Over the past few months, I’ve been using a new translation of the Bible called the Christian Standard Bible. Published by Holman Bible Publishers in early 2017, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is an unexpected, yet (apparently) necessary, update of the 2004 Holman Christian Standard Bible.
About the Christian Standard Bible Translation
When a well-established publishing company produces a thorough revision of its previous translation—with the intent that the new version completely replace the old—less than 15 years after the original, one sits up and takes notice.
In fact, when I announced that I would be reviewing this Bible, the very first question my friend and former seminary classmate, Gale P., had was: “Why? What’s the agenda? Was it necessary?” It is my intention that this review address those questions.
When I requested a review copy from B&H Publishers in March, I determined to use it regularly for a while before forming an opinion—I have no desire to write a review without doing my due diligence.
So, that said, I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can share my opinion based on use in worship services, Sunday School, and personal study. But before I share my impression, I’d like to tell you about the translation itself and the physical copy I received.
Descriptions from the Packaging
To introduce you to the CSB, I’m going to quote directly from the full-color, cardstock sleeve in which my Bible arrived. Why use their words and not my own?
Because the cover contains a description written by the publishing company filled with what they would like us to know about their new translation, and it will help explain at least one of the reasons Holman chose to revise the HCSB: To increase consumption. Notice the progression from accuracy to popularity:
- “highly reliable”
- “highly readable”
- “as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity”
- “optimal blend of accuracy and readability”
- “makes Scripture more moving (Yikes!),
more memorable, and more motivating to read
and share with others”
- helps you “to experience God’s truth as never before” (Yikes!)
I was tracking with them until they touted their translation would make Scripture “more moving” and help me experience God’s truth as I never have before! I mean, gosh, if that’s the case, then we should all run to LifeWay and purchase one immediately. In fact, stop reading this review, and click here to buy your copy RIGHT NOW! ⚡
What? Back so soon? Okay, then I’ll keep writing. Can I just remind us that the ONLY way Scripture becomes “more moving, more memorable, and more motivating to read” is because of the work of the Holy Spirit—not the Holman—in our lives. [Just a little aside: When I created the hyperlink above, I noticed the ISBN for this particular thinline reference Bible ends with 666.? You’d think they would have caught that at the publishing company and asked for a different ISBN, but I guess not.] ?
Why Revise the HCSB?
So, back to Gale’s question: Why did Holman find it necessary to completely revise their HCSB translation of the Bible? It’s actually pretty interesting, especially in light of the fact that they brought together “more than 100 top conservative scholars from 17 denominations” to work on the 2004 translation. I guess the final translation wasn’t as marketable or acceptable as they had anticipated.
It appears that the main catalyst for this 2017 revision (and new name: CSB) was the feedback they received about the HCSB “from pastors, seminaries, and other conservative denominations.” Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Holman! I have no idea what type of comments were made. All I know is that they refer to the new CSB as “a translation that’s even stronger” than the HCSB! And there you have it. It’s stronger!? (Are they saying the HCSB was a weak translation? And what are the implications of using the HCSB as the backbone of the CSB? My brain hurts.) If you’d like to know more about why they revised the HSCB and what the major differences are between it and the CSB, you can click here.
One of the questions I had was who exactly worked on the “stronger” version? Although the HCSB boasted “over 100 top scholars,” the revision team was comprised of only 21 scholars.
(If you ever watched the TV show, “Where Are They Now?” you might enjoy this bit of CSB trivia: One of the more recognizable names in the list of scholars who worked on this translation is none other than award-winning author and Christian recording artist, Michael Card. If you don’t recognize his name, you will probably recognize some of the songs he’s written including “El Shaddai,” “Emmanuel,” and “Love Crucified Arose.”)
With the help of Google, I was able to determine that the educational backgrounds of the CSB scholars fall into the following denominations: Baptist (10), Evangelical (4), Lutheran (2), Presbyterian (2), Anglican (1), Non-denominational (2). You can click here to view the list of scholars for yourself.
There is a heavy Baptist influence (50%), but that should be expected since Holman is a Baptist publisher. I know the intent was to produce a translation devoid of denominational bias; however, I’m not sure that is possible. Is anything truly neutral? What you can know for sure is this:
The conservative, evangelical scholars of the Christian Standard Bible affirm the authority of Scripture as the inerrant Word of God. Seeking the highest level of faithfulness to the original texts and accuracy in their translation, these scholars and LifeWay, the non-profit ministry that stewards the CSB, also champion the Bible against cultural trends that would compromise its truths.” (read more on their site)
To use inclusive language, or not to use inclusive language?
That is the question.
When I was a child, the third person masculine pronoun “he” often meant “he or she.” By the time I was in college (in the 80s), language had become more inclusive and more bulky. Instead of using “he” as the inclusive pronoun, we began using “he or she” OR “she or he” OR (my favorite) “s/he.” By the time I was in seminary, textbooks were being published with pictures of females in stereotypically masculine roles (e.g., architect, doctor, hunter) and males executing stereotypically female duties such as holding a baby or cooking a meal.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century, and our children are growing up in a world where “he” is “one male,” and “she” is “one female,” and you’re going to have a tough time with Bible translation. Publishers have been trying for years to bring gender inclusivity to ancient Scripture, but it’s not as easy as swapping pronouns.
In the vast majority of foreign languages, both ancient and modern, the masculine plural has always included women; however, it hasn’t always been translated like that. So, when scholars came together with the intent to make their translation more accurate and able to be understood by the modern reader, it makes sense that they decided to use inclusive language wherever and whenever appropriate. You can read about their translation decisions (and employment of inclusive language) here and here.
The Physical Copy I Received
The CSB Thinline Reference Bible I received to review is bound in a medium-brown faux leather with a debossed cross on the front cover.
The pages are gold-gilded (probably not real gold), and the Smyth-sewn binding helps the the Bible to lay open flat without having to put a weight on the pages (although you might have to break it in a bit after you first purchase it). It’s the perfect size (not too big, not too small).
The 8.5 point sans serif font is surprisingly easy to read considering how small it is. The translation features topical subheadings, cross references, a concordance, and maps. I love it!
When it all comes down, though I find the Christian Standard Bible to be an excellent resource, I don’t think I would rely solely on this particular version when teaching a class. (Teachers should always use more than one translation when preparing—and, if possible, teaching—their lessons).
I like the Christian Standard Bible, and I have enjoyed using it to add breadth and depth to my studies. I might not always prefer their translation, but that’s why I use multiple versions. ?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”