HCSB Evaluation

(Several months ago I submitted my personal evaluation of the HCSB to our Translation Evaluation Committee. If you’d like to read my conclusions, you’re welcome to do. If you’d like a pretty printed copy, you can download my written paper.)

In its “Reactions to Pastor Brian Keller’s Paper” The Translation Evaluation Committee wrote:

The TEC continues to think that the NIV11 is a doctrinally acceptable translation that communicates well in contemporary English, and its continued use would provide continuity for our synod. We wouldn‘t be surprised if papers could be written showing additional weaknesses in the ESV and the HCSB. But it makes sense to look carefully at the other options, so that we can be sure whether or not any of the other options are better. In the opinion of the TEC, the other options that deserve consideration are the ESV and the HCSB. We encourage their study in the coming year.

So also, in a recent Together email, we learned that there is a side-by-side comparison of the ESV, NIV-11 and HCSB bibles.1 I’ve been reading through the HCSB since last summer. And I thought it might be good to share what I’ve found with the men who are assigned with reading through the HCSB. Since I don’t know who those men are, I would appreciate it if you would forward this on to them. I was going to wait until I was finished reading the HCSB. But, at the rate I’m reading through it, I’m afraid the August deadline will have passed by then.

What follows is not an in-depth discussion of whether we should capitalize Pronouns. Nor will you find a thorough discussion of the proper rendering of the tetragrammaton into english. And you will defintely not find an exhaustive discussion of whether we should say Messaiah or Christ. What follows is the acceptance of a request. If the TEC is inviting us to give our evaluation, especially our doctrinal evaluation of the HCSB, then I’d be glad to share what I’ve found.

Is it doctrinally usable?

Are all people, even infants sinners?

When it comes to sin, the HCSB is clear: All Creation is clearly corrupted:

  • (1 Kings 8:46 HCSB) “When they sin against You— for there is no one who does not sin— and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and their captors deport them to the enemy’s country— whether distant or nearby—”

  • (Psalms 14:2–3 HCSB) “The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.”

  • (Psalms 143:2 HCSB) “Do not bring Your servant into judgment, for no one alive is righteous in Your sight.”

  • (Proverbs 20:9 HCSB) “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am cleansed from my sin”?”

  • (Romans 3:9–12 HCSB) “What then? Are we any better? Not at all! For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.”

  • (Romans 3:22–23 HCSB) “that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

  • (Galatians 3:22 HCSB) “But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”

Can Infants believe?


What is a βρέφος? Consider the following Passages:

βρέφος = Baby



(Luke 1:41 HCSB) “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

(Luke 1:41 GNT-T) “καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ,”

(Luke 1:44 HCSB) “For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me!”

(Luke 1:44 GNT-T) “ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου.”

(Luke 2:12 HCSB) “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.””

(Luke 2:12 GNT-T) “καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν τὸ σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.”

(Luke 2:16 HCSB) “They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough.”

(Luke 2:16 GNT-T) “καὶ ἦλθαν σπεύσαντες καὶ ἀνεῦραν τήν τε Μαριὰμ καὶ τὸν Ἰωσὴφ καὶ τὸ βρέφος κείμενον ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ·”

Notice how these passages firmly establish in context what a βρέφος is. Now, how do passages with this word show that infants can believe in Jesus?

Luke 18:15-16
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original

(Luke 18:15–16 ESV) “ Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

(Luke 18:15–16 NIV11-GK) “ People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:15–16 HCSB) “Some people were even bringing infants to Him so He might touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, invited them: “Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:15–16 GNT-T) “Προσέφερον δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ τὰ βρέφη ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅπτηται· ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτοῖς. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσεκαλέσατο αὐτὰ λέγων· ἄφετε τὰ παιδία ἔρχεσθαι πρός με καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτά, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.”

In Luke 18:15-16 the HCSB does a fine job translating βρέφος. The people were clearly carrying their babies to Jesus. And Jesus clearly states that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these babies.

2 Timothy 3:15
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original

(2 Timothy 3:15 ESV) “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

(2 Timothy 3:15 NIV11-GK) “and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15 HCSB) “and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15 GNT-T) “καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ βρέφους [τὰ] ἱερὰ γράμματα οἶδας, τὰ δυνάμενά σε σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.”

In 2 Timothy 3:15 the HCSB ‘drops the ball.’ Here we obviously prefer the NIV. The HCSB in all of the other passages with βρέφος was consistent.2 It’s strange to see them make the word vague only in this verse. The ESV also makes the same mistake.


Just as βρέφος is a specific word for a newborn baby or for a baby not yet born, we have a similar translation issue with the word, νήπιος. Consider the lexical definitions:

  • 9.43 νήπιος, α, ον: a small child above the age of a helpless infant but probably not more than three or four years of age — ‘small child.’ 3

  • 1. a very young child, infant, child.4

While a βρέφος is a child who is so young that he is either not born yet or recently born, a νήπιος is a child in the toddler years down to infancy.

Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original

(Matthew 11:25 ESV) “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;”

(Matthew 11:25 NIV11-GK) “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25 HCSB) “At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants.” (Matthew 11:25 GNT-T) “Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἔκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις·”
(Luke 10:21 ESV) “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Luke 10:21 NIV11-GK) “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Luke 10:21 HCSB) “In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:21 GNT-T) “Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἠγαλλιάσατο [ἐν] τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ εἶπεν· ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἀπέκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις· ναὶ ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.”

In Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21 the HCSB does the opposite of what they did in 2 Tim. 3:15. While the ESV and NIV wimp out with “little children,” the HCSB boldly uses the clear wording “infants.”

Matthew 21:16
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Matthew 21:16 ESV) “and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”” (Matthew 21:16 NIV11-GK) ““Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “ ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’ ?”” (Matthew 21:16 HCSB) “and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus told them. “Have you never read: You have prepared praise from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”” (Matthew 21:16 GNT-T) “καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· ἀκούεις τί οὗτοι λέγουσιν; ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς· ναί. οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε ὅτι ἐκ στόματος νηπίων καὶ θηλαζόντων κατηρτίσω αἶνον;”

In Matthew 21:16 we have two important words. We have νήπιος and θηλάζω. For θηλάζω we have the following lexical definitions:

  • 23.7 θηλάζωa: the activity of a baby feeding at the breast — ‘to nurse (of a baby), to suck, to feed on.’ μακαρία … μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας ‘fortunate … are the breasts you sucked’ or ‘… you fed on’ Lk 11:27.5

  • 1. to breast-feed an infant, nurse6

In the Palm Sunday passage then we see very clearly how young people can be and still believe in and praise the Lord. They are toddlers and nursing infants. The HCSB is a little vague in translating the word βρέφος as “children.” But they do to good job with θηλάζω: “nursing infants.”

So, while the HCSB misses the mark in 2 Timothy 3:15, all the other passages which speak about the faith of infants are quite clear.

The Triune God brings people to faith

The HCSB clearly shows that all people, even infants are thoroughly corrupted by sin. Other than 2 Timothy 3:15, it clearly teaches that infants are able to have the gift of faith. The next question we ask is: “how do people get faith?” Do they get faith and salvation through their own effort of asking or choosing? Or does our Triune God give us faith through the gospel in word and sacrament?

Repentance of a sinner is the work of God

  • (Acts 5:31 HCSB) “God exalted this man to His right hand as ruler and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

  • (Acts 11:18 HCSB) “When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, “So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!””

  • (2 Timothy 2:25 HCSB) “instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.”

In all three of these passages the HCSB shows where repentance is from. Repentance is a gift from God, not a work from inside us.

God regenerates human hearts without human help

  • Baptism:

    • (John 3:5 HCSB) “Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

    • (John 3:8 HCSB) “The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.””

  • Word

    • (James 1:18 HCSB) “By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.”

    • (1 Peter 1:23 HCSB) “since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.”

    • (Romans 10:9–17 HCSB) “9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”

One can easily show from the HCSB that being “born again” is not an act, an emotion or a decision from inside us. The Spirit chooses to give us faith through the gospel.

Is the Holy Spirit an Enabler?

When it comes to conversion, is the Holy Spirit an enabler? I was thinking of this question one day when I was reading Bente’s Historical Introductions:

Strigel illustrated his idea by the following analogy. When garlic-juice is applied to a magnet, it loses its power of attraction, but remains a true magnet, and, when goat’s blood is applied, immediately regains its efficaciousness. So the will of man is hindered by original sin from beginning that which is good; but when the impediment has been removed through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the native powers of the will again become efficacious and active. (Tschackert, 524; Planck 4, 672; Preger 2, 198; Luthardt, 211.) Frank remarks: “The example of the temporarily impeded power of the magnet, which was repeated also at this juncture [in the disputation at Weimar], immediately points to the related papal doctrine, for the Catholic Andradius explains the dogma of the Tridentinum to this effect: The free will of natural man may be compared to a chained prisoner who, though still in possession of his locomotive powers, is nevertheless impeded by his fetters.” (1, 136.) Also the Formula of Concord, evidently with a squint at Strigel, rejects as a Pelagian error the teaching “that original sin is not a despoliation or deficiency but only an external impediment to these spiritual good powers, as when a magnet is smeared with garlic-juice, whereby its natural power is not removed, but only hindered or that this stain can be easily washed away as a spot from the face or a pigment from the wall.” (865, 22.)7

Garlic juice and goat’s blood aside, there are many churches today which essentially hold to the same teaching as Strigel. They view the Holy Spirit’s role as the one who removes the road block of original sin and as a result, the Holy Spirit then enables people to make use of their will to choose Jesus. The question we ask is this: does the HCSB allow for that sort of teaching?

Philippians 2:12–13
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Philippians 2:12–13 ESV) “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13 NIV11-GK) “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12–13 HCSB) “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12–13 GNT-T) “Ὥστε, ἀγαπητοί μου, καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου, μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε· θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας.”

In Philippians 2:12–13 the word “enabling” is not in the greek. And, as one looks at the ESV and the NIV we see that it doesn’t need to be in the english to communicate a clear translation. One can understand the HCSB correctly in this verse. But it leaves the door open for Strigel’s followers (even if they have never heard of him before).

Colossians 1:12
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Colossians 1:12 ESV) “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12 NIV11-GK) “and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:12 HCSB) “giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” (Colossians 1:12 GNT-T)“εὐχαριστοῦντες τῷ πατρὶ τῷ ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν μερίδα τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων ἐν τῷ φωτί·”

In Colossians 1:12 the ESV and NIV translate ἱκανώσαντι as “qualified.” The HCSB translates it as “enabled.” “Enabled” isn’t even listed as a possible definition in the standard lexicons:

  • 75.3 ἱκανόω: (derivative of ἱκανόςc ‘adequate,’ 75.2) to cause someone or something to be adequate for something — ‘to make sufficient, to make adequate, to cause to be qualified.’ ὃς καὶ ἱκάνωσεν ἡμᾶς διακόνους καινῆς διαθήκης ‘who makes us adequate to be servants of the new covenant’ 2Cor 3:6.8

  • to cause to be adequate, make sufficient, qualify (perh. shading into the sense empower, authorize [PTebt 20, 8]) w. double acc. someone for someth. 2 Cor 3:6.9

When we read this verse in context in the HCSB we can understand it properly. But it does leave the door open for understanding the Father as an “enabler” too.

John 6:65 and Luke 1:74
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(John 6:65 ESV) “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”” (John 6:65 NIV11-GK) “He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”” (John 6:65 HCSB) “He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”” (John 6:65 GNT-T) “καὶ ἔλεγεν· διὰ τοῦτο εἴρηκα ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ δεδομένον αὐτῷ ἐκ τοῦ πατρός.”
(Luke 1:74 ESV) “that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,” (Luke 1:74 NIV11-GK) “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear” (Luke 1:74 HCSB) “since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear” (Luke 1:74 GNT-T) “ἀφόβως ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντας λατρεύειν αὐτῷ”

In John 6:65 and Luke 1:74 we bump into the same issue. Thankfully the HCSB does not become the enabler for unneeded, added words. They translate δεδομένον properly, “granted” (in Jn. 6:65). The enabler for unneeded words in these verses is the NIV. Even though the point of this paper isn’t to hold the NIV under the microscope I think it’s good to highlight the NIV in this verse. For when I looked into HCSB I found that if it took away with one hand it usually gave with the other. The HCSB adds “enable” to Philippians 2 but (thankfully) omits it from John 6:65 and Luke 1:74.

Baptism Passages in the HCSB

Now finally we are at the last question. Can a bible whose publishing house is owned by the SBC be faithful to the passages which speak of baptism? In the HCSB is baptism an ordinance we perform for God? Or is it a saving, gracious gift he gives to us? Consider the following passages.

Acts 2:38
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Acts 2:38 ESV) “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NIV11-GK) “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 HCSB) ““Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 GNT-T) “Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· μετανοήσατε, [φησίν,] καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος.”

I don’t think we would find anything objectionable in the translation of Acts 2:38 . There still is that clear telic use of εἰς. Peter invites the many people gathered there on Pentecost to repent and be baptized. For through both we receive the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 22:16
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Acts 22:16 ESV) “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:16 NIV11-GK) “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:16 HCSB) “And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’” (Acts 22:16 GNT-T) “καὶ νῦν τί μέλλεις; ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.”

Here in Acts 22:16 we see the HCSB go a little astray. Exegetically, it is possible to translate this aorist middle participle, ἐπικαλεσάμενος as a cicumstantial, means participle. But based on all the passages listed above it is clear that we are unable to “call on the name of the Lord” before we have faith. Instead, we call on the name of the Lord after we have faith. For faith comes through hearing the message (Rom. 10:17), not by our effort of asking or choosing. The ESV and NIV are better in this verse than the HCSB.

Ephesians 5:25–26
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Ephesians 5:25–26 ESV) “25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Ephesians 5:25–26 NIV11-GK) “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” (Ephesians 5:25–26 HCSB) “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.” (Ephesians 5:25–26 GNT-T) “ Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς, ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι,”

In Ephesians 5 the HCSB does fine job of translating the words which show the extent of Christ’s love for his bride, the church. Water and word still cleanse Christ’s church from her sin.

1 Peter 3:21
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(1 Peter 3:21 ESV) “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21 NIV11-GK) “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 3:21 HCSB) “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21 GNT-T) “ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι᾿ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,”

In this verse from 1 Peter 3:21, the HCSB still allows baptism to save from sin. What more is there to say about this verse?

Matthew 28:19–20
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(Matthew 28:19–20 ESV) “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20 NIV11-GK) “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20 HCSB) “19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20 GNT-T) πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.

These words are clear in the HCSB. How does the church “make disciples?” We teach and baptize. This verse introduces us however to a strange trait of the HCSB. If there’s false teaching to be openly seen you’ll usually find it in the footnote. Many times the footnotes are good. Sometimes I had no idea what the footnote was tangibly adding to the context. But in this verse I question the addition of this footnote at all. In Matthew 28:19 we are directed to Acts: (Acts 8:16 HCSB) “For He had not yet come down on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What is the point of this footnote? It either is a complete nonsequitur or it was put there to nudge people into thinking that baptism has no value unless/until we first make our decision for Jesus. For these people were “only” baptized.

So also the text of Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3 and Matthew 3:11 is is fine. However in the footnotes we read:

  • Mark 1:4: d 1:4 Or a baptism based on repentance

  • Luke 3:3 b 3:3 Or baptism based on repentance

  • Matthew 3:11: b 3:11 Baptism was the means by which repentance was expressed publicly.

The HCSB has many, many footnotes. And if the proverb is true: (Proverbs 10:19 NIV) “When words are many, sin is not absent,” then, I suppose, the same is true with footnotes. But, let’s also be balanced when we look at the HCSB and compare apples to apples. Each of the other versions has issues with footnotes too. The NIV translates Psalm 45:6 in these words: (Psalms 45:6 NIV11-GK) “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” But look at the footnote to verse 6: a 6 Here the king is addressed as God’s representative.” So also, the ESV has its creative footnotes too. Consider their translation of Romans 9:22: (Romans 9:22 ESV) “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” But look what the footnote says: f [Prov. 16:4; 1 Pet. 2:8].” The ESV translates these two passages in this way:

  • (Proverbs 16:4 ESV) “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

  • (1 Peter 2:8 ESV) “and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

If you find yourself at home with the Calvinist doctrine of Reprobation, then you’ll find yourself at home with the ESV translation of these verses. Notice what the ESV does. In order to understand their translation of Romans 9:22, they invite you to look at passages which they translated with a Calvinistic understanding.

I give these examples not so that I can tear down either the ESV or the NIV. I cite these examples so that if you lament some of the misleading footnotes in the HCSB (as I do) you’ll realize that the other two versions don’t do any better.

A practical solution to this would be to produce our own Lutheran Study Bible. It would be impractical for us to produce our own study bible using the ESV since we would go into direct competition with the LCMS study bible. And it would be financially unfeasible to go with Biblica, since they would charge us more than the other translations to use the NIV-11 text in our own study bible. This then leaves us with the HCSB. If we produce a study bible with the HCSB it would be economically approachable. And we wouldn’t be going head-to-head with the LCMS study bible.

The Lord’s Supper

1 Cor 10:16-17
ESV NIV-11 HCSB Original
(1 Corinthians 10:16–17 ESV) “16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 NIV11-GK) “16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 HCSB) “16 The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for all of us share that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17 GNT-T) “ Τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν; ὅτι εἷς ἄρτος, ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν, οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν.”

1 Cor 10:16-17 draws us into a very important discussion. Werner Elert pours out this eloquent paragraph showing us Luther’s understanding of these words:

Of all that the Bible says about the Sacrament, 1 Cor. 10:16 made the deepest impression on Luther. “I have extolled this next and do extol it as the joy and crown of my heart.” But the words of Christ, “This is My body,” meant even more. There may be no disputing about these words. This was the conviction that prompted him that moment in Marburg. They are not words about the Sacrament. They are not words of Scripture like other words of Scripture. They may not be subjected to exegetical discourses as the words of John or Paul may. They are the creative words of Christ Himself. They are without analogy and are therefore not to be explained by means of other examples. They do not describe the Sacrament; they constitute it. They speak personally to each communicant. They claim faith, and yet unbelief cannot frustrate them.10

We treat these words in 1 Cor 10:16 very carefully. For it might be very easy for us to miscommunicate what these words are saying. So what then does κοινωνία … τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ mean? In the Lord’s Supper we receive and share in Jesus body and blood along with the bread and wine. It is not a picture of Jesus body and blood that we are receiving. We have what the words promise, Jesus’ body and blood and all the forgiveness which comes through them. So also, our faith does not cause the sacrament. God’s word does. So then, what word in english would you use to translate these thoughts? Which english word best comprises the meaning of κοινωνία?:

  • communion

  • fellowship

  • sharing

  • participation

In all of the versions cited above we can teach the proper doctrine about the Lord’s Supper correctly. But which word best fits that word, κοινωνία? Communion would work fine if we could thoroughly teach the ‘joining together into one’ meaning of the word.11 Fellowship in modern english seems to cover more of the social aspect of the Lord’s Supper than the sacramental part of it. Sharing does a decent job of getting the point across. We share in Jesus body and blood. Probably the wimpiest rendering of the word is ‘participation.’ It suggests only the loosest, most abstract connection. But even after all this and all my suggestions the question still remains, which english word best fits? I prefer the ‘sharing’ wording of the HCSB, since it suggests a closer connection than ‘participation.’ But, even in saying this, I can’t say that the ESV and NIV scream heresy with the word, participation.

Individual Passages

What follows here is some notes I have taken as I’ve read through the HCSB. There isn’t any logical cohesion from one passage to another. They are just simply observations I have made as I’ve read through the HCSB. I’m providing them so that the guys reading through the HCSB could compare their notes to mine. I’m dividing the passages into three categories:

  1. The Good: These are translations of passages which are clear and possibly even preferable to the ESV and NIV.

  2. The Bad: These are passages which are weak mostly due to lack of clarity.

  3. The Ugly: These are passages which are ugly—but deliberately so. The translators deliberately let the graphic language of the original come through to the receptor language.

The Good

(Genesis 4:9 HCSB) “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s guardian?””

  • “guardian.” We are familiar with “keeper.” But if we were reading Genesis for the first time would that word make sense?

Genesis 6:3 HCSB) “And the Lord said, “My Spirit will not remain with mankind forever, because they are corrupt. Their days will be 120 years.””

  • the phrase “because they are corrupt” is far, far better than the NIV “because they are mortal.”

(Genesis 6:4 HCSB) “The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.”

  • Good translation. Power is not always a good thing. So also, fame is not always good. The “heroes” of the NIV goes a little beyond what the words can bear. The ESV (and ironically, the NIV too) shows its lack of clarity with words like “renown”, as if any highschooler would understand that word. The ‘register’ here is far above what Moses uses.

(Genesis 6:9 HCSB) “These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God.”

  • A good translation for תּוֹלְדֹת. “Account” doesn’t help us. “Generations” is too abstract. “Family records” actually hints at what this word means: the next chapter speaking about what happened in noah’s time, but especially after his time.

(Genesis 6:12–13 HCSB) “12 God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth. 13 Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth.”

  • Every “flesh” is corrupt. Therefore every “flesh” is going to be destroyed. The HCSB extends “flesh” to the animal kingdom as well as humans. Good.

(Genesis 24:59 HCSB) “So they sent away their sister Rebekah with the one who had nursed and raised her, and Abraham’s servant and his men.”

  • Good translation of “wet nurse.” it was the one who was Rebekekah’s wet-nurse

(Genesis 31:36 HCSB) “Then Jacob became incensed and brought charges against Laban. “What is my crime?” he said to Laban. “What is my sin, that you have pursued me?”

  • “brought charges” is good here. The NIV11’s “took him to task” does not resonate with modern readers.12

(Exodus 7:11 HCSB) “But then Pharaoh called the wise men and sorcerers—the magicians of Egypt, and they also did the same thing by their occult practices.”

  • “occult” is better than “secret arts” (NIV and ESV).

(Exodus 12:38 HCSB) “An ethnically diverse crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds.”

  • “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38 ESV); “Many other people” (Exodus 12:38 NIV11) The HCSB’s “ethnically diverse” is an accurate translation—not as functional as the NIV11 or as literal as the ESV.

(Exodus 13:9 HCSB) “Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the Lord’s instruction may be in your mouth; for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand.”

  • “instruction” is better than the “law” translation.13

(Exodus 23:7 HCSB) “Stay far away from a false accusation. Do not kill the innocent and the just, because I will not justify the guilty.”

  • The bullet note for the word ‘guilt’ is this: The liability to be punished for a fault, a sin, an act, or an omission unless there is forgiveness or atonement; the term normally concerns an objective fact, not a subjective feeling. A good bullet note!!

(Exodus 32:4 HCSB) “He took the gold from their hands, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!””

  • Good translation here. The plural “gods” here is a plural of abstraction. So, “god” is the appropriate translation. OT isagogics notes: “Come, make us a god” (אֱלֹהִים) is a preferable translation. In Hebrew abstractions are in the plural. Moses’ delay was a test. Israel failed to meet this test.

(Judges 5:8 HCSB) “Israel chose new gods, then war was in the gates. Not a shield or spear was seen among 40,000 in Israel.”

  • “Gods” is correct. The word here is “אֱלֹהִים.“ Though “leaders” is a possible translation (NIV), considering the context in Judges, why would one stray from the normal understanding (gods)?

(Judges 13:18 HCSB) ““Why do you ask My name,” the Angel of the Lord asked him, “since it is wonderful.””

  • OT isagogics notes: The angel of the Lord also appears to Manoah, Samson’s father, renewing the promise of a son. When asked for his name, the angel says: “Truly it is WONDERFUL” (The NIV “beyond understanding” doesn’t quite catch the meaning).

(Judges 14:7 HCSB) “Then he went and spoke to the woman, because Samson wanted her.”

  • in this verse and in vs. 3 the footnote points out that that the literal wording is “in his eyes” in keeping with the theme of the book—nice!

(Judges 14:18 HCSB) “On the seventh day, before sunset, the men of the city said to him: What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion? So he said to them: If you hadn’t plowed with my young cow, you wouldn’t know my riddle now!”

  • They play a little loose with the words to keep the rhyming scheme. These are one of the few times in Hebrew when these words rhyme. It’s nice to see that they went to the extra effort to make them rhyme in english.

(Judges 15:8 HCSB) “He tore them limb from limb with a great slaughter, and he went down and stayed in the cave at the rock of Etam.”

  • This is a good example of the optimal equivalence. “limb from limb” we can understand. The ESV rendering is just plain weird: “And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow,” (Judges 15:8 ESV)

(2 Kings 2:23 HCSB) “From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, “Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!””

  • OT Isagogics Notes:

    • Calling down a curse in the Lord’s name upon the 42 youths of Bethel who mock him. Some people seem to be offended by the severity of judgment in this case. We remember, however, several things in this connection:

      • This occurred in Bethel, a seat of idolatry as well as the location of a prophetic school.

      • Those mauled by bears were not “little children,” as some translations indicate, but young men

      • 14

      • The words of mockery (“Go on up, you baldhead!”) not only mocked Elisha as a person, but everything for which he stood.15

(2 Kings 18:19 HCSB) “Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Tell Hezekiah this is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: ‘What are you relying on?”

  • OT Isagogics notes:

Having subdued Babylon for the time being, Sennacherib turned on Judah, made Hezekiah tributary, captured some of its key cities, established headquarters in Lachish in an expedition against Egypt, and sent his commander Rabshakeh (tr. “field commander” in NIV, 2 Kgs 18:17, 37) on the siege of Jerusalem reported in 2 Kgs 18 and 19 and Isaiah 36 and 37

  • Tyndale OT Commentary:

The participants in the parley for surrender were Assyrian high officials: (i) the supreme commander (Heb. tartān; Akkad. turtan, cf. Isa. 20:1 (NRSV), ‘commander in chief); (ii) the Rab-saris (rab sārîs) may be the chief of the royal close advisors (Akkad. rab ša rēši) a chief officer (cf. REB); (iii) the rab-šāqē (NRSV ‘Rabshekah’, probably not the field commander) was the title held by an Assyrian provincial governor. This was a powerful team to confront Judah’s own high-ranking officials.16

(John 1:16 HCSB) “Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness,”

  • The “grace after grace” translation is simpler and better than the NIV: “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16 NIV11)

(John 1:19 HCSB) “This is John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?””

  • Keeping the translation just “jews” is good. The NIV goes a little too far with “Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.” (John 1:19 NIV11) Footnote: a 19 The Greek term traditionally translated the Jews (hoi Ioudaioi) refers here and elsewhere in John’s Gospel to those Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus;

(John 3:20 HCSB) “For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.”

  • “practices” is at least an attempt to get at the continual nature of πράσσω.

(John 4:14 HCSB) “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.””

  • The “again—ever” is a good translation of the strong future negation.

(John 8:24 HCSB) “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.””

  • The “I Am He” is much better than the NIV-84 “[the one I claimed to be].” The ESV, NIV11, and HCSB have “that I am He.” The HCSB is the only one with a decent footnote: Jesus claimed to be deity, but the Pharisees didn’t understand His meaning. (the NET has the fullest footnote)

(John 11:33 HCSB) “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.”

  • “angry” is a better translation here than “moved (NIV).” Cf. the following passages with ἐμβριμάομαι in them:

    • (Matthew 9:30 HCSB) “And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus warned them sternly, “Be sure that no one finds out!””

    • (Mark 1:43 HCSB) “Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once,”

    • (Mark 14:5 HCSB) “For this oil might have been sold for more than 300 denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.”

    • (John 11:33 HCSB) “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.”

    • (John 11:38 HCSB) “Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.”

(Ephesians 5:21 HCSB) “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.”

  • They do a really good job here, placing vs. 21 with the preceding context (be filled with the Spirit, with examples following.) Notice how the NIV11 hedges its bets by separating the verse both from the preceding and the following.

(Ephesians 6:4 HCSB) “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

“stir up anger” is good. It’s a little better to understand than “exasperate.”17

(Philippians 3:19 HCSB) “Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things,”

  • Their “end” simply states the facts. Here the NIV11 goes a little farther than the text: “Their destiny is destruction” (Philippians 3:19 NIV11)

(1 Thessalonians 2:1 HCSB) “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our visit with you was not without result.”

  • The “not without result” is better than the “in vain” of the ESV and NIV-84. cf. Zell’s brief in the quarterly.

(1 Thessalonians 2:16 HCSB) “hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. As a result, they are always completing the number of their sins, and wrath has overtaken them at last.”

  • “completing” is good here. It takes us back to the seven woes of Jesus in the gospels.

(1 Thessalonians 5:5 HCSB) “For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.”

  • a good example where the HCSB shows its translation philosophy. It doesn’t take the “children” translation of the NIV and lose the status language of Gal 3. But it does translate the genitives of possession, which the ESV refuses to do. (though note that the ESV is quite inconsistent. It uses “of the day” language here, but then goes with “belong to” in 1 Thess. 5:8)

(1 Timothy 1:12 HCSB) “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry—”

“θέμενος εἰς διακονίαν” Here the HCSB is better than the NIV11. It’s not just generic ministry God is appointing him to–it’s the office of the public ministry.

(1 Timothy 6:5 HCSB) “and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” Footnote: Other mss add From such people withdraw yourself.

  • Good footnote noting that there are manuscripts which include the variant. (N.B. neither the ESV nor the NIV include the option to include it in a footnote). Textual evidence:

    • Exclude:
      • א
      • A
      • D*18

      • 04819

      • Copt.

    • Include:
      • D2–20

      • M
      • vgmss
      • sy
      • Cypian
      • Lucifer
      • Ambrosiaster

  • There are no mass numbers of witnesses on either side. Metzger isn’t helpful here since his logic is self-refuting.21For there are many lacunæ in many witnesses, but that doesn’t detract from their validity in what they do attest to. Comfort concludes that it was a scribal error that was incorporated into other documents. And I suppose that’s possible. But it’s difficult for me to conclude the same since this ‘mistake’ is included in texts from Gaul to syria. For more commentary on this verse read Prof. Brug’s article in the last quarterly.

(2 Timothy 1:9 HCSB) “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

  • “with” a holy calling is better here.22

(2 Timothy 1:11 NA27-T) “εἰς ὃ ἐτέθην ἐγὼ κῆρυξ καὶ ἀπόστολος καὶ διδάσκαλος,” (2 Timothy 1:11 HCSB) “For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher,”

  • The “for” is much better than the “of” in the NIV11.

(2 Timothy 1:12 HCSB) “and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”

  • “entrusted to me” is better (than the NIV11). Whether the deposit is faith or ordination here, in both cases, it’s what God has given to him, not vice versa. Though in the footnote HCSB does give the NIV rendering.

(2 Timothy 4:8 HCSB) “There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”

  • “loved his appearing” is clearer and better than the “longing” of the NIV11

(Titus 2:11 HCSB) “For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people,”

  • σωτήριος” means “bringing salvation.” The “offering” salvation of NIV11 is weak. The “bringing” salvation of the ESV is preferred. The “with” salvation of the HCSB is in the middle ground.

(James 3:2 HCSB) “for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.”

  • “Mature man” here is better than the “perfect” person in the NIV. The idea is that if we keep our mouth in check, we can keep our bodies in check. This context also flows into the next verse. (however, see the weakness in the “faith was perfected” translation in the HCSB in vs. 22)

(James 1:17 HCSB) “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”

  • The HCSB is better both in the beginning of the verse (good giving and complete gift) and at the end of the verse (Father of lights). The NIV goes in a strange direction with “heavenly lights.”

(Hebrews 12:17 HCSB) “For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.”

  • Good: the HCSB keeps “repent” in the text (the NIV11 reads “change mind.” The ESV goes too functional, reading “chance.” The HCSB reads “opportunity.”

(1 Peter 3:15 HCSB) “but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

  • Defense” is closer to the ἀπολογίαν in the greek.

(1 Peter 3:18–19 HCSB) “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison”

  • “suffered” is better than the “died” in the NIV-84. However, it is changed to “suffered” in the NIV-11. “Fleshly realm” and “spiritual realm” is a strange choice. However “in that state” would fit very well understanding this as a comparison of Christ’s state of humiliation and exaltation.23

(1 John 5:4 HCSB) “because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.”

  • Our victory over the world is our faith in Christ. One wonders what the NIV is getting at with the inclusion of “even our faith” in this verse.

The Bad

(Genesis 16:9 HCSB) “Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.””

  • submitting, yes. Submitting to mistreatment, no.

(Joshua 3:10 HCSB) “He said: “You will know that the living God is among you and that He will certainly dispossess before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites”

  • “dispossess” is a pretty literal, unpolished translation. Even the ESV is better here (“And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you” (Joshua 3:10 ESV))

(2 Kings 14:26 HCSB) “For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter. There was no one to help Israel, neither bond nor free.”

  • What does “bond” mean? “Slave” is better here.

(Luke 17:20–21 HCSB) “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God will come, He answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.””

  • significantly weaker in the HCSB than in the NIV-84!!! Though, interestingly, the NIV11 has: ““because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21 NIV11-GK)” So also, the ESV: ““the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”” (Luke 17:21 ESV)”

(John 3:5 HCSB) “Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

  • Here the verse is ok. But the footnote is bad: b 3:5 Or spirit, or wind; the Gk word pneuma can mean wind, spirit, or Spirit, each of which occurs in this context.

(John 7:39 HCSB) “He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

  • “received” is not in the text. The “given” of the NIV is better. The H.S. had not yet been sent. the footnote is strange: e 7:39 Lit the Spirit was not yet; the word received is implied from the previous clause.

(John 14:1 HCSB) ““Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.”

  • This is a gospel-based command, not a law-based one. Jesus is not being heavy-handed here. He is speaking words of gospel comfort. Bad translation. This is a common trait of the HCSB. There are numerous examples where the imperative is an urging flowing from the gospel which comes through as a guilt-ridden command.

(John 14:27 HCSB) ““Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”

  • cf. previous note

(John 18:36 HCSB) “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here”

  • This passage can be understood correctly. But the last phrase leaves room for millennialism. It leaves room to conclude that even though it’s origin isn’t here, but Jesus is more than happy to set up shop here for a thousand years.

(Acts 22:16 HCSB) “And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’”

  • bad rendering here!!!

(Galatians 2:4 HCSB) “This issue arose because of false brothers smuggled in, who came in secretly to spy on the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us.”

  • “smuggled in.” What did they smuggle in? Themselves, guns, drugs? weird.

(Galatians 2:18 HCSB) “If I rebuild the system I tore down, I show myself to be a lawbreaker.”

  • over-translation here. “system” is not in the greek.

(Galatians 3:2 HCSB) “I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?”

  • “hearing with faith” is weird. They do walk through options though in the footnotes (a 3:2 Lit by law works or faith hearing or hearing the message). Options we prefer: 1) hearing which lead to faith. 2) hearing the faith (gospel)

(Galatians 3:3 HCSB) “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?”

  • There is parallelism here. They (active) began by the Spirit. The accompaniment idea (with) weakens this. “now are you going to reach the goal by means of the flesh?” The passive translation here makes it seem like they were what was being completed. The point is the course of their life is what is going to be brought to the finish line by the Holy Spirit.

(Galatians 3:5 HCSB) “So then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?”

  • cf. Gal. 3:2 “ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως

(Galatians 3:7–9 HCSB) “then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

  • 1) “ἐκ πίστεως” should be translated “justified by faith” as in 2:16 and 3:8, not “have faith.”

(Galatians 5:25 HCSB) “Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.”

  • στοιχῶμεν is a hortatory subjunctive. Instead of the more common “let us”, the HCSB goes with “must,” giving it more of a law shading than an encouragement and invitation.

(Ephesians 4:21 HCSB) “assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus.”

  • strange translation of the verse. “assuming” doesn’t fit with the “ει γε.” Likewise “because” doesn’t fit with the “καθως.” Paul here isn’t doubting their faith. Instead, he’s relying on it.

(Philippians 3:11 HCSB) “assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.”

  • εἴ πως here is not a statement of doubt. It’s a statement of expectation.24

(Philippians 3:12 HCSB) “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.”

  • τετελείωμαι: not “mature” but rather “arrived at goal, completed.”

(2 Thessalonians 2:9–10 HCSB) “The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved.”

  • “False Miracles” is not our preferred translation. The NIV-11 gets it right: “that serve the lie.” So also, vs. 10 is a little weak. The “and so be saved” of the NIV11 and ESV is better than the “in order to be saved” in the HCSB.

(Titus 3:14 HCSB) “And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that they will not be unfruitful.”

  • μανθανέτωσαν” here is just an imperative. It’s an urgent invitation addressed to the new man inside of us. giving it such a law emphasis (must) is misleading.

(James 2:22 HCSB) “You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.”

  • The NIV11 here has “was made complete.” Good works don’t make our faith perfect. They do, however, keep it on track so that it reaches the goal.

(1 Peter 3:10–11 HCSB) “For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it,”

  • All these 3rd person imperatives are changed into “musts”

(2 Peter 3:15 HCSB) “Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him.”

  • καὶ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν μακροθυμίαν σωτηρίαν ἡγεῖσθε”: Not “regard…as an opportunity.” But, “regard patience as salvation.” It’s not an opportunity, it’s a fact here. This rendering might hint at an Arminian interpretation: “God’s patience is an opportunity for your salvation…if……”

The Ugly

(Galatians 5:12 HCSB) “I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!”

  • “castrated” is quite clear.

(1 Samuel 15:33 HCSB) “Samuel declared: As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women. Then he hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal.”

  • Very literal and not “disney-ized.” (cf. NIV: “And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:33 NIV11))

(1 Samuel 25:22 HCSB) “May God punish me and do so severely if I let any of his men survive until morning.”” (1 Samuel 25:34 HCSB) “Otherwise, as surely as the Lord God of Israel lives, who prevented me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, Nabal wouldn’t have had any men left by morning light.””

  • Footnote: Lit of those of his who are urinating against the wall. All the english versions translate as “men.” The HCSB however is the only one which includes the accurate footnote.

(1 Samuel 2:8 HCSB) “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the garbage pile. He seats them with noblemen and gives them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; He has set the world on them.”

  • “Garbage pile” is more accurate (especially more so than “ash heap”)

(Judges 5:30 HCSB) ““Are they not finding and dividing the spoil— a girl or two for each warrior, the spoil of colored garments for Sisera, the spoil of an embroidered garment or two for my neck?””

  • Here all the english versions fail. In Deborah’s song she paints us a picture of these repulsive princesses who respond to Sisera’s mother when she wonders why he’s taking so long to get home by comforting her with the thought that the men, no doubt, not only have one girl to rape, but two. That must be what is taking them so long to get home. The ESV does the best job bringing home this thought with the word, womb. But, as usual, the ESV buries clarity in archaic language. For who would be able on their own to conclude that wombs here means vaginas? A difficult verse indeed. All of the english versions wimp out here.25

(1 Kings 18:27 HCSB) “At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!””

  • footnote: a 18:27 Or has turned aside; possibly to relieve himself


I have read most of the HCSB. And I now prefer it to the other two versions. It has weaknesses. But which of these versions doesn’t? To me the HCSB is the Goldilocks solution. I agree with David Bivens that the NIV stretches too much in its use of inclusive language. And I have reservations about recommending the ESV due to its Calvinist-leaning passages, translation philosophy and archaic language (cf. my previous paper.) The HCSB seems to be neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right.

I have not found any sizable proof that the HCSB has either baptistic or dispensational tendencies (though I am eager to see what you men find in your own reading). And it gives me comfort to know the translation oversight committee of the HCSB is small and has two confessional lutherans on it. Evidently, the translation oversight committees of the ESV and NIV don’t have any Lutherans in them. Finally, I think that if our synod would approve the HCSB for use (preferred use?) at NPH it would give us the opportunity to publish our own study bible at a decent cost and not in competition with the LCMS study bible.

1 http://www.wels.net/news-events/study-three-bible-translations-planned

2 For all the examples of βρέφος in the NT cf. Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44; Luke 2:12; Luke 2:16; Luke 18:15; Acts 7:19; 2Tim. 3:15; 1Pet. 2:2

3 νήπιος L\ N, 110.

4νήπιος,” BDAG, 671.

5 “θηλάζω,” L\ N, 249.

6θηλάζω,” BDAG, 455.

7 Bente, Historical Introductions, §162

8ἱκανόω,” L\ N, 679.

9ἱκανόω,” BDAG, 473.

10 Elert, Werner. Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries. p. 16

11 communion = cum + unio

12 —2. in situations before they have become legal problems (THAT 2:774): to strive, quarrel with Gn 3136 “ריב,” HALOT, 3:1224.

13 cf. OT Isagogics notes.

14 However, I have a marginal note saying that Professor Brug thinks they could have definitely been little children.

15 “Go up” was a condescending way of speaking about Elijah’s departure from this world. The HCSB hints at it by keeping the words, “go up!”

16 Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC 9; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 294.

17 make angry “παροργίζω,” BDAG, 780.

18 6th c., Codex Claromontanus, a reinked Greek-Latin ms. of Pauline Epistles, located in French National Library, classified as an Aland category II text (original scribe)

19 5th century manuscript.

20 6th c., Codex Claromontanus, a reinked Greek-Latin ms. of Pauline Epistles, located in French National Library, classified as an Aland category II text (second corrector

21 “if it were present originally, no good reason can be assigned for its omission. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.” (2d, Accordance electronic ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 576.

22 cf. Habeck’s commentary.

“To” is possible here too, but “with” is better.

23 cf. Becker’s paper, “flesh-spirit antithesis

24 Cf. Robertson: (γ) Undetermined, but with Prospect of Determination. This class uses in the condition clause the mode of expectation (Erwartung), the subj. It is not determined as is true of the first and second class conditions. But the subj. mode brings the expectation within the horizon of a lively hope in spite of the cloud of hovering doubt. W. G. Hale2 considers that the subj. in this condition is due “to a fusion of volitive subj. and the anticipatory subj.” Monro3 thinks it is the quasi-imperative sense (volitive subj.). He argues that the use of μή with the subj. (cf. prohibitions) proves this. But Moulton4 replies that “the negative μή, originally excluded from this division of the subjunctive, has trespassed here from the earliest times.” So he urges that the subj. with ἐάν (as with ὅταν) is the futuristic, not the volitive, use. The futuristic subj. in Homer may have οὐ, but usually μή with the subj. in conditions, and yet some cases of εἰ οὐ with the subj. occur in Homer when a coalesces with the verb as εἰ οὐκ ἐθέλωσιν, Iliad 3. 289, εἰ οὐκ εἰῶσιν, 20. 139. In Jer. 6:8 we still have ἥτις οὐκατοικισθῇ in B. The truth probably is that in some instances this subj. is futuristic, in others volitive or deliberative. The point is a fine one as one can readily see. Gildersleeve5 finds the [Page 1017] prevalence of the subj. in conditional (as in temporal) clauses due to the-greater exactness of the subj. here. It enables one, since it has a “tendency to realization” (Tendenz zur Wirklichkeit),1 to make a difference between the indicative and the optative conditions, though it has more affinity with the optative, except in the case of some future indicative conditions which come very close to the subj. idea. The kinship in origin and sense2 of the aorist subj. and fut. ind. makes the line a rather fine one between εἰ and the fut. ind. and ἐάν and the subj. indeed, as we sometimes have ἐαν and the fut. ind. in the first class condition, so we occasionally meet εἰ and the subj. in the third class condition. Radermacher (N. T. Gr., p. 162) notes εἰ and subj. at first as a “vulgarism,” but surely the classic usage answers that. The inscriptions have usually only ἐάν and aorist subj. he finds. But he finds also abundant instances of εἰ and subj. in κοινή and late writers. So Epictetus, II, 18, 11 εἰ μή τις ἐξαλείψῃ, Vettins, 274, 11 ἐι δέ τις λογίσηται, Hippiatr., 177, 2 εἰ προσσχῇς, Demetrius, De eloc. 21, 11 εἰ γένηται, Pausanias, II, 35, 3 εἰ — ὑδρεύωνται. So in Lu. 9:13 εἰ μήτι ἀγοράσωμεν, 1 Cor. 14:5 ἐκτὸς εἰμή δειρμηνεύῃ Ph. 3:12 εἰ καταλάβω (possibly also εἴ πως καταντήσω in verse 11), Rev. 11:5 εἴ τις θελήσῃ (text of W. H., but margin θέλει or θελήσει). In Ro. 11:14, εἴ πως παραζηλώσω καὶ σώσω, we may also have the aorist subj. (A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Accordance electronic ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), 1016.) So also Cf. BDF: §375 Εἰ is used in expressions of expectation which accompany the action like classical εἰ and ἐάν = Latin si (forte). It exhibits its relationship to the εἰ in indirect questions in that it may also be strengthened by the addition of ἄρα or ἄραγε (also with πως Acts 27:12; Romans 1:10; 11:14; Phil 3:11, which appears in the NT only after εἰ and μή) (B-D-F, p. 191)

25 dual רַחֲמָתַיִם: … Ju 530: one or two laps, a euphemism for vaginas, meaning one or two women as spoils of war, bed-mates, in vulgar conversation of soldiers; cf. J. Gray Joshua, Judges and Ruth 293: an allusion to the fate of captured maidens as concubines. † (“רַחֲמָה,” HALOT, 3:1218.)

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