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Blog / Do you know the Holman Christian Standard Bible?

Do you know the Holman Christian Standard Bible?

One of the most rewarding things to write about here at Bible Gateway is an addition to our online library of Bibles. Last week, for instance, we were thrilled to announce that the complete Common English Bible is now available on Bible Gateway. Our guiding vision is to make the Word of God accessible to everyone in the language and style that they can best understand, so each new Bible added is another step toward that goal. And each added version represents a highly-valued partnership with a Bible publisher that shares our vision.

But after over 15 years of adding Bibles, there are now a lot of versions in our library. I thought it might be useful to highlight a few Bible versions you may not know about and talk about what makes them unique.

One such Bible is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). As you’ll see, the HCSB’s unique translation strategy sets it apart from many other English Bibles.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is a relatively recent Bible translation; it’s been available in complete form since 2004. It’s the product of a translation team of 100 scholars from 17 denominations and draws on the latest advances in Bible translation in scholarship.

Any Bible translation faces a critical choice of direction: is the goal of the translation to provide an exact, word-for-word rendering of the original ancient document, or to communicate the meaning of the words without necessarily matching the exact Greek or Hebrew phrasing? Here’s how the HCSB translators dealt with the dilemma:

Traditionally, some [Bible translations] have placed a higher value on word-for-word accuracy (Formal Equivalence) and others have emphasized a thought-for-thought approach—striving for a greater level of readability (Dynamic Equivalence). But as the scholars who have worked on Bibles using different approaches have said, no English translation can be fully Formal or fully Dynamic. All translations are a balance of both.

The HCSB employs a first-of-its kind translation philosophy known as Optimal Equivalence, which seeks to achieve an optimal balance of literary precision and emotive clarity through comprehensive analysis of the text at every level. This process assures maximum transfer of both words and thoughts contained in the original.

You can see this translation style in action in passages like Matthew 13, which relates Jesus’ parables and quotes from the Old Testament:

Then the disciples came up and asked Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. For whoever has, [more] will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them.

“But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”

Many other details distinguish the HCSB from its peers. For example, the HCSB uses the name “Yahweh” where most other translations use “The LORD” when translating God’s name. Here’s the HCSB’s translation of Exodus 6:6; compare it to the NIV’s rendering:

Therefore tell the Israelites: I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.

You can easily compare the HCSB to other Bibles using Bible Gateway’s parallel Bible reading feature. The HCSB website also has a useful comparison of several key passages in the HCSB and other major English translations.

You can learn more at the official HCSB website and at this summary of its main features. And of course, you can start reading the HCSB right away at Bible Gateway.

If you’re not familiar with the HCSB, consider using it for some of your Scripture reading this week! We’re grateful to Holman Bible Publishers for making it available on Bible Gateway, and we hope you find it a blessing to your own Bible study.

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