A Review of the Holman Christian Standard Bible

I am beginning the serious part of my Bible reviews with the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).  I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the HCSB.  In many ways it is the best translation available.  And I think that it could clearly become the best current translation (in my opinion of course) when the revised version comes out next year.  At the same time  there are things about the translation that really annoy me.

On the positive side I find that the translation philosophy is excellent.  The HCSB is a little less formal than the English Standard Version (ESV) but more formal than the New International Version NIV).  By formal I mean the degree to which a translation tries to follow the grammatical structure of the original Greek and Hebrew.  And while it can have advantages to follow the structure of the original languages, it can make for some very poor English.  I feel that the HCSB retains the positive features of a more ‘literal’ translation like the ESV but also has the readability of a more dynamic translation like the NIV.

This sounds great, so why have I not made the HCSB my main translation?  Well it also drives me crazy for a number of reasons.  The HCSB is one of the only recent translations that capitalizes pronouns that represent God.  Additionally this translation retains the antiquated feature of indicating ‘added words’ in the English translation.  Now this is the nature of translation so there is no reason to do this.  Additionally the brackets put around these ‘added words’ is distracting.

There are also a few visual features that are irritating.  One of these is the boxes that have been put around the text in a few locations.  One of these locations is the words that were written on the sign placed in the cross of Jesus.  These words are in large capital letters within a box.  This is very distracting for me.  Also the HCSB places all quotations of the Old Testament within the New Testament in bold text.  I find this to be a lot of visual noise.

Now perhaps I am being too picky about these things.  However I find that every time I decide to make the HCSB my main translation, I stop using it within a couple of weeks because I aggravates me.  Now I do have hopes that the updated version will at least reduce the number of times that the brackets are used.

The printed copy of the HCSB that I use is the HCSB Ultrathin Reference Bible-Large Print.

From Bible Pictures

The text size is not as large as many large print Bibles.  It is more of a slightly larger text than a true large text.  I find the print size to be quite nice.  And the Bible is very thin as you would expect from the name.  However the amount of bleed through from the opposite page is fairly limited and I would say that this is less than I would have expected from such a thin Bible.  The text is red letter which I do not like, but at least it is a fairly dark red.  This is a fairly standard Bible edition that is fairly well done.  I would recommend the HCSB translation and this print edition as well.

For some information about the HCSB and the upcoming revisions you can check the links below.

Interview with Dr. Ed Blum, General Editor for the HCSB

It’s Here! The HCSB Second Edition Interview

A Comparison of the HCSB with Other Major Translations [Edwin Blum]

“Revised” HCSB Printed Texts Slated for 2010


6 Responses to “A Review of the Holman Christian Standard Bible”

  1. Revised the Review of the HCSB « Jeff’s Thoughts Says:

    […] Jeff’s Thoughts some thoughts about stuff « A Review of the Holman Christian Standard Bible […]

  2. A Little Bit More on the Holman Christian Standard Bible « Jeff’s Thoughts Says:

    […] Little Bit More on the Holman Christian Standard Bible By Jeff As I was preparing to write a review of the Holman Christian Standard (HCSB) I got excited thinking about all of the positive qualities of this translation.  So I decided to […]

  3. HCSB and Those Annoying Brackets « Jeff’s Thoughts Says:

    […] day on the Anwoth blog about the brackets used in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).  In my previous review of the HCSB, I noted my dislike for the brackets used to indicate words that have been added to the […]

  4. Glen Says:

    Thanks for the helpful review. I am thinking of changing translations and appreciate your thoughts.

    I have also heard that the inconsistency between Yahweh and LORD is unhelpful. Do you have any comments on this?

  5. Jeff Says:

    Glen, the HCSB does use both Yahweh & Lord to translate the Hebrew word ‘YHWH’. The fact that different English words are used to translate a Hebrew word is the nature of translation and should not be a concern.

    Now the use of Yahweh is unusual in an English translation so it might be disconcerting. The reason that the translators did this, as far as I understand, is to make it clear that the personal name of God is being used. The word ‘Lord’ tends to come across as a title rather than a name, so in the HCSB has used ‘Yahweh’ in several cases.

    The revised HCSB uses ‘Yahweh’ more times than the original edition, but the Hebrew word is still translated as ‘Lord’ in most cases.

    Personally I find the use of Yahweh more of a positive than a negative. It is a bit quirky, but I don’t mind that.

  6. Glen Says:

    Thanks for your helpful response. I agree with you and like the translation “Yahweh”.

    The criticisms I had heard were about the original edition using Yahweh in some passages, but not in other passages where it would have been helpful. I now see that this has been corrected in the revised edition.

    I’ll buy a copy today and see how it goes!

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