Since the Protestant Reformation (remember to celebrate it’s 500th anniversary this year!) and the invention of the printing press, translations of the Bible have abounded in multiple languages around the world. This fact is good news. That the Good News can be made accessible to as many tribes and nations by getting God’s word into the common languages of so many people is a blessing to the church fulfilling our Great Commission calling.
We especially have no dearth of English translations, and with these translations we have seen, at times, translation wars–King James only…the ESV of Reformed spirituality (I jest. Just needed another ‘example.’). I will admit that I have had and continue to have very definitive opinions on Bible translations. Back in my seminary days, I remember joking that I carried an NIV Bible because it fit more easily into my brief case (yes, I attended seminary in the waning days of the ‘kingdom kits’) since they had left so much out of it. Having a strong opinion has not kept me from switching which translation I have used as my primary reading, teaching, and preaching Bible over the years. I have used the NASB, NKJV, ESV,…and now the CSB.
When word first came out that LifeWay/Holman was coming out with a revised update to the HCSB, I was immediately intrigued. I had liked the HCSB but it had a few quirks I just could not handle. The inconsistent use of Yahweh was a big one. Anyway, once the buzz began to increase and the momentum built toward its publication, I found myself ready to use it. I now have it in my OliveTree app, in my Logos study software, the CSB Study Bible, and a treasured favorite–a CSB I received for being part of the SBC Pastors’ Conference 2017 team. I have been preaching from the CSB since April of this year.
BUT…is there a problem with the CSB? I was unaware of any controversy with this new translation until I got to Phoenix. While sitting in the convention hall I had two pastor friends back home in Kansas City message me about concerns that someone at the annual meeting was trying to promote a gender-inclusive or even transgender Bible. They told me they had read an article claiming the SBC was promoting a new Bible translation which was intentionally gender-inclusive. Since getting back home the same controversy has popped up on my LinkedIn wall disparaging Southern Baptist for doing this very thing.
All of the controversy stems from an Atlantic article penned by Jonathan Merritt and Garet Robinson in which they essentially accuse the CSB translators of being hypocritical, by what they did with the CSB translation, to what the convention had spoken against back in 2011 regarding the gender-neutral update to the NIV. At first-glance the accusations seem troubling. Upon further investigation I found excellent articles from Ed Stetzer who interviewed Trevin Wax, the translation team member responsible for promoting the CSB as Bible Publisher, and states the team’s approach to translation for the CSB; from Denny Burk who states what other members of the translation team stated regarding the biblically faithful approach the team took to utilizing the Colorado Spring Guidelines for translating gender-related pronouns. These guidelines have been used by many recent and faithful English translations of the Bible; and from Doctors Thomas Schreiner and David Allen, who each served as the Co-Chairs of the CSB Translation Oversight Committee and state that the translators chose to update to modern usage words like “brothers” to “brothers and sisters,” where context clearly indicate such was the intent of the original author, as well as keeping “man” in 2 Timothy 3:17 and “faithful men” in 2 Timothy 2:2 where the context indicates male pastoral leadership for local churches. Additional information is also available on the CSB website.
The only conclusion I can reach for the Atlantic article from Merritt and Robinson is the conclusion asserted by Schreiner and Allen: “Unfortunately, the article misrepresents the CSB and may be intending to create controversy at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting this week in Phoenix.” That being the case, I believe the article failed miserably.
I would encourage everyone to consider the CSB for use in your churches. Yes, it is one among many good choices which are out there. Let me share with you what has happened at my church since I have begun preaching from the CSB. I have had people ask me where they can get that translation for themselves…and they went out and bought it. Two of our children’s Sunday School classes have asked for that translation to be on hand in their classes. I just picked up the Children’s Big Picture Interactive Bible (CSB) for them to use. I also picked up pew Bibles for our church auditorium while at the annual meeting. LifeWay is running some really good deals on those right now.
I have often heard the best translation is the one you will actually read. If I can define the context of that statement to fit within a linguistically and doctrinally faithfull framework (for instance, avoid the Message and the NRSV like the plague!), then I am fine with that statement. In that regard, I really like the informal nature of the translation style. Truth in advertising though…it did catch me the first couple of times I read a contraction in the biblical text (I guess chalk that up to years spent with Turabian), but now that I am used to it, I really like that this translation reads more like the way people talk. I think that is the primary appeal of the CSB…faithful and true…accuracy and readability. With what I am seeing related to the new CSB, I would urge you on a personal level, and my fellow pastors on a shepherding level to seriously consider the implementation of the CSB in your lives and ministries.