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2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB): First Look [updated]

Earlier this week at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio, attendees were presented with a free advance copy of the upcoming 2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB). The edition given out, designated "CSB Large Print UltraThin Reference Bible," is a soft black imitation goatskin leather with two ribbon markers. 
The original Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) was first released in full in 2004 and revised in 2010. Interestingly, there is no reference to previous copyright dates on the copyright page of the CSB. I read from this that the CSB is being positioned not as an update to the HCSB, but a full replacement. 
I had an "off-the-record" conversation with one of the original HCSB translators. I don't feel comfortable communicating everything I was told, but he informed me that except for a stylist or two, the entire translation committee of the HCSB was replaced with an entirely new team. The edition of the new CSB handed out earlier this week does not list the translation team, but a cardstock page in the box referred to Dr. Thom Schreiner as "Co-Chairman, Translation Oversight Committee." Schreiner is a premier Evangelical scholar for whom I have great respect, and I will be interested to learn who else was on the committee. 
An employee of Lifeway told me that the text in the copy of the CSB given to attendees is very close to final form, but there may still be a "grammatical correction or two" before print copies go on sale in 2017. 
A few notes of interest:
  • All HCSB bullet notes have been removed. 
  • All 645 instances of Yahweh in the HCSB have been replaced with the more traditional LORD (all caps).
  • Surprisingly (to me), beer has (correctly) been retained for the Hebrew שֵׁכָר/šēḵār
  • Pronouns referring to deity are no longer capitalized. 
  • Thankfully, other than the changes in capitalization, John 3:16 is still correctly translated as "For God loved the world in this way [οὕτως/houtōs]: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
  • According to the former HCSB translator I spoke with, the new CSB uses the title Messiah much less often than the HCSB, which used it 116 times in the New Testament for Χριστός/Christos. Note, for instance, the use of Christ in Matt 1:16 of the CSB as opposed to the HCSB's Messiah.
  • Contractions have been retained in spoken dialogue. Whether they have been increased or decreased in frequency is unknown without an electronic text to search. 
  • The textual basis for the CSB is the BHS5 for the Old Testament and the NA28/UBS5 for the New Testament. 
  • The term "Optimal Equivalence" has been retained as a way of describing the HCSB as a median translation between Formal and Dynamic Equivalence. 
  • The introduction makes note that traditional words such as justification, sanctification, and redemption are used "since such terms have no other translation equivalent that adequately communicates their exact meaning." Interestingly, though, I discovered that the HCSB's use of proptiation in Rom 3:25 (ἱλαστήριον/hilastērion); Heb 2:17 (λάσκομαι/hilaskomai); 1 John 2:2 (ἱλασμός/hilasmos); 4:10 (ἱλασμός/hilasmos) has been changed to follow the NIV's lead with the phrase "atoning sacrifice" in all of the instances except Heb 2:17 where it is translated "to make atonement."

I have not had time to give a close look at the CSB, but from what I can see it is not a minor revision of the HCSB. Rather, as Lifeway seems to be positioning it, the CSB is new translation where every verse of its predecessor seems to have been up for change if necessary. Think NEB to REB, RSV to NRSV--or perhaps more appropriate in this case, RSV to ESV. 

And the ESV may be the actual catalyst in all this. The ESV has continued to gain in popularity and use in conservative American Protestant churches, so it's no surprise that the new CSB would be more traditional in a significant number of places than the HCSB (such as the Beattitudes in Matthew 5 reverting to the traditional "Blessed are..." formula of older translations). 

No doubt the HCSB has always used more natural English than the ESV, but perhaps the CSB is an effort to sound natural and retain a sense of the familiar at the same time, thus possibly allowing for more widespread use than it has received to date. 

My main quibble with the changes is the loss of Yahweh for the Divine Name (יְהוִה/YHWH). Yes, I know the arguments: we don't know the exact pronunciation, and use of the name is offensive to some with Jewish backgrounds. For the latter issue, a speaker needs to be sensitive to his or her audience. Neverthless, I have a problem with the use of the word Lord/LORD because (1) it is a title, not a name; and (2) it is a not a word in use outside religious circles in our culture and loses nearly all original meaning when used for God. 

Having taught from the HCSB at church for the last decade, I will give the CSB the benefit of the doubt and begin using this advance copy immediately in that setting in an attempt to really give it a fair shake. I especially look forward to an electronic version in Accordance so that I can more easily compare the CSB with the HCSB, which I somehow feel had too short of a lifespan in the big picture. 








Where We Might Get Our First Glimpse of the New CSB

In yesterday's post, "2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB): Everything We Know So Far," I mentioned that, so far, I've not been able to find any examples of the new text except for Revelation 22:6a that reads identically the same as that in the HCSB.

It may be that we have to wait until January, the stated date for the launch of the new CSB, but there may be a couple of earlier possibilities. The first is simply speculation on my part: the November meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio might be an appropriate opportunity for Lifeway to reveal portions, or perhaps even all, of the new translation.

However, a more likely place we will probably see examples of the new CSB is in Lifeway's own curriculum, which is published quarterly and months in advance. I teach from Lifeway's Explore the Bible curiculum at church, and we are currently in the summer quarter, which runs through the end of this month. The Fall quarter begins in September, and the Winter quarter begins in December. However, all of this literature is released months in advance. In fact, much of the Winter material--at least some of the digital content--is already available. However, I determined yesterday that the current HCSB is used through the Winter quarter.

On Lifeway's Explore the Bible Facebook page, I asked if we would see a switch over to the new CSB in the Spring 2017 quarter material. Since the reply was public, I am repeating it here:

"Yes, at this point, we plan to introduce CSB content into our materials beginning with spring 2017. We are a part of the CSB soft launch."

Since churches have to order cubiculum months in advance, and the digital versions are made available first, I would not be surprised to see samples of the new CSB in this content sometime in the next few weeks. If this does happen, and if I find any examples of note, I'll post them here.


2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB): Everything We Know So Far

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) has been my primary public use translation for most of the last decade. I teach from it every Sunday at church. My default workspace in Accordance features the HCSB in parallel with a combined Hebrew and Greek text. It's not perfect, and I always reserve the right to correct it (or any translation) on the fly, but--as I've explained elsewhere--I value it for its readability as well as willingness to break with traditional wording (such as in John 3:16) for sake of accuracy. 

There's not been a whole lot of information released about the upcoming update to the HCSB other than the fact that Lifeway is dropping the "H" in favor of simply calling it the CSB, Christian Standard Bible. If memory serves, this was the original plan back in the early days when the late Arthur Farstad was still in charge of the project, but I could be mistaken. 

As I've indicated, we don't know too much about the CSB, but I thought that I might use this space to lay out as much as we do know up to this point. 

Official website and not-so-secure, retailer-only section of the website:

Press release

Launch date

Announcement in January 2017 with printed editions following in March. This allows stores to clear out print inventory of the HCSB over the Christmas buying season. 

Forthcoming print editions

Nearly 100 coming from Lifeway with more from Baker in 2018. Besides multiple text editions, there is a new CSB Study Bible, Essential Teen Study Bible, evangelistic editions, and more than one edition aimed at children. 

I'm surprised that I don't see a Minister's edition yet among the pre-pub listings. I teach from the current HCSB Minister's Bible at church.

Forthcoming Bible software editions

No word yet on electronic editions, but presumably the usual bunch: Accordance, Logos, OliveTree, and Wordearch. Lifeway owns WordSearch, so I'm sure they will have it, but I hope the CSB is licensed to other platforms, too. 

Reason for dropping "Holman" from the name

Official reason:

"We are proud of the heritage of Holman Bible Publishers, which dates back to 1743, making us the oldest North American Bible publisher. While we are retaining that name for our publishing entity, the Holman name in the Bible translation name often created more questions than answers (who was Mr. Holman?). 'Christian Standard Bible' removes some of those questions and increases appeal to the broad audience that the CSB is designed to serve."

Probable reason: "Holman" is associated with Southern Baptists. Dropping "Holman" fits better with the diversity of translators who produced the H/CSB and will hopefully open the door for more greater use among a diverse representation of churches and denominations. 

Reason for update

Official reason:

"We are committed to improving our translation based on advances in biblical scholarship, and input from Bible scholars, pastors, and readers. Taking all of these items into consideration, the CSB has improved on the HCSB’s faithfulness to the original text and clarity for a modern audience."

Translation method

As with the HCSB, Lifeway continues to use the designation Optimal Equivalence as a description of the CSB:

"In the many places throughout Scripture where a word-for-word rendering is clearly understandable, a literal translation is used. When a word-for-word rendering might obscure the meaning for a modern audience, a more dynamic translation is used."

This means it is a median translation (the best kind in my opinion) balancing between formal and dynamic equivalence. This is similar to the method used for the NIV, NET Bible, and many other modern translations. 

Significant changes between the HCSB and CSB

Not publicly known yet. The only verse quoted on the official website is part of Revelation 22:6, which reads the same in both versions: “Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’”

I would hope they choose to translate ἀδελφοί as the more accurate "brothers and sisters" when the context warrants it, and I hope they stick to their guns and keep שֵׁכָר and σίκερα correctly translated as "beer" in Lev 10:9; Num 6:3; 28:7; Deut 14:26; 29:6; Judg 13:4, 7, 14; 1 Sam 1:15; Prov 20:1; 31:4, 6; Isa 1:22; 5:11, 22; 24:9; 28:7; 29:9; 56:12; Mic 2:11; and Luke 1:15 as the HCSB does now. This still surprises me for a translation owned by a Baptist publishing firm, but I respect their commitment to accuracy. 

Identity of translators

No one has publicly been named, but the translators have been described as "100 scholars from 17 denominations."

I will continue to post updates as I find out new information. If I have left anything significant out, please let me know in the comments.


Lifeway Stores Remove "The Blind Side" from Shelves Over Profanity--Is the Bible Next?

According to a report in Louisiville's Courier-Journal, Baptist-owned Lifeway Stores have pulled the 2009 movie The Blind Side from its shelves over profanity. 

In spite of the film's positive treatments of issues like racial reconciliation, care of the homeless, and true hospitality, a bit of swearing will keep this movie out of Lifeway Stores. Perhaps the PTB at Lifeway didn't catch the MPAA's PG-13 rating of the movie for "one scene involving brief violence, drug and sexual references" to begin with. Maybe if that were the only issue and no swearing was involved in the above-described scene, the movie could stay on the shelves. 

Regardless, this got me thinking... What if Lifeway were to really get consistent with this "no swearing" policy for everything they carried. Would they really go all the way and remove the Bible, too?

Wait...what? You didn't know there was swearing in the Bible? Well, if you didn't, it's because most translations tend to smooth over objectionable language. 

I should stop to point out right now that the posts on this blog have always ranged from being rated G to PG, and that's not going to change now, but I will respectfully offer three examples of profanity (or at least very strong language) in the Bible for sake of argument. 

Philippians 3:8

Let's start with Paul in the New Testament, who after offering a pretty impressive resume of his earthly accomplishments, calls them for what they are in light of what he's gained from knowing Christ:

"More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth [σκύβαλον/skubalon], so that I may gain Christ" (HCSB, emphasis added).

Paul uses a very interesting choice of words here. The Greek word σκύβαλον/skubalon could refer to garbage or excrement according to its use. However, there's very little doubt as to how Paul was using this word here. And it's interesting to see commentators attempt to explain this without using strong language themselves. Consider J. I. Packer's explanation (NIDNTT, 1:480):

The only NT usage is Paul’s in Phil. 3:8, where he says of all the natural and religious privileges which once seemed sweet and precious, and all the things he has lost since becoming a Christian, “I count (estimate, evaluate) them as (nothing but) dung.” The coarse and violent word shows how completely Paul had ceased to value them.

Spicq may have made the sense a bit more plain when he wrote, "To convey the crudity of the Greek, however: 'It’s all crap'" (TLNT, 3:265). Truthfully, though, when you think of our modern word that's a bit stronger, that's the kind of intensity that Paul probably meant. 


Ezekiel: just about any time he refers to idols

Ezekiel is not alone in this in the Old Testament, but he has a preferred word when referring to idols: גִּלּוּל/gillul. 

Daniel Block explains it best in his commentary on Ezekiel (NICOT, Ezekiel, vol. 1, p. 226):

idols. The word gillûlı̂m...represents Ezekiel’s favorite expression for “images.” Although he did not coin the term, the fact that 39 of its 48 occurrences in the OT are in this book indicates its usefulness for his purposes. The word appears to be an artificial construct derived from the verb gālal, “to roll,” but vocalized after the pattern of šiqqûṣı̂m. The adoption of this word as a designation for idols may have been prompted by the natural pelletlike shape and size of sheep feces or, less likely, the cylindrical shape of human excrement. The name has nothing to do with the shape of idols, but it expresses Ezekiel’s/Yahweh’s disposition toward them. Modern sensitivities prevent translators from rendering this expression as Ezekiel intended it to be heard, but had he been preaching today, he would probably have identified these idols with a four-letter word for excrement.* A more caustic comment on idolatry can scarcely be imagined. Yahweh’s treatment of these images will involve not only their “smashing” (šābar) and “obliteration” (šābat), but their exposure as powerless figments of the human imagination. The destruction of the images testifies to the deities’ impotence to defend themselves, and the slaughter of the devotees to the gods’ inability to defend their worshipers.

In the original of the above, there are actually a number of footnotes that I'm not reproducing here. However, I will reproduce (with apologies for those who might be offended) footnote 45, which I have replaced with an asterisk above. It reads: "Bodi (RB 100 [1993] 481, 510) captures the intended sense with 'shitgods.'" You can read Block's explanation of Ezek 16:36 in the second volume of his commentary for an even more harsh use of this imagery. 

Hmmm... based on this example and the one from Paul, I'm noticing a biblical theme not covered in most topical treatments of the Bible...


1 Samuel 20:30

“Then Saul became angry with Jonathan and shouted, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you are siding with Jesse’s son to your own shame and to the disgrace of your mother?” (HCSB)

Now, you probably think that I'm referring to the phrase, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!" (בֶּן־נַעֲוַת הַמַּרְדּוּת/ben-na‘awat hammardut) which would certainly have an equivalent modern expression not fit for mixed company, but I'm not actually referring to that phrase. While not specifically swearing perhaps, Saul is using language that is quite strong and forceful in the second half of his sentence. The more literal New American Standard communicates it differently (but not necessarily more clearly): "Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness [עֶרְוַת אִמֶּךָ/‘erwat ’immekha]?" (emphasis added).

David Tsumura explains (NICOT, p. 520):

The term nakedness (ʿerwat), which may refer euphemistically to genitals, is used in a curse: to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness. Here the emphasis is on the disgrace or shame which Saul thinks Jonathan has brought upon himself and his family rather than “his mother’s genitals, whence he came forth.” Note that the nakedness itself is disgraceful to anyone.

As an aside, it is well known that, in regard to the first phrase, when the Living Bible was first completed in the early 70s, Kenneth Taylor, did in fact use the modern expression "son of a bitch." It even appears that way in The Children's Living Bible that my grandmother gave me in 1973. In all later editions of the Living Bible, the phrase was altered to "You fool!" which is probably too weak. The current New Living Translation reads "You stupid son of a whore!" which like the original Hebrew, is pretty tough language if you're the recipient of it. 


Honorable Mentions

  • Although not offensive in 1611, reading 1 Sam 25:22, 34; 1 Kgs 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kgs 9:8; 18:27; Isa 36:12 in the King James Version would not be seen as appropriate in many churches today.
  • And while not containing actual profanity, in my mind "Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite” (Ezek 16:45, HCSB) is an example of real fighting words :-)


My apologies to my mother, for all the language, if you are reading this post. 


As always, your questions, thoughts, comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments below.


Obvious? Maybe Not: Why the HCSB and NLT

Over on Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins has written an insightful analysis (that I highly recommend) of Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 in the updated NIV. See "A Review of the New NIV of Qohelet 11:1-2." Incidentally, I agree with John's assertion that Eccl 11:1-2 in the updated NIV is more interpretation than translation.

In the introduction of John's post, he mentioned my post from a couple of days ago regarding my initial thoughts about the updated NIV. Following that mention, he referred to the fact that I stated that I had moved on from the TNIV, and that now my two primary translations were the HCSB and NLT. Then John wrote this:

What Rick never explains is why he makes primary use of HCSB and NLT. It ought to be obvious: he is Southern Baptist. For the same reason, a United Methodist might make primary use of NRSV and CEB; a Roman Catholic, of (say) RSV and NAB. The sociological reasons for choosing one Bible over another tend to go undiscussed. But they are often determinative.

Initially, I began writing what you see below in the comments on John's website. However, because I can sometimes be a bit longwinded, I decided to move my response here to This Lamp.

Here is how I began my response:

John, actually, I have explained why I currently make primary use of the HCSB and NLT before in other posts. My initial take on the updated NIV was already long enough and rehashing this other issue would have been too far off subject.

However, to say that my choices for the HCSB and NLT are merely (obvious was the word you used) because I am Southern Baptist is a bit reductionistic, and frankly, I feel, sells my preferences, and perhaps me, a bit short.

I've been a collector and student of Bible translations before I ever studied biblical languages. Initially, I thought that perhaps after studying Greek and Hebrew, my interest in English translations would wane, but that was not the case. In fact, it increased because I found that I had a better understanding of why particular translational choices were made. My most valuable M.Div level class in the nineties was the elective I took on textual criticism taught by John Polhill, which gave me further tools for understanding translators' choices.

Most of my personal study of the Scriptures takes place on a computer—usually in Accordance, but increasingly in BibleReader on my iPad. I like using Accordance because I can have the original languages side-by-side with my own translation of the text as well as all the standard English translations. Sometimes I throw in Luther's German Bible, too, because I want to see how a phrase reads in the German (although I don't claim any great skill in German, I'm usually interested enough to look up what I can't work out on my own).

The English translations I favor tend to go through cycles, rising and falling like investments on the stock exchange. Four years ago, I created a "Top Ten" list based more on my print collection than what I have access to electronically. Recently, I updated that list to better reflect where I am now. Yes, there are more Protestant Bibles on that list, but not exclusively so. And yes, about half tend to be rooted more in Evangelical use, but there tends to be more of these kinds of translations to begin with. All things considered, I believe I have a more eclectic of a list than one might have predicted.

Nevertheless, it's important for me to point out that I do not begin with translations in my study of the Bible.

Study of the scriptures, for me, begins with the original languages, although admittedly my Greek is still better than my Hebrew.  My study of the Bible is currently focused over three areas: (1) I am still working on my dissertation which focuses on Paul's "prayer wish" in 1 Thess 5:23-24; (2) I teach a weekly Bible study at church and occasionally find opportunities to preach; and (3) sometimes like many of us, I become interested in a subject or a passage, and I study it for no other reason than the fact that I am simply interested.

When I speak about "primary Bible translations" and my own preferences these days, I am primarily referring to what I use publicly. I have two regular public audiences: my church and the classes I teach as an adjunct for Indiana Wesleyan University. Any exposition I do at church is fresh. My presentations at IWU do not require new preparation, although I do try to review my previously used material and tweak it now and then as I see fit.

My choice of Bible translation is something I consider very seriously. And while not an exact and always division, currently I use the NLT a lot with my college students and the HCSB a lot at church.

Forty to fifty individuals attend my weekly Bible study at church on any given Sunday (I'm actually taking November and December off to focus on finishing my dissertation). I spend on average about six hours in preparation to teach one of these studies. If I had unlimited time in my week, I can assure you I would spend longer. I enjoy it. It is my best worship of the week. Yet when I've compared notes with other Sunday School teachers at church, I find that most of them do not put this much time into their lessons. And that's fine.

For many years, I carried my Greek New Testament to church every Sunday. I tried to be inconspicuous about it. It's not that I was ashamed of it, but I never wanted to come across as showy in these kinds of habits. Sometimes, I also carried my Hebrew Bible, and occasionally I carried my LXX, too. I used to carry an entire bag with me to church every Sunday with my laptop (for teaching) and a stack of books. Now, it's conveniently all on my iPad, so I'm much less weighed down. My pastor preaches from the NLT (partly my influence I admit, but not exclusively), and I enjoy following along with the Greek or Hebrew text as well as I can on my iPad.

For whatever reason, I've still chosen to teach from English translations in a church context. Maybe this is a lack of confidence on my part, but maybe it is also a recognition that I'm not going to instantly produce a translation on my own in a few hours that's as polished as one for which a group of people have spent years.

Everything above, John, has been a longwinded route to come to my respectfully intended rebuttal to what I realize was a minor point in your post. For me, when I began talking about the HCSB and NLT as preferred translations, it's primarily in the context of public use, public proclamation.

I like to say that I still see the scriptures from an "Old Testament" perspective—that is the idea that God's Word is not something stale and stagnant, but living—just as the writer of Hebrews expressed it: "The word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing so deeply that it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discriminates among the purposes and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12, REB).

This belief alone makes me take translation choice very seriously.

On one hand, I want a translation that accurately reflects the original languages (who doesn't?). On the other, I want a translation that communicates the biblical writers' meaning in a way that is not just clear, but also in a manner that seems natural.

I hear you, John, when you say you would prefer a common Bible more closely rooted to the Tyndale/Geneva tradition. I understand that and even value that tradition. But I don't use Bibles in that tradition in public. For those who have never heard the scriptures before, or are at least are unfamiliar with them, I want the language to sound contemporary. I want it to sound as natural as possible. Because I believe the Bible is "alive and active," I don't want newcomers to to hear God's word fully in their language and not the language of a century ago (or four centuries ago).

The church is more important to me than the academy. Church has played a central role in my life since (my mother tells me) I was two weeks old. I love the church, and I love the people in the church. But I often notice that people in the church are so used to doing the same church routines over and over again that on some level, their faith has lost real meaning for them. The Bible has lost real meaning. So sometimes, I believe it's important to hear the Bible in a "new way." That is, to hear the same familiar passages in unfamiliar words—not the words of the Authorized Version or even a later revision in the same tradition. Rather, I want these people to hear God's word fresh.

As for the HCSB, I do not use it only because I'm Southern Baptist. This does play a small part in that our Bible study curriculum uses the HCSB, so there's a nice connection. But for years (decades), I used translations that were not the same as the one found in the curriculum. In fact, I know of only two other individuals at my church who use the HCSB. It's heavily in the minority at my Southern Baptist church. As already mentioned, my pastor preaches from the NLT. But the majority of the Bibles I see carried by members in my church (and I do look for such things) are 1984 NIV Bibles. And then a few KJV or NKJV and a few NLTs. No ESV at all that I've ever seen.

And I don't keep up with what other Southern Baptist churches are using, but I can only guess that we are not that unique. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the NIV is still quite dominant in Southern Baptist churches, for better or worse. And I would guess that the NIV and KJV numbers combined trump all current use of the HCSB.

No, I use the HCSB because I'm impressed with the accuracy and boldness of the way that the translators let the original text be itself without apology. So, John 3:16 is changed for sake of accuracy, in spite of the fact that no doubt a "new" reading turns off a lot of people steeped in traditionalism.

Recently, Michael Horman wrote an article for Biblical Archaeology Review, "Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?" Horman rightly points out (para. 2) that most English translations of the Bible never mention beer. I'm fairly positive that when he wrote that assertion, the HCSB was probably not on his radar. But if you run a search for beer in the HCSB, you'll get 25 hits in the Old Testament and one in the New (which is quoting the OT). That's because the HCSB translators were honest enough to translate ‏שֵׁכָר as beer as it should be translated. And consider that faithfulness to the text in light of the fact that Southern Baptists have been associated with teetotalism since at least the Prohibition Movement!

These are the kinds of issues for which I choose to teach from the HCSB at church. That doesn't mean that I like all of the HCSB's translational choices. While the updated NIV has mankind in Gen 1:26-27, the HCSB has the even worse choice, man. Yet for me the positive value of the HCSB's technical accuracy overrides these other issues. And this technical accuracy is achieved while the HCSB, stylistically, is still considered a median translation, between formal and dynamic equivalencies. As I continue to say, if I study a passage first from the original languages, I reserve every right to correct it on the fly when I read from it in public.

My answer regarding the NLT is even simpler. The NLT has the most natural-sounding, conversational-level English I've heard from any Bible version that is still considered an actual translation and not a paraphrase. Plus the more contemporary gender-related translation choices in the NLT help me mentally balance the more traditional choices in the HCSB. Where I find the NLT to be of less use is in poetic passages and Wisdom Literature.

For almost two decades, I taught and preached primarily out of the NASB. I was under the mistaken assumption for many years, even after studying biblical languages, that "literalness = accuracy." Then, one day in 2005, while teaching a half-year study on Romans, I realized that I was spending more time explaining the language of the NASB than explaining the meaning of the Bible. At that point, I began considering other versions for public use. Since I had copies of all of them already in my collection, it was pretty easy to experiment.

I settled on the HCSB by the time I posted my first "Top Ten" list. However, within a year, I moved to the TNIV, wanting to go slightly further to the right on the dynamic scale. From there I went to the NLT, which I still genuinely like in the right context. But I found it to be weak in poetic sections as I've already said. Too many beautiful metaphors of the Hebrew were "flattened" down to just their basic interpretational meaning in English.

While teaching a study at church from the Psalms, I grew frustrated with the NLT and went back to the HCSB. In doing that, I not only rediscovered the HCSB, I found myself amazed at how well it handled the Psalms. Now I've come full circle. I use the HCSB in some public contexts and the NLT in others. And occasionally, I even use something else. I feel plenty of freedom to do that.

But none of these decisions ever come quickly. And I certainly didn't base my choice on my denominational ties (plus, it should be remembered that half of the HCSB translation team is not Baptist). The fact that I am Southern Baptist may have put the HCSB in front of me a bit easier, but since I have always collected translations, I would have found it regardless. And now that the HCSB is in an updated edition, too, I've found it to be an even better choice.


Top Ten Bible Versions: Revisited (2010)

In 2006, I created a top ten list of my favorite versions of the Bible. It was partly based on preference and partly categorical. Then, over the next year, I attempted to write meaningful reviews as to why these selections were chosen. Some liked my selections and some didn’t, but they were mine. See “Top Ten Bible Versions: The Complete Boxed Set” at my old site.

As I’ve written many times before, collecting English versions of the Bible has always been a bit of a hobby for me—going back to my teenage years. I was fascinated by even the minute choices that translators could make. Studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary, and incorporating original languages into my own personal study of the Bible gave me even greater insight into my fascination. In other words, one might think that learning biblical languages would negate any need for translations, but rather it made my interest deepen.

Further, I still use English translations in front of an audience. It takes a lot of time to create good translation that is better than what a committee has spent a few years on. And this is made even more clear when I attempt to translate a passage from Greek on the fly (previously unprepared), so I usually have both original languages and translation with me.

When not in the classroom or not in church, my study of the Bible comes mostly from electronic platforms such as Accordance on my Mac and Olive Tree’s BibleReader on my iPad. Electronic platforms especially accommodate the use of comparative readings of the Bible, much easier than laying out multiple physical copies side-by-side.

I occasionally get asked if I would update my top ten list now that a few years have gone by. Well, these kinds of preferences are always open to change. So, in light of that, here’s my list for 2010. The first five or so are actually ranked more or less. The latter five are more categorical in nature.

1. Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

See original review here. I still find this translation to be the most significant version of the Bible to arrive in decades. I chose it in the first place because of what I called “technical accuracy” in translation and the willingness to break with traditional renderings for the sake of correct meaning. The HCSB is essentially a median translation (the best kind in my opinion), sometimes more literal and sometimes more dynamic according to the need.

Since I placed the HCSB at the top of my list in 2006, I drifted from it a while, but last year while teaching a series on the Psalms I came back to it, and I haven’t left since. Yes, there are some renderings I don’t always agree with, but I reserve the right to “correct” on the fly if necessary.

This is the primary translation I’m currently using in public, and having just recently bought a new edition with the revised text, I don’t expect that will change for a long time.

If you’ve dismissed the HCSB because you think it’s a “Baptist” Bible, you’re selling it short (half the translation committee, including the general editor, are not Baptist) and both you and your audience are missing out.

2. New Living Translation (NLT)

See original review here. Continually improved since its debut as an actual translation (as opposed to its predecessor’s status as a paraphrase) in 1996, the NLT remains the best example of contemporary, conversational English language of any translation. It’s a great choice for both new believers as well as seasoned Christians who might have heard the Bible so many times in traditional terms that they no longer hear it so clearly.

The narrative portions are the best. If you’re preaching through the gospels, I don’t have a better recommendation than the NLT. However, by the same token, I don’t find it as helpful in poetic sections as metaphors are often flattened out a bit more than I’d prefer. Nevertheless, even this has been improved in recent years.

I still haven’t found a good “carry with me” copy of the second edition text, although I had a couple of favorites in the first edition.

3. NET Bible (New English Translation)

See original review here. Note that I switched title and abbreviation order for this version because it’s known better by its acronym which also makes a play on the word internet, where the NET Bible was first released. This version didn’t even make my original list because I was still in the process of familiarizing myself with it. But a few years later, after using it extensively in personal study, in the classroom, and from behind the pulpit, I can recommend it without hesitation.

As I said in my long-delayed review, “I recommend the NET Bible–especially the standard edition with 60,932 notes–to all believers.” Hands down, the complete NET Bible has the best set of notes I’ve ever seen in any study Bible. The translation, while still having a few rough places, is solid, too. Ultimately, this is simply a translation of the Bible in need of better exposure.

4. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

No official review, but see NRSV tags on both the classic and current This Lamp site. This is another translation that didn’t make my original list. While I had used the NRSV a good bit in the early nineties, I’d neglected it afterwards. But in recent years, I find myself referencing it more often and have come to appreciate it again.

The NRSV often gets a bad rap as a “liberal” Bible in some conservative circles. And while there are certain renderings that I would translate differently, I find the NRSV to be quite reliable. Its senior editor was the late, great Bruce Metzger, and because I trust him, I trust the NRSV. It’s the current de facto standard translation in academic circles, and the NRSV contains the widest selection of apocryphal/deuterocanonical literature of any English translation.


5. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

See official review here. For better or worse, I doubt I’ll ever escape the NASB (and don’t necessarily want to). This was the first Bible as a teenager that I could understand (claims of woodenness be hanged!). The NASB was the first translation I read from cover to cover. I taught from this translation for almost two decades. Most scripture I have memorized is in the NASB. In many ways it is still standard for me, even if it is a bit dated these days. If someone wants a formal equivalent translation in the Tyndale tradition ,this is still the version I recommend.

6. Good News Translation (AKA Today’s English Version; GNT/TEV)

See original review here. I can remember looking at Annie Vallotton’s simple, but profound line drawings, even before I could read, in my parents’ paperback copy of Good News for Modern Man. I’m very thankful to have access to this translation in Accordance, but I wish I had the pictures, too!

After reading Eugene A. Nida’s book, Good News for Everyone: How to Use the Good News Bible, I gained new respect, not only for this translation but also for the method of translation. While somewhat dated, the GNT remains the best pure dynamic equivalent (DE) Bible in my opinion, perhaps closely challenged by the Contemporary English Version. However, the CEV removes most parallelism in poetic passages (making them quite unpoetic), so I still give favor to the GNT. Plus, I still like the pictures; I don’t care what you think.

7. The Message

See original review here. While I would never recommend it as a primary Bible, the Message is easily the best pure paraphrase of the entire Bible ever produced. Those who detest it don’t “get” it, in my estimation. Eugene Peterson essentially redefined the word paraphrase, which had previously been applied to works reworded from existing translations, since Peterson created his paraphrase directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Some parts of the Message are admittedly troublesome and some parts are genius. I particularly like the Old Testament wisdom literature (especially Proverbs) in the Message.

8. New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)

See original review here. Essentially, a Catholic Bible, this translation is far superior to the “official” Catholic New American Bible. I like to say that if I were Catholic, this would be the Bible I would use. I don’t keep up with the NJB’s wider use much these days, but I’ve heard for a long time that a third edition was in the works. I wouldn’t doubt with the Catholic Church’s recent disallowance of the use of the Divine Name in worship services (which the NJB uses almost exclusively over the traditional LORD), the NJB may have fallen on even harder times than before. This is another translation I’m fortunate to have access to in Accordance.

9. Revised English Bible (REB)

See original review here. While not as risky or quite as dynamic as its predecessor, the New English Bible, the REB is still the best literary translation of the entire Bible since perhaps the King James Version. It never quite caught hold in the United States but had a small following in Great Britain. I continue to read it for my own enjoyment. It still surprises and delights me at times. And this might still be the only Bible I’d take to the desert island. As far as I know, Accordance is the only software to offer the REB in electronic form.

10. Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

See original review here. There’s not much more I can say about the TNIV that I haven’t already said. I’ve called it “the best translation no one ever read.” While it received the worst (and often mean-spirited) attacks of any modern translation since the RSV, I blame the real demise of the translation on its handlers: Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) and Zondervan. There was too much money to be made on the NIV, and the TNIV was never fully backed or promoted as it should have been. I used it for quite a while as a primary public translation. The folks at Zondervan used to keep in pretty good contact with me while I was writing about the TNIV. They even flew me up to Grand Rapids for a day once for meetings and conversation. Funny that I don’t hear from them anymore. Well, the NIV 2011 is coming. Knowing who is on the translation committee, I assume it will be a solid translation, but the real test of the NIV 2011′s endurance will come down to whether or not Zondervan and Biblica can finally let go of the NIV 1978.


The King James Version. No one is fully culturally literate without reading the entire KJV Bible at least once. And you should probably read it twice.

The English Standard Version. Some will be surprised that I put this here. But I’ve mellowed, and I also realize that quite a few folks really hear God speak to them through this version. I’ve privately used it a little bit myself now and then over the last couple of years, and I do admit the ESV can start to grow on a person.

The Modern Language BibleSee original review here. This is the Bible that “could have been.” If you read my review, you’ll see why it almost could have been what the NIV is/was. I’m not certain that it couldn’t be updated and regain its voice, but we do have enough English translations, don’t we? I do wish I had the MLB electronically, though.

God’s Word. I’ve received two review copies of this Bible and what I’ve had time to read, I like; but reviewing an entire translation takes time. Nevertheless, this will be my next major translation review.

So there it is. Perhaps I’ll update the list again in 2013 or 14. Feel free to discuss the particulars in the comments below. And consider offering your own top ten (or even top five, maybe) list yourself.


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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Updated HCSB Text Now Available in Accordance

On the left: 2003 HCSB text; on the right: 2009/10 HCSB textOver the weekend, OakTree Software released two updated HCSB modules that reflect the newest revisions to the text. In addition to releasing a free update to the basic HCSB module, a new HCSB module keyed to the original Hebrew and Greek texts was released also.

Now that the HCSB is a keyed text, direct correspondence can be seen between the HCSB and the original texts from the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. The underlying original language word displays in the instant details box. Double clicking on a word in the HCSB text now launches the appropriate Greek or Hebrew dictionary. And for the user who has not studied biblical languages, searches can be made in the HCSB directly based on key numbers.

Accordance makes use of a "default" search text when launching new search windows. Even after studying Greek and Hebrew, I've always kept a keyed English translation as my default because it allowed for quick access to both Old and New Testaments which would not be possible if, for example, I made the Greek New Testament my default search text. For years the keyed NASB was my default text. Then, a couple of years ago when the NRSV was developed with key numbering, it became my default. Now the HCSB keyed text becomes my default search text—for my purposes a very welcome change.

For my interests, I'm very excited to be able to finally do  a full comparison of changes in the updated HCSB text. This text is not being referred to as a "second edition" by Lifeway because they said the number of changes didn't warrant it (after seeing for myself, I disagree, but, hey, I'm not the publisher). Last year an electronic copy of the updated text was first released in WORDsearch although we were told print editions wouldn't see the changes until this year (2010). Based on my own hunting through the WORDsearch text, I wrote a post "HCSB 2009: A Brief Survey of Selected Changes."

Now, however, with the text(s) in Accordance, I can run a side by side comparison. I can do this because I'm opting not to update the original HCSB module just yet, and I can set it side-by-side with the new keyed HCSB module for comparison:

Back in 2007, I posted changes between the original and updated editions of the ESV text. I may do the same with the HCBS, although it would be a bigger project, and I'm so busy right now, that may have to wait until summer. I've done some preliminary comparisons and here are a handful of general items I've discovered:

  • The much-complained-about brackets are gone! Notice v. 4 in the screenshot above. These were still present, but to a lesser extent, in the WORDsearch text.

  • The Old Testament seems to contain more revision in general than the New Testament. Some books such as Genesis have received even more revision than other books.

  • Despite the fact that the handlers of the HCSB are not calling this a "second edition" or "revised" text, there does seem to be a much greater level of revision than what was seen between the 2007 ESV text and its predecessor.

  • Evidently the 2009 text seen in the WORDsearch update was not the final word on updates to the HCSB text. There are changes in the Accordance module that were not present in the WORDsearch text, and both 2009 and 2010 copyright dates are being referred to. Perhaps we can safely call this the "2010 HCSB text" even if for an informal designation.

I look forward to examining the updates in more detail, and as I have time, I'll post my discoveries in side-by-side columns here on This Lamp unless someone beats me to it (which would be fine).


Horrified! ἐκθαμβέω and ἀδημονέω in Mark 14:33 HCSB

Last Sunday, I taught from Mark 14:32-50, which details Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane and his subsequent arrest. Our curriculum uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible which is one of my favorite English translations. In fact, about six months ago, I returned to using it exclusively on Sunday mornings. Occasionally, the HCSB breaks with the norms of tradition when it comes to translation, opting for accuracy over what sounds familiar.

So, it caught my eye when I saw that according to the translators of the HCSB, Jesus was "distressed and horrified" (ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν) in Mark 14:33. It's this latter word, horrified, that really caught my attention. Was Jesus horrified in the Garden? Distressed, yes. Troubled, yes. But horrified? I mean, when I hear the word, horrified, I think of Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream. Thus, I wondered if the HCSB translator's simply over-translated here.

Honestly, even though I'd translated through this section in Mark at least twice in the past, I'd never given much extra thought to these two descriptors of Jesus' mental and emotional condition here, thinking of them as not much more than synonyms. Most translations make some variation on the words "distressed and troubled" sometimes even switching the two English words. Consider other translations of the phrase: "deeply distressed and troubled" (NIV/TNIV/NLTse), "greatly distressed and troubled" (RSV/ESV) , "to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy" (KJV), "to be distressed and agitated" (NRSV), "to be very distressed and troubled" (NASB), "troubled and deeply distressed" (NKJV), "very troubled and distressed" (NET). In my scan of translations using Accordance (I did not consult the 80+ translations on my bookshelf), I could find only two other translations besides the HCSB that used the word horror: "filled with horror and deep distress" (NLT1) and "Horror and anguish overwhelmed him" (REB).

My initial label on the whole issue was simply over-translation. I figured the HCSB translators were guilty of over-translating the text here. If that was the case, I supposed that a more traditional reading would be found in the updated 2009 text of the HCSB.

Not so. It read the same. This led me to the lexicons I have in Accordance. But even before I could do that, I had to consider the fact because troubled and distressed were interchangeable in many translations, and because the NLT1 and the REB placed horror in the first position, I wasn't really certain whether I was dealing with ἐκθαμβέω or ἀδημονέω in the HCSB. The use of the conjunction καὶ would technically allow for either order in an English translation.

Context does not help that much. These are both infrequently used words (I admit up front that I didn't have them in my working vocabulary for the NT, but I suppose I do now). ἐκθαμβέω occurs four times in the NT (Mark 9:15; 14:33; 16:5–6) and ἀδημονέω occurs three times (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33; Phil 2:26). ἐκθαμβέω occurs once in the LXX (Sir 30:9), but there is no use of ἀδημονέω in the LXX.

  ἐκθαμβέω ἀδημονέω
BDAG to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of someth. causing great surprise or perplexity, be very excited be in anxiety, be distressed,
& Nida
to be greatly astounded,
with either positive or negative reactions — "to be amazed, to be
astounded, to be alarmed"
to be distressed and troubled, with the probable implication of anguish — "to be troubled, to be upset, to be distressed"
& Scott
to be amazed to be sorely troubled
UBS be greatly surprised or alarmed; be greatly distressed be distressed or troubled
LEH to amaze, to astonish NA

As you can see, there does seem to be a bit of overlap between these two words; they carry aspects of synonymous meaning. However, there seems to be more heightened emotion in the first word, ἐκθαμβέω than in ἀδημονέω. If word order prevailed in the HCSB, did the REB and NLT1 switch the order for sake of translation? I only have one copy of an HCSB text with Greek tagging, and that is in WORDsearch (although I've heard it's coming for Accordance). I double-clicked on horrified in the WORDsearch HCSB, and as I anticipated, a window appeared tying the word to the second word, ἀδημονέω.

Regardless, I was still back to my original question about the HCSB's use of horrified, although it was now extended to the REB and NLT1 as well. Usually when there's a significant difference in a translation of a word or phrase in a more recent version of the Bible, there's been an influential commentary or article that's influenced the change. In this case, I don't know what that article or commentary is. I looked in the Word Biblical Commentary on Mark as well as the New International Greek Testament Commentary since both of these are often a bit more technical. Neither had any specific discussion of this issue.

I did find a note, however, in the lesser technical New American Commentary on Mark by James A. Brooks that might have had some bearing since both the NAC commentaries and the HCSB share the same publisher. Brooks writes:

Mark’s description of Jesus is shocking. Mark employed words that express the strongest possible anguish. The NEB does a better job than the NIV, NASB, and RSV in bringing out their meaning: “Horror and dismay came over him.” The REB has, “Horror and anguish overwhelmed him.” Matthew softened the statement, and Luke’s text is most uncertain.

So cheers to the NEB/REB, NLT and HCSB. I'm certain some influential article is out there, but we at least know this rendering goes back at least to the NEB. In the long course of translation history, the NEB continues to emerge as a greater influence in translation than is often thought. And as I've often noted, the NLT1 took more risks than the more conservative NLTse which came after it. And once again, the HCSB will break with traditional renderings for the sake of accuracy.

But there's one more thing...

Why is it that I would question Jesus' reaction of horror to the events that were before him to begin with? Could it be that a horrified Jesus didn't mesh well with the narrow-minded view of Jesus I sometimes have? Do I prefer the "Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" over the "Take this cup away from Me" when I think of Jesus?

Am I guilty of picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane like the one in that painting that was on the wall of my Sunday School room as a child? You know the one. The one with the light-haired stoic Jesus. The Jesus in the brightly colored robes looking confident and resolutely skyward as his father in heaven radiated his glory down upon him.

I talked about this with the class I was teaching at church. The Jesus in that painting really looks nothing like the Jesus described in Mark's account. I really can't imagine the Jesus in that painting saying "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death" (Mark 14:35). I don't really see that Jesus saying "Take this cup from me."

In the parallel passage written in Luke's gospel, we're told that "Being in anguish, He prayed fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

I knew a manager years ago who was told by the owner of the company to fire a particular individual. The manager didn't feel that she deserved being fired. He knew of some difficulties in her life that would be compounded by the loss of income. He stressed over having to fire her so much that he burst blood vessels in his face. I've never seen anything like that before or since. But I can't help feel that based upon the gospel writers' descriptions, Jesus' stress level was well beyond this—it would have been off the charts.

Jesus looked ahead to the events that were to come—his betrayal by a close friend, his arrest, his beatings, his crucifixion, his taking upon himself the sin of all humanity, his ultimate alienation from God the father, and then his death—and Mark tells us he was horrified.

What other word works here? Distressed? Troubled? I don't think so. Yes, I think horrified is the right word, the only word. Horror unlike anything ever experienced before or since. Horror over our sins would be enough, but the rest, too? I cannot imagine his total pain. If anything horror is not word enough.

But it will have to do.


HCSB 2009: A Brief Survey of Selected Changes

HCSBAs of this writing, the only way to obtain a copy of the 2009 edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible is through WORDsearch Bible software. I've had a copy of the updated text for a while but haven't had an opportunity to make a thorough evaluation of the text. I imagine this will be easier to do once it's available in Accordance when I can put the two texts side by side. In the meantime, though, I thought it might be useful to look at selected texts, especially in regard to previous trouble spots.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the 2009 HCSB will neither be designated as "revised" nor as a "second edition." The publisher does not feel that the number of changes to the text are significant enough to warrant a change in designation. New print editions will begin to appear in 2010.

While there are numerous improvements in the 2009 text, unfortunately, some traditional formatting remains in the 2009 HCSB such as capitalized pronouns referring to deity (which can be problematic in certain passages) as well as brackets around words "supplied for clarity for the translators." Personally, I believe the latter, especially, is wholly unnecessary in any translation and certainly so in one deemed as using "optimal equivalence." Fortunately, it's been reported that there are fewer brackets in the new text.

While I've stated before that overall, I believe the HCSB is one of the most technically accurate translations available (see for instance the discussion of John 3:16 in my original review), there were a handful of rather odd renderings in the original HCSB. The most infamous of these was found in Eph 2:2 which I'm glad to report has been changed in the 2009 HCSB:

Ephesians 2:2
2004 HCSB 2009 HCSB
in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain,a the spirit now working in the disobedient.b

aLit ruler of the authority of the air

bLit sons of disobedience
in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens,a the spirit now working in the disobedient.b

aLit ruler of the domain of the air

bLit sons of disobedience

Of course the phrase originally questioned was "the ruler of the atmospheric domain" (τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος], traditionally rendered "the prince of the power of the air" (KJV/NASB/ESV) or "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (NIV). This phrase is admittedly difficult to convey in English from a standpoint of its original intended meaning. The 2009 text is mildly better, but I still have trouble hearing that from the pen of an ancient writer. The NLT is more helpful here: "the commander of the powers in the unseen world."

Deluge No More
The original HCSB also had an unusual choice for the word traditionally rendered flood (‏מַבּוּל) in regard to the Noah story. The HCSB opted for deluge in ten places: Gen 6:17; 7:6-7, 10, 17; 9:11, 15; 10:1; 11:10. There's nothing technically wrong with the word deluge. It is often the word used in academic circles and is even used in the HALOT entry for מַבּוּל. However, it always seemed strange when read in front of a group at church. No, I'll be honest. It seemed odd when even reading it to myself.

The 2009 HCSB simply renders מַבּוּל as flood. For use in the church, this helps a lot.

Use of Yahweh
The original HCSB broke with most English translations to render the divine name, ‏יהוה, as Yahweh (instead of LORD--all caps) in 75 places: Exod 3:15-16; 6:2-3, 6-7; 15:3; 33:19; 34:5-6; Deut 7:9; 28:58; Judg 6:24; 1  Kgs 18:21, 24, 32, 37, 39; 22:7; 2  Kgs 5:11, 17; 2  Chr 18:6; Ps 68:4; 81:10; 83:18; 143:11; 145:3; Isa 30:27; 40:28; 42:8; 48:2; 51:15, 22; 54:5; Jer 16:21; Lam 3:55; 5:1; Ezek 6:14; 17:21, 24; 20:48; 36:23; 48:35; Dan 9:20; Hos 12:5; Joel 2:26, 32; Amos 4:13; 5:6, 8, 16, 27; 6:8; 9:6, 15; Jonah 1:9, 14; Mic 4:5; 5:4; Hab 1:12; 3:19; Zeph 3:9, 12, 20; Hag 1:14; Zech 14:7, 9; Mal 3:6, 16.

The 2009 HCSB increases this rendering to 504 occurences: Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 14:22; 21:33; 22:14; 26:25; Ex 3:15-16, 18; 4:5, 22; 5:1-3; 6:2-3, 6-8, 29; 7:5, 16-17; 8:1, 8, 10, 20, 22; 9:1, 13, 27-30; 10:2-3, 7-11, 16-17, 24-26; 11:4, 7; 12:12, 31; 14:4, 18, 25; 15:3, 26; 16:12, 15; 18:11; 20:2, 5, 7, 10-12; 29:46; 31:13, 19; 34:5-6, 14; 18:21; Lev 18:21; 19:12; 21:6; 22:2; 22:31; 24:16; Num 6:24-26; 15:41; 36:2; Deut 1:11, 21; 4:1; 5:6, 9, 11-12, 14-16; 6:3-4, 13; 7:9; 10:8, 20; 12:1, 5, 11, 21; 14:23-24; 16:2, 6, 11; 18:5, 7; 21:5; 26:2, 7; 27:3; 28:58; 29:25; 32:3; Josh 22:22; 24:14, 15, 19, 22, 31; Judg 6:24; 7:18, 20; 10:16; Ruth 1:17; 1 Sam 17:45; 2 Sam 6:2, 18; 1 Kings 5:3, 5; 8:17, 20, 44, 60; 10:1, 9; 11:4, 6, 9; 14:21; 18:21, 24, 32, 36-39; 20:28; 22:8, 15-16; 2 Kings 3:11; 5:11, 17, 25, 28; 18:6; 19:4; 1 Chron 16:2, 8, 10, 29, 36; 17:24. 26; 22:7, 19; 23:13; 29:16; 2 Chron 2:1, 4; 6:7-8, 10-11, 14, 16; 12:6; 13:9-11; 14:11, 13; 15:9; 16:8-9; 18:6-7, 15; 19:4; 20:6, 17, 20, 29; 21:10, 12, 14; 24:18, 24; 28:10; 29:5, 10; 30:1, 5-9, 19, 22; 32:8, 11, 17; 33:4, 12-13, 16-18; 34:21, 23-24, 26, 33; 35:3; 36:13, 15; Ezra 4:1, 3; 6:21; 7:6, 27-28; 9:5, 8; 10:11; Neh 1:5; 9:5-7; 10:29; Job 1:21; Psalm 7:1, 3, 17; 8:1, 9; 9:1, 10; 16:2; 18:31, 49; 20:1, 5, 7; 22:23; 25:11; 29:1-2; 30:4; 33:12, 20, 22; 34:3, 9; 41:13; 46:11; 47:2; 48:8; 50:1; 54:6; 68:4; 69:31; 74:18; 79:5; 80:19; 81:10; 83:16, 18; 86:11; 89:15; 92:1; 96:2, 8; 97:12, 99:2, 6; 100:3, 5; 102:15, 21; 103:1, 22; 104:1, 35; 105:1, 3; 106:47-48; 109:21; 113:1-5; 115:1; 116:4, 13, 17; 118:10-12; 119:55; 122:4, 8; 129:8; 130:1, 3, 5; 135:1-6, 13-14, 19-20; 143:11; 144:15; 145:21; 148:5, 13; 149:4; Prov 18:10; Isa 12:4-5, 7; 24:15; 25:1; 26:8, 13; 30:27; 37:4; 40:28; 42:8; 44:6; 47:4; 48:1-2; 50:10; 51:15, 22; 54:5; 56:6; 59:19; 63:16-17; Jer 3:17; 10:6, 10, 16; 11:21; 12:16; 14:7, 9; 15:16; 16:21; 22:9; 23:6; 26:9, 26:16, 20; 31:6, 35; 32:18; 33:2, 16; 44:16, 26; 46:18; 48:15; 50:34; 51:19, 57-58; Lam 3:55; 5:1; Ezek 6:7, 14; 17:21, 24; 20:48; 36:20; 36:23; 39:6-7; 48:35; Dan 9:20; Hos 2:20; 7:10; 12:5, 9; 13:4; 14:1; Joel 2:26, 32; Amos 4:13; 5:6, 8, 16, 27; 6:8, 10; 9:6, 15; Jonah 1:9, 14; 2:7; Micah 4:5; 5:4; 6:9; 7:17; Nahum 1:11; Hab 1:12; 3:18-19; Zeph 3:2, 9, 12, 15, 17, 20; Hag 1:14; Zech 10:6-7, 11-12; 11:4; 13:3, 9; 14:7, 9; Mal 1:6, 11, 14; 2:2; 3:6, 16

Of course, even this increase in usage of Yahweh is less than 10% the the full number of times the divine name is used in the Old Testament (6828 hits according to a search in Accordance). Compare the HCSB, for instance, with the New Jerusalem Bible, which renders יהוה as Yahweh 6342 times.

Most of this kind of usage comes when there is specific reference to the name of God (Gen 4:26; 12:8; Ex 20:7, etc.) or when the God of the Bible is being contrasted with other gods such as the renewal of the Covenant at Shechem in Josh 24 (see specifically vv. 14, 15, 19, 22, 31) or Elijah's confrontation with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:21, 24, 32, 36-39). In these kinds of contexts, the use of Yahweh especially makes sense and has been something I've done for years on my own when reading this texts publicly. It makes no sense in 1 Kings 18:22 for Elijah to say "If the LORD is God, follow him, but if Baal, follow him" since Baal can mean "master" or "lord," too. The contest is between Yahweh and Baal, and the rendering in the HCSB clarifies this. The same can be said for Joshua before the Israelites in Josh 24. Only Yahweh makes sense in v. 15: "But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh” (emphasis added).

By the same token, though, the mixing of LORD and Yahweh in the same verse somehow seems unusual. Consider the following two examples:

"But Jehoshaphat said, 'Isn’t there a prophet of the LORD here? Let’s inquire of Yahweh through him.'” (2 Kings 3:11) 
"So they called out to the LORD: 'Please, Yahweh, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For You, Yahweh, have done just as You pleased.'” (Jonah 1:14)

Somehow the mixing of LORD and Yahweh seems a bit unusual as if to suggest they're two separate words in the underlying Hebrew. Or take for example Psalm 119. יהוה occurs 24 times in Psalm 119 (1, 12, 31, 33, 41, 52, 55, 57, 64–65, 75, 89, 107–108, 126, 137, 145, 149, 151, 156, 159, 166, 169, 174), but Yahweh only occurs in v. 55 because "name" is specifically mentioned.

A Few Others
More comparisons will have to come later, but I did take a moment to look at the HCSB page over at the Better Bibles Blog. In the comments, a number of people suggested certain phrasings/renderings in the 2004 text that could be improved. Of course, these are varied opinions, and not everyone would agree that each suggestion is valid. Nevertheless, I decided to take a quick scan through those suggestions to see if any had been updated in the 2009 text. There weren't really very many that have been changed (and if you don't see it below, it remains the same), but besides Eph 2:2 and the issue over the choice of deluge, I found these:

Genesis 4:1
Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the LORD’s help.” Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the LORD’s help.”

Proverbs 11:8
The righteous is rescued from trouble;
in his place, the wicked goes in
The righteous one is rescued from trouble;
in his place, the wicked one goes in.

1 Peter 2:6
For it stands in Scripture:

Look! I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and valuable cornerstone,
and the one who believes in Him
will never be put to shame!
For it is contained in Scripture:

Look! I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and honored cornerstone,
and the one who believes in Him
will never be put to shame!

Revelation 1:12
I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands,

1 John 3:17
If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his |need|—how can God’s love reside in him?

1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, get your minds ready for action,  being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

A number of chapter comparisons between the 2004 and 2008 editions have been posted at the Christian Insight website. Robert Jimenez has written a number of posts about the 2009 HCSB on Inquiring Minds. Also, a special HT to Robert for alerting everyone to the new HCSB website, (you'd think that Lifeway would send out emails to HCSB supporters about this). Will Lee at Anwoth has an interview with Dr. Blum, the general editor of the HCSB, specifically about the second edition. And, of course, the ETS paper Dr. Blum presented last year comparing the HCSB to other translations was based upon the changes found in the 2009 text.

Again, once the 2009 text is available in Accordance, changes will be easier to determine, when I can set the 2004 and 2009 texts side by side and run Accordance's comparison feature. And, of course, I look forward to getting a print copy of the 2009 HCSB text in hand--even if that doesn't occur until 2010! What about you? Anyone else with a copy of the 2009 text? What other changes stand out to you? Anything significant? Leave your thoughts in the comments.