Another entry in the every-growing alphabet-soup of Bible translations the “CSB” or Christian Standard Bible, an update of the HCSB, and as always reviewed using our 3 Steps to Choosing a Bible Translation.
For those desiring an introduction to translation issues, see our Primer on Bible Translation.
1. Translator Methods
From about the CSB page they state:
The CSB was created using optimal equivalence, a translation philosophy that pursues both linguistic precision to the original languages and readability in contemporary English.
Somewhat normal marketing-speak for “we’re the best.” The problem is … all translations have problems (yes, even the KJV) and involve compromises. Stating precision to original text while rendering in modern English remains difficult at best (if not impossible) — one or the other will more likely be favored.
The CSB uses the Alexandrian line:
The textual base for the New Testament is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 5th corrected edition. The text for the Old Testament is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th edition.
As an update to the HCSB, it’s not surprising as HCSB used Nestle-Aland 27th edition, and UBS 4th edition; CSB simply uses newer versions of what the HCSB team used.
As a side note, the Greek Text forming the basis for “modern” translations has been edited 27 times. 27 times!
2. Missing Verses
It surprises people to discover verses have been removed from their Bible. Yes “scholars” took the original text and removed phrases and even entire verses.
- (Matthew 18:11 NKJV) For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
- (Matthew 18:11 CSB) DELETED (FOOTNOTE: “Some mss include v. 11: ‘For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.”)
Verse 11 is has been removed from the CSB text, but a footnote declares the verse editors decided to remove. On BibleGateway searching for “Matthew 18:11” simply displays “No results found” (as of July 2022 archive link).
Some translations leave the verse in the text, but footnote it saying something like “the oldest manuscripts don’t have this verse.” Other translations simply skip from verse 10 to verse 12, and if the reader isn’t paying close attention has no idea translators made an editorial decision to remove text from the Bible.
- (Revelation 11:17 NKJV) saying: We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
- (Revelation 11:17 CSB) saying, We give you thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. (FOOTNOTE: Other mss add ‘and who is to come’)
CSB and the textual base it comes from removes the phrase “who is to come.” CSB appears to follow the Alexandrian textual line a bit more than its predecessor HCSB.
- Matthew 25:13 (KJV) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
- Matthew 25:13 (CSB) “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour. (FOOTNOTE: Other mss add ‘in which the Son of Man is coming’)
Watching if you don’t know what time it is makes no sense at all — in this case it’s not a question of which Greek text proves superior, it’s an obvious edit of God’s Word rendering the text illogical.
Hey guys, watch the time, as you don’t want to miss the church BBQ!
This is a sad following of the Alexandrian line — would someone tell you to keep watch because you don’t know what time it is? That makes no sense at all.
3. Check Cornerstone Verses
2 Timothy 2:15 remains a cornerstone verse, revealing much about how a translation views its job. Is it literal, or more of a paraphrase? Wordy, or concise? Consider how various translations handle this verse:
- KJV — Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
- NASB — Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
- NIV — Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
- HCSB — Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.
- CSB — Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.
“Be diligent” is fairly good translation — much preferred over “do your best”, or “work hard”.
“Correctly teaching” isn’t quite right, it’s correctly handling (or rightly dividing). Teaching might imply this verse applies only to pastors, but it’s meant for everyone as you must study the Bible yourself, and rightly dividing conveys the precision intended.
Strangely, for the CSB claiming to be precise to original text but with modern usage, changing HCSB’s “present yourself approved to God” to “present yourself to God as one approved” doesn’t make much sense and makes the text wordier. “As one approved” begs the question … who did the approving? Other translations are clearer — approved to God as God is the sole judge of whether your actions are acceptable or not.
By definition, revisions of versions must be different (for copyright reasons if nothing else); in this case the CSB changed what was already clear in the HCSB — “approved to God” — to a less clear alternative.
Keep that in mind as you read the alphabet soup translations and their many revisions (NASB, NASB95, NASB2020, NIV, NIV1984, NIV2011, TNIV, RSV, NRSV, etc)
It appears the CSB as a revision of the HCSB follows the inferior Alexandrian textual line more than the original HCSB did, so can’t be viewed as an improvement.
CSB also appears to join the trendy update wagon, from their FAQ page:
The CSB translation committee made several improvements to the 2017 edition of the CSB in January 2020. The improvements to the CSB total less than 1% change of the text.
They later state no plans to “regularly” update the text, but within its first three years, 1% of the text has changed. If you bought it when it came out, wore out your Bible and bought a new one, the new CSB you bought won’t match the old, or perhaps future, version.
For years we’ve recommended the KJV/NKJV for serious study, and for a paraphrase a New Living as the “modern language” style. We frequently start new Christians with the NLT, and then move them to the KJV/NKJV for serious study.
For decades teams have desired to “improve” the venerated KJV but always fail. The NKJV remains the best choice if someone doesn’t like ye Olde English thee’s and thou’s (though those have a very important purpose as it turns out).
Nothing in the CSB places it above the KJV/NKJV, and in some ways steps back from the HCSB it’s founded on.
The CSB joins the soup of “modern” translations constantly churning new versions depending on what doctrine or position they desire to emphasize. For example, one review of the CSB noted:
In conclusion, the CSB makes some improvements over its ancestor, the HCSB (and over the English Standard Version as well), in its translation of gender language. In contrast, the various texts which tend to form and bolster a person’s view of women in Christian leadership tend strongly toward complementarian views. Evangelical egalitarians will thus continue to prefer translations such as the NRSV, NLT, TNIV, NIV 2011, and CEB.
So people holding certain doctrine might favor one translation over another if the translators emphasize “their” doctrine. Why isn’t simply the most literal translation acceptable? We’re left with alphabet-soup: NASB, NASB95, NASB2020, NIV, TNIV, NIV2011, RSV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB, CSB … ad nauseam.
The reviewer noted the truth — modern translations can begin with preconceived ideas (read the introductions, generally something like goals of the translation or philosophy) and then likely allow those ideas to seep into the text. As the reviewer notes, people holding certain doctrinal positions can prefer certain translations as those translations have bent to certain positions, instead of attempting to maintain as clear and literal translation as possible.
The CSB isn’t horrible, but simply not near the reigning champ KJV.
Remain with the simple two-step Bible translation summary:
- Use the KJV/NKJV for primary study.
- Consider the New Living Translation (NLT) for situations preferring more modern language.