For many years Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni has used the Holman Christian Standard Bible for the public reading of Scripture and church communication. In 2017 a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible called the Christian Standard Bible was released and distribution of the Holman Christian Standard Bible was discontinued.

This has motivated the elders of Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni to reconsider and evaluate the various English Bible translation options available with the intention of guiding our people and selecting an appropriate translation for the public reading of Scripture and church communication.

This article briefly explains why there are different English translations, describes the translations under consideration, lists the criteria we used to evaluate the translations, commends to you the top contenders and explains why we chose the Christian Standard Bible for ourselves.

Why so many Translations?

There are three primary reasons for the different English Bible translations, and a forth for the cynical:

  1. Language changes: Because the meaning of English words change over time it becomes necessary to update the translation to retain integrity to the original intent.
  2. Translation methods: Different translations have different approaches for how to best render the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English. Some Bible versions translate as literally as possible (word-for-word). Some Bible versions translate dynamically where possible (thought-for-thought).
  3. Source Text: There are two primary Greek texts which translators use. The first is the Textus Receptus which was compiled by Erasmus in the 1500s and forms the basis behind the King James Version and New King James Version. The second uses the eclectic method, considering external and internal evidences for determining the most likely original text, and most other Bible translations use it.
  4. Revenue

What are the English options?

According to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) Bible Translations Bestsellers, June 2018 are (and having tracked them for about a year there is some stability in the top 10):

  1. New International Version
  2. King James Version
  3. English Standard Version
  4. New Living Translation
  5. Christian Standard Bible
  6. New King James Version
  7. Reina Valera
  8. The Message
  9. New International Reader’s Version
  10. New American Standard Bible

English options described

  1. New International Version (NIV): The latest edition of the NIV2011 has replaced the NIV1984 which is no longer published. The NIV2011 is a “thought for thought” or “dynamic equivalence” translation rather than a “word for word” translation. NIV2011 uses gender-neutral translation rules. As such The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have stated that they could not recommend the NIV2011 because of “over 3,600 gender-related problems.”
  2. King James Version: The most read edition is the KJV1611. The KJV1611 was translated from the Textus Receptus. The KJV1611 is a deeply revered English Bible, with literal translation precision as well as a beautiful and majestic style.
  3. English Standard Version: The ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version published by Crossway with J. I. Packer as the general editor. The ESV follows a literal word-for-word translation philosophy capturing precise wording and personal style of each Bible writer, while taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. It is more literal than the NIV2011 but more fluent and colloquial than the NASB.
  4. New Living Translation: The NLT translates entire thoughts (rather than just words) into natural, everyday English. The NLT sometimes interprets rather than translates from the original language.
  5. Christian Standard Bible: The CSB is an update of the HCSB. Using original Greek (Nestle-Aland) and Hebrew texts, the CSB used optimal equivalence, seeking to combine the best features of formal equivalence (word-for-word) and dynamic equivalence (thought-for-thought). In places where a literal rendering might be unclear, a more dynamic translation is given. In a handful of instances the CSB has opted for a more gender-neutral rendering of some biblical wording (read The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood article here).
  6. New King James Version: The NKJV is a modern translation of Scripture yet retains the accuracy, purity and stylistic beauty of the KJV. The NKJV uses the Textus Receptus and is literal.
  7. Reina Valera: A Spanish translation of the Bible.
  8. The Message: The MSG was written by Eugene H. Peterson. It is not a translation but an interpretation of the text. The Message has engendered more criticism for its lack of serious scholarship and outright bizarre renderings than any other translation.
  9. New International Reader’s Version: The NirV enables early readers to understand God’s message. It is a simplification of the NIV and is the easiest-to-understand English Bible translation. By opting for understandability and simplicity the text sometimes interprets instead of translates.
  10. New American Standard Bible: The NASB evolved from the American Standard Version which was a revision of the Revised Version. The NASB focuses on fidelity, literal accuracy, grammar and terminology, especially verb tenses. The goal of the NASB is to be as literal “word-for-word” as possible. As such the English is not as smooth and free-flowing as it could be.

Evaluation of translation method

Whilst Dynamic Equivalence (thought-for-thought) is useful to encourage the reading of God’s Word amongst children and adults the danger of interpretation of words over the translation of words makes it problematic for the study of Scripture.

Whilst the Formal Equivalence (word-for-word) is useful for studying God’s Word the disadvantage is a less accessible reading experience.

Especially for adoption as a translation used in corporate worship in South Africa, where the context would included 1st, 2nd and 3rd language English speakers as well as an intergenerational community, it seems best to find a translation which captures as much of the best of both worlds as possible.

Evaluation of source texts

This section relates to a debate the elders of Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni had before preaching John 7:53-8:11. At that time we found in favour of the Eclectic Method over Textus Receptus.

The arguments, to which we concurred in the majority, against the Textus Receptus, are summarized as:

  1. All of the earliest witnesses (2nd and 3rd century) and two early papyri (2nd century) exclude the passage.
  2. Greek manuscripts exclude the passage until one manuscript in the 5th century – and then not again till the 9th!
  3. The oldest translations to Syriac, Coptic, and Bohairic versions of the Gospel, as well as from all of the Sahidic, sub-Achmimic, and Gothic manuscripts exclude the passage.
  4. Byzantine manuscripts containing the story have textual markers to indicate the spurious nature of the reading.
  5. No Greek Church Father, until Zigabenus 12th century, comments on the passage.
  6. No Early Church Father comments on the passage. Origen (died 253 AD) does not comment on the passage in his commentary, Tertullian (died 220 AD) does not mention the passage at all in his writings, John Chrysostom (died 407 AD) often cites John but not this passage, Cyril of Alexandria (died 444 AD) does not comment on the passage in his full commentary.
  7. In manuscripts where it is found (after 5th century) it is not found in the same place. Some have it at the end of John, others after John 7:36, one after 7:44, some after Luke 21:38.

The arguments in favour of the Textus Receptus, which we considered and found wanting, summarised are:

  1. The passage included in Latin texts (4th – 12th century).
  2. The passage included in the Latin Vulgate (4th century).
  3. Ambrose of Milan (4th century) asserts the passage was familiar in Christian communities.
  4. Augustine (4th century) accused scribes of deliberate emendations to the original Gospel as a result of moral objections to the passage.
  5. Jerome (5th century) commented on the passage and claimed it existed in many Greek and Latin copies.
  6. 450 later Greek manuscripts contain the text after 7:52.

Translations Grouped

Textus Receptus and Literal
  1. King James Version
  2. New King James Version
Eclectic Method and Literal
  1. New American Standard Bible
  2. English Standard Version
  3. Christian Standard Bible
Eclectic Method and Dynamic
  1. New International Version
  2. New Living Translation
  3. New International Reader’s Version
  4. The Message

The top contenders

The real options, as they fall within the literal and eclectic bands, for Crystal Park Baptist Church Benoni are the English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible and New American Standard Bible.

Each has benefits. The ESV is used by the majority of like-minded Sola 5 churches. The CSB balances readability and fidelity. The NASB maintains the closest rendering to the original languages.

Why the Christian Standard Bible

Our elders are unified on a great number of doctrines as demonstrated by our common adoption of the Sola 5 Confession of Faith. We do however come from differing backgrounds (Reformed Church, Brethren, Reformed Charismatic and Baptist). Coupled with other influences the process of identifying and adopting a single translation was not simple for us. After a lengthy period of consideration each of us was motivated by differing reasons or a mix of the following:

  1. Continuity: All of the elders felt that the Christian Standard Bible would provide the best continuity for our members following on from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
  2. Accessibility: The text is easy enough to read so as to be enjoyed.
  3. Faithfulness: God’s Word has been translated with integrity so as to be trusted.

Philosophy going forward

  1. While it is likely that our preaching will most often be from the Christian Standard Bible our elders and visiting preachers are free to choose which version (CSB, ESV, NASB or the KJV, NKJV) will be read in church prior to the sermon. They will inform the worship leader so that the public reader is aware and the correct version is loaded onto Proclaim and displayed to the congregation.
  2. The CSB will be the adopted as our default version but our elders are free to promote other versions (such as ESV, NASB or the KJV, NKJV).
  3. We also have no expectation that our members would uniformly adopt the CSB but rather recommend each member use a version (such as the CSB, ESV, NASB or the KJV, NKJV) most suited to them.
  4. We will exchange the HCSB pew Bibles with CSB pew Bibles over time.
  5. We will begin to quote from the CSB in correspondence and on our social media platforms.

Christian Standard Bible


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.