Skip to main content

A review of the HCSB Study Bible

Today, I finally had a chance to browse through a copy of the new HCSB Study Bible.

The HCSB Study Bible is 2272 pages long (plus a few maps). As expected, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. It ranks well and rivals the ESV in both exegetical accuracy and literary quality. Some of its unique features are:
  • Its translation of yahweh as "Yahweh" (instead of LORD) in the OT when referring to the personal name of God (e.g. Ex. 3:15)
  • The translation of doulos as "slave" instead of "servant" or "bondservant" in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1:1)
  • The translation of christos as "Messiah" in the New Testament, whenever referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16)
  • Capitalized pronouns when referring to God
  • The use of contractions in direct discourse (e.g. "let's go" in Mark 1:38)
  • A wonderful feature called bullet notes (small bullets next to key words that may be unfamiliar, pointing you to a glossary of common biblical terms; e.g. 'propitiation' in Rom. 3:25).
  • A willingness to alter familiar passages for the sake of accuracy. (e.g. "for God loved the world in this way" in John 3:16. You can read a fascinating article by Dr. Bill Barrick on this subject, and see his high scoring of the HCSB).
  • An innovative approach to Bible translation called "optimal equivalence," which retains the literal wording of Scripture except in cases where the idea is not easily conveyed in English. Then, the HCSB opts for a more "dynamic" translation to the text. This can really aid in reading, understanding, and memorizing the text.
  • A second edition in 2009 which further improved the translation and corrected a few unfortunate choices by the original translation team.

Additional tools include thorough study notes, charts, maps, word studies, architectural illustrations, timelines, photos, and over 25 essays by renowned scholars such as Daniel Wallace, Bruce Ware, and Kenneth Kitchen. Book introductions are helpful, though not quite as exhaustive as the MacArthur Study Bible or ESV Study Bible.

The theological viewpoint of the notes and essays are conservative, and lean Baptistic and dispensational. For example, the note under Romans 11:25-27 says,
A mystery has been revealed by God: (1) A partial hardening has come to Israel; (2) this will continue until a full number of the Gentiles com in; and (3) then all Israel will be saved. "Israel" is the name for the Jewish people. It is used 70 times in the NT of Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites. It is not used as a title for the church. Galatians 6:16 is not an exception; it refers to saved or godly Jews as "the Israel of God." Here in verse 26, "all Israel" means there will be a conversion of the Hebrew nation. It does not mean that every single Jew living will be saved. Salvation is defined in verses 26-27 as the new covenant that the Messiah will inaugurate.

This is a positive feature that distinguishes it from the ESV Study Bible. But regardless of one's ecclesiology or eschatology, every Bible student will find a strong commitment to Scripture. In his opening comments, the General Editor Jeremy Royal Howard writes,
"The goal of each tool in this study Bible, whether notes, essays, book introductions, maps, charts, or the online study component (, is to serve the text of Scripture by bringing to light facts that aid comprehension. As servants to the text, the study tools are designed to keep the focus on Scripture and never on the themselves. Practically speaking this approach is demonstrated by the fact that the text of Scripture is never positioned beneath a study tool. The uppermost feature on any given page is the text of Scripture itself. Theologically speaking our text-centric approach is reflected in the fact that each of our contributors honors the Bible as God's inspired and inerrant Word."

The HCSB Study Bible has the most effective use of color I've ever seen in a Bible translation (at least since the days of illuminated manuscripts). Book introductions are printed on pages that resemble ancient parchment. Verse numbers are marked in a subtle blue, pericope headings appear in brown, and the marginal notes are set apart in a tan. Holman has long featured some of the best maps available in their Holman Bible Atlas, and these maps look great in the HCSB Study Bible, though the font is a bit small. Font size of the biblical text is easy on the eye, and the genuine leather edition feels comfortable and sturdy.

To learn more, check out the complete notes of the HCSB Study Bible online for yourself, or view this sample of the book of Matthew.

While there are already some great study Bibles on the market, I believe the HCSB Study Bible makes a valuable contribution to our study of God's Word, and would heartily recommend it.

Related post:

Photo credits: Robert Jimenez


Popular posts from this blog

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…