Why Update a Beloved Translation? An Interview with Tom Schreiner

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.

***

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is now available on Pre-Pub. You can save 20% when you pre-order!

But wait—you may qualify for a free copy! If you’ve already purchased the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), place your Pre-Pub order for the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and you’ll receive the CSB for free once it ships! To qualify, you must (1) have already purchased the HCSB before 1/13/17 (whether you bought it by itself, as part of a collection or a base package, or some other way), (2) place your Pre-Pub order for the CSB, and (3) not cancel your Pre-Pub order. Once the CSB ships, we’ll unlock the CSB for you and won’t charge you for the order!

Get the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) today!

Share
Written by
Daniel Motley

Daniel Motley works as the Team Lead of Live Products at Faithlife. He helps promote resources in the Logos Bible Software platform while overseeing a group of product managers. In his spare time he likes to write and has contributed to The Gospel Coalition and the Art of Manliness.

View all articles
Written by Daniel Motley