Question:

I would like to know your opinion concerning the HCSB translation as to its accuracy and what was used to arrive at the finished manuscript. I read that the Southern Baptists were instrumental in doing the translation and attempted to buy the NASB as a base translation. I use eSword on my computer and noticed recently that they have a copy of it available at a fee. Before I use it though, I would appreciate your take on it as an accurate study aid.


Answer:

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is a translation funded by the Broadman and Holman Publishing Company. Broadman and Holman had been wanting its own translation for a while to compete with Zondervan's New International Version. The NIV's licensing structure made printing their versions prohibitive. In addition the NIV has been changing over the years in the direction of political correctness. This caused the Southern Baptists to pull away their support for the NIV. Broadman and Holman is strongly associated with the Southern Baptists and David Shepherd, one of their vice-presidents said, "Some recent translations have reinterpreted the Bible to make it consistent with current trends and their own way of thinking ... Current trends in Bible translation have been a real wake-up call for everybody who’s concerned about preserving the integrity of Scripture. The HCSB will be under the stewardship of Christians who believe we should conform our lives and culture to the Bible - not the other way around" [John Perry, “Broadman & Holman Publishers announces new Bible translation” Baptist Press, May 7, 1999].

The HCSB is based on the Nestle-Aland text, which has been popular with most of the newer translations. However, the text was not followed slavishly. Deviations are noted by bracketed text, but the footnotes are vague as to why the text is bracketed.

The translation is not nearly as literal as the NASB but is more literal than the NIV. The text is simplified in this translation. Long sentences are broken up into smaller ones. Contractions are used when people speak, to make the text come across as speech.

One thing to note with any translation is who composed the translation committee. We find that the HCSB's New Testament was completely translated by members of the Southern Baptists and the Old Testament was translated by a team of Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. Thus, when examining the translation, we need to be on the alert for bias toward Southern Baptist teachings.

Baptist Doctrine

Acts 22:16

"And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (NKJV).

"Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (NASB).

"And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name" (HCSB).

Baptists, contrary to their name, do not believe that baptism is connected to salvation. Through the insertion of the word "by" the translators of the HCSB make it appear that sins are washed away through the means of "calling on His name," instead of through baptism as stated in the Greek. There is no Greek behind the "by" in this mistranslation.

Galatians 6:16

"And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (NKJV).

"And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (NASB).

"May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy to the Israel of God!" (HCSB).

Baptist subscribe to premillennial beliefs, one of which is that the physical nation of Israel has to be restored to God before the end. By splitting the peace to those who follow this standard and mercy to Israel, it gives some credence to this belief. The problem is that Paul said peace and mercy upon those who follow this standard and upon the Israel of God, which Paul consistently defines as being the church (Romans 2:28-29; 9:6-8; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 3:7-9, 29).

Psalms 51:5

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" (NKJV).

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" (NASB).

"Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me" (HCSB).

The translation shift from the environment being sinful to the author as a child being sinful. This is because Baptists follow Calvin's teaching that people are born sinful. The translation of this verse contradicts "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin is not inherited; it is perpetuated by each person. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).

Ephesians 1:13

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (NKJV).

"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (NASB).

"When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" (HSCB).

Notice that the phrase "in Him" was shifted so that you are no longer sealed being in him after hearing the truth and believing. The change makes belief, not being in him, the point at which a person is sealed by the Holy Spirit. But that is because Baptists teach that salvation comes at the point of faith. Ephesians 1:13 is just another view of the same thing taught in: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (NKJV).

"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).


There is a subtle change from "should not perish" to "will not perish." Baptist teach that once a person is saved they are always saved, no matter what they do. The Greek word apoletai means "perish" in the subjunctive mood, which "is the mood not of reality but of possibility (or probablility)." [
William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek].

Inconsistent Translation of yhwh

The HCSB claims to be more accurate by translating the Hebrew yhwh as Yahweh. The problem is that it isn't consistent. It only does so when the translators decided yhwh was being used as a name. 6300 of the 6800 occurrences of yhwh are still translated as "LORD" in the HCSB . The result can leave the reader clueless about the Hebrew behind the text.

Psalms 116:3-5

"The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!" Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful" (NKJV).

"The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate" (HCSB).

One would be left with the impression that a different word is used in verse 5 than was used in verse 4, but the same word is used throughout.

The use of "Lord" for yhwh is not arbitrary. The writers of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit translated yhwh as the Greek word for Lord. The English translations for the most part have respected the Spirit's guidance in this matter of translation.

Messiah in the New Testament

"Messiah" is a transliterated Hebrew word that means "annointed." "Christ" is a transliterated Greek word that means the same thing. For some odd reason, the translators decided to translate some occurrences of Christ in the New Testament as Messiah (112 out of the 597 occurrences), giving the appearance that the New Testament is written in Hebrew. What is sad is that the word Messiah does appear in John 1:41 and John 4:25.

John 1:41

"He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ)" (NKJV).

"He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!”[a] (which means “Anointed One”)," (HCSB) Footnote (a) "John 1:41 In the NT, the word Messiah translates the Gk word Christos (“Anointed One”), except here and in Jn 4:25 where it translates Messias."

It would have made more sense to consistent translate both the Hebrew and Greek to "Annointed One" than to substitute one transliterated word for another.

John 4:25

"The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things"" (NKJV).

"The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ ). “When He comes, He will explain everything to us”" (HCSB).

The HSCB is inconsistent in how it translate the Greek word for Christ.

Matthew 1:18

"The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit" (HCSB).

The translator's titles for different sections show this same inconsistency, switching back and forth between "Messiah" and "Christ" for no apparent reason.

Translator Supplied Words

No language translates word for word. Often words have to be added to carry the sense of what is being expressed. The first edition of the HCSB had the translator's supplied words delineated by brackets in the text. Other translations typically use italics to mark such words, but usually only those words which might change the meaning of text if left out. It becomes a flag that the translators realize that they might have altered the meaning with the words they added in. The first edition of the HCSB when overboard with marking supplied words causing passages that clearly need to the extra words to be questioned as having some other meaning that the Greek does not support if left out. The problem was avoided in the second edition by not marking any of the supplied words and only noting some of the difficulties in the footnotes.

Philippians 2:13

"for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (NKJV).

"for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (NASB).

"His" is critical to understand that it is for God's good pleasure and not man's good pleasure according to the Greek text.

"For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose" (HCSB).

Notice that "enabling you" is added to the text, though there is no support for the added words, nor are they needed for the understanding of the text. Nor is there a footnote indicating the text was altered by the translators.

Again, Baptist beliefs influences this word choice because Calvinism teaches that man can do nothing good on his own without God first directly choosing the person for righteousness. This alteration could have been noted if the brackets had remained, but now it is hidden from the less knowledgeable reader.

Philippians 3:12-14

"that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (NKJV).

"My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus" (HCSB).

"Assuming that I will somehow reach" is just not the same as "if, by any means, I may attain." The HCSB makes it appear that Paul will stumble upon being resurrected by chance. The Greek text shows that Paul is putting in applied effort to be found worthy to receive the prize of being resurrected. But then Baptist doctrine claims that there is nothing a person can do on their own to affect their salvation. The remainder of this passage does show that Paul is applying effort, but this just shows the poorness of the word choice in verse 11.

In Philippians 3:12, the HCSB inserts the word "goal" but the Greek word elabon is for something awarded, received, or obtained from another. Thus the inserted word reverses Paul saying that he had not received eternal life from Christ to that he does not yet know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

Poor Translation

Romans 3:26-28

"to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (NKJV).

"God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous[a] the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" (HCSB) (a) Or and justify, or and acquit

The same basic word is used in Romans 3:26 as in Romans 3:28, but it is translated differently and only one is marked.

I Corinthians 7:15

"But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace" (NKJV).

"But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace" (HCSB).

"Bound" implies that the marriage bond can be broken. The Greek states that a brother or sister is not a slave of the one who left. The point is that if an unbeliever abandons a marriage because the Christian is following Christ, the Christian does not leave Christ to follow the spouse as if they were a slave.

Matthew 16:18

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces[c] of Hades will not overpower it" (HCSB). (c) Lit gates

The footnote reflects the correct reading. By changing "gates" into "forces" it changes Hades from being in a defensive position, trying to keep the church out, to a offensive position, trying to destroy the church.

Ezekiel 9:5

"To the others He said in my hearing, "Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity"" (NKJV).

"He spoke as I listened to the others, “Pass through the city after him and start killing; do not show pity or spare them!"" (HCSB).

The HCSB makes it sound as if Ezekiel was listening to the people instead of listening in as God spoke to the people. There is no justification for the HCSB rendering in the Hebrew.

Genesis 9:20

"And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard" (NKJV).

"Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant[a] a vineyard" (HCSB) (a) Or Noah began to be a farmer and planted

The footnote is the correct translation. It would seem strange that in over 1600 years no one thought to plant a vineyard until Noah got off the ark.

Hebrews 1:5 (also Psalms 2:7 and Acts 13:33)

"For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?" (NKJV).

"For to which of the angels did He ever say, You are My Son; today I have become Your Father,[a] or again, I will be His Father, and He will be My Son?" (HCSB) (a) Or have begotten You

The Greek word gennao and the Hebrew word yalad refers to conceiving and giving birth to a child. The argument for de-emphasizing the birth is that some have argued that these verses mean Jesus had a beginning. The wording avoids that conclusion, but at the expense of changing what the text actually says. At least they put the correct wording in the footnote, but they didn't do so in Psalms 2:7. While there are plenty of verses which demonstrate that Jesus is eternal, these verses carry the idea that Jesus is of the lineage of God in other words, his deity, which is the point of Hebrews 1:5. That point is softened by the translation which leaves the impression that anyone could have become God’s Son, God just happened to select Jesus. The literal reading fits well with the virgin birth of Jesus and that God was literally his father.

Inconsistent Capitalization

Capitalized pronouns have been added by translators in many versions to indicate when the translator thought deity was being referred to. It isn't in the original text but neither is it a bad practice. However, it gets confusing if the capitalization is not done consistently.

Psalms 45:6-7

"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (NKJV).

"Your throne, God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy more than your companions" (HCSB).

Because of the use of capital pronouns in verse 6 and not in verse 7, the HCSB leaves the impression that the subject referred to by "you" has changed when it has not.

Conclusion

No translation is perfect. The Holman Christian Standard Bible has some interesting features and readings, but overall I can't say it is accurate enough to be a good study Bible. It is far too biased toward Baptist doctrine and deceptively alters readings. The NASB'95 and the NKJV remain better translations.

Jeffrey,

Thank you so much for providing this material. Since I have not yet gotten a copy of this translation, when I do I will be better informed as to its validity and biases. Thanks again and God bless your efforts in your work.