Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The New Christian Standard Bible and the NA28

Attendees to last year’s ETS meeting were given nicely bound copies of the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation which releases in March of this year. The CSB is basically a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), now without the “H.” I have always thought of the HCSB as basically “the Southern Baptist Bible.” I think others did too and the CSB looks to be an attempt to move the translation away from that identification.

The website explains that the Holman Christian Standard Bible was updated “with the goals of increased fidelity to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts and increased clarity for today’s readers.” Specific changes mentioned are the non-capitalization of pronouns referring to God, the use of “tongues” rather than “languages” to translate λαλειν γλωσσα, The use of “LORD” rather than “Yahweh,” etc.

In light of our earlier discussion about what translators will do with the NA28/UBS5 changes, I should point out that the “pastoral FAQ” page says:
The textual base for the New Testament is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 5th corrected 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.
Given this, I wondered what the translators did at 2 Peter 3.10 where the NA28 has changed quite noticeably. In particular, I wondered if they followed the NA28’s conjecture. The answer? No, they did not. The CSB text is exactly the same as it was in the HCSB (my emphasis):
But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.
So the new editors have not been bound to the NA28 text just as the website says. But this does not mean they have ignored the NA28’s change altogether, you have to look at the footnotes to see the change. Whereas the HCSB includes a single note saying, “Other mss read will be burned up,” the new CSB adds a second footnote immediately after this which reads, “Or will not be found.” This is almost certainly a reference to the conjecture found in NA28: ουχ ευρεθησεται.

What I find unhelpful is the sequence of notes in the CSB. Since both notes are given back-to-back, I think most people will naturally read them together as “some manuscripts read ‘will be burned up’ and some manuscripts read ‘will not be found.’” This is not what the second note explicitly says, of course, but how else are people expected to read it?

The problem is that the two alternate readings are here presented to the English reader as if they are on par with one another when they really aren’t. The reading of NA28 is attested by a few Syriac and Coptic witnesses which means this note breaks the translation’s own policy that “the Christian Standard Bible uses textual footnotes to show important differences among Hebrew manuscripts and other texts such as the Septuagint and the Vulgate for the Old Testament and between various Greek manuscripts for the New Testament.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not expect translation footnotes to do full justice to the external evidence. They can’t; that’s what critical editions are for. But I don’t see how the CSB’s current note can do anything other than mislead its readers here. It either needs to be revised to something like “some Coptic and Syriac manuscripts read...” or be taken out altogether. As it is, it’s counterproductive.

One other new reading in the CSB was pointed out to me by Maurice Robinson. John 1.18 reads:
No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.
Notice anything odd?


  1. Ooh me me me... It just adds the phrase 'only son'... That's not there in the greek. It says monogenes, which implies it I guess.

    Am I close?

    1. You're on the right track, Phil.

    2. They're trying to have their cake and eat it too, it appears to me. If the proper reading is μονογενης θεος, then why add "who is himself God"? If the proper reading is μονογενης υιος, then why not just say "the only God" or "the only begotten God"?

    3. Oops - I have the exactly backwards. But my point stands...

  2. Please explain the John 1:18 issue for your readers who are just learning textual criticism.

  3. Peter,
    Certainly, the committee could have done a better job with the footnotes! The more accurate they are the better, yet at least now if someone happens to be reading from the NA text or a translation based on it and a listener is using the CSB they won't be totally confused.

  4. It appears that they have conflated the reading μονογενης θεου with μονογενης υιος and then added "who is himself" in order to make the conflation grammatical, a reading not found in any of the readings offered in the the NA28. Though my Latin is not yet good enough to fully make it out, Tischendorf appears to offer a reading that could possibly be translated in that way, so the conflation may not be original to them. It is still quite odd.

  5. This conflation of rival readings is just one more example of how ancient scribal practices are still being perpetuated by Bible translators, even in the computer age.

  6. One could add to the matter the problem of "Other MSS read," when the user who is not simultaneously consulting NA28 would have no idea whether those "other MSS" may be a single MS, a small handful, a more significant group, a divided majority, or the vast majority; nor whether the footnoted reading may in fact be a NA28 reading displaced by editorial preference (as with the 2Pet 3.10 footnote as mentioned by Peter).

    One would think that a translation boasting of having more text-critical footnotes than all or almost all others would be more circumspect in that regard.

  7. Actually, the reading for John 1:18 is also noted in the NET Bible ("The only one, himself God"). Here is the most pertinent NET note info on it as given in Accordance:

    John 1:18
    45 tc . . . As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the word θεοσ as in apposition to μονογενησ, and the participle ο ωη (ho oœn) as in apposition to θεοσ, giving in effect three descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman admits, μονογενηουσ in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well expect that the author would continue to use the adjective substantivally four verses later. Indeed, μονογενησ is already moving toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke 9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL 881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet 2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB (margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: μονογενην alone, without υιοσ, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, θεοσ is anarthrous. As such it carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where θεοσ ην ο λογοσ (theos eœn ho logos) means “the Word was fully God” or “the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, ο ωη occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together leads to the translation given in the text.

    If I recall correctly, the discussions on this centered on whether to go with "one and only son" or "one and only God" for the HCSB, but the option in the CSB was also considered due to the info as noted in the NET notes. So this is not really a conflation of readings but rather an option that others have noted and used (NET Bible). Just wanted to clarify that.

    On the textual notes, we all would wish for more clarification on those (I had quite a bit of clarification originally, but then was told to just put "other mss have/read" instead of giving more info). That's the editor's decision based on user feedback, space, etc., so that's what we did on the HCSB and the same is seen in the CSB. But I agree that the note on 2 Pet. 3:10 is confusing in that it can be read that the conjecture is on a par with the "other mss" note, as Peter noted. On the other hand, overall it seems to me that the CSB is indeed a good revision and improvement on the HCSB--the nickname at least will change from Hard Core Southern Baptist to something else. :-)

    1. William: μονογενην alone, without υιοσ, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc.

      It then would seem that in order to arrive at the CSB rendering, the expected Greek phrasing should have been something like μονογενης, ο ων θεος, εις τον κολπον του πατρος -- but that also is equally unattested. In the end, the CSB reading at best remains a conflationary conjecture as noted earlier.

  8. Maurice, I personally don't agree with the CSB reading on Jn. 1:18 (I prefer "only begotten God" or however one wishes to translate this phrase), but at least wanted to point out the reasoning behind the CSB reading. I still don't see it as a conflation since it is a grammatical/syntactical difference versus actually combining two readings per se. Does this outcome result in something similar to a conflated reading, yes. But did it originate as a conflated reading, no. It originated from the argument as noted in the NET Bible and some other settings. Hope this clarifies my post a bit.

  9. The CSB reportedly has in John 1:18: ". . . The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side . . ."

    Both Son and God are present. Of course translators can add words to fill out the sense. Is it certain that Son was added in order to fill out the sense of μονογενης then? As it is, I see only Eusebius (De ecclesiastica theologia; cf. Tischendorf) having what is rendered in CSB: θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· ὁ μονογενὴς υἱὸς ἢ μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

  10. Jonathan C Borland,
    Hm. And if one is going to adopt a unique mangled recollection from Eusebius in John 1:18, it's only a matter of time before a unique mangled recollection from Eusebius will be promoted in Matthew 28:19, and when that happens perhaps someone will say, "If it was good enough for John 1:18, it's good enough for Mt. 28:19."

    But, such forecasts aside -- the CSB, like the NIV before it, basically adopts a conjectural emendation in John 1:18. And the CSB's textual footnotes need a thorough overhaul, not only in the passages mentioned in the post and footnotes, but in other passages as well, too numerous to review here.

  11. Good discussion of John 1:18 and CSB's handling of the textual criticism issues. Going back to the introductory remarks about the reasons for "updating" the HCSB to the CSB, I must say I find the editors' choices disappointing, other than the correcting of the capitalization style to current usage when referring to God. When God tells Moses זֶה־שְּׁמִ֣י לְעֹלָ֔ם וְזֶ֥ה זִכְרִ֖י לְדֹ֥ר דֹּֽר
    "This is my name forever, and how I am to be remembered from generation to generation" (Exodus 3:15), at the very least God is giving permission, if not a command, to use Yahweh as one way of referring to him. And when you look at the Hebrew original and see how Yahweh is repeatedly used in conversations with God and in prayers, and even in cases where we might say "God bless you" (Ruth 2:4), it surely is more in accord with "fidelity" to the text to use Yahweh where it occurs in the original. As for "clarity", a brief discussion in the introduction and a note the first time or two Yahweh is used take care of that. It surely must be confusing to the reader to take the more typical approach that says something like "Yahweh, the covenant name of God is used more than 6000 times in the original text, but we are going to substitute LORD, even though there is no good reason other than tradition". Surely this must make at least some readers question the translators' devotion to accuracy. And while I applauded the HCSB's editors decision to use Yahweh in the text, I had to withdraw half the applause when I read that they were not going to use the term everywhere it is used in the Hebrew, but only when they judged it had some special emphasis (never mind that most Bible scholars I've read say that the very reason YHWH is used is to make a special emphasis, on God's qualities of covenant faithfulness and mercy, among others, as opposed to using Elohim or Adonai, for instance.).

    As for readers not following Yahweh vs LORD, this is bogus. They have no trouble recognizing a deity is referenced when pagan gods such as Baal, Asherah, Molech, Chemosh, Bel, Nebo, are mentioned. Not to mention Zeus and Hermes and Artemis in the New Testament. Why is it we can mention pagan deities names but not the name of the true and living God, especially in light of Ex. 3:15? Makes no sense to me, never has.

    As for "tongues", this is not current English, this is Biblish. Γλώσσα is simply the normal Greek word for language, often "foreign language", and there is no reason other than interpretive bias in favor of a particular religious view that insists on using "tongue" when "language" is meant. Paul's argument in 1 Cor. 14 clearly depends on γλώσσα referring to a language that can be understood and interpreted, or else an interpreter would superfluous. The fact that he commands that one be used when "tongues" are used in the worship or the speaker must remain silent shows this.

    I appreciate your blog as a resource for conservatives who are also concerned about text-critical issues and the role that this plays in making faithful translations. Am looking forward to reading more posts as I have time. As I am working on my own translation of John, I do spend some time researching and noting variant MSS readings, and am always glad to have an additional resource for this.

    Thank you,
    Dewayne Dulaney

    1. “Yahweh, the covenant name of God is used more than 6000 times in the original text, but we are going to substitute LORD, even though there is no good reason other than tradition”.

      There is a good reason. I don't agree with the mispronunciation Yahweh and won't buy a Bible that uses it. And they sure aren't going to put Jehovah in the text. So since half their target audience may want Jehovah and half Yahweh, the solution is to use neither and say LORD. This is, after all, why using LORD is traditional, because people can't agree on vocalization.

  12. This whole conversation makes me want to return to the KJV.

  13. While comparing the CSB to the Hebrew Bible, (Specifically, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia,) I noted something very interesting: In.Jeremiah 1:9 the tetragrammaton occurs twice, yet the CSB only translates it once as (LORD). The second instance of YHWH in the same passage is left untranslated, except for the use of the pronoun "he." I am not sure why this was done, but it is strange that a translation that claims to be based on the philosophy of "optimal equivalence" would treat the tetragrammaton in this manner. YHWH occurs in the Hebrew Bible 6828 times, and to my knowledge, all other committee translations/versions represent it with LORD, YAHWEH, or other terminology.

  14. Dewayne, I completely agree with everything you said and will continue making use of the HCSB, which strikes me as the superior version between the two. Exactly like you, I find it frustrating that English translators appear terrified of using "Yahweh." Since there's debate as to how the Heb. 'YHWH' is to be transliterated and pronounced, I'd have no problem if a given translation selected one version - e.g., "Yehovah" is another option - and simply explain their choice in the introduction. Problem solved.

    I've just made up my mind that whenever I read Scripture in public, I'm going to purposely say "Yahweh" when I come to "LORD."

  15. I don't like the CSB bible. It took out Gods name in many places. Also, it made for example Psalms 1:1 "Blessed is the MAN" to "Blessed is the ONE"
    You think bibles would especially true christians would avoid this gender neutral garbage which is coming from the LGBT crowd. Highly disappointed in this. I understand the whole "well it doesn't contextually mean only men it means both". Well sorry if it was "one" that the Hebrew God Yahweh meant then he would have made it say that.

  16. From the NKJV to the newest CSB there is just too much "Tinkering with the text" quotes are mine as I compare various modern English Bible translations. That tinkering in some cases changes the meaning of the text when comparing versions. To me all versions are to be compared to the KJV. In fact the RSV states it tries to keep the style of the KJV while throwing out the Textual Recrptus NT. Sorry, but I find all versions fall short of the KJV. Show me a modern version that has sparked a National or Global revival? It seems to me the versions are too interested in sticking with textual critics or modern social issues like gender neutrality or some other such nonsense! I honestly don't think these things should change Bible translations to the degree that they have. The Word of God is eternal and unchanging unlike the multiple versions of the English Bible today. I just find it hard to read any other version than the King James which has stood the test of time for over 400 years! I feel its a waste of my Bible reading time. I may be simple and unlearned in Academia. Tinkering with the Bible text does nothing to make better Christians. I don't think it unites the body of Christ but can be used as another tool in Satan's tool chest to divide the body of Christ. We can all agree on one thing - the King James Bible has been blessed by God for over 400 years. It's not changed every 5 to 10 years like these other versions. We live in the church age of Laodiceans church. We think we are rich and have need of nothing but Jesus says we are wretched and miserable and naked and poor and blind! But this is to be expected as the falling away approaches before Jesus returns.