Three weeks ago the kind folks at B&H graciously passed along an advance copy of the Christian Standard Bible, the major revision to the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
I highly respect the translation team led by Tom Schreiner and David Allen, and have enjoyed making reference to the HCSB in my studies. I agree with their general translation philosophy: accuracy and readability in a Bible translation are not mutually exclusive.
After kicking the tires on the CSB for a few weeks, here are my initial thoughts on three of the major changes from the HCSB:
The translation team acknowledges that rendering יהוה as “Yahweh” in the 6,828 times the word occurs would be cumbersome in English. There’s no doubt about this. They also rightly take a page out of the playbook of the New Testament authors themselves who usually render יהוה with κύριος (e.g., Matthew 3:3 quoting Isaiah 40:3). Their solution is to use footnotes in key passages where translating Yahweh is especially important. My preference would be to go ahead and leave Yahweh in those passages, but I understand the translation challenge.
They decided to “allow context to decide between ‘slave’ and ‘servant.’” This is the wisest course of action. Because translation deals both with current English word meanings and Biblical word meanings, each context will have the last say.
The translation team decided to reverse their decision in the HCSB to render γλῶσσα as “languages.” They felt that to use “languages” was unintentionally unfrieldly to charismatic theological perspectives. Regardless of the theology, no one I know uses “tongues” in English to mean “languages” outside of a Biblical context (e.g., “I speak four tongues, and I’m learning a fifth”). The translation team sacrificed their accuracy and readability philosophy on this one. “Tongues” is neither more readable nor more accurate. I would rather see accuracy trump denominational concerns.
In general, I have been pleased with the accuracy and readability of the CSB. I preach out of the ESV, but several times in recent use I have preferred the CSB rendering for clarity. Here’s an example where to me the ESV was too cumbersome:
Romans 3:25, ESV (the sentence starts in 3:22!)
…whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Romans 3:25, CSB
God presented him as an atoning sacrifice in his blood, received through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.
No translation is pefect, if only because our understanding of the original texts is always growing and English is always subtly changing. That being said, I’m liking the CSB so far, and the test drive continues.