Five months ago today I wrote a blog post on my initial thoughts on the CSB. As of today, that post has nearly reached 1,000 views! I thought it was time to write an update to my original post to let people know where I have landed.
I have had a lot of time to read through most of the CSB. I have compared it to multiple versions, commentaries, and the original languages as my limited understanding allows. The more I read it, meditate on it, and memorize it, the more I love it! As a result, it has become my primary Bible translation for everything; though, of course, I will always reference other versions when studying.
What led me to make it my main version?
First, I truly believe they have struck a great balance between readability and accuracy to the original languages. I know, all versions basically claim the same thing. Still, there is a spectrum between extremely formal (interlinear) and extremely free or dynamic (paraphrases), and I truly believe the CSB falls toward the center of that spectrum. It may even be a little more toward the formal side, which I appreciate. As I have dug in, I have found many times where the CSB may veer from a traditional rendering, only to realize that it seems to be better capturing what the original intended, whether in wording, meaning, or even in conveying verb tense from the Greek to the English. In many cases, I almost feel that the CSB is an easier-to-read NASB, as it often parallels it quite closely. While I did feel, for a while, that a strictly formal translation was the best to use all the time, I have come to question that a little, as I have thought about how translation works between other modern languages. I think I have come to a point where (at least for now) I feel that a middle-of-the-road approach may be ideal; that way, one can always move to a more formal version for deeper study and a more dynamic one for clarification/commentary and easier reading, if necessary. The CSB really seems to hit that middle-of-the-road ideal.
Second, it has been remarkably easy to memorize. While I had used the ESV for several years to memorize, I decided to consider the CSB. At first, I was concerned that the CSB would be harder to memorize because it wasn’t as literary or elegant sounding. In reality, the fact that the CSB often sounds like the way we would say something today has made it easier to memorize than the ESV to me. Don’t get me wrong. I do like the ESV. But stepping back after a while of using the CSB, it almost seems like the ESV, in an attempt to retain some of the sound of the KJV, can occasionally create readings that sound odd to modern ears. Some people may love that aspect of the ESV, and as an English teacher, I can respect the fact that it remains close to such a literary and historic translation in sound. But for presenting dramatically, I believe the natural wording of the CSB will be a great asset. So far, I have memorized Philippians and the first four chapters of Revelation in the CSB, and I am loving it!
Third, they have quite extensive translators’ footnotes throughout the translation. These notes give alternate translations, more literal renderings, and manuscript variants. I haven’t compared all of the various English versions, but it seems that the CSB’s notes may be some of the most in-depth. That is something I appreciate as I am studying the word.
Fourth, without going into great detail, I have grown to know and experience the heart of the publisher. Holman’s desire to get the word of God out in order to create disciples is very apparent. That is something I truly appreciate about them. Again, that is not to say no other version has this same goal; far from it. I believe that all versions ultimately have the desire to see disciples made. But there have been a few things about Holman that have simply won me over.
I do see the CSB growing in popularity. A local friend that I introduced it to adopted it before I did, and she introduced it to another friend. A poll in a Facebook page I am a part of showed that it is growing beyond merely being a Southern Baptist Bible (as it is often erroneously considered since the publisher is connected to the Southern Baptist Convention); people from a wide range of denominations have made the CSB their primary Bible. I have also seen many posts of people switching to the CSB from other versions as their primary. Many of the search terms on my blog also show that people are researching and digging into reviews that are comparing the CSB to other versions that have been firmly established for a while. This is all very encouraging to me.
[While I am on this topic of whether the CSB has strong Baptist tendencies, I think one example may suffice to show that it strives to be a Bible anyone can use. As Baptists believe that the proper mode of baptism is by immersion, it would have been very easy for the CSB translation team to have translated the Greek “baptizo” as “immerse” instead of transliterating it as “baptize.” The fact that they left it transliterated seems, to me, to show that they were not trying to push a certain theological agenda.]
Yes, it is true that the CSB occasionally breaks with traditional renderings in verses. But the more I study and read them, the more I have grown to appreciate what they have done. Their choices often reflect what seems to be a more accurate rendering of the original languages.
For example, choosing “For God loved the world in this way” in John 3:16 instead of the traditional “For God so loved the world” seems to bring out the original intent better.
In the Sermon on the Mount, “Hallowed be thy name” (or some variation thereof) becomes “your name be honored as holy” (6:9, CSB). I think that the change brings out the meaning of “hallowed” very well and very clearly.
One last example is in Psalm 1:1. Traditional renderings say “Blessed is the man.” The CSB says “How happy is the one.” I believe the gender change here is welcome, as the verse is clearly not limited to men. But the biggest change is the word “blessed” to “how happy.” I have seen a lot of people questioning that. But from what I understand, there are two Hebrew words that are often both translated “blessed” in the Old Testament. The issue is that one of the two words actually means “blessed,” while the other has a better meaning of “happy.” The one that appears in this verse is the one that means “happy,” so the CSB, while breaking tradition, actually brings out the original more clearly. (For more information on this, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness.)
I want to put a few clarifications here.
First, the CSB, like all translations, is not perfect. There are areas that can be improved, as is the case with any attempt at translating from one language to another. Which leads me to my second clarification.
We are very blessed to have so many versions in the English language that we can cross reference and check against one another. We should never forget the blessings we have, even as we may look for that one version that can become our primary translation for use. (And I do think we should look for that one version that is our go-to version. It helps if we are very familiar with one version when we do have to check against others. If we constantly jump from version to version, we fail to get the deep familiarity that I think is a benefit of sticking with one primary translation, especially as it relates to internalizing the word.) While I think the CSB should be considered strongly as an ideal translation to use, that is not to say we should not use the other versions or that anything is wrong with them. Far from it. They all have their place.
I do not hesitate to recommend the CSB to you as an amazing candidate for your primary Bible translation. I think it is a phenomenal work that will only get better over time. I think it is an ideal version for everything: reading, studying, memorizing, teaching from, and preaching from.
If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so. You can read it online free here, or on YouVersion’s Bible app or on Bible Gateway. I think you will find it both refreshing and accurate.
No matter what version you choose, dig deep into the word. Treasure it in your heart. Dwell in it and let it dwell in you.