Surprises in the Christian Standard Bible

Joshua Holman[1]

Last January LifeWay Christian Resources sent me a preview copy of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)[2]. This paper details some surprises I have seen as I’ve read, studied, taught out of, and prayed over this version. I do not intend to spend time on changes (such as dropping “Yahweh”) that have been discussed by others[3]. Instead, this paper is based on personal observations. In order to give context to what follows, Here’s a brief sketch of my own experiences with the Bible and its many versions.

Introduction: My Bible version journey

I have been around the Bible in some form since my childhood. The Living Bible was one the first books I ever had. I got saved in the early 1990s (i.e., gave my life to Christ). Back then I started out with the the the Living Bible, switching to the King James Version as this is the version the church used. Within a few months I moved to the New International Version. Two years after I was saved, I switched to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I fell out of church in the interim. About four years ago, I started reconnecting with my faith and the Christian life in general. After looking at various versions[4], I ended up choosing the English Standard Version (ESV). I was impressed by its faithfulness to the original manuscripts and its handling of gender-inclusive language. I starting looking at the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)[5] out of curiosity. I was concerned about some of the word choices[6] and syntax[7] used. I also had concerns about the temperament of some ESV promoters[8]. After getting copies of the HCSB in the early 2000s and forgetting about them, I decided to take another look at the version. Two features that drew me to the HCSB were its readability and the use of the bullet notes to explain words and concepts. These notes have been removed in the CSB. In a Twitter message to this writer, Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner (Co-chair of the Translation Oversight Committee) said these notes were unclear to readers[9]. I really liked disputed New Testament verses were placed inside brackets[10]. For the last few months, I’ve been using the HCSB. Here’s a list of surprises I have found in the CSB over the last six months.

Formatting changes

The HCSB had some interesting formatting features. The preface addressed this issue:

Many passages, such as 1Co 13, have been formatted as dynamic prose (separate block-indented lines like poetry) for ease in reading and comprehension. Special block-indented formatting has also been used extensively in both the OT and NT to increase readability and clarity in lists, series, genealogies and other parallel or repetitive texts.[11]

One of these features was that some words were set apart from the text in a bold font. The CSB puts these words in the same sentence. Here is Luke 1:63:

HCSB[12]

CSB[13]

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote:


HIS NAME IS JOHN.


And they were all amazed.

He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: “His name is John.” And they were all amazed.

Here are some other affected verses:

The writing on the wall (Daniel 5:25)

HCSB

CSB

“This is the writing that was inscribed:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.

“This is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin.

The inscription on the bells of the horses (Zechariah 14:20)

HCSB

CSB

On that day, the words

HOLY TO THE LORD

will be on the bells of the horses. The pots in the house of the Lord will be like the sprinkling basins before the altar.

On that day, the words Holy to the Lord will be on the bells of the horses. The pots in the house of the Lord will be like the sprinkling basins before the altar.

The sign above Jesus on the cross

HCSB

CSB

Matthew 27:37

Above His head they put up the charge against Him in writing:

THIS IS JESUS

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Above his head they put up the charge against him in writing: This Is Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Mark 15:26

The inscription of the charge written against Him was:

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The inscription of the charge written against him was: The King of the Jews.

Luke 23:38

An inscription was above Him:

THIS IS

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

An inscription was above him: This Is the King of the Jews.

John 19:19

Pilate also had a sign lettered and put on the cross. The inscription was:

JESUS THE NAZARENE

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

Paul's description of a statue in Athens (Acts 17:23)

HCSB

CSB

For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed:

TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: ‘To an Unknown God.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

The description of the whore of Babylon (Revelation 17:45)

HCSB

CSB

On her forehead a cryptic name was written:

BABYLON THE GREAT

THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES

AND OF THE VILE THINGS OF THE EARTH.

On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Detestable Things of the Earth.

This change also affects capitalization. Uppercase letters are in in all the verses listed above. The readings in Zechariah and Luke are an exception.

Another formatting change is in Song of Songs. The HCSB printed a M, W and Y for man, woman and youth, respectively (other speakers were also identified by a letter[14]). In comparison, the CSB spells out the name of the speaker and there is no footnote. Here’s Song of Songs 1:1-2:

HCSB

CSB

Solomon’s Finest Song.

W 2 Oh, that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!

    For your love is more delightful than wine.

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

Woman

2 Oh, that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!

For your caresses are more delightful than wine.

I like this formatting change as it gives the CSB a cleaner look that helps makes the translation easier to read as well as pleasing to look at.

Numbers are spelled out - for the most part

The HCSB had a policy that numbers greater than ten were rendered as numbers (i.e., actual digits). This feature was addressed in the introduction:

Since the majority of English readers do not need to have numbers and fractions spelled out in the text, the HCSB uses a similar style to that of modern newspapers in using Arabic numerals for the numbers 10 and above and in fractions, except in a small number of cases, such as when a number begins a sentence.[15] 

This seems to have been reversed in some places. A perfect example of this is in Judges 20:21. This verse describes the number of Israelites killed by the tribe of Benjamin. The HCSB used numbers to render the figure; the CSB spells it out. Here’s a table that that shows the difference:

HCSB

CSB

The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and slaughtered 22,000 men of Israel on the field that day.

The Benjaminites came out of Gibeah and slaughtered twenty-two thousand men of Israel on the field that day.

The CSB rendering of passages that deal with pre-Abrahamic events (i.e., Genesis 5-11) contains some numbers (i.e., digits). An example can be seen in Genesis 5:3-5. This passage recounts the birth of Seth and Adam’s later life.

Psalm titles have changed

The HCSB used the phrase "Davidic" 68 times to attribute Psalms written by the king. The CSB has reverted to the traditional "psalm of David". Conversely, the HCSB renders the introduction to Psalms 72 and 127 as "Solomonic"; the CSB changes this to "of Solomon". I’m glad to see this change as Davidic seemed odd. It may be closer to the Hebrew, but awkward is awkward.

Possible Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) influence in headings?

The CSB uses the heading "The Model Prayer" for the accounts in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. The phrase "model prayer" is an Southern Baptist concept that states that Jesus' words should serve as a template for praying and not something to be repeated[16]. This belief can be found in a booklet entitled "Taking Prayer to the Streets"; it was written by Dr. Thomas Wright. Ir published by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the SBC. The booklet says, in part:

"In Luke 11:1 (NIV), the disciples responded to Jesus’ praying by asking Him to “teach us to pray.” As Christians seek to become more Christlike, we become more faithful to pray

unceasingly. Jesus answered the disciples’ request with the model prayer and a lesson on persistent intercession."[17]

Former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Ken Hemphill mentioned the concept in a sermon. He said:

"From its opening phrase, “Our Father who art in heaven,” the model prayer teaches believers to shift their focus from self to God and His church, he said."[18]

From all appearances, it seems LifeWay has been trying to reach out to other churches and groups and I personally feel there is a possibility that a church, denomination, pastor or Christian who says the Lord's Prayer as part of a liturgical or devotional experience could be turned off from the CSB by misunderstanding the heading. I know what the model prayer concept is (I attend a Southern Baptist church), but would a non-SBC person understand it? Just to be clear, I have no issues with the Scripture text itself, just this heading. This is just one example I’ve found; there may be more.

Outdated language makes a comeback

A few years ago, former HCSB editor Edwin Blum wrote an essay entitled “A Comparison of the HCSB with Other Major Translations“[19]. In the essay, Blum lists five outdated words that are not present in the HCSB[20]. These words are:

In searching the CSB, it looks like some of these words are used in some verses. Tithe[21] and behold do not appear in the CSB. Of the words that appear in Blum’s essay, the words leper, leprosy, shall and O appear a total of 17 times. Here’s a breakdown:

Leper is used twice:

HCSB

CSB

Matthew 26:3

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease,

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,

Mark 14:3

While He was in Bethany at the house of Simon who had a serious skin disease, as He was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of pure and expensive fragrant oil of nard. She broke the jar and poured it on His head.

While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head.

Leprosy is used 11 times:

HCSB

CSB

Matthew 8:2-3

2 Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

3 Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed.

2 Right away a man with leprosy came up and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 10:8

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

Matthew 11:5

the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.

The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news,

HCSB

CSB

Mark 1:40, 42

40 Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

42 Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed.

40 Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

Luke 4:27

And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed —only Naaman the Syrian.”

And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Luke 5:12-13

12 While He was in one of the towns, a man was there who had a serious skin disease all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged Him: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

13 Reaching out His hand, He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the disease left him.

12 While he was in one of the towns, a man was there who had leprosy all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

13 Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the leprosy left him.

Luke 7:22

He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.

He replied to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news,

Luke 17:12

As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance

As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance

Shall is used once in Matthew 18:21:

HCSB

CSB

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?”

O is used three times in Mark 12:29 and Hebrews 1:8 and 10:7:

HCSB

CSB

Mark 12:29

“This is the most important,” Jesus answered:

Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.

Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Hebrews 1:8

but to the Son:

Your throne, God,

is forever and ever,

and the scepter of Your kingdom

is a scepter of justice.

but to the Son:

Your throne, O God,

is forever and ever,

and the scepter of your kingdom

is a scepter of justice.

Hebrews 10:7

Then I said, “See—

it is written about Me

in the volume of the scroll—

I have come to do Your will, God!”

Then I said, “See—

it is written about me

in the scroll—

I have come to do your will, O God.”

alien-clipart-alien-clipart-yTkdj48TE.png

Another awkward word that I have ran into is alien. It occurs 73 times, all in the Old Testament[22]. I recently taught Psalm 146. I explained to my Sunday School class that the CSB’s rendering of verse nine did not refer to “little green men” (i.e., extraterrestrial beings; see the image to the right) but to those who were from outside Israel. This attracted a chuckle from the class! A better word is immigrant (used in the Common English Bible) or foreigner (the word originally used in the HCSB).

New Testament brackets for disputed verses are gone

One notable surprise in the CSB is the relocation of disputed New Testament verses to the footnotes. I The HCSB put these verses in the text in brackets. The HCSB introduction addressed this matter:

In the NT, some textual footnotes that use the word "add" or "omit" also have large square brackets before and after the corresponding verses in the biblical text. Examples of this use of square brackets are Mk 16:9-20, Jn 5:3-4, and Jn 7:53-8:11. [23]

 Here are two verses that illustrate this. The first reading is the doxology in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13b and Ethiopian eunuch's confession of belief in Acts 8:36-38:

HCSB

CSB

Matthew 6:13

And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.]
[24]

And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.[25]

Acts 8:36-38

36 As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?” [37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”][26] 38 Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

36 As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?”[27] 38 So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Out of the changes made to the CSB, this is one I really disagree with. I was so concerned about this that I asked Dr. Schreiner about and this I was told verses in brackets should be in footnotes[28]. I have come to prefer to have the disputed portions (a list is available online[29]) in the text itself. This was made clear in a recent Sunday evening service. The pastor was reading the verses from Acts listed above. Some translations brought by attendees had verse 37; others did not. The entire service devolved into a discussion explaining why verse 37 was missing. I also feel that putting these verses into footnotes breaks the flow of reading. A few months ago I went to a prayer meeting and read the Lord’s Prayer. I skipped down to the footnotes to read the doxology in Matthew 6:13b. Having the verses in the text avoids these issues, in my opinion.

Conclusion

Overall, I find the CSB to be a worthy successor to the HCSB. I've found it to be a worthwhile version I can use for reading, teaching, study groups and in individual/corporate worship. Like the HCSB, I've found it blends the accuracy of the ESV or NASB and the readability of the NLT. If I were asked how the CSB could be improved, I would recommend placing disputed New Testament verses back into the text. I would also look at some word choices such as alien. In spite of these things I feel the CSB has a bright future ahead of it. As the time before our Lord’s return grows shorter and shorter, I firmly believe the CSB will help lead people to a relationship with God. This is what matters, isn’t it? In concluding this study I strongly feel a spirit of thanksgiving should be kept in mind as English speakers are blessed to have the HCSB and CSB alongside other fine translations! This pales in comparison to other languages that have little to no Scripture available. Two examples that come to mind are the Arapaho[30] and Chamorro[31] peoples. Might I suggest a moratorium on new English versions and a focus on other languages that aren’t as blessed with translations as English speakers are?


[1] I live in Havelock, North Carolina. I am a member of Cherry Point Baptist Church; I sing in the choir and teach Sunday School. I also collect coins. Feel free to use this file. I ask that I (Joshua Holman) be credited. For comments or questions contact me at hoshiempio@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/eparses.

[2] All opinions expressed in this paper are my own and not endorsed by LifeWay or anyone else. I am unrelated to the publishers of the HCSB and CSB.

[3] For example see:

Schreiner, Thomas R. "Q&A: Translation Decisions for the Christian Standard Bible." Christian Standard Bible. LifeWay Christian Resources, Jan. 2017. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

<http://csbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Translation-Decisions-QA.pdf>.

Sexton, Taylor L. "First Thoughts on the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)." Taylor L. Sexton. N.p., 20 Jan. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <https://taylorlsexton.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/first-thoughts-on-the-christian-standard-bible-csb/>.

[4] The other versions I considered were the HCSB, Common English Bible, New Living Translation and the New English Translation (NET Bible).

[5] Unless otherwise noted, “HCSB” refers to the 2009 edition.

[6] For example the ESV uses the word “mail” to describe Goliath’s armor in 1 Samuel 17:5. The CSB uses the phrase “bronze scale armor”.

[7] An example is Psalm 42:1b. This is one of the verses I mentally rephrase on occasion.

[8] For example see:

Piper, John. "Good English With Minimal Translation: Why Bethlehem Uses the ESV." Desiring God. n.p., 01 Jan. 2004. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/good-english-with-minimal-translation-why-bethlehem-uses-the-esv>.

Driscoll, Mark. "Why Mars Hill uses the ESV Bible." The Resurgence. n.p., 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <http://theresurgencereport.com/resurgence/2013/08/22/why-mars-hill-uses-the-esv-bible>.

[9] Schreiner, Tom (DrTomSchreiner). "Bullet points weren't very clear to most readers. Most verses in brackets belong in footnotes." 30 Jan 2017, 5:14  p.m. Tweet.

[10] I discuss this point in more detail below.

[11] "Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible®." Holy Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009. Ix. Print. (hereafter known as Introduction)

[12] Scripture quotations marked HCSB®, are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®,

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by

permission. HCSB® is a federally registered trademark of Holman Bible Publishers.

[13] Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

[14] The HCSB has a footnote in Song of Songs 1:2 that explains this concept. It reads: “The W, M, Y, N, and B indicate the editors’ opinions of the changes of speakers: W = Woman, M = Man, Y = Young women of Jerusalem, N = Narrator, B = Brothers. If a letter is in parenthesis (W), there is a question about the identity of the speaker.”

[15] Introduction, page Ix.

[16] In saying this, I should point out that SBC churches are autonomous. This means that each church differs on issues. I’ve seen one church emphasize the “model prayer” concept and another says the prayer during Sunday services.

[17] Wright, Thomas. "Taking Prayer to the Streets." In All Things Pray. Southern Baptist Convention, 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2017. <http://www.sbc.net/inallthingspray/resources/TakingPrayertotheStreet.pdf#page=32>.

[18] Roach, David. "Hemphill exhorts seminarians to kingdom-focused prayer." Southern News. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 15 Oct. 2003. Web. 01 Mar. 2017. <http://news.sbts.edu/2003/10/15/hemphill-exhorts-seminarians-to-kingdom-focused-prayer/>.

[19] Blum, Edwin. "A Comparison of the HCSB with Other Major Translations." Faith Community Church, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <https://faithtoyou.squarespace.com/s/blumhcsb.pdf>. (hereafter known as Blum)

[20] Blum, page 6.

[21] In the CSB Gift and Award edition the word tithe is listed in the Bible dictionary but does not appear in the text! This listing can be seen in Holy Bible: Christian Standard Bible, Gift and Award, black. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 696. Print.

[22] This search is from Bible Gateway.

[23] Introduction, page X.

[24] The HCSB footnote reads: Other mss omit bracketed text. There are two other footnotes not relevant to this discussion.

[25] The CSB footnote reads: Or from evil; some later mss add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

[26] The HCSB footnote reads: Other mss omit bracketed text.

[27] The CSB footnote reads: Some mss include v. 37: Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

[28] Schreiner, Tom (DrTomSchreiner). "Bullet points weren't very clear to most readers. Most verses in brackets belong in footnotes." 30 Jan 2017, 5:14  p.m. Tweet.

[29] See: Breaker, Robert R., III. "VERSES MISSING IN MODERN VERSIONS." VERSES MISSING IN MODERN VERSIONS. TRUTH STANDS ALONE MINISTRIES, n.d. Web. 04 Aug. 2017. <http://www.rrb3.com/bibles/engbibl/missing_verses.htm>. This author seems to be a King James only proponent. I do not agree with him on this matter. Breaker has the most concise listing without extra commentary.

[30] The only portion available is the gospel of Luke; it was released in 1903. Arapaho is spoken by Native Americans in Oklahoma and Wyoming.

[31] The only portions available are the gospels, Acts and Psalms. The translation was released in 1908 and thought to have been lost until recently. The full story can be found on the Chamorro Bible website at http://chamorrobible.org. Chamorro is spoken in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (both US territories).