Why Update a Beloved Translation? An Interview with Tom Schreiner

csbprepub

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) is a beloved translation used by hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the English-speaking world. Recently, Broadman & Holman have brought together some of the top biblical scholars to produce a revised edition of the HCSB: the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Pastors and scholars such as David Platt, Tony Evans, Alistair Begg, and Robert Plummer have endorsed it, and David Dockery has touted the CSB as “a landmark achievement—beautifully combining accuracy and accessibility in a way that makes it ideal for Bible study, reading, teaching, and preaching.”

I sat down with Dr. Thomas Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Co-Chair of the Translation Oversight Committee for the CSB, to ask him about new changes to the text, the translation committee, and what led them to diverge from the HCSB when it came to translating “Yahweh.”

People often ask why new translations are made. Can you share why you and your team took on the task of producing the CSB?

I would say that the CSB isn’t a new translation but a revision of the HCSB. So, we didn’t conceive of ourselves as producing a new translation. The HCSB was appreciated and used quite widely. Still, we felt that it could be improved upon in a number of ways, and thus we felt the time was right for a revision.

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is the newest iteration of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). What are some of the major differences between the two translations?

The HCSB is a very fine translation at many levels. After some years in circulation, we wanted to review the translation and to improve it where necessary. No translation is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Hence, we wanted to make a good translation even better. Notable changes are reflected in some of the questions asked below, but we made many smaller changes which we believed improved the translation over all.

One of the most discussed changes has been the replacement of “Yahweh” with “Lord” in the Old Testament. Can you speak to why the committee opted to make this change?schreiner

Traditionally, English Bible translations have chosen not to supply vowels in order to make the name of God (YHWH) pronounceable; they simply render this name as a title (LORD). The CSB Translation Oversight Committee chose to come into alignment with other English translations, departing from the HCSB practice of utilizing “Yahweh” in the text. The HCSB was inconsistent, rendering YHWH as “Yahweh” in only 656 of 6,000+ occurrences of YHWH, because full consistency would be overwhelming to the reader. Yet feedback from readers also showed that the unfamiliarity of “Yahweh” was an obstacle to reading the HCSB. In addition, when quoting Old Testament texts that include an occurrence of YHWH, the New Testament renders YHWH with the word kurios, which is a title (Lord) rather than a personal name. This supports the direction of bringing the CSB is in line with most English translations, rendering YHWH as LORD.

Are there any other translation differences with the HCSB?

We no longer capitalize pronouns referring to God. The original text of Scripture does not distinguish pronouns referring to God by capitalization. Most Bible translations (including the King James Version) have followed this example and do not capitalize pronouns that refer to God. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) adopts the traditional approach of not capitalizing pronouns and referents for two primary reasons. First, the original text of Scripture is not always clear about to whom a particular pronoun may be referring; translations that capitalize any reference to a divine person are often forced into making unnecessary judgment calls in passages where the interpretation is debatable. Second, since Scripture sometimes includes prophecies that have double fulfillment, the choice to capitalize a pronoun can have the unintended outcome of erasing the additional, non-divine meaning.

The HCSB rendered the lalein + glossa construction as “languages” rather than the traditional “tongues” because the translators saw “tongues” as an archaic way of referring to verbal communication. The translators, representing a variety of denominations, did not intend by the use of “languages” to exclude charismatic views of ecstatic speech. Because “tongues” is an appropriate translation and is the word used in every other major English Bible translation, the CSB Translation Oversight Committee elected to adopt the traditional rendering and avoid any appearance of theological bias.

The Christian Standard Bible retains a traditional approach to translating gender language into English. Masculine terms (Father, Son, King, etc.) and pronouns (he, him, his) are retained whenever they refer to God. To improve accuracy, the Translation Oversight Committee chose to avoid being unnecessarily specific in passages where the original context did not exclude females. When Scripture presents principles or generic examples that are not restricted to males, the CSB does not use “man,” “he,” or other masculine terms. At the same time, the translators did not make third person masculine pronouns inclusive by rendering them as plurals (they, them), because they believed it was important to retain the individual and personal sense of these expressions.

In many cases we made a change where the word rendered “slave” in the HCSB is rendered as “servant” in the CSB. In our context, the word “slave” primarily brings to mind our history of race-based slavery. The theologically appropriate connotation of the word is lost on most readers. In light of this obstacle, it seemed best to the Translation Oversight Committee to choose a word that is less apt to cause distraction and misunderstanding. Furthermore, the choice to render doulos as “servant” rather than “slave” aligns with the Old Testament’s use of ‘eved in reference to followers of God, and the New Testament’s use of a Greek word specifically meaning “servant” rather than “slave” when quoting from the Old Testament. The CSB retains the use of “slave” in contexts where slavery or a slave are clearly in view, but for references to Christian discipleship, “servant” is used.

Who are some of the scholars on the translation committee? What did you learn from working with them?

The primary scholars who worked on the revision were:

  • Brian Rosner, the principal of Ridley College in Australia.
  • Andrew Das, a professor of New Testament at Elmhurst College.
  • David Allen, dean and professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Darian Lockett, a professor of New Testament at Biola University
  • Dorian Coover Cox, a professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary.
  • Andy Steinman, a professor of Old Testament at Concordia College in Chicago
  • Iain Duguid, a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.
  • Michael Card, author and musician was the stylist

We were pleased with the diversity of the team. We had members from a variety of schools and different denominations. The CSB isn’t a Southern Baptist Bible but represents an interdenominational effort.

It was a joy and immensely stimulating to work with the committee. We didn’t always agree but the camaraderie was always good. By God’s grace the spirit was excellent in the whole process.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Place your Pre-Pub order for the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) today!

Comments

  1. I totally get updating a beloved translation; I don’t get making it worse.

    Love Dr. Schreiner, really I do — but that explanation for hiding the Holy Spirit’s word “Yahweh” ALL the time instead of just MOST of the time is very sad. Once again: whether we know how to pronounce YHWH or not, “Lord” is not a *translation* of “Yahweh.” No Hebrew scholar of any merit has ever or would ever attempt to say otherwise.

    • Tyler Smith says:

      Hi, Dan. Thanks for the comment.

      Just to be clear, in his answer to our question, Dr. Schreiner never calls the CSB’s rendering of YHWH a “translation.” (However, the author of this article does use the term in the intro to the piece.) I know that’s not the main point of your comment, but I just want to make sure Dr. Schreiner’s comments are clearly represented. :-)

      Thanks again for commenting.

      • Thanks for your response.

        First, Dr. Schreiner says that English versions “simply render this name as a title (LORD).” “Render” is a synonym of “translate.” The next question refers to this as a “translation difference.”

        Second, well then, if LORD is not a translation (or rendering) of YHWH, what is it? The fact is that we do not know why the NT authors quoted a translation that used kurios to mask YHWH. But we do know one thing with absolute certainty: YHWH does not *mean* kurios. Kurios is not a translation. So there is, on the merits of the translation itself (putting the unknowable unexpressed thoughts of NT writers aside), there is no more justification for using LORD than there is for using RUTABAGA or UTENSIL.

        That was my point.

        • Brother Dan, you know better than this. If the New Testament writers could render YHWH as kurios (Lord), then we have much more warrant for using Lord than for using RUTABAGA. Dr. Schreiner is under no obligation to provide a rationale for following the example of the apostles. Meanwhile, a tradition with apostolic precedent is surely not dangerous.

          • Hi Jim.

            I don’t really need to respond again to your first point, since if you will read my comment more carefully, you will see that I already did anticipate it and fully deal with it.

            As to the second, any translator who chooses to render a word in the God-breathed Hebrew text by an English word which he knows DOES NOT correspond to the meaning of the Hebrew text CERTAINLY DOES need to provide a rationale, even if he’s as rightly beloved as Dr Schreiner.

            And be in no doubt, to my knowledge NO credible Hebrew has EVER suggested that Yahweh (a personal name) *means* “Lord” (a title, in no way related to the Hebrew YHWH).

            The apostles occcasionally quoted a popular Greek version that (for no certainly known reason) used kurios. The apostles did not, however, argue for using kurios. They gave no rationale for using kurios. They made not the slightest remark for using kurios. They did not explain their use of kurios. So the truth is, we haven’t the slightest idea why they used kurios.

            Therefore, we are under NO obligation to trash everything we know about Hebrew, and use a word that we certainly know DOES NOT reflect the original.

            Have you used the Septuagint much? Do you know how often both its text and its translations are utterly baffling, and certainly inaccurate? Do you really want to start overruling what we know about Hebrew and the Hebrew text each time the Septuagint goes a different direction? I would hope not.

            So no, I think it safer to revere the Word of God as given, not to attempt to read the unexpressed minds of the apostles, and to atttempt instead to be true to the Hebrew text by our best understanding of it.

            Which would mean respecting the 6K+ occurrences of Yahweh.

  2. David McAllan says:

    If we “owners” of the original HCSB order on pre-pub and get the update free, will we get to keep the original, or will it be overwritten with the update? Thanks.

    • Daniel Motley says:

      David,

      Yes, you will get to keep your copy of the HCSB. The CSB will download as a separate resource.

      Thanks for your question!

  3. Joseph Morrison says:

    I really like the HCSB for its readability. And I’m sure the CSB is no different. And I’m sure I will be scolded for saying this, but my issue is saying “people” instead of men i.e. Matthew 4:19. The ESV says “fishers of men” but has a footnote about what it is referring to. I know what the Greek word is referring to, humanity or mankind. And I feel most people would to. I’m sure I will get scolded by referring to this. Guess old habits die hard.

  4. James Uhlmann says:

    In your conditions for eligibility is purchase required before 1/13/16 or 1/13/17?

  5. Fred Tomek says:

    Has the cross reference system in the new CSB been revised?

    • Daniel Motley says:

      Hey Fred,

      The cross reference system has been updated as to reflect any changes that have been made in the text itself.

      We’ll update the product page with sample pages soon so that you can see what it looks like.

      Thanks for your question!

  6. Dean Poulos says:

    Hi Dan,

    You make some excellent points, but I must question one of your statements:

    “The fact is that we do not know why the NT authors quoted a translation that used kurios to mask YHWH.”

    Brother Dan, I am sorry, but I will never agree anything was being “masked” by the NT Writers. The Holy Spirit inspired the words, nothing was Masked. I’ll elaborate a bit more.

    The Hebrew word (יהוה) for YHWH occurs 7,350 times in the Old Testament. Guess what else occurs 7,350 times in the Old Testament? The word Κύριος.

    The NT Writers (especially Paul) quoted from the LXX, which ALWAYS renders YHWH (יהוה) as Κύριος, but there is a twofold reason for that. The first, I will only touch on briefly since I don’t have the time to bring up Biblical Hebrew, Masoretic Hebrew, Aramaic, Midrash, the DSS and on and on.

    Put simply, Κύριος is used because it was the GLOSSA of the time, put in place by God, when he used Alexander to create a “Common” (Koine) language of commerce. God not only uses the saved, but sinners to carry out His Sovereign Will c.f. numbers, Balaam, the Prophet for profit.

    It’s not only Paul, but the clear majority of OT quotations in the NT follow the text of the LXX in one rendering or another. There are also examples that come from Aramaic and Hebrew, and in fact a number of those of come from what are even part of the Pseudepigraphal texts. The most well-known is Jude, which is a direct quote from the book of Enoch.

    “And behold! He will come with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: And to convict all flesh Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

    Paul draws in part from some of the Hebrew Biblical DSS.

    “Second, well then, if LORD is not a translation (or rendering) of YHWH, what is it?”

    In uppercase or lower, OT or NT? : – ) Forgive me, it’s only about a decade since I read my first English Translation of the bible, thus to me Κύριος means exactly what Κύριος means in Greek and in context.

    Dean

    R. H. Charles and W. O. E. Oesterley, The Book of Enoch (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917), Enoch 1:9.

    • However, and simply:

      1. We do not know why the apostles made no remark on a number of odd facets in LXX quotations, including kurios for Yahweh.

      2. We do know what kurios means, and we do know Yahweh doesn’t mean that.

      3. We do know that Yahweh is a name, and that name is not “kurios.”

      4. Knowingly mistranslating or misrepresenting a part of the Heb is no show of reverence.

      Leaving us with no substantial reason to continue misrepresenting OLD TESTAMENT occurrences of Yahweh.

  7. Dean Poulos says:

    Sorry Correction: The 7,350 count is my mistake, it is not what I consider to be the actual canon of OT scripture, or the 39 books. I was using Sweet’s LXX and it matched the word Κύριος to all the Hebrew matches including the OT Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal texts included in Sweets LXX.

  8. Dean Poulos says:

    Dr. Schreiner,

    Thank you for your contribution and respectfully, for ALL your work.

    I have a question on one statement:

    “In addition, when quoting Old Testament texts that include an occurrence of YHWH, the New Testament renders YHWH with the word kurios, which is a title (Lord) rather than a personal name.”

    This is a tough one Dr. Schreiner, it seems even BDAG shares my feelings on what I was trying to explain to Dan in particular with this quote below (brackets are my emphasis and note the comment on the RARE use of the article and in some of which are contested MSS):

    “Even in the passages already mentioned the use of the word Κύριος. [raises Jesus above the human level] (Mani is also κ. for his people: Kephal. I 183, 11; 13; 16); “

    I have no problem with Κύριος when reading the Greek. That said, it’s a difficult issue since rendering and context will not come through in any English Translation.

    This does not mean everyone must learn Greek, nor does it mean an English or Spanish version is not God’s Word.

    Dean

    • —In J the designation ὁ κ. occurs rarely, in the first 19 chapters only in passages that are text-critically uncertain (4:1 v.l.; 6:23, with omission in some mss.) or that have been suspected on other grounds (11:2);
    • then 20:2, 18, 20, 25; cp. vss.
    • 13, 28; 21:7ab, 12.
    • On the other hand, κύριε in address is extraordinarily common throughout the whole book:
    • 4:11, 15, 19, 49; 5:7; 6:34, 68 al. (more than 30 times).
    • —In the long ending of Mk we have the designation ὁ κ. twice, 16:19, 20.
    • In GPt ὁ κ. occurs 1:2; 2:3ab; 3:6, 8; 4:10; 5:19;
    • 6:21, 24; 12:50ab;
    • 14:59, 60 (in the last pass. without the art.);
    v.l. v.l. = varia lectio (variant reading)
    cp. cp. = compare, freq. in ref. to citation fr. ancient texts
    al. al. =alibi (elsewhere), aliter (otherwise), alii (others)
    GPt GPt = Gospel of Peter—List 1
    pass. pass. = passive (either of grammatical form or of passive experience); also used in reference to literary portion=passage
    art. art. = article
    voc. voc. = vocative
    2 Cl 2 Cl = 2 Clement—List 1
    2 Cl 2 Cl = 2 Clement—List 1
    TestAbr TestAbr = Testament of Abraham, with some interpolations; I B.C./I A.D.—Lists 2, 5
    ApcMos ApcMos = Apocalypse of Moses—List 2
    Tdf. Tdf. = CvTischendorf—List 1, beg.
    StKr StKr = Theologische Studien und Kritiken—List 6
    Kephal Kephal = Manichäische Handschriften der Staatlichen Museen Berlin, date uncertain—List 5
    B B = Barnabas (the Letter of), II A.D., except in series of uncial witnesses, in which case B refers to Codex Vaticanus (s. also Vat.). When the abbrv. B would ambiguous, Vat. is used for the codex.—List 1
    IEph IEph = Ignatius to the Ephesians—List 1

    William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 578.

  9. I am a pastor who preaches from the HCSB. I understand the points made by Dr. Schreiner. That being said, had I known the HCSB would have experienced as many updates and now a revision, I probably would have never used it. It frequently creates confusion when the members of my church bring their HCSB Bibles which, upon inspection, do not match. No, the differences are never critical. But updating a translation too often creates problems.

    At this point, the only way I could consider using the CSB is if it is permanent. So, will it be permanent?