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 extremes 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 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.”)
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). The CSB does not (nor does the KJV or ESV). 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.”
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: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1U7uvZHYsCtSpQdKNwrS6zZYSre-MdY7GbDQZzefWs50/pub)
Can democracy flourish just as well in any society, no matter what the religious and cultural values, or does democracy depend on Biblical values to flourish and prosper?
Daniel Webster said, “Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”
Psalm 33:12 (HCSB) says, “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh—the people He has chosen to be His own possession!”
We sing “God Bless America,” but then we tell people to choose your god: Buddha, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Krishna, Yahweh, take your pick.
That simply will not work! Look at the verse again. Notice that it says in the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh.” Most Bible translations say “the LORD.” Whenever you see “LORD” in all capital letters, it means that the Hebrew word used is the actual name of God given to Moses at the burning bush: “I am,” which in Hebrew is Yahweh.
A nation whose God is not Yahweh, a nation that rejects the God of the Bible and Biblical values, rarely has a stable democracy. There are a few exceptions, such as Turkey, India, Japan, and Indonesia. But all over the world, we have seen that nation after nation that has put the Lord out of government is having a hard time putting democracy in. All across Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa, which have been dominated by communism and non-Christian world religions, we see most governments are dominated by dictators instead of democracy. In Iraq and Afghanistan, sectarian conflict is threatening democracy. In the Middle East, the “Arab Spring” of new democracies appears to be turning into a “Muslim Winter.”
Just as a life without Jesus will always fail, a government without Yahweh is often frail. But a nation that has the God of the Bible as its foundation has put into place the value system needed to support a successful democracy.
The Declaration of Independence contains four references to God: as Lawmaker (“the laws of nature and nature’s God”); as Creator (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”); as Supreme Judge (“the Supreme Judge of the world for our intentions”); and as Protector (“the protection of Divine Providence”).
In 1787, the Constitutional Congress was arguing over the writing of the Constitution of the United States, and they were getting nowhere. Finally, Ben Franklin rose and said,
“In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for divine protection. Our prayers were heard, and they were graciously answered . . . Have we now forgotten this powerful friend? Or do we no longer need his assistance?
I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
When George Washington took the oath of office as our first president in 1789, he asked that the Bible be opened, and he placed his hand on it to took the oath. Then he added to the oath the words, “So help me God,” and bent forward and kissed the Bible before him.
John Adams, our second president, said, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, said, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” These words are engraved in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
History has shown that democracies have done well in nations founded on Biblical values. Democracy flourishes in Europe, which has a Christian heritage, in Israel, where the values of the Old Testament are the basis of their government, and in North America, most of Latin America, Australia, and most of central and southern Africa that are dominated by Christianity. In South Africa, where the white minority gave up rule to the black majority, Bishop Desmond Tutu led them through a peaceful transition of power. Miraculously, bloodshed was avoided, unlike the conflict we see today in Iraq, a struggling democracy that does not have worship of the God of the Bible as its foundation. The key was that as Christians, South Africans were able to forgive.
Why is it that democracies tend to flourish where the culture is dominated by Biblical values?
Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Yet it is interesting that citizens of the heavenly kingdom make better citizens of earthly kingdoms.
Christians know they have a responsibility to contribute to their government. Jesus said, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).
“And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants… Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” (Romans 13:6-7)
Christians know that they have a responsibility to make a positive difference in their world.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
Christians know that they are to pray for their nation’s leaders. Paul says 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to pray for kings and all those in authority, and in Paul’s day, a pagan Roman was the emperor.
But because our highest citizenship is in heaven and not on earth, Christians also know that times may come when they have to stand up to godless and corrupt earthly rulers for the greater good of the nation.
Moses stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and demanded that Pharaoh give up his Hebrew slaves.
The prophet Nathan confronted King David to his face when he murdered Uriah and committed adultery with Bathsheba.
The prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab and condemned Queen Jezebel for worshipping false gods.
John the Baptist told the ruler, Herod Antipas, that he was wrong to divorce his wife, and for his boldness, John the Baptist lost his head.
It may not always be easy, but it is always best for a democracy if that nation is founded on faith in Yahweh, the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we wander away from that faith, we put in peril our earthly livelihood and our eternal home.
As John F. Kennedy said, “This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.”
No wonder Daniel Webster said, “Whatever makes good Christians makes them good citizens.”
As Psalm 33:12 says, “Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh.”