There it was, bigger than Dallas, an ad on Facebook offering a free copy of the Christian Standard Bible from Holman Publishing Company. My wife would be the first to tell you, that I really don’t need another Bible; but I didn’t have a print version of the CSB, so I went ahead and sent the email to get the free copy. I did have a digital version on my Kindle, but that is really not the first place that I reach for a Bible. I wanted to get one in my hands — feel it, read it, and use it for various applications. For the last 7 years I have relied on 6 translations of the Bible in my study: English Standard Bible (one that I used for nearly all of my preaching and teaching), New American Standard Bible, New King James Version, New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and the New Living Translation. Knowing the Christian Standard Bible was not a new translation, but a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, I wanted to check it out and see if it was going to replace the HCSB in my comparative study stack.
There was one LITTLE caveat attached to receiving this free Bible, they wanted the recipient to write a review of their efforts. Let me explain, that early on in my ministerial training, I decided that in the field of Biblical Studies; you either had to become a scholar, or you had to learn to trust the scholars. It didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t scholar material, so I have spent time learning who the scholars were, and which ones to trust. This review will not be a technical discussion about the merits of the original “texts” that were used, or of the accuracy of the translation process that was used. What it will be is some observations, of a very practical nature, that I have made.
Let me begin with some first impressions of the edition that I received:
1. Well, when my free Bible arrived, I was a little surprised by the quality. When you are offered a free Bible, you would expect an “inexpensive” edition (probably a paperback), but that was not the case this time. Holman sent the Ultra Thin Reference Bible, with the “leather touch” cover. It is not the top-of-the-line model, but it is a lot more than what I was expecting.
2. This particular edition was not formatted like a Bible that I would buy for myself. Because of my habits, age, and eyesight; I generally don’t purchase a Bible that is not single column, wide margin, and (hopefully) with a slightly larger print. This particular Bible was not any of those things, and that presented me with some problems.
As I said earlier, the Holman Christian Standard Bible had been one of my “go to” translations, and I always enjoyed reading from it. There were some things changed in this revision, that affected the way that I felt about the CSB (remember that these are just personal preferences and observations).
1. I really am glad that they have removed the “bullet points” from the text. I never took the time to learn how they were to be used, and they were just a distraction to me, while I was reading.
2. In the New Testament, I like that they still put the Old Testament quotations in bold type. I am sure that there are some that do not, and may even question the ones that are and are not enhanced. But, I like that they do that.
3. It would have been my preference that in the Old Testament that they would have continued to use Yahweh; instead of doing what most all of the other translations do, by putting LORD. I understand that not everyone understands the background to the word, Yahweh, or may not even be familiar with the term at all; but that would have been my preference.
4. Also, I would have preferred that they had left Messiah in some of the New Testament contexts, instead of using Christ. Again, I understand why they didn’t; but, again, I am talking about my personal preference.
The only way that I could honestly review this work, was by actually using it — so that was what I did. That is one of the reasons it has taken me about 6 months to offer this review. In my usage of it: I, read James every morning for two weeks, preached a 7 lesson series from the book of Nehemiah, using it to teach a Bible class on Galatians, using it to lead a small group discussion of Philippians, and, working my way through Psalms (posting on Twitter twice a day).
So, what is my overall impression, as a preacher/teacher (not a scholar); I would give it about 7 out of 10 stars. When I am looking for accuracy, I will still go to the NASB, NKJV, or the ESV. If I am looking for a translation to help me understand and interpret the passage, I will still use the NIV, or the NLT. In my opinion (for whatever that is worth), the CSB will fit somewhere between those two groups.
The ESV will continue to be the Bible that I preach from 75% of the time, and I will continue to study from all 6 (with the CSB replacing the HCSB). Crossway has done just such a remarkable job providing the different editions that I need, that I can’t see replacing the ESV right now. Could I see myself switching to the CSB in the future. Yes, IF the economics of the situation was right, and they had the formats that work for me. Overall though, I liked the translation — enough so, that I am going to buy several copies (of this particular edition) and give them as Christmas presents.
I want to close this review, by just posting a few familiar verses from the CSB.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
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)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs. (Galatians 3:27-29)
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)