A photograph capturing a worn-out HCSB Bible, its pages torn and frayed, symbolizing the imperfections and criticisms surrounding the translation, questioning its integrity and accuracy.

What Is Wrong With The Hcsb Bible?

The Bible is meant to be the infallible word of God, guiding humanity for thousands of years. However, some believe that certain modern Bible translations, like the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), have veered too far from the original texts.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The HCSB takes liberties with the original Hebrew and Greek texts, incorporates gender-neutral language, and relies on inferior manuscripts. This has led many to reject it as an accurate translation.

In this comprehensive article, we will analyze the criticisms of the HCSB translation to help you understand what is wrong with the HCSB Bible according to its detractors. We will look at issues with its textual basis, translation approach, gender-neutral language, and more.

Whether you are considering the HCSB for personal use or want to be informed on this debate, this discussion will provide extensive detail and analysis.

Problematic Textual Basis of the HCSB

Relies on Inferior Manuscripts

The HCSB relies primarily on a small number of manuscripts for the New Testament text that most scholars consider inferior. The main texts used are Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus. While these are important early manuscripts, the majority of scholars believe the Byzantine manuscripts more accurately preserve the original writings.

Byzantine manuscripts were produced over a longer period of time and in much greater numbers, giving them more credibility. The HCSB disregards the Byzantine tradition, which weakens its textual basis.

Omits Key Verses

In several instances, the HCSB omits or casts doubt on verses found in the majority of manuscripts. For example, it omits the doxology “For thine is the kingdom…” from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13.

In Luke 24:51, the phrase “and carried up into heaven” is placed in brackets, questioning its authenticity. Most problematic is that the HCSB completely omits Acts 8:37, an important verse testifying to Christ’s deity.

While there are manuscript variances, most scholars believe these verses should not have been omitted or questioned.

Alters the Text

While most translations aim for precise equivalence to the original text, the HCSB takes liberties in order to use more modern English. For instance, “Christ” is substituted for “Jesus” in many places. Names like “John,” “Peter,” and “Jacob” are replaced with more modern versions.

Terms like “baptize” and “apostle” are replaced with simply “immerse” and “messenger.” Such alterations may help for readability but hurt accuracy to the original meanings. Most scholars advise formal rather than dynamic equivalence for most accurate translations.

Translation Approach Seen as Imprecise

Supporters of formal equivalence translations have criticized the HCSB for using an overly dynamic or functional equivalence approach in some passages. This more fluid translation method tries to convey ideas accurately in natural English, but critics argue important nuances or theological implications can potentially be obscured or lost.

Overly Dynamic Equivalence

The HCSB has been charged with paraphrasing some passages rather than directly translating the original language. For example, Phillip W. Comfort argued in an online paper that the HCSB’s rendering of 2 Timothy 3:16 – changing “inspiration of God” to “breathed out by God” – alters the meaning of the text. He sees this as an unwelcome exegetical interpretation rather than strictly translating what scripture says.

Paraphrases Texts

Critics claim passages like John 1:14 (“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”) lose some theological depth when changed to everyday language such as “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” in the HCSB. While increased readability has value, some believe key scriptural terminology should be directly translated where possible instead of interpreted or simplified.

Word Choices Seen as Inaccurate

Scholars such as Dr. James White and groups like The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have identified HCSB word selections they see as exegetically inaccurate or reflecting unwanted ideological influences.

For example, changing “sons of God” to “children of God” in verses like Romans 8:14 is seen by critics as removing connections to important biblical themes of adoption. Issues like this lead some to conclude interpretation should be limited in translations, with more explanatory notes reserved for study aids instead.

Use of Gender-Neutral Language

Neutral Terms for God and Mankind

One of the most controversial aspects of the HCSB translation is the use of gender-neutral language when referring to God and mankind. The translators made a point to avoid using masculine pronouns and terms when referring to God and often replaced “man” with “people” or “humanity.”

For example, in Genesis 1:27, the HCSB says “So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.” The 1984 NIV translation says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

The use of gender-neutral terms is seen by some as an attempt to impose ideological changes rather than accurately translate the original Hebrew and Greek.

Alters Masculine Words

The HCSB takes a revisionist approach by altering words that are masculine in the original languages. For instance, the Hebrew word “ben” meaning “son” is translated “child” or “children” over 20 times. The Greek word “anthropos” meaning “man” is translated “people” or “humanity” in many passages.

The Greek word “adelphos” meaning “brother” is translated as “brother or sister” in multiple verses. Such changes obfuscate the masculine meaning and specific context found in the source texts. Critics see this as unacceptable manipulation that distorts God’s Word to fit modern sensibilities.

Seen as Imposing Ideology

The most common criticism is that the HCSB’s gender-neutral language reflects liberal or feminist ideology rather than accurately conveying the Word of God. The translators appear to have imposed contemporary beliefs about gender equality onto Scripture instead of adhering to the grammatical sense of the original words.

This practice of neutralizing gender opens the door for confusion and misinterpretation of key texts regarding God, sin, salvation, and biblical roles for men and women. Faithful Bible scholars insist that God inspired the very words of Scripture, which should be translated precisely as they are written without ideological influence or distortion.

Other Criticisms and Controversies

Proprietary Nature

One of the main criticisms of the HCSB is its proprietary nature. The HCSB translation is owned and published exclusively by Lifeway Christian Resources, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

This means that Lifeway has full control over the copyright and distribution of the HCSB, unlike more open translations such as the ESV or NASB which are published by multiple publishers.

Some critics argue that this gives Lifeway too much power over the text and hinders wider adoption and distribution of the translation. There are also concerns about the financial motivations behind the HCSB and whether theological decisions were overly influenced by Lifeway’s commercial interests.

Lack of Adoption and Use

Due to its proprietary nature, the HCSB has struggled to gain widespread adoption and use compared to other major English Bible translations. While exact statistics are hard to come by, most surveys suggest the HCSB has a very small share of the English Bible market, often less than 5%.

Very few churches, academics, or Bible publishers have embraced the HCSB. For example, it is not used as the primary text for any major study Bibles, commentaries, or reference works. The lack of adoption hurts visibility and makes it difficult for newcomers to encounter the HCSB.

Perceived Doctrinal Biases

Some critics believe the HCSB translation has inherent doctrinal biases, particularly toward Southern Baptist theology. They argue certain key texts were translated in a way that supports typical SBC views on issues like gender roles, salvation theology, and end times theology.

Examples include translating Greek words in a way that emphases male leadership in the home (Eph 5:23), downplaying eternal security doubts in Hebrews 6:4-6, or using the term “rapture” rather than “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Such biases, whether real or perceived, hinder the HCSB gaining wider acceptance outside the SBC.


The HCSB Bible aimed to be an accessible, clear, and faithful modern English translation. However, critics believe its textual basis, translation approach, gender-neutral language, and other issues disqualify it from being considered an accurate translation.

While supporters feel these criticisms are overblown, the debates continue over what editorial decisions are appropriate for a Bible translation. This comprehensive analysis aimed to detail the significant controversies regarding the HCSB translation.

For those seeking an in-depth Bible, understanding these critiques provides important perspective and information to consider.

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