enjoy using pen on paper making a minimalist set of "reminders" in the margin for when I teach the Bible.

Since the HCSB has now received it's post-initial release textual update, I'm under the assumption that the text will be fairly "set" for a while. With that and the improvements in the new HCSB Minister's Bible, I anticipate using this as a primary English Bible for at least a decade or more.

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Reader Comments (32)

Thanks, Rick! I've been on pins and needles for the review. How would you compare the physical properties to the TNIV Reference Bible in Renaissance leather?

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Worley

Similar covers, but the HCSB Minister's Bible's cover is not as soft as the TNIV's Renaissance leather--and that's a good thing. The TNIV's cover feels almost "cushioned." I believe the HMB would hold up better over the long term.

Really, had I known the quality of the imitation leather, I might've been tempted to go that route. I think folks should seriously consider it in light of the expense for the better leather.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Interesting -- I assume that this same text will be used in the forthcoming HCSB Study Bible.

I seem to recall that you used a TNIV as your teaching Bible, and then you decided to switch to NLT (which you thought better matched with Eugene Peterson's philosophy in Eat this Book or a similar volume). There was also a period of time when you were evaluating using the NET as your teaching Bible, right?

But I had not realized you had decided to ditch the NLT for the HCSB (or maybe you announced it and I just forgot). Was this because HCSB materials are better supported in the teaching curriculum from B&H and other SBC materials? Or did you grow dissatisfied with the NLT?

Do you plan to stick with the HCSB indefinitely, or will you re-evaluate when the NIV2011 is released? (Let's speculate, as I suspect will be the case, that the NIV2011 adopts TNIV rewording while keeping close to the Colorado Springs Guidelines and that Zondervan slowly rolls out works with the new text.)

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Doug, yes, everything you say is essentially true. I had written part of that in the review, but then decided it was too much of a rabbit trail and cut it. The key phrase above is my description of the HCSB as "my most used Bible in the last five years for public teaching." That, in the big picture, is a very accurate statement.

When I quit using the NASB publicly in 2005, I began using the HCSB. I taught from it exclusively for a while, but during a study I was teaching in Hebrews opted for the TNIV and stayed there for quite a while. Part of my process of getting to know the feel of a translation is to teach or preach from it. So, I've also used the NLT and NET Bible in this regard over the past few years at times. I never completely stopped using the HCSB during that time, but for a while I wasn't using it that much. Early last year, I'd been using the NLT for a while but when I began a series on the Psalms, I quickly abandoned it. I love the NLT, but poetic passages are its major weakness. At that point I picked the HCSB back up and found it fantastic for the Psalms. I haven't put it down since. It was as if I rediscovered it.

As I've discussed before, my study has always included original languages plus multiple translations. The translation I use in public is the one I tend to fret over.

With my students at IWU I've been going back and forth between HCSB and NLT based upon what we're doing. The iPad makes it nice, too, having multiple translations in one book-like device, although my ultimate preference in front of a group is to use a physical Bible. I think if I were preaching a lot, I'd use the NLT for narrative sections. But I'm not doing much of that right now.

I'm always re-evaluating, but I plan to primarily stick with the HCSB for a while. I like it and some of the first edition quirks have been worked out. I've come to it essentially twice now. Plus, when I teach on Sunday mornings (usually to a group of about 50 adults), the HCSB is what is in the curriculum we use.

Having said that, however, you'll be interested to know that I have one gentleman in my Sunday morning class who prefers the KJV. I regularly ask him to read a specific verse or phrase out loud when I feel that it's better expressed in his Bible. As we've been in 1 Corinthians lately, the KJV's use of the plural ye is extremely important. So, having explained the issue to the class early on, I ask for readings from the KJV pretty regularly when we come to Paul's use of second person plural.

Regarding the TNIV/NIV 2011, I'll be honest (I've actually said this before), but I still have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth over the whole issue. The failure of the TNIV cannot be blamed upon its detractors (as nasty as some of their rhetoric was). The reason the TNIV failed is because its handlers (Zondervan and IBS) failed to support it—plain and simple. Although I feel like the contacts I had at Zondervan were genuine in their support for the TNIV; overall, I feel a bit used and discarded by the company as a whole. I'm literally in contact with no one there anymore—which is a very big change from just a few years ago (you'll remember they even flew me up for a day of meetings after my open letter). And despite what statements have been made, I'll take a wait and see approach in regard to the NIV 2011 because I am not completely trusting that when it comes right down to it, they will be able to turn away from the NIV which has been a tremendous cash cow for the company. But I will try to evaluate the NIV2011 on its own merits regardless. And I believe you're right regarding your predictive characterization of it. I've said much the same thing.

The HCSB is more conservative than the TNIV was (although the TNIV was conservative, too), but as I said in the post, if I've put the time into studying the text from the Greek or Hebrew, and especially if I've translated the entire passage myself (which I always try to do as a first step in preparation if I'm not rushed), then I reserve the right to "correct" a translation as I go. I regularly read "brothers and sisters" for ἀδελφοί (I did that this past week, in fact). I wouldn't read Gen 1:26 aloud and use the word man, but probably use a word like humans. By the same token, in regard to the HCSB's use of the divine name (which I am in agreement with overall), if I knew that I had a person in my audience with a Jewish background, I would easily substitute Lord. It's one thing for the gospel to be a stumbling block; it's an entirely a separate issue to let our translations become one.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Hey Rick. Thanks for posting this. I'm a big fan of your blog and have a great interest in your posts as I'm a fellow Apple/HCSB/Accordance enthusiast. I've been eagerly waiting for you to receive the new HMB for a review. I'm a Pentecostal missionary in Papua New Guinea so ordering one here is a bit tricky. My wife is Finnish and loves the HCSB because she finds it the easiest English translation to read while being very accurate at the same time.

I was wondering if you've had a chance to check out the sample of the new HCSB Study Bible. The complete book of Matthew is available to download at I'd be very keen on getting your opinion about it. Blessings to you.


June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMacinJosh

Hi Joshua. Thank you for your kind words about my blog.

I have downloaded the Matthew excerpt, but haven't had a time to examine it in depth. It does seem just at first glance to be of more substance than the HSCB Illustrated Bible that came out a while back.

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield


Great review, I have to agree with you almost 100% I picked up my copy at the our local Christian bookstore this week as well. I also opted for the Cowhide over the imitation leather. The imitation leather is very soft and supple like the "True Tone" imitation leathers used by other publishers, but I decided that for a $30 difference I wanted the real thing opting for durability.

The HCSB became my primary translation about 5 years ago, I have bounced back and forth a few times with others. A brief return to the NIV, trying out the TNIV, the NET even the ESV but I have found nothing that IMO reads as natural as the Holman.

I teach Senior High youth and I constantly have folks students and other teachers tell me they really like the way my bible reads.

One of the greatest things about the HCSB in a world of multiple translations is that it seems to bridge the gap very effectively between the extremes. Those reading the NIV/TNIV/NLT have not problems following me and neither do those with the NASB/ESV.

Just some thoughts, hope they encourage others and again thank you for your reviews.

June 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Thomas


Do you know if there will be a text edition of the HCSB with the new updates?

Enjoyed the review. As I've said, I really, really like the HCSB Psalms.

June 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClay Knick

Clay, I'm sure they will. From what I understand, they will only be publishing the 2009 HCSB text from this point on. As inventories run out, new print runs will incorporate the new text.

June 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Hello Madrid, Rick.

Thanks for the superb review.

It seems that as 2011 draws near, a "deluge" of new translations and revisions will hit the library shelves. I do really appreciate the effort that you (and others) make in order to review this new material for those of us who are not as savvy.

June 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesús S.

Terry, thanks for your words and parallel ideas.

Now that I feel the HCSB is a bit more "set," I may try to replace in my head all those verses I memorized years ago in the NASB. They no longer sound quite so natural on my tongue.

Your work with senior high youth would be a great context for promoting scripture memorization with group accountability.

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield


What other translations have you heard of besides the NIV2011?

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Joshua --

Two quick notes: First, if you are interested in the HCSB Study Bible, and if you order from Amazon (maybe you have someone in the US who forwards items to you in PNG), you should note that because of a pricing quirk, the "top of the line" HCSB Study Bible (ISBN 978-1586405076) is currently" rel="nofollow">on sale at Amazon for $44.09, less half of the $89.99 list price given under "products" at the HCSB Study Bible site you mentioned. Amazon is certain to fix the price sooner or later, but they will honor their originally listed price.

Second, I don't think I'm going to be that crazy about the HCSB Study Bible based on the excerpt of Matthew you mentioned. For example, the note to Matthew 1:22 includes this: Some interpreters argue that Matthew mishandled Is 7:14, but he seems to have handled it just as the angel did, which means his usage is backed by angelic authority. Now that's really sweeping a discussion of a fundamental issue (the question of the degree to which the Hebrew Scriptures include specific Christological references) "under the rug", and I have lots of problems with appeals to "angelic authority." Now I can certainly appreciate that different people come down in different places on the question of the treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament, but I would rather read more about the reasoning and arguments of different scholars than to just sideswipe the problem as being solved by "angelic authority." This sort of excerpt makes me think that this study Bible is aimed a different sort of audience than me.

Still, despite my apprehensions about the HCSB Study Bible, I've pre-ordered a copy (1) I want a copy of the new HCSB text, but I'm not really interested in the HCSB Minister's Bible; (2) as I've mentioned, it is a bargain at Amazon, and (3) I'm interested in reading views of people who disagree with my perspective too -- if only to better help me clarify what I believe and why.

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

I really like the font in this new edition better than they first. The previous one had a 'typewriter' look to it. I also like that the headings and verse numbers are bolder. The only thing that I'm not sure is an improvement is the change in the footnote designations - going from an italic lowercase letter to a sans serif uppercase one.
That just seems odd to me.

June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTed

Good review.
I have a brief review of the KJV Minister's Bible here, ( ) and have linked to yours.

June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJasonS

Jason, I noticed two interesting differences between the HCSB and KJV Minister's Bibles based upon your review. You mentioned a reference system—presumably a cross-reference system—in the KJV edition. There's not one in the HCSB. Also, you referred to a lack of a concordance in the KJV edition, but there is one in the HCSB. I wonder why these aren't more uniform? I wouldn't really need a cross reference system, but I do appreciate the concordance for times when an electronic concordance is not handy.

June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

There is a concordance in the KJV. There is an almost lack of a concordance. In other words, the concordance is practically useless because it is too limited.
The KJV is also double column. The HCSB is single column.
I will be having a giveaway of the KJV Minister's Bible on Entries will be taken through the month of August, and the winner will be announced on September 1, 2010. If anyone is interested they are welcomed to keep an eye on Re-Fundamentals.

June 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJasonS

While overall this looks like a pretty good bible. I think that perhaps they kind of shot themselves in the foot by making this a ministers bible. At least for me I don't use woman's or children's bibles

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

Sorry I accidentally hit the submit comment button, continuing on:At least for me I don’t use woman’s or children’s bibles because I am not a woman or child, and for the same reason I won't use a ministers bible. personally all I want is the old and new testaments and a concordance(single column text would be nice).And I can't find a HCSB that fits the bill in a nice binding

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

Nathan, I certainly understand your point. At the same time, Lifeway's target customers for this Bible are clearly ministers with the section of ministerial helps in the back. I believe that if they were to call the Bible something else, they'd miss that audience for which the Bible is primarily intended.

Having said that, a name is just a name; and unlike the previous edition, The Minister's Bible is not printed on the spine. So, if you want a nice one-column, wide margin HCSB Bible, this is clearly the best option and no one's going to know that the primary audience is members except you.

And we could always go into a discussion about how we're all called to ministry. Although the helps are geared primarily toward pastors, there's lots of good content there that a number of folks would benefit from.

July 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

Ted, I had not noticed the footnotes until you said something. I can't see how it matters one way or another, but it would be interesting to know why the change was made.

July 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterR. Mansfield

thanks for the review, Rick.
Based on what you said i went ahead and ordered it from amazon.. and i'm loving it!

do you know anywhere online that has the 2009 text? (free, of course)


July 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdon

Hello again.,

I stand corrected.

I am very much afraid that I wanted to say editions; because of the 400th anniversary of the King James version, I read somewhere that many printing houses were going to release special editions of their translations.

I do hope that you will review as many of them as possible and keep us informed.

July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesús S.

Are the words of Christ in red? The Amazon description doesn't specify, so I was hoping...

Hoping we can get it all in black, I meant.

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