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Introduction to the Christian Standard Bible®

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The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. It is our only source for completely reliable information about God, what happens when we die, and where history is headed. The Bible does these things because it is God’s inspired Word, inerrant in the original manuscripts. Bible translation brings God’s Word from the ancient languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) into today’s world. In dependence on God’s Spirit to accomplish this sacred task, the CSB Translation Oversight Committee and Holman Bible Publishers present the Christian Standard Bible.


Textual Base of the CSB

The textual base for the New Testament (NT) 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 (OT) is the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 5th edition.

Where there are significant differences among Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek manuscripts, the translators follow what they believe is the original reading and indicate the main alternative(s) in footnotes. The CSB uses the traditional verse divisions found in most Protestant Bibles.


Goals of This Translation

  • Provide English-speaking people worldwide with an accurate translation in contemporary English.
  • Provide an accurate translation for personal study, sermon preparation, private devotions, and memorization.
  • Provide a text that is clear and understandable, suitable for public reading, and shareable so that all may access its life-giving message.
  • Affirm the authority of Scripture and champion its absolute truth against skeptical viewpoints.

Translation Philosophy of the Christian Standard Bible

Most discussions of Bible translations speak of two opposite approaches: formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. This terminology is meaningful, but Bible translations cannot be neatly sorted into these two categories. There is room for another category of translation philosophy that capitalizes on the strengths of the other two.

1. Formal Equivalence:

Often called “word-for-word” (or “literal”) translation, the principle of formal equivalence seeks as nearly as possible to preserve the structure of the original language. It seeks to represent each word of the original text with an exact equivalent word in the translation so that the reader can see word for word what the original human author wrote. The merits of this approach include its consistency with the conviction that the Holy Spirit did inspire the very words of Scripture in the original manuscripts. It also provides the English Bible student some access to the structure of the text in the original language. Formal equivalence can achieve accuracy to the degree that English has an exact equivalent for each word and that the grammatical patterns of the original language can be reproduced in understandable English. However, it can sometimes result in awkward, if not incomprehensible, English or in a misunderstanding of the author’s intent. The literal rendering of ancient idioms is especially difficult.

2. Dynamic or Functional Equivalence:

Often called “thought-for-thought” translation, the principle of dynamic equivalence rejects as misguided the attempt to preserve the structure of the original language. It proceeds by extracting the meaning of a text from its form and then translating that meaning so that it makes the same impact on modern readers that the ancient text made on its original readers. Strengths of this approach include a high degree of clarity and readability, especially in places where the original is difficult to render word for word. It also acknowledges that accurate and effective translation may require interpretation. However, the meaning of a text cannot always be neatly separated from its form, nor can it always be precisely determined. A biblical author may have intended multiple meanings, but these may be lost with the elimination of normal structures. In striving for readability, dynamic equivalence also sometimes overlooks and loses some of the less prominent elements of meaning. Furthermore, lack of formal correspondence to the original makes it difficult to verify accuracy and thus can affect the usefulness of the translation for in-depth Bible study.

3. Optimal Equivalence:

In practice, translations are seldom if ever purely formal or dynamic but favor one theory of Bible translation or the other to varying degrees. Optimal equivalence as a translation philosophy recognizes that form cannot always be neatly separated from meaning and should not be changed unless comprehension demands it. The primary goal of translation is to convey the sense of the original with as much clarity as the original text and the translation language permit. Optimal equivalence appreciates the goals of formal equivalence but also recognizes its limitations.

Optimal equivalence starts with an exhaustive analysis of the text at every level (word, phrase, clause, sentence, discourse) in the original language to determine its original meaning and intention (or purpose). Then, relying on the latest and best language tools and experts, the nearest corresponding semantic and linguistic equivalents are used to convey as much of the information and intention of the original text with as much clarity and readability as possible. This process assures the maximum transfer of both the words and the thoughts contained in the original.

The CSB uses optimal equivalence as its translation philosophy. In the many places throughout the Bible where a word-for-word rendering is understandable, a literal translation is used. When a word-for-word rendering might obscure the meaning for a modern audience, a more dynamic translation is used. The Christian Standard Bible places equal value on fidelity to the original and readability for a modern audience, resulting in a translation that achieves both goals.


The Gender Language Use in Bible Translation

The goal of the translators of the Christian Standard Bible has not been to promote a cultural ideology but to translate the Bible faithfully. Recognizing modern usage of English, the CSB regularly translates the plural of the Greek word ανθρωπος (“man”) as “people” instead of “men,” and occasionally the singular as “one,” “someone,” or “everyone,” when the supporting pronouns in the original languages validate such a translation. While the CSB avoids using “he” or “him” unnecessarily, the translation does not restructure sentences to avoid them when they are in the text.


History of the CSB

After several years of preliminary development, Holman Bible Publishers, the oldest Bible publisher in North America, assembled an international, interdenominational team of one hundred scholars, editors, stylists, and proofreaders, all of whom were committed to biblical inerrancy. Outside consultants and reviewers contributed valuable suggestions from their areas of expertise. Working from the original languages, an executive team of translators edited, polished, and reviewed the final manuscript, which was first published as the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) in 2004.

A standing committee was also formed to maintain the HCSB translation and look for ways to improve readability without compromising accuracy. As with the original translation team, the committee that prepared this revision of the HCSB, renamed the Christian Standard Bible, is international and interdenominational, comprising evangelical scholars who honor the inspiration and authority of God’s written Word.


Traditional Features Found in the CSB

In keeping with a long line of Bible publications, the CSB has retained a number of features found in traditional Bibles:

  1. Traditional theological vocabulary (for example, justification, sanctification, redemption) has been retained since such terms have no other translation equivalent that adequately communicates their exact meaning.
  2. Traditional spellings of names and places found in most Bibles have been used to make the CSB compatible with most Bible study tools.
  3. Some editions of the CSB will print the words of Christ in red letters to help readers easily locate the spoken words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. Descriptive headings, printed above each section of Scripture, help readers quickly identify the contents of that section.
  5. OT passages quoted in the NT are indicated. In the CSB, they are set in boldface type.

How the Names of God Are Translated

The Christian Standard Bible consistently translates the Hebrew names for God as follows:

Hebrew original: CSB English:
Elohim God
YHWH (Yahweh) LORD
Adonai Lord
Adonai Yahweh Lord GOD
Yahweh Sabaoth LORD of Armies
El Shaddai God Almighty

Footnotes

Footnotes are used to show readers how the original biblical language has been understood in the CSB.

1. Old Testament (OT) Textual Footnotes

OT textual notes show important differences among Hebrew (Hb) manuscripts and ancient OT versions, such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate. See the list of abbreviations on page TBD for a list of other ancient versions used.

Some OT textual notes (like NT textual notes) give only an alternate textual reading. However, other OT textual notes also give the support for the reading chosen by the editors as well as for the alternate textual reading. For example, the CSB text of Psalm 12:7 reads,

You, LORD, will guard us;
you will protect us [fn]
from this generation forever.

The textual footnote for this verse reads,

12:7 Some Hb mss, LXX; other Hb mss read him

The textual note in this example means that there are two different readings found in the Hebrew manuscripts: some manuscripts read us and others read him. The CSB translators chose the reading us, which is also found in the Septuagint (LXX), and placed the other Hebrew reading him in the footnote.

Two other kinds OT textual notes are

  • Alt Hb tradition reads ____
    • a variation given by scribes in the Hebrew manuscript tradition (known as Kethiv/Qere and Tiqqune Sopherim readings)
  • Hb uncertain
    • when it is unclear what the original Hebrew text was

2. New Testament (NT) Textual Footnotes

NT textual notes indicate significant differences among Greek manuscripts (mss) and are normally indicated in one of three ways:

  • Other mss read ______
  • Other mss add ______
  • Other mss omit ______

In the NT, some textual footnotes that use the word “add” or “omit” also have square brackets before and after the corresponding verses in the biblical text. Examples of this use of square brackets are Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53–8:11.

3. Other Kinds of Footnotes

  • Lit _____
    • a more literal rendering in English of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text
  • Or _____
    • an alternate or less likely English translation of the same Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text
  • =
    • an abbreviation for “it means” or “it is equivalent to”
  • Hb, Aramaic, Gk
    • the actual Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word is given using equivalent English letters
  • Hb obscure
    • the existing Hebrew text is especially difficult to translate
  • emend(ed) to _____
    • the original Hebrew text is so difficult to translate that competent scholars have conjectured or inferred a restoration of the original text based on the context, probable root meanings of the words, and uses in comparative languages

In some editions of the CSB, additional footnotes clarify the meaning of certain biblical texts or explain biblical history, persons, customs, places, activities, and measurements. Cross references are given for parallel passages or passages with similar wording, and in the NT, for passages quoted from the OT.


Commonly used abbreviations in CSB Bibles

A.D. In the year of our Lord
aka also known as
alt alternate
a.m. from midnight until noon
Aq Aquila
B.C. before Christ
c. century
ca circa
chap(s). chapter(s)
cp. compare
d. died
DSS Dead Sea Scrolls
e.g. for example
Eng English
etc. et cetera
ff. following
Gk Greek
Hb Hebrew
i.e. that is
Jer Latin translation of Psalms by Jerome
Lat Latin
lit Literal(ly)
LXX Septuagint—an ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek
MT Masoretic Text
NT New Testament
ms(s) manuscript(s)
OT Old Testament
p.m. from noon until midnight
pl. plural
Ps(s) Psalm(s)
Sam Samaritan Pentateuch
sg. singular
Sym Symmachus
Syr Syriac
Tg Targum
Theod Theodotian
v., vv. verse, verses
Vg Vulgate—an ancient translation of the Bible into Latin
vol(s). volume(s)
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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