English speakers are blessed with an impressive list of Bible translations in our native tongue. In our abundance, we seem to have all the bases covered. From paraphrases (like The Message and the Living Bible) to translations vowed to be word-for-word (like the NASB), to translations somewhere in between (like the NIV). Such is why when I hear of a “new” Bible translation I always wonder what corner of the vast English Bible market they are seeking to appeal to. For the CSB, it’s somewhere in the middle between accuracy and readability.
What’s the Difference?
That was my first question. I was familiar with, and even enjoyed, the HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) that first fully released in 2004. When I first heard of the plans for the CSB (Christian Standard Bible), I honestly wondered if this was simply a drop-the-H-and-rebrand situation or a completely different translation. And, well, they did more than just dropping the H. However, it’s not a new translation, but a revision of the HCSB (according to the Co-Chair of the CSB Translation Oversight Committee).
The first difference is that the CSB has a different, updated New Testament text base. The HCSB was based on the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition. The CSB is based on the same Old Testament text base but has the updated Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece 28th edition, and the UBS 5th corrected edition undergirding its New Testament.
The translation philosophy remained the same with the CSB, which Holman refers to as “Optimal Equivalence.” Optimal equivalence is essentially a middle-ground between “word-for-word” and “thought-for-thought,” and in my opinion is a healthy view of translating any language. Even the translations touted as the “most literal” are not always word-for-word because sometimes word-for-word is just confusing. The CSB uses a word-for-word approach when such is understandable, and a more dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought) approach when a word-for-word rendering would be difficult to understand (i.e. a 4,000-year-old idiom written in a language and culture you a far removed from). Bottom line, the goal of the CSB is an accurate, readable translation, and that shouldn’t be a scary thing for Christians.
Also, I have found that the CSB has a good approach to gender language. The translation is by no means “gender neutral,” but it doesn’t add gendered pronouns if they are not in the original language. Further, the CSB translates words that refer to both genders in the original language as referring to both genders in English (i.e. instead of ἄνθρωπος being translated “men” it is translated “people”).
My least favorite addition in the CSB is the translation team’s choice to step away from some “less traditional” theological terms. There is nothing wrong with traditional theological terms, but sticking to certain wordings just because it is what people are used to takes away one of my favorite aspects of the HCSB. So, in the CSB you will not find “Yahweh” in place of LORD, “Messiah” in place of Christ, or “languages” in place of tongues.
Pros: Inside and Out
The review copy sent to me by Holman is the CSB UltraThin Reference Bible. The layout and typeface are nice, as is expected from a 2K/Denmark production. I personally am not a huge fan of 2K’s Bible Serif font, but it is readable and gets the job done. The 8.5 font is a little small for my taste, but the Bible is still legible and is full of cross-references in a modern take on the center-column reference.
The translation itself is a nice balance of modern language and fidelity to the original languages. I kind of see it as a combination of the pros of the NIV with the pros of the NASB. My main translation is the ESV, and there are places in the CSB that have language that is more modern than the ESV, though less “theologically traditional” (i.e. “atoning sacrifice” instead of “propitiation” in 1 John 2:2). Further, there are sections in the CSB that are more readable without sacrificing accuracy. Overall, when you’re reading this Bible, both the layout and the words themselves make you feel like you are reading a Bible translated and designed in the 21st century, though the content is still treated with a timeless reverence. The CSB’s extensive footnotes on readings in other manuscripts are a treat, and its treatment of questionable passages (i.e. Mk. 16:9-20; Jn. 7:53-8:11) is more jarring than what I’m used to. Overall, I think this Bible is a good addition to an English speaker’s Bible library. It is more accurate (in my opinion) than the NIV and easier to understand than the NASB or ESV. No translation on the market is perfect, but the CSB does a fine job. Also, this Bible is bound in the nicest fake leather I’ve ever felt. Holman calls it “LeatherTouch.”
A Nitpicky Con
Those who know me knew this was coming. My nitpicky qualms with this Bible are mostly with the layout and some choices on the English side of things. At the foremost, Holman’s treatment of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament continues to vex me. The practice of putting every Old Testament quotation in bold is so curious to me. Why would they do this? I know the answer is, “so you can know that it is a quote from the Old Testament.” But that is why quotation marks exist. Which they inexplicably leave off of the quotations from the Old Testament (yes, even when the quotations are not laid in verse). The NASB’s all caps approach is better in my opinion, and my favorite is the ESV’s practice of simply putting quotation marks around the quotes.
Ultimately, this Bible fills an interesting void in the popular Bible market. If you like Bibles based on the cutting edge of textual scholarship, but the NIV/NRSV doesn’t cut it for you (because of gender language, etc.) while the NASB and ESV are too hard to understand or not modern enough, then the CSB is definitely for you. The CSB comes in several nice, affordable editions. The only problem will be finding a fellowship of people who also use it (unless you’re a Southern Baptist). For me, it is a nice secondary translation to check while preparing a sermon or Bible class and to read from on occasion.
Here are a few pictures of my review copy: