Bible Translations, Tools and Tech for the 21st Century: HCSB

Translating, studying, and sharing the Bible has never been easier thanks to the technology that is available to us today. There are plenty of innovations out there but in this series of posts I want to share with you some of the tools I’m using and why. Welcome to the 21st century of studying the Bible!

The first part of this series will highlight the translation I use and why I believe modern advancements in linguistics, technology, archaeology, research and collaboration make it the best English translation available.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is the most balanced version of the Bible that exists today thanks to contemporary scholarship, technology, and archaeology.

21st Century Translation – The HCSB is a contemporary, readable, English translation that is based on the earliest manuscripts. Other popular translations are actually revisions of previous translations (such as the NKJV and the ESV).

21st Century Discoveries – The HCSB is based on the most recent archaeological discoveries of manuscripts and improved statistical research and analysis.

21st Century Technology – The HCSB is the most high tech translation we’ve ever had available to us. No other translators have had this much access to computers, customized translation software, and communications to facilitate and cross-check the translation process.

21st Century Translation Philosophy – The two traditional translation philosophies are the “thought-for-thought” philosophy of the NIV or NLT and the “word-for-word” philosophy of the ESV and the NASB. The HCSB reflects the “optimal equivalence” model of translation. “That is, we began with a word-for-word translation and then styled the language to communicate clearly to modern English readers.” This makes the HCSB the most accurate AND most readable translation in English-speaking history!

21st Century Collaboration – The HCSB was translated by a global team of nearly 100 scholars from Europe, North America, and Asia and from more than 20 Protestant denominations and several non-denominational churches. All of these scholars are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. Additionally, this collaboration from a wide spectrum of scholars has led to the least theological bias of any translation I’ve used.

A Final Note about the HCSB – Have you ever heard a preacher say, “You’ll notice in your English translation it uses the word ______? Actually, it means _________.” It has been my experience a majority of the times that I’ve heard this that the HCSB “gets it”. In other words, the word the preacher thinks should be used based on their current English usage actually is the very word being used by the HCSB. In fact, when I was a seminary student studying Greek and Hebrew the HCSB usually “got it”. Finally, as a pastor who often works through the original language to prepare for a sermon I’m always amazed at how accurate the HCSB is and how it translates a verse into the English we would naturally use.

After 2,000 years of church history we have never been more advanced technologically nor have we ever had more ancient manuscripts and a better understanding of the ancient world than we do now. My view is that the Holman Christian Standard Bible does the best job (not perfect job) of utilizing all of these new innovations and ancient manuscripts to give us the most trustworthy English translation yet.

Note: Some of the info for this post came from the Introduction found in most HCSB Bibles and from the FAQ page on the B&H Publishing Group website. Please check out my resource page for my top recommendations for ministry and productivity.

Have a different view? Or do you agree that the HCSB is setting a standard for English translations for years to come? Let me know your thoughts!

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • My pastor preaches from the ESV, and every time (no exaggeration!) that he says, “A better translation would be…” he says exactly what I have in my HCSB. It’s funny!

    I think the HCSB is a great translation, though not without problems. I currently use the HCSB alongside the 2011 NIV. They are both fine translations.

    • Thanks Will. I’ve heard numerous pastors and theologians say that the best translation is the one you’ll actually read. My own appreciation for the HCSB is more of a nuanced thing since it so often is accurate. Thanks for your comment!

  • Tim

    Once again, a great HCSB post with which I agree. I confess I still bounce back and forth among the HCSB, ESV and NASB. I need to pick one and stick with it. Carrying the HCSB, I am definitely unique in my reformed, Presbyterian church!

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  • Hands down the best translation out today. Can’t use it though, every sinlge edition has a plan of salvation that encourages “praying for salvation” which is modern fad. If it would just sell the text and not their theology I would preach from it. Also I don’t like the “H” either. Its not the text it’s the publisher.

    It’s okay to have study bible but give me the choice.

    • Johnny,

      I agree with you about the extra content but it would be a shame to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. The text itself is the most theologically unbiased text available. I never even noticed their version of the plan of salvation but you could always encourage people to tear that page out. It’s not inspired or anything 😉

      To your second point, I’m glad people didn’t reject the KJV because of the ‘KJ’. It’s been a solid translation for the past 400 years, right.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • If you don’t call on the name of the Lord and ask Him to forgive you, save you, and be the Lord of your life, you are not saved.   Period.  A free gift must be received or it is not a gift, but how can it be received if one does not ask? Yes, God is the author and perfecter of our saving faith so that none can boast, and we cannot ask unless He draws us, but you are truly free to reject the gift. And not asking IS rejection.

    • Jak

      A page put in by the publisher that is completely separate from the translation itself. You won’t use it because the publisher is pushing ‘decisonism’. Okay…

  • Since the NIV went gender neutral we are switching as a church to the Nasb

  • Linda

    I have to say, I really do enjoy my HCSB, but I seem to be the only one around me using it. I have to say, I wish the HCSB was more out there when it comes to promoting this translation. Marketing really needs to be ramped-up for ALL the offerings of the HCSB, not just the study bible, which seems to be getting all the attention.

    • Linda, you’re definitely not the only one who likes the HCSB. The best thing about the HCSB also makes it extremely difficult to market: it’s so theologically neutral. The ESV gets a lot of promotion from the Reformed crowd while the NIV is always making waves with gender neutrality. I think those are fine translations but the HCSB is just so uncontroversial! On the other hand, it is the most accurate and most readable. It combines the most ancient texts with the clearest English. I can’t find any major scholar blasting the HCSB. So, hang in there. The KJV has centuries of word of mouth while the NASB, ESV, and NIV have decades of support. Tough to enter that kind of market.

      Thanks for your comments!

  • I agree with everything you both have said. I am surrounded by ESV and NIV users in my reformed church, but I have won at least one convert to the HCSB.

  • I’ve been liking my ESV for years now. But my mom LOVES her HCSB. I may just have to check it out…

  • Joshua Johnson

    I started using the HCSB a few years back.  I got my hands on $10 slimline version from LifeWay, read the intro and was very impressed with the “how and why” of the translation.  Someone gave me the study Bible about a year ago, and it is very nice.  I have it out right now as I study for tomorrow night’s youth message.  I still use my slimline for preaching, and I have purchased some for giveaway Bibles for our students.

    I recently bought a pocket size ESV just to see what the hype was all about.  I was considering the study Bible.  Have you checked it out?  Thoughts on it?

    • Anonymous

      Joshua, thanks for the comment. I agree the “how and why” of the HCSB translation is very powerful. I’ve read from the ESV before and I feel the only way you can like the ESV is if you’re in the Reformed club. The ESV is less readable than the NKJV (though more accurate). It’s not the kind of English we would regularly use. I just don’t get it. But to each their own I suppose.

      • Kevin Pannebaker

        I’m not sure I get why being in the Reformed club means you would like the ESV? I consider myself in the “club” (I’m hoping that’s not a bad thing), but I don’t use the ESV. I never felt like it was a true “translation.” I could be wrong, but from what I gather it’s more of a revision to the RSV. My two translations of choice are the HCSB and the TNIV. How’s that for an eclectic mix?!   🙂

        • Anonymous

          Hey Kevin, I agree that being a part of the Reformed club is not a bad thing. I don’t consider myself a part of that group just because I’m not looking for one more category of Christianity to separate me from others. I think those who are humble and reformed are very careful thinkers and passionate about the Gospel and I think that’s great. On the other hand, the prideful and reformed are really annoying 🙂

          As it pertains to which version of the Bible you choose, I’m sure it’s a mischaracterization to say that the “Reformed Club” (as I called it) only uses the ESV. And, there are those who aren’t reformed who also use the ESV. However, it is pretty clear that the ESV translators had a reformed bias in their translation and that’s one of the reasons why it has found a broad acceptance in the reformed crowd. I don’t think that’s good for anyone. The main reason why I like the HCSB is that it is the least theologically biased translation around. Of course, it also doesn’t have very many people championing the HCSB because it’s so dang uncontroversial (and that’s good because it isn’t trying to play to a certain theological tradition whether reformed or otherwise). I find the HCSB translators to be extremely authentic in their attempt to determine the meaning of the original author using the latest advancements in lexical data, archaeology, and everything else I mentioned in the post above.

          So, all that to say, I don’t mean to make broad generalizations about other translations. I simply want to highlight the accuracy and readability of the HCSB and share why it is my personal translation of choice. I’m glad you like the HCSB but even if you did like the ESV I wouldn’t hold it against you. 🙂 Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion!

    • New Zealand

      I have the ESV study bible. I’ve emailed the publisher on a few occasions to complain about a textural issue in their notes, which I feel is an important ideological and theological issue.
      Every time they talk about Judea or Samaria they use the word Palestine! Referring to the Jews as Palestinians!  Remarkable! The bible was written prior to the region being renamed Palestina by the Romans. Jesus was a Palestinian Jew? It’s a lie promoted by the enemies of Israel. I can’t pick up my study bible anymore.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure if I would go as far as to say the ESV publisher are liars and enemies of Israel, though.

  • I, too, am enjoying the HCSB, and use it as my primary translation for teaching students.  There are a couple of “quirks” with it (as there are with all translations), but for the most part, it’s unparalleled in its combination of accuracy and readability.  I’m glad to see the marketing for it has been kicked up a notch, and that the publishers are making a big online splash with  That site is amazing.

  • James

    My local church insists on using only the KJV, due to the use of the Textus Receptus it derived from.Can the HCSB really outperform the KJV in any vital way in using the earliest copies of the Bible?