Saturday, September 28, 2013

More thoughts on Bible Translations

As I wrote early last week, I have only recently started exploring new English translations of the Bible. I grew up on the King James Version and other than reading from NIV pew Bibles in Churches that had them, I'd never read any other version.

The KJV has a poetic beauty, especially in Psalms that no other English translation has, but it can be stiff and awkward for reading due to the 17th Century English and sentence structure. My first step in this journey was to ask people I trusted (my Pastor, friends who are Pastors and other friends who are devout Bible readers) what translations they preferred, and why.

As you may expect, I got responses that were all over the board. I had narrowed my choices down to the following choices and flipped between them in YouVersion and BibleGateway:

English Standard Version (ESV)
New International Version (NIV)
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
New King James Version (NKJV)
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

I pretty quickly narrowed that list down even further to the ESV, NIV and HCSB.  I've purchased hard copies of all three of these translations. Why all three? Well, first, I'm a book nerd -- I just like books, and it was a good excuse to add some really good books to my bookshelf. Also, I like all three for different reasons. If not for the 2011 updates to the NIV, it would likely have been my daily reader (and I wouldn't have learned as much about Bible translations by researching further), however I can't get the NIV84 text electronically, and since I'm working my way through the Bible, I didn't want to flip between NIV84 when reading my physical Bible, and NIV11 when reading on my phone since I made a point to purchase a NIV84 (which is still available from so I would be sure to have a print copy.

I did want to highlight some things I really like about the HCSB specifically in this post. First, it's a fairly new translation (first published in 2004 with a 2009 update) that was made using the latest technology, manuscript discoveries and translation resources. It follows a (generally) word for word, formal equivalence philosophy (like the ESV), however will use a more thought for thought dynamic equivalence methodology if the word for word translation causes awkwardness or lack of clarity (which is done very sparingly). A good example is Amos 4:6 where God says, “I gave you cleanness of teeth” (ESV). This almost makes it sound like God has blessed people by giving them beautiful smiles, but it is really a Hebrew idiom describing a time of famine. The HCSB words the passage as:  “I gave you absolutely nothing to eat.” -- much easier to understand. Another example is (the very famous) John 3:16:

  • Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλὰ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.¹ (Greek)
  • "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV)
  • "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV)
  • "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV11)
  • "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT)
  • "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." (HCSB)

Woah! Wait a minute! What did that last one say? OOOOOOH! You see, for the first time in my life I really understood the meaning of that passage when I read it in the HCSB. Even the thought for thought New Living Translation says "For God loved the world so much...".

This comes from the way the HCSB translates Οὕτως as "In this way" when other translations translate this word as "so". The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines Οὕτως, an adverb, as the following: “(1) Thus, in this manner, likewise… (2) as follows… (3) so a marker showing a relatively high degree.”²

So, this is possibly why the HCSB chooses to translate Οὕτως as "in this way" vs. "so" as other translations do. It's not to say the others are wrong, however, although as famous as "For God so loved the world..." is, I really like the fact that the HCSB made me see this passage in a different light and caused me to spend a lot of time nerding out to find out why it translated it that way.

Other reasons I like the HCSB is that the English flows very naturally. Sure, it isn't as poetic as some of the older (or more "formal") translations, but I find the flow of the HCSB refreshing, and very enjoyable to read.

Another big difference you will find in the HCSB is the use of Yahweh. Lord is a title, not a personal name YHWH or Yahweh is God's personal name. In the HCSB, when God uses His personal name, it's printed as Yahweh when a text emphasizes Yahweh as a name, i.e., "His name is Yahweh" (Ps 68:4). Be sure to check out Nine Reasons You'll Love the Holman Christian Standard Bible for even more.

I also like the extensive use of footnotes, cross-references and the bullet notes for terms that may need more explanation. Also, since I bought the HCSB Study Bible there are plenty of notes, essays, maps, charts and full-color photographs. Also, I really like the printing of the Bible - the font is very nice, very readable. The paper is very white, which makes the text really pop. Also, in the New Testament, whenever there is a quote from the Old Testament, it's quoted in bold.

Additionally, not only is the HCSB available on YouVersion, BibleGateway, a Free Kindle Edition, there is which is a free (for now?) online version of the HCSB Study Bible with tons of resources. Be sure to check it out.

As you can see, I nerd out about things other than computers, so if you've read this far, congrats, you are a nerd too. :-)

1. Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition [Logos Bible Software, 2010], Jn 3:16.

2. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.; Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).


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  2. I hope more people find this translation. I like it a lot. I have come from an KJV background as you did and its a joy to have the bible in 21st century English!