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HCSB Reader's Review
Posted by: Scott McMahan | more..
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Over the weekend, I picked up a Holman Christian Standard Bible
(HCSB). I had never read it before, and had never encountered anyone
who used it, so I was curious about the translation. I do not know
Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, but I have read a lot of words in English,
so my review comes from that perspective.

The HCSB is a translation which manages to bleach out the poetry,
inspiration, and wonderous awe from the Bible and replace it with the
mundane language of corporate press releases, government publications,
and high-school textbooks. Remarkably, the translators and stylists
managed to do this over the entire Bible, bleaching the innate majesty
out of all the different forms of historical narrative, poetry,
parable, and prophecy. All of the Bible has been reduced to the same
blandness of advertising copy, instruction manuals, and tax
forms. This bland, clunky style doesn't flow well (it's too choppy)
and makes the Bible uniformly monotonous, and grates on the ears in
the same way as being trapped in a waiting room listening to a parent
talk to a young child. It's mind-numbing. Verse after verse is made up
of short, choppy, bland sentences. The translation, from what I have
read, seems to be fairly good. It's not a bad translation, but it's
the most uninspiring attempt at religious literature I have ever
seen. (The prosaic NIV seems almost poetic after reading the HCSB.)
All the parts of the Bible are reduced to the same blandness,
regardless of their content, which does not do the Bible's variety of
genres justice.

This translation may be useful to people with extremely limited
English ability. But no one is going to be inspired by it. This is the
sort of translation that people will have to be forced to use by a
large religious organization, not one they'd use of their own
choice. Obviously, the HCSB is the product of too many committees, too
much input, and too many revisions. The HCSB is the labor of a large
organization which had to bleach the Bible into a government
publication style in order for everyone to agree upon it. I do not
believe that the English language has changed all that much since the
1970s, and I know that no modern writer writes in English like this,
and no one speaks it. The HCSB has adopted the English used by
corporations and governments, not any live English spoken by real

The translators seem insecure about their choices, and add more
footnotes than I have ever seen in a Bible to explain how they made a
literal word or phrase make sense in English by lightly applying
dynamic translation. I guess this is the result of a backlash against
dynamic translation techniques. This fact could make the HCSB
interesting for study.

My gut feeling is that people do not want the Bible to read like a
high-school textbook, and will reject this translation if they have
the chance in favor of some other translation with literary qualities
that inspire devotion and awe. The HCSB is the product of the Southern
Baptist Convention and has the weight of that organization behind it,
so I imagine this translation will be dictated as the official
translation people will have to use.

Also: I picked up a "giant" print edition. This "giant" print is a lot
like the "large" eggs I see: Getting smaller all of the time. The
print is barely large print, not giant. The letters are low-contrast
with the page, which makes the print seem harder to read. In a
large/giant print Bible, the typeface's weight is important, not just
the point size. The typeface needs to be bolder so the letters stand
out on the page and are easier to read. That's more important than the
point size, to me, because smaller, bolder letters are easier to read
than larger, thin letters. [I also noticed this Bible's "giant" print is smaller than the King James Study Bible's print, and that 1988 Bible doesn't even claim to be large print. So print has shrunk in the last 20 years!]

Category:  King James Plus

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