What is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)?

Posted by Aaron Lewendon  ·  Be the first to comment

Finding the right Bible isn’t easy. There are dozens of translations and hundreds of editions to choose from. Our new series of guides is here to answer your questions about the different Bibles on offer today.

What is the CSB Bible?

Every Bible translation has an aim.

The KJV wanted to be the very first Bible, bringing God’s word into a new language with a poetic ear that pleased the readers of the time; the NIV wanted to bring translations of the Greek and Hebrew to the whole of the world; The Message translation further brought the text into the 21st Century using modern turns-of-phrase.

So whenever a new translation of the Bible arrives, the question that must first be asked is ‘Why?

Why make a new translation?

When the CSB Bible was released in the UK, there was a noticeable splash made. As an update of the Holman Bible, the Christian Standard Bible proudly holds to its heart two attributes: to be both faithful and true.

History of the CSB

You may notice that a Bible with a similar name already exists. The Holman Christian Standard Bible. That’s because, whilst it's a substantial and thorough revision of the HCSB, the CSB Bible still finds its foundation in the Holman version. Here's how the HCSB came into existence.

As with almost every other Bible translation origin, the story begins with another Bible. For the Holman Christian Standard Bible, that progenitor is the New King James Version Bible. The NKJV’s general editor and creator, Arthur Farstad, began a new Bible project that was committed to finding the optimal balance between dynamic translation and formal translation. This was to be unlike the NKJV, which was an update to an already well-known Bible.

This new Bible was to be both word-for-word and thought-for-thought.

But, before the project was finished, Arthur Farstad passed away and the mantle of leading the team fell to Dr Edwin Blum who was working on the project at the time. Finally, this new Bible, which started officially in 1998, was finally completed and went to publish in 2004. Christened the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the HCSB was updated eight years later. Not long after this, the CSB revision was announced in 2016.

CSB Logo

The team chosen for working on the original HCSB Bible consisted of over 100 scholars from 17 denominations. This helped the HCSB gain a reputation for fidelity as well as an enjoyable reading experience. For the CSB update, the whole text was looked over. As well grammatical, theological and linguistic concerns being present in the mind of the team, suggestions came from an altogether wider pool. Many of changes in the CSB Bible were informed by the feedback pastors, seminarians and Christians conservative leaders gave about the HCSB. The readers helped shape the CSB, as well as the experts.

It could seem that the wide spectrum of conservative Christianity had a stake in helping create a Bible that was as faithful as it was true.

How was it translated?

The goals of the CSB were the same as the HCSB: to be faithful and true. This balance is called Optimal Equivalence. It's the ideal point between finding the closest equivalent word in English, whilst still employing the most optimal language for the English-speaking reader. The translators of the CSB had the following as “essentials” for the translation:

(1) to leave no aspect of the original language text unaccounted for in the translation

(2) to render the text using natural English that is as easily comprehended as possible

Middle grounds are notoriously thin spaces. In this case, a step too far on either side would cause great ripples throughout the rest of the text. All the more reason for such a clear translation philosophy.

In their own statement about the translation aims, the team behind the CSB wrote that:

The first goal [above] is the most difficult, especially given our commitment to the second [also above]. Some formal features such as puns can usually not be captured in the translation itself but must be explained in translation notes (of which the CSB has more than most translations). Nevertheless, we have done our best to render the original biblical text in every detail as fully and as clearly as possible. This twofold commitment expresses our understanding of biblical accuracy, which is often mistakenly equated with literalness. A literal translation that is difficult to understand or even misleading to modern readers is not accurate.

In the end result, their task came remarkably close to that optimal middle ground. It is more readable than the NKJV and ESV, but more formally accurate than the NLT and NIV.

How Accurate is the CSB?

As mentioned, the CSB strives for “optimal equivalence”, but how literal to the original texts is that?

Before answering, it helps to know two key terms used when discussing how accurate a Bible is. Whenever someone discusses Bible Translation accuracy, they will most likely draw a line in the sand between Bibles which are “word-for-word” and Bibles which are “thought-for-thought”.

Word-for-word Bibles present as directly as possible the text in the original scriptures. As the scriptures come from a culture far removed from our own, their texts are harder to understand and so any direct translations themselves require of the reader a sharp eye and working knowledge of the context from which the Bible came.

Thought-for-thought Bibles operate under a different approach. They employ a greater level of textual interpretation throughout their translation process. This includes taking in wider contexts and meanings as a guide to what the original text meant and how that text would appear in today’s language.

If word-for-word is akin to Google Translate, operating with as little human interpretation as possible, then thought-for-thought is like a poem translated from another language, where meaning and form carry greater emphasis.

But where does the CSB Bible sit on the spectrum?

Well, pretty high for both. It employs a greater linguistic smoothness and relevancy than some of the older translations but retains a strong commitment to accounting for all the original texts held to be true. It's both accurate and clear. Faithful and true.

Bible Translation Continuum

How Easy is the CSB to Read?

The CSB Bible is written at a 7th Grade Reading Level. This means that readers from the ages of 12 and up should be able to confidently read the majority of the CSB text and roughly understand what it means. 

What determines this level is the total number of unique words and sentences, as well as sentence length and the length of the words themselves. Other grammatical features also carry weight in the score. The reading level doesn’t take into account any understanding of history and context. Just the words and grammar of the text.

As an example, this sentence you are currently reading would score at a Grade Nine on the readability test. 

This sentence would be at Grade Two. 

Common Uses

Being a new Bible, you may well be the first person in your circle to read it. That being said, the Bible has been embraced by a range of well known and influential Christian leaders, writers and speakers. Those include Tony Evans, Alistair Begg, David Platt, Lisa Harper, and J.D. Greear. They have praised it’s unique ability to fit as comfortably into personal reading as it does an academic or deeper-reading space.

Churches looking for a new Bible translation have also turned to the CSB. This is because it offers an accessible reading experience for wider congregational demographics.

One stand out from the CSB range is the She Reads The Truth Bible, which you can read more about below.

Different Editions

As the CSB Bible is very new, no other editions or updates of the text have been released or even announced. For now, there is only one version of the CSB text in print. 

Example verses from the CSB Bible

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. - Ephesians 4:32

Versions You Can Buy

CSB She Reads Truth Bible

A study Bible tailored to women, the She Reads Truth edition of the CSB is full of different ways to read it. There are devotional passages, reading plans, thematic extras, articles, illustrated verses and wide margins for note-taking. ‘The CSB She Reads Truth Bible aims to live at the intersection of beauty, goodness, and Truth.’

CSB Gift & Award Bible, Burgundy

The CSB Gift and Award Bible is available in a wide variety of colours, priced for bulk-buying, and is the perfect achievement award for young people in church or school programs. Available in black, burgundy, white, blue, and purple imitation leather covers. 

CSB Outreach Bible

Christian Standard Bible

The CSB Outreach Bible is designed to be accessible and affordable for churches, ministries, and individuals. It also provides seekers and new believers a Bible of their own. Included are extra tools and resources to answer common questions about the Bible and help readers to better understand and apply the truths found in its pages. If you are thinking of trying out the CSB Bible, this is a good place to start.

Frequently asked questions

Every day, people turn to the Bible for questions about faith, life, meaning, Christianity and countless other topics. But as well as having questions for the Bible, there are also many questions asked about the Bible. Here we’ll try to answer some of those most asked questions.

Who recommends the CSB bible?

Christian leaders such as Tony Evans and J.D. Greear have endorsed the CSB Bible. Greear wrote that “I’ve been using the CSB in sermons consistently for over a year. I love how it handles many difficult passages exceptionally well while also being exceptionally readable. Accuracy and readability—a great combo.” 

Tony Evans wrote that “The Christian Standard Bible provides a clear trustworthy translation of the Holy Scriptures in a style that the reader can clearly hear the voice of God in print speaking to their soul.”

What does CSB stand for?

CSB Stands for Christian Standard Bible. It is an update to the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

Is the CSB Bible Catholic? 

There are no Catholic editions of the CSB Bible available.

Other Bible Translations:

Click on any of the images below to learn all about the stories behind some of the world's most widely-read Bible translations.

What is the KJV Bible?

What is the NIV Bible?

English Standard Version Bible

Your guide to the NKJV Bible

What is the NLT Bible?
What is the Good News Bible?

What is The Message Bible?

17th February

February 17th, 2020 - Posted & Written by Aaron Lewendon

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