Questions, Insights, & Responses

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Q&A #160 - Holman Christian Standard Bible and other Bible versions

by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.





I am a pastoral ministry student at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. I am always interested in new versions of the Bible that are accurate but readable at the same time.

What do you know or have heard about the Holman Christian Standard Bible? I have a couple and the reading is very good and as far as I can tell literal enough to be true to the original texts. It's not a literal as ESV, which I have and like very much, but more literal than NIV.

My other question is, is there a good study Bible out there that uses any other text than NRSV? I am not a big fan of NRSV. I have the Nelson NKJV study Bible and it's ok but not what I want in a study Bible. I also have the MacArthur study Bible, King James study Bible, and a couple other Prophecy study Bibles as well as Thompson Chain Reference study Bibles. I can't seem to find one that I use all the time. I keep switching between different Bibles and versions. I have heard some like and dislike the NIV study Bible. I don't have it, what do you think about it? My university recommends the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible but then I don't really care for the NRSV.

What do you think? Your opinions are very appreciated.



It is clear that you have done your homework on Bible versions. Your conclusions and inclinations are very similar to mine. I do not own a Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version myself, but I explored the online edition at:

I am favorably impressed with my first glance at a number of passages. The HCSB's New Testament text that is not in brackets appears quite consistently to coincide with the UBS4 / NA27 Greek New Testament. All of the bracketed texts that I have examined thusfar were missing in the most reliable early Greek New Testament manuscripts, such as Mat 17:21; Mat 18:11; Mat 23:14; Mar 7:16; and Mar 9:44,46. This means that the bracketed texts were added by later copies, are not biblical, and should not be read or quoted as part of sermons or otherwise representing those particular verses..

I usually object to leaving in brackets texts that are clearly not supported by manuscript evidence, rather than footnoting them all; however, the HCSB was at least consistent in bracketing all such texts, and its translation of legitimate text seems quite good. In some verses, I believe the HCSB represents the original writers intended message better than the ESV, but that is only after a fairly cursory examination. I have ordered a copy of the HCSB to examine the Preface's description of the textual basis for the New Testament translation, but it seems quite likely that it was the definitive UBS4 / NA27 Greek New Testament.

To its credit it avoided including in the brackets texts those completely illegitimate texts or wording that entered the Textus Receptus and subsequently the KJV and NKJV as direct translations from a aberrant edition of the Latin Vulgate. and without any corresponding legitimate Greek manuscript support. Examples are below

Some KJV-only or Textus-Receptus-only people object even to the removal of these clearly spurious verses and wording; however, in Biblical Hermeneutics, Second Edition (edited by Bruce Corley, Steve W. Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, page 388), conservative biblical scholar Harold Freeman, in his chapter on "Biblical Criticism and Biblical Preaching" honestly and couragiously makes a very important point in his comments on the textual corruption of 1Jo 5:7, which appears in both the Textus Receptus and the KJV:

Textual criticism is the discipline that seeks to identify the original wording of an ancient document. Textual criticism of the Bible benefits preaching by preventing nonbiblical sermons... We regret giving up a nice doctrinal sermon on the Trinity based on 1 John 5:7b (KJV). Nevertheless, if it is determined that these are additions to the original writings, whether intentional or accidental, biblical preaching based on these texts cannot occur... Sermons based on spurious or corrupted texts cannot be genuinely biblical. The determination of exactly what the Scripture said is the starting point for biblical preaching.

If one chooses to use the HCSB, the challenge for those preparing sermons and Bible Lessons with it is that they consistently exercise the discipline and courage not to include in their sermons or Bible Lessons any texts that is bracketed in the HCSB. This will require persistent vigilance, but it will be well worth the effort to enable biblical preaching to take place.

Like yourself, my preference for word-for-word versions has been the ESV, which is quite literal and simply removes readings that are unsupported by the most reliable manuscripts. Unfortunately I know of no study Bibles with either the ESV or HCSB text, though there is currently a reference edition of the latter that is expected to come out in June, 2005.

You may have seen my review of several Bibles and my selection of "best translations, best KJV substitute, and best study Bibles" at:

There you will read:

As the best study Bible, I would choose either The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible and The HarperCollins Study Bible. Both use the NRSV text as their Bible version, both have excellent footnotes and maps, and both have a very impressive list of contributing scholars. The HarperCollins Study Bible's footnotes are genearlly longer and meatier, but The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible's has an abbreviated concordance, subject index, and some very fine articles in its appendix. Second choice goes to the NAB, which also has very good footnotes, and its translation is quite literal and largely consistent with KJV wording.

Though I much prefer the ESV text over the NRSV, in the absence of an ESV study Bible, the NRSV at least has a sound textual basis; thus, its footnotes and appendix articles are quite reliable.

The huge problems with some of the study Bible's you mentioned (i.e., NKJV, MacArthur Study Bible [NKJV], KJV, Thompson Chain Reference Bible [KJV]) is that their New Testament textual basis is the Textus Receptus, which is severely flawed. The textual basis is extremely important in evaluating the value of a Bible version. For more details, see:

For a comparison of the reliability of the textual basis of most Bible versions in English and other languages, see:

Like some of the world's leading biblical scholars and translation authorities with whom I have discussed the NIV, I have concluded that the NIV is too theologically biased to be a consistently reliable translation, and I do not recommend it. My review of the NIV is found at:

For an excellent phrase-by-phrase Bible translation with a very solid textual basis, see my review of the Good News Bible at:

Another option is to stick with the ESV or HCSB for your text and use one or preferably two authoritative one-volume commentaries for your "study Bible" material.

The Oxford Bible Commentary, edited by John Barton and John Muddiman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) is very high quality, user-friendly, and the one-volume commentary that most clearly presents the conclusions of the most current biblical scholarship. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990) is the one-volume commentary with the best verse-by-verse survey of the range of scholarly conclusions, but the arrangement of the articles makes it more difficult to use. These two commentaries are clearly my first choices. My review of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary is at:

That should be plenty to consider for now. I wish you the very best in your pastoral ministry journey.


Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer