The HCSB is now the CSB. What’s the difference?

In 2003, Holman Bible Publishers, which is owned by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a completely new translation of the Bible, called the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), which was used in all of LifeWay’s literature, including its Sunday school curriculum. The HCSB was nearly as readable as the popular New International Version (NIV), yet closer to the New American Standard Bible in accuracy. When Zondervan revised the NIV in 2011, making it more accurate in some ways but gender neutral in reference to mankind, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention publicly condemned the revision, and some pastors who were using the NIV, myself included, switched to the HCSB. Now the HCSB is no more.

In 2017, Holman released a radical revision of the HCSB, under the new name, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). It is now the translation used in LifeWay literature instead of the HCSB. So what’s the difference? Basically, the CSB has positioned itself between the New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV). It is nearly as contemporary and readable and almost as gender-neutral as the NIV, but nearly as accurate and literal as the ESV.

1. The CSB is more gender neutral.

Interestingly, the CSB follows the gender neutral trend of the NIV far more than the HCSB did. Even the HCSB had begun to use “people” instead of “men” in places where the text clearly refers to people in general, like Matthew 4:19 where it refers to Jesus teaching His disciples to “fish for men.” But the CSB goes much further. In Proverbs 27:17, the CSB says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (The HCSB has “men.”) One may argue that the context implies all people there, although men’s groups have often equated it to masculinity. A more significant change is the constant reference to the believers in the church in the New Testament letters as “brothers” in the HCSB. The CSB changes this to “brothers and sisters.” So we read in Romans 16:14, “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers and sisters who are with them.” Again, the reasoning for this is that the apostle must have had in mind all members of the congregation, both male and female (although all of the Greek names in Romans 16:14 happen to be male).

To be fair, the CSB avoids the extreme examples of gender neutral language found in the NIV. The NIV goes so far as to translate the Hebrew ab, father, as “parent” in Malachi 4:6, and in Hebrews 12:7 it says “God is treating you as children,” although the Greek word is “sons.” The CSB does not goes this far; in both of these passages, the CSB uses the masculine word, and the CSB is consistent in always referring to God with the masculine pronoun (as is the NIV).

2. The CSB is more traditional.

The HCSB broke translation tradition in several ways, including the frequent, but inconsistent use of the literal “Yahweh” instead of the traditional “LORD” in all capital letters to translate the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. The HCSB also translated the Greek christos as “Messiah,” since many people did not understand that Christ and Messiah are Greek and Hebrew words for the same title, Anointed One. In contrast, the CSB has returned to more traditional wording. The CSB uses “LORD” in the Old Testament for Yahweh and often uses “Christ,” for christos in the New Testament, although the CSB does use “Messiah” in some places where a declaration of faith is made about Jesus, such as John 11:27: “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God…”

3. The CSB is usually more literal.

A good example of how the CSB is more literal than the HCSB would be Psalm 1:1, which the CSB translates literally: “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway of sinners or sit in the company of mockers.” The HCSB paraphrased the “walk, stand, sit” poetry of Psalm 1:1 this way: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!” (Notice again, however, that the HCSB uses “man,” while the CSB uses the gender neutral “one.”)

However, in some places the CSB uses a traditional translation that is not as literal as the HCSB. For example, the CSB translates both doulos (slave) and diakonos (servant) as “servant, deacon” whereas the HCSB translates doulos literally as “slave.”

4. The CSB no longer capitalizes pronouns referring to God.

A fourth major revision of the CSB is that it dropped the capitalization of pronouns referring to God. The HCSB showed reverence to God by capitalizing all pronouns that referred to God, as does the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New King James Version (NKJV), Berean Standard Bible (BSB) and a few others. The CSB does not (nor does the RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, KJV or NLT). The CSB translators reasoned that it is not always clear in the context if the reference is to God. Thus we see the difference in  John 15:26, a passage which refers to all three persons of the Trinity. This verse is translated by the HCSB: “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father– the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father– He will testify about Me.” But John 15:26 is translated this way in the CSB: “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father– the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father– he will testify about me.” Another example is 1 John 3:3, which uses pronouns that refer both to the believer and to God, in which the capitalization in HCSB makes the context clearer:

In CSB, 1 John 3:3 reads: “And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.”
In HCSB, 1 John 3:3 reads: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

No translation is perfect, as they are made by imperfect people, and language is constantly changing. As I said at the beginning, the CSB has positioned itself between the readable, gender-neutral NIV and the more literal ESV. In doing so, it has eliminated some of the quirky, fascinating translation characteristics of the HCSB. For this reason, I hope that the HCSB will still be available for those who want something different. Each person will need to make his (or her) own choice, and never forget that the Author is God, not man (or humanity).

(For more study on changes from the HCSB to CSB, here is a good resource:

(You can read Holman’s own list of the changes here:

(There is a Facebook group for people who like the HCSB here:

(And the CSB has a Facebook group as well here:


About Bob Rogers

Hospital chaplain in Mississippi. Adjunct history professor (online). Formerly a pastor for 33 years in Mississippi and Georgia. Avid cyclist.

Posted on May 21, 2017, in Bible teaching, Books, Southern Baptists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Steven Thornton

    Follow the money, Bob. Out with the old. In with the new. They are probably already working on the next translation. Not being cynical. You know I am a loyal Southern Baptist. I am all for good solid literal translations that follow the Majority text or even ones that don’t. But the average pew sitter is overwhelmed when he or she goes to LifeWay to buy a new Bible. There are just too many choices. I have the program E-Sword on my computer – one of the best free Bible software programs around. I have 209 different Bible translations in my E-Sword program which includes Greek and Hebrew texts, about 100 English translations and the rest other language translations. I don’t even have all of the one’s that are available for download or purchase. God bless. I greatly appreciated your many posts. Steven

  2. I read your older post on the HSCB, and found this update interesting. I appreciate your observations and am using articles such as this to make decisions on my Bible reading. Having gotten back into religion a few years back, after many years of being pretty blasé about it (thank God for bringing a woman into my life who makes me feel both very blessed & loved), I have spent time with the NIV & NET, before recently deciding to look closely at the ESV & NASB.

  3. I am really in a dilemma because I liked HCSB’s web version and was set on getting it until I discovered the new CSB which looks fansy….until once again your blog post about it doing away with gender-neutral stuff, I just do not know what to do now. I was gonna get The New Interpreter’s study bible, but they are heavy NRSV, which is gender neutral and liberal. I guess eventually I will go back getting HCSB instead of CSB, but it is disappointing know the new CSB is gendered… I get the equality part, but I just do not like the idea of purposely being gender neutral for gender neutral’s sake, it is confusing!

    • If you prefer the HCSB, you need to get a copy right away, because Holman is discontinuing that translation, and will be printing the CSB instead. I know it is confusing, but as I said in the review, the gender neutral tendencies of the CSB are not as extreme as the NIV (and not as extreme as the NRSV that you mentioned, either.) If you can live with Paul’s epistles greeting “brothers and sisters,” then you will hardly notice any other changes in the CSB. It is more conservative in translation than the NRSV.

  4. Thank you for your brief comparison of the 2 versions.

    Our church has switched over to the CSB and I have been looking for a kindle version. Naturally I saw both the HCSB and CSB listed and have been researching the differences between the 2 versions. I kind of like the neutral tone of “people” or “children” instead of “men/man” or “sons”. However, if sometimes it’s written as “brothers and sisters” and sometimes left as just “brothers” even when it is inclusive of femailes, I can see lots of heated discussions arising in the future about whether “sisters” are included in “brothers” or not. I guess I’ll get both versions and see which one feels right for me.

  5. I notice that the CSB uses the word “Hell” whereas the HCSB used the better translated words such as GE-Henna, Hades, Tartarus and so on. So much for a more presice translation!!!

  6. Thank you for this. My family is attending a new church that teaches out of the CSB and I am reading it through for familiarity and individual worship. Having just finished Genesis, I do like it. I don’t see it supplanting the ESV as my translation of choice though.

  7. I like the trend with the HCSB and the upcoming Legacy Standard Bible to use Yahweh instead of Lord. I do not think we need to give the nod to tradition if the text being translated from used YHWH but I grew up on the KJV I am used to it, I just do not prefer it. I was getting ready to switch to the HCSB as my primary version over the ESV. I will probably wait for the full LSB to be released. Thanks for the information, I was wondering about the change.

    • I am no authority by any means but as i was checking to see if there was a difference in KJV and CSB i found this commentary.
      I have come to this conclusion:
      The HOLY BIBLE is the written WORD OF GOD. HE owns these words. IT is HIS DIVINE HAND that wrote them down.
      There is no err in HIS DIVINE HAND guiding the men who scribed IT.
      There was no gender neutrality to decide in any translation written before us in scholars’ translations.
      As for keeping up with the times, it is only a worldly level of thinking. If we are to study GODS’ WORD in TRUTH (yes Icapitilized even pronouns as they belong to HIM) we shall open our eyes to see and ours ears to hear and, lean not unto our own understanding.
      GOD is the same today, yesterday and, FOREVER!
      Why should man use a worldly mind to discern what is TRUTH?!
      In being reborn and, having returned to The LORD we are a new creature lest you allow the evil one to fool one of even the elect.
      Truly HIS and yours in Christian FAITH and LOVE!

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