Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Evaluating the HCSB

If you were looking for a new Bible these days, you could easily become overwhelmed with the plethora of translations to choose from. From humanistic and irreverent paraphrases and "Biblezines" to interlinear multi-language study Bibles, there is certainly no lack of translations available across the theological spectrum. So why have the folks at Holman Publishers (www.broadmanholman.com) decided to grace us with another new translation?

I grew up on the KJV and had no trouble understanding basic Elizabethan English by the time I was in Jr. High. When I went to college I began using the NASB in an effort to force me to pay closer attention to the text rather than simply breezing across passages that sounded very familiar. It was amazing how I had come to take the text for granted and how simply reading in a new translation helped me pay closer attention to the text.

When I began working with teens several years ago, I began using the NIV. I noticed that when I asked teens to read from their King James Bibles they could not explain the passages at all. When I had them read from an updated English translation, however, they quickly grasped the main ideas of the text. We cut out a lot of "wasted" time simply updating the language for 21st century English speakers.

So why am I now considering switching to yet another new translation? Am I caught up in the "new translation" fads? I don't think so! With each translation change I have been delighted and frustrated simultaneously. With the switch to the NASB I was thrilled with the accuracy of translation that included recent scholarly studies, but I was disappointed with its reading difficulty. With the change to the NIV I was excited about its reading ease and its translation accuracy, but I was frustrated several times with translation choices (e.g., the translation of sarx in Romans as "sinful nature").

I began reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible online several months ago and was greatly impressed. My dad bought me a print version several weeks ago, and I have been more than impressed...I have been thrilled! Here are some of the features of the HCSB that have made me a "convert" to this fantastic translation.

1. Reading Ease -- The HCSB reads like a well-written work of literature. The dialogue sounds like dialogue and the narrative sounds like narrative and the poetry sounds like poetry. It's enjoyable to read and to listen to.

2. Translation Courage -- The HCSB does not bow to tradition, but to accuracy when it comes to translation. For years I have been frustrated over the misinterpretation of John 3:16 as, "God loved the world so much that...." The HCSB correctly translates the houtos in that phrase as "in this way." "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, HCSB). This and other translation acuracies demonstrate the commitment the tranlators have to the meaning of the original text.

3. Interpretation Options -- The HCSB leaves purposely ambiguous phrases as such instead of selecting a particular interpretation. For example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 has an awkward phrase that often gets interpreted in translations. The HCSB leaves the phrase vague so that different interpretations are possible. NOTE: Of course it is not a good idea to leave phrases vague that should be and could be translated in a specific way, but texts about which there may be legitimate differences of interpretation, the HCSB is honest about and leaves vague.

4. Theological Terms -- The HCSB retains theological terms such as grace, propitiation, justification, righteousness, etc.

There are many other features of the HCSB that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I'm sure as I continue to use this translation over the coming years I may find things that I would do differently, but I would definitely give the Holman Christian Standard Bible high marks! I used to use the NASB for studying and the NIV for teaching/preaching. With the HCSB I now have one translation that works well for both. I encourage you to read it online at hcsb.broadmanholman.com. Or, better yet, go buy the $8 paperback version and feast on the Word! Let me know if you do and what you think.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good Christmas gift.

Brian said...

thanks for the review

I am a bit of a Bible collector, however, my main Bible has gone through the KJV, NASB, NIV phases and over the past few years has been mostly the NASB and the ESV.

However, the HCSB is likely to become my main carry around Bible if I can ever find a leather reference edition that isn't a red letter version.

Will said...

I understand about the red letter stuff. We're switching to the HCSB at our church and I'm thrilled with it!