Why I use HCSB for preaching and devotion

Before I answer that, there are still other basic questions we should answer. For example…

Why are there so many translations anyway??

The Scriptures were written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Scholars must interpret these manuscripts accurately and effectively for us to read. Accordingly, there are different methodologies that translators adopt. The most popular are the formal equivalence (word-for-word) and the dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought). The formal equivalence is what many call a more “literal” translation of the text, because it translates words, grammar, syntax, idioms, regionalisms, and slang, as is, and without alteration (e.g., NASB, ESV). This is great for Bible study, because it allows you to have the most control over the process of interpretation. A dynamic equivalence aims more at translating the meaning of the text (e.g., NIV, NLT). These are useful when word meanings and phrases are lost in translation because the syntax, grammar, and style are too stilted in the original language, and are great to use when you want to read for devotional purposes. That being said…

There are many good English translations!

Because of the complexity of the English language, there is no “perfect” Bible translation. You don’t have to get the same translation I or anyone else is using. But you can and should know what you have and why you have it. It may even be helpful to have more than one translation on hand for studying–perhaps a formal equivalence and a dynamic equivalence. I often use 3-4 translations when studying for a sermon (Greek NT, HCSB, NASB, NLT). Doing this opens up the depths of Scripture for me, and aids me in both study and personal enrichment. While preaching, I usually read from a Bible translation called the HCSB.

What is the HCSB?

The HCSB stands for Holman Christian Standard Bible, and is a modern English translation (2004), assembled by an “international, interdenominational team of 90 scholars, all of whom were committed to biblical inerrancy,” and whose purpose was to create a translation that would “convey a sense of the original text with as much clarity as possible.” The textual base for the New Testament [NT] is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition. The text for the Old Testament [OT] is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 5th edition. (Bible Gateway article)

Why I like using the HCSB?

  • It is a newer translation of the original languages, not a revision of previous translations. This means it can consider the wealth of textual manuscripts now available to us, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • It combines both formal and dynamic equivalence methods of translation. HCSB’s default method of translation is formal equivalence. But in some instances, formal translation sounds unnatural or contrived. For example, in Amos 4:6, God says, “I gave you cleanness of teeth” (ESV). This sounds like God is punishing people by brushing their teeth! But it is actually an Hebrew idiom describing the conditions of a famine. Now, I am all for doing the hard work of closing cultural gaps in interpretation, but it is also helpful when a translation takes steps to remove such unnecessary colloquialisms without reverting to a paraphrase. HCSB seems to strike this balance, by employing a dynamic equivalence method only when the original rendering feels too awkward. And where a dynamic equivalence is required, HCSB does so sparingly, even including extensive footnotes to show the literal translation. In the earlier case, the HCSB renders that verse in Amos, “I gave you absolutely nothing to eat.” And down in the bottom margin, it gives the literal translation, “Lit you cleanness of teeth.” So HCSB marries both fine methods of translation, and calls it “optimal equivalence.”
  • The English syntax flows naturally and beautifully. Some will miss the “poetic” flow of older translations, and I don’t blame them; those “wooden” English sentences are attempting to capture a particular emphasis that the author had in mind (To its credit, this is my favorite thing about the NASB). But it is sometimes refreshing to read a literal translation with modern English word placement.
  • This is a bonus: the technology behind the HCSB is overwhelming. Their mobile app is wonderful (and a bargain at $10). Not only does it offer a pleasant user experience and interface, but the programmers somehow managed to include a grip of study features into their little app, too! I’m talking about Greek/Hebrew word studies (just click on an English word for a Strong’s definition). If HCSB ever includes the full text, not just lexical values (e.g., BlueLetterBible.com), this app will be unparalleled. Oh, and check out their desktop version. It looks like candy. Just, wow.

The point is not to read what I’m reading, but to know why you’re reading what you’re reading, and to do so with good reason.

This is the Word of the living God we’re talking about! We want to make sure we get what He actually said. You can start by checking out different versions (including the HCSB), and find at least one translation that is…

  • faithful to the method of interpretation it claims to bring to the text
  • brings your heart to life
  • shows you Jesus!

What version do you use, and why?


If you want to study the topic of Bible Translations and their differences on a deeper level, I recommend Which Bible Translation Should I Use, by Kostenberger, Croteau, and Stowell.

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB where he is committed to challenging Santa Barbara's independence by calling the city to follow Jesus. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting Peoples, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on October 11, 2012, in book review, personal, reading, Scripture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I ordered a HCSB bible a few days ago and can’t wait to get into it!

    Which mobile app are you using? I found the HCSB Study Bible by LifeWay on my iPhone, but it’s listed at $9.99.

    • Zach, sick! I hope you enjoy it!
      I’m using the HCSB-SB app. You’re right, it’s $10. I must have been thinking of a different app when I wrote this, thanks for pointing that out–I’ll make the correction. But, like the spendy ESV+ app, it’s packed with a lot of worthwhile features.

  2. Lazo- I have been studying from an ESV but teaching from NLT. For me, teaching from NLT is easier on the ears as it reads easily. This is especially true for Junior High and High school students. But, I really dig the marrying of the two in the HCSB translation. Thanks for the website. I LOVE the word studies! It gets cumbersome to carry 4 bibles and commentaries around at times, so this is awesome for me. Thanks for the post.

    • Jake! I love the NLT. Great dynamic translation. I prefer to do much interpretive work on the back end so I tend to veer towards the apparently literal transies, and our high school students love it too! But we’ve used the NLT on occasion to preach from, as it is usually spot on.

  3. Been using HCSB since you recommended it a while back at Adorn. Been absolute loving the text and all the features like word study’s. Thanks for the recomendation and summary of what it is I’m reading!

  4. Awesome!–I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  5. Right now I am reading the NLT new believers bible. It is easy to understand, and I love all of the ”off and running” and other commentaries!

  1. Pingback: A firm theology of Law and Gospel « ChristopherLazo

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