Last night I briefly related to the bible study group that meets here that I’m really becoming quite fond of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (or HCSB).
There are a number of reasons I like it. One of them is it’s readability – this is IMHO more readable than the NIV, while at the same time it has often proven that it is a very literal translation.
For instance, one of the things commonly done in an English Bible translation is to translate the Greek word doúlos as servant when it refers to a station or position. This is primarily done (from my understanding) because of the stigma associated with slavery. However, slave is the intended meaning behind the Greek word. To write it as slave can cause considerable error for us today as we distinguish a slave from a servant by saying a servant is paid for their work.
To see how this makes a difference, take a look at the following verses in any other English translation – Rom 1:1, Phil 1:1, Titus 1:1, James 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1, Rev 1:1 – in each case the word is the same – the author is calling themselves a slave of Christ – one who is in involuntary service. In the Roman times slavery was legal and common – so when the Apostles referred to themselves this way they intended the understanding of a Roman slave to be how they regarded themselves.
In addition to being the only modern English Bible translation to translate doúlos as slave, the HCSB also has some easy to understand language. For instance Matthew 5:22 in the HCSB says:
But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the •Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to •hellfire.
If you compare this with most renderings you’ll notice that the last phrase is actually quite easy to understand. I understand what I mean when I call someone a Moron – I understand the attitude I’m going to have behind it, and therefore, I find it quite easy to understand what Jesus was saying in this passage.
Now given few other translations have the word "moron" in there, you could be forgiven for thinking that they’ve taken some artistic license to the word to make it more understandable. However, you’d be wrong. The Greek word here is actually the word mōrós from which we get the English word "moron". Perhaps the only difference between the intended meaning and our use of the word "moron" is that mōrós refers to not only the persons intelligence (which is perhaps what we might consider "moron" to mean) but to their character and their heart.
Next, in the passage quoted above, you may notice before the words Sanhedrin and hellfire that there is a little dot. The purpose of this is to take words that may not be intuitive to new readers and to point them to a mini-dictionary in the Bible to help them understand these (what new Bible reader knows what a Sanhedrin is?). This dot appears the first time the word appears in a chapter.
The addition of this dot (in addition to its readability and accuracy) makes the HCSB a great Bible for new believers.
Finally – in many cases the HCSB takes the title Christ and uses Messiah instead. This can take a bit of time to get used to, but for me, I found this extremely refreshing and takes me back to the Jewish promises and reinforces the purpose for Jesus’ advent – to save the lost. Take the following verse for example:
12 At that time you were without the •Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, with no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the •Messiah. (Eph 2:12-13)
FWIW, I still use a number of other translations including the ESV (which I also love), the NASB and a variety of others on a variety of occasions.
However, I’ve been using the HCSB for my devotional reading for several months now and I’m loving it. If you are after a modern, readable and refreshing translation I recommend you give this a go.