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Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D. Vance Publications



The great Baptist missionary, William Carey (1761-1834), was even more well known as a Bible translator. He took an active part in the preparation of versions of the Bible in Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Maldivian, Kashmiri, Armenian, Malay, Hindustani, and Persian. The world owes a debt to Mr. Carey for his labors. Unfortunately, however, some Baptists have wasted their time and energy in trying to improve upon the Bible in English that God has already given to us: the King James 1611 Authorized Version.

Back in 1836, the Baptist preacher, Spencer Cone (1785-1855), resigned his position with the American Bible Society to become president of the newly formed American and Foreign Bible Society. The stated goal of this organization was to provide "immersionist" versions for Baptist foreign missionaries. However, a controversy soon arose regarding the desirability of making an "immersionist" version in English. In 1837, William Brantly (1787-1845), a Baptist, published his "Objections to a Baptist Version of the New Testament" in The Christian Review, a Baptist periodical. And, while the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), had made an "immersionist" version in Burmese, he was opposed to making one in English. Dr. Cone, who wanted an "immersionist" version in English, left the American and Foreign Bible Society and organized the American Bible Union in 1850 for that expressed purpose. In 1851, Spencer Cone, along with William Wyckoff (1807-1877), issued a preliminary "immersionist" revision of the New Testament.

The American Bible Union soon afterward proposed a wholesale revision of the Old and New Testaments. For this they engaged the services of the Greek scholar A. C. Kendrick (1809-1895) and the Hebrew scholar J. C. Conant (1802-1891), two Baptists of note. New translations of individual books of the Bible were soon issued: 2 Peter–3 John in 1852, Revelation in 1854, Job in 1856, John in 1859, and Philemon in 1860. The complete New Testament was published in 1864. This was followed by additional books of the Old Testament (Genesis in 1868, the Psalms in 1869, Proverbs in 1871, and Joshua–Ruth in 1878) and further revisions of the New Testament.

The American Bible Union turned over its work to the American Baptist Publication Society of Philadelphia in 1883. After securing the services of the liberal Baptists William Harper (1856-1906), Ira Price (1856-1939), and J. M. Powis Smith (1866-1932), all of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, this organization finally released a complete Baptist Bible in 1913 under the title of The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments. An Improved Version (based in part on the Bible Union Version). The new version came to nothing, and Smith went on to oversee a group of scholars who translated the Old Testament in 1927. This was combined in 1931 with the New Testament translation of Edgar Goodspeed (1871-1962), also of the University of Chicago, and entitled The Bible. An American Translation. This version likewise came to nothing.

Baptists would never again produce their own version of the Bible. However, some Baptists did take an active role in other Bible translation endeavors. The American Standard Bible Committee, which translated the Revised Standard Version (New Testament–1946; Old Testament–1952), counted among its members the Baptist scholars John R. Sampey (1863-1946), A. T. Robertson (1863-1934), and Kyle M. Yates (1895-1975), all of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Baptists have likewise served on the committees that translated the NIV (1978) and the NASB (1971).

The closest thing to a Baptist version in recent memory is the NKJV (1982), under the editorship of Arthur Farstad (1935-1998). The NKJV counted among its Overview Committee members Truman Dollar, W. A. Criswell, Herschel Hobbs, A. V. Henderson, Tim LaHaye, Adrian Rogers, Curtis Hutson, Elmer Towns, and Jerry Falwell. The association of so many Baptists with the NKJV was obviously to aid in its reception among independent Baptists—the only large group of Christians at the time who were still using the original King James Version.

Although Farstad was behind the NKJV, he still began working on another new Bible translation in 1984. This demonstrates once again that the translators of modern versions don’t even believe that their product is inerrant or authoritative. Farstad then joined forces with LifeWay Christian Resources, the successor to the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. LifeWay’s publishing division, Broadman & Holman Publishing, is the publisher of one of the newest modern versions of the Bible: the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

The new HCSB is not exactly a Baptist Bible, since more than twenty Protestant denominations are represented on the ninety-scholar translation "team." However, one-third are Southern Baptists, and it is the Southern Baptist Convention that is publishing the new version. Although selected books of the Bible in this new version have been released by the publisher since 1999, it was not until last year that the complete New Testament was published. This seven-year, $10 million project to bridge "the gap between a literal translation and modern English version tailored for lower-level reading skills" is scheduled for completion in 2003, when the Old Testament portion is finished.

The HCSB has one of the longest and unusual names of any recent modern version. The HCSB is one of the few, and perhaps the only, new version to include the name of the publisher in its title. The A. J. Holman Bible Company, which has roots that go back to 1738, was acquired by Broadman Press in 1993. Broadman Press, the official Southern Baptist publishing company, was named after two famous nineteenth-century Baptists—John Broadus (1827-1895) and Basil Manly (1825-1892). After acquiring Holman, Broadman Press was renamed Broadman & Holman Publishing, although the single name Holman is still used on some Bibles and reference works. The word Christian has only been used in the title of a handful of modern versions, most recently the Christian Community Bible, published in 1988. The term Standard has been employed by several modern versions, most notably the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and the International Standard Version. One interesting thing about the HCSB is that it calls itself a Bible instead of just a version. Thus, it joins the ranks of the New American Standard Bible, the Amplified Bible, the Living Bible, the Good News Bible, the New English Bible, the International Children’s Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, the Modern Language Bible, the Easy Bible, and the New American Bible.

The translators of the HCSB include Arthur Farstad (now deceased); James Price, of Temple Baptist Theological Seminary in Chattanooga; Paul House, of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville; Kirk Lowery, of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; Rick Melick, of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California; David Allen, of Criswell College in Dallas; Michael Rydelnik, of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago; Walter Kaiser, of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston; and Dennis Cole, of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Several other schools are represented, none of which have ever been known for producing Bible believers. Some women are also involved in the translation of the HCSB: Karen Maticich, of the International School of Theology; and Janice Meier, editor of the Adult Sunday School Ministry Department of LifeWay Christian Resources.

The goals of the HCSB, as found on the opening page of its Introduction, are four: (1) to provide English-speaking Christians with an accurate, readable Bible in contemporary, idiomatic English, (2) to equip the serious Bible student with an accurate Bible for personal study, private devotions, or memorization, (3) to produce a readable Bible—neither too high or low on a reading scale—that is both visually attractive and suited to oral reading, and (4) to affirm the authority of the Scriptures as Gods’ inerrant Word and its absolutes against the inevitable changes of culture. There is nothing unique about these goals. Similar goals have been stated in the prefaces, introductions, and promotional literature of many modern versions.

Recognizing this, the Introduction to the HCSB then asks the question: "Why another new Bible translation in English?" Now that is a good question. Why—after the ASV, RSV, NASB, NEB, REB, TEV, GNB, NRSV, NASBU, NCV, NET, NIV, NKJV, NWT, ICV, RV, AB, JB, NAB, NJB, MLB, NIRV, CEV, plus translations by Montgomery, Young, Weymouth, Goodspeed, Moffatt, Williams, Stern, Barclay, Rotherham, Taylor, Ledyard, Norlie, Kerdrick, Smith, Harwood, Mace, Boothroyd, Fenton, Moulton, Ballentine, Clarke, Courtney, Darby, Noyes, Ainslie, Sharpe, Wilson, Spurrell, Bartlett, Weekes, Lloyd, Worrell, Spencer, Craddock, Green, Beck, Schonfield, Knox, Lamsa, Tomanek, Phillips, Wuest, and a hundred more—do we need another new Bible translation in English?

The Introduction to the HCSB has four answers to the above question. The first is that "since each generation must wrestle in its own language with the message of God’s Word, there will always be the need for new translations." Each generation? Does a new generation arise every six months? That is how often a new English Bible version comes out.

The second answer is that since English is the most rapidly changing language today, "The HCSB seeks to reflect many of these recent changes by consistently using modern punctuation, formatting, and vocabulary, while avoiding slang, regionalisms, or deliberate changes for the sake of political correctness." The last statement was obviously put in because of all the controversy surrounding gender inclusive language in some modern Bible versions. The publisher of the HCSB is trying to capitalize on the aversion of many Christians to changing the Bible to make it more politically correct, such as the recently published new edition of the NIV. But the argument about the English language changing is specious. Does the English language change so much every six months that a new version of the Bible is warranted twice a year just to keep up with the changes in the English language?

The third answer given in the Introduction to the HCSB is that since "never before in history has there been as much information about the Bible as there is today," that even "translations made as recently as ten or twenty years ago do not reflect many of these advances in biblical research." Naturally, "the translators of the HCSB have sought to use as much of this new data as possible." Now, all of this may be true, but three things should be noted. First, there have been at least ten new versions published in the last ten years. Did they not take advantage of any new "advances in biblical research"? Second, with all of these great advances, and a multitude of new translations to go with them, Americans are still biblical illiterates, so obviously new advances and new versions have not done anything to increase people’s knowledge of the Bible. Third, new information about the Bible and advances in biblical research have produced nothing that cannot already be found in a King James 1611 Authorized Version.

The fourth answer to the question, "Why another new Bible translation in English?" as asked in the Introduction to the HCSB, is that, because of current computer technology, "the most advanced Bible software available was used to review the translation at each step in its production." This implies that the extensive use of computers has something to do with producing a good translation of the Bible. It is certainly true that the use of computers can help improve the accuracy of the finished product, facilitate communication among its translators, and speed up the entire process; however, it is still men who are actually translating each Greek and Hebrew word into English. A computer might ensure that the finished product is formatted accurately and spelled correctly, but a computer has nothing to do with the actual choice of the words of the finished product.

The Introduction to the HCSB also presents the translator’s philosophy. After mentioning the formal equivalence approach, and how "a literal rendering can often result in awkward English or in a misunderstanding of the original, and the dynamic equivalence approach, and how it too has its problems because a modern translator cannot "be certain of the idea in the original author’s mind," the Introduction informs us that the HCSB uses the optimal equivalence approach, "which seeks to combine the best features of both formal and dynamic equivalence by applying each method to translate the meaning of the original with optimal accuracy." These broad generalizations are extremely misleading. No Bible is translated exclusively with a formal equivalence approach, not even the Authorized Version. And no Bible is translated exclusively with a dynamic equivalence approach, not even the New International Version. All Bibles use an "optimal equivalence," skewed one way or the other.

Although the HCSB seeks to set itself apart from other modern versions, there is one thing it has in common with the vast majority of modern versions—it is translated from a corrupt Greek text. Specifically, the Introduction to the HCSB indicates that its textual base is the "Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible Societies’s Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition." Actually, these texts are identical, with the exception of the critical apparatus and the punctuation.

Because it is translated from the Alexandrian text, there are some standard changes and omissions in the HCSB that parallel most other modern versions. However, unlike most modern versions, the HCSB only omits one complete verse from the New Testament (Acts 15:34). So even though it professes to follow the Alexandrian text, Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 46, 11:26, 15:28, Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 24:7, 28:29; Romans 16:24, all of which are omitted in both the Nestle text and the UBS text, appear in the HCSB. The reason why will be manifest shortly.

Some standard changes to verses include: Joseph is Christ’s "father" in Luke 2:33, the words of Malachi are ascribed to "Isaiah" in Mark 1:2, Christians will give account at the "judgment seat of God" in Romans 14:10, the day of Christ is changed to the "Day of the Lord" in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, an "eagle" speaks in Revelation 8:13 instead of an angel. God is not manifest in the flesh in 1 Timothy 3:16, just an unnamed "He." Those after the church age who "wash their robes" can partake of the tree of life instead of those who "do his commandments" (Rev. 22:14).

Some standard omissions from verses include: "without a cause" (Mat. 5:22), "and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Mat. 19:9), "and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49), "but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4), "struck him on the face" (Luke 22:64), "even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13), "going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:59), "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" (Acts 18:21), "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1), "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Rom. 13:9), "for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof" (1 Cor. 10:28), "Lord" (2 Cor. 4:10), "that ye should not obey the truth" (Gal. 3:1), "of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:14), "through his blood" (Col. 1:14), "Lord" (1 Tim. 1:1), "our Saviour" (Tit. 1:4), "by himself" (Heb. 1:3), and didst set him over the works of thy hands" (Heb 2:7), "for us" (1 Pet. 4:1), and "before the throne of God" (Rev. 14:5). Half of Luke 9:55-56 is also omitted, as is half of Acts 9:5-6 and 1 John 5:7-8.

It should be apparent that the HCSB follows most modern versions when a portion of a verse is changed or omitted, but does not follow them when it comes to omitting an entire verse (with the exception of Acts 15:34). Could it be that the translators of the HCSB, although they believed in the superiority of the Alexandrian text, sought to avoid the stigma of having a Bible that omitted entire verses (like the NIV, RSV, etc.)? All of the verses usually missing from modern versions that are retained in the HCSB do have brackets around them (except Mark 7:16), the brackets signifying, according to the Introduction, "texts that are omitted in some ancient Gk manuscripts." Yet, there are only a handful of words and phrases usually omitted by modern versions that appear with brackets in the HCSB (e.g., "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen" in Mat. 6:13; "and fasting" in Mark 9:29). Why the double standard?

There are also some notable changes in the HCSB that are not because of differences in Greek texts. First of all, the word hell is only retained twelve times out of twenty-three occurrences. It is usually transliterated as "hades," except in 2 Peter 2:4, where the word "Tartarus" is used—a word that most people would have to look up in a dictionary. But this is not the only example where the HCSB changes an easily understood word in the AV to a harder word. In John 1:14, the word dwelt is changed to "took up residence." In Hebrews 1:3, the word brightness is replaced with "radiance." In Revelation 1:15, the word many is changed to "cascading." The word earnest is three times supplanted by "down payment" (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14), even though the term "earnest money" is still used in every real estate office in the country. This use of harder words and phrases, in a version that goes out of its way to use modern vocabulary and avoid slang and regionalisms, is not confined to the biblical text of the HCSB. The aforementioned Introduction to the HCSB, while stating that it "exists to meet the needs of a large cross-section" of the "more that 1.3 billion people speak English as a primary or secondary language across the world," uses the phrase lingua franca. Now, how many people reading the Introduction to the HCSB would know that lingua franca refers to a language that is widely used as a means of communication among speakers of other languages?

The second notable change is that the Greek word for Christ is usually translated in the Gospels as "Messiah." This means that the HCSB has translated a Greek word by two different English words—something the AV is routinely criticized for. The same thing is done with the word gospel. Sometimes it is "good news" (Mat. 24:14; Mark 1:15) and other times it is "gospel" (1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 1:6).

Another significant change is that the familiar word temple is usually rendered as "sanctuary." Thus, the man of sin will no longer sit "in the temple of God," he will just sit in "God’s sanctuary," destroying the reference to the Antichrist sitting in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. But of the four times in the New Testament when the AV uses the word sanctuary, the HCSB changes two of them, once to "holy place" (Heb. 9:2) and once to "holy of holies" (Heb. 13:11).

There are also several other notable changes. A man can appear to do evil just as long as long as he abstains from "every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Corrupting God’s word is okay as long as you are not guilty of trading "in God’s message for a profit" (2 Corinthians 2:17). Christians don’t need to be followers of God as long as they are "imitators" (Ephesians 5:1). Science is okay, just avoid "‘knowledge’ that falsely bears that name" (1 Timothy 6:20). As long as a Christian is "diligent," he does not have to study (2 Timothy 2:15). Regarding the Jews, God’s "wrath has overtaken them completely" (1 Thes. 2:16). The periphrastic future perfect participles in Matthew 16:19 are translated with a Calvinistic slant ("will have been bound," "will have been loosed").

Although the Introduction to the HCSB states that no changes have been made "for the sake of political correctness," there are some words that have been altered that might offend thin-skinned Christians. The word effeminate is gone from 2 Corinthians 6:9. The word man is sometimes replaced with "self" (Rom. 7:22) or "person" (2 Cor. 4:16). "Person" is also sometimes substituted for the pronoun he (2 Cor. 9:6). There are no harlots, whores, or whoremongers in the HCSB, and no one commits fornication. The word doctrine is usually toned down to "teaching" (e.g., Mat. 7:28; John 7:16; Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 5:17). Paul no longer uses rude speech, he is just "untrained" (2 Cor. 11:5), and he no longer considers the things he lost to be dung, they are just "filth" (Phil. 3:8).

Some peculiar changes from the AV include: "recruiter" instead of the AV’s "him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4), "super-apostles" instead of the AV’s "very chiefest apostles" (2 Cor. 11:5), and "an ample honorarium" instead of the AV’s "double honor" (1 Tim. 5:17).

Aside from the text itself, there are some other things about the HCSB that should be noted. The text is printed in paragraphs instead of the each verse commencing on a new line. This practice, followed by most modern versions, makes it much more difficult to compare verses in the various versions. There are a number of footnotes after words or phrases that say "other mss omit" (e.g., Luke 17:36; Eph. 1:1) or "some mss read" (e.g., John 8:38; Rom. 8:28). This does nothing but confuse the average reader as to what the true reading really is. There are also a number of footnotes that give a literal reading of a particular word or phrase. But as anyone who has studied Greek knows, translating something literally does not necessarily add any light on the text at all. And speaking of Greek, there are also over two hundred "word studies" of Greek words in the margin of this edition of the HCSB (Experiencing the Word New Testament). These word studies serve to reinforce the bogus idea that the true meaning of Scripture is to be found in the Greek. Yet, the translators of the HCSB regularly added to the Greek when they felt like it: "crucified" is added to Romans 7:4, "may appear" is added to 2 Corinthians 13:7, "Father" is added to Hebrews 2:11, "Levitical" is added to Hebrews 7:23. These additions, and many more, are all mentioned in the footnotes as being "supplied for clarity."

Do Baptists need another English Bible translation? Does any Christian need another English Bible translation? The great amount of time and money put into translating this new version could certainly have been better spent. As far as modern versions go, the HCSB is undoubtedly better than the NIV. It does not omit as much of the Bible, and its retains "traditional theological vocabulary" like forms of the words justification, sanctification, redemption, and propitiation; however, all forms of the word imputed are changed. But why should someone just settle for something better than the NIV when there is already available something far better than any modern English version of the Bible: the King James 1611 Authorized Version.

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