March 17, 2015

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) reader edition

When the B&H Publishing group kindly sent me review copies of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the first thing I noticed was the packaging! Yes, the packaging. In all my decades of buying Bibles and now of receiving them for my review on the Bible Reviewer blog, I’ve never seen an edition treated with such care.

Inside each sturdy box, I found a Bible wrapped in both directions in heavy-duty paper to ensure its safety. Then, inside the wrapping, I found a thick leather cover – ready for long wear, yet flexible and soft to the touch. No wonder Holman Bibles come with a lifetime guarantee!

Earlier I had received a review copy of the hefty, impressive, award-winning HCSB Study Bible, which I highly recommend, but this time I wanted a reader’s edition to read, cover to cover, without the distraction of lengthy footnotes and articles. So the publisher sent two!

The HCSB Large Print Personal Size Reference Bible measures about 5.75" x 8.5", which provides a nice size for carrying in one hand. To keep down the weight and thickness, the paper is a bit thin with some bleed-through, but the large font (about 10-point) is very readable. With no footnotes except essentials and no center-margin references, this truly is an edition to just sit down and read.

The HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible measures about 6.75” x 9.5” and is also easy to carry, but the slightly larger size helps the leather cover to lay flat. The unusual font choice blocks out the bleed-through but might take some getting used to if you’re expecting the typical roundish serif. Once I actually began to read the text, however, I found the dark, narrow san serif font to be super easy on my eyes.

The ultrathin edition also includes a small concordance at the back of the book and cross-referencing in the center column, providing features I like even in a reader’s edition. In addition, I discovered an unusual feature I don’t recall seeing before: The names and chapters of the books have been placed in the left corners of the bottom margins of the pages! In the opposite corner, page numbers have also been placed at the bottom of each page, so with the ultrathin edition, I was able to look up scriptures very quickly in my Bible study group.

Regarding those scriptures, the HCSB provides a contemporary translation of the Bible that, unlike some updated versions, wisely retains such key words in Christianity as “justification,” “sanctification,” and “redemption.” As a writer and poet who aims toward compression, I seldom like the use of ten words when one precise word will do – especially if it carries the weight of centuries of faith and theology.

I’m also happy to say this translation retains the word “blessed,” which says so much more than my momentary happiness over that discovery! In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Matthew 5:3-5 reads:

“The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven
is theirs.
Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted.
The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth.”

In the next chapter, Matthew 7:7 in the HCSB clearly states:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

With red letters in the ultrathin edition, I immediately found those words of Christ, and with bold letters for the biblical quotes in various chapters, I easily found scriptural references from the Old Testament to the New. With either edition though, I'm finding the HCSB a good choice to read.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.

HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide Leather

HCSB Large Print Personal Size Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide


  1. I have the HCSB Study Bible and the Apologetics Study Bible (also HCSB). The study notes are good in both. The translation bothers me, though. in the Old Testament, they translate the tetragrammaton as "Yahweh," but only sometimes. In fact, one can find "Yahweh" and "LORD" even in the same piece of narrative. They do the same thing with "christos" in the New Testament; sometimes they put "Christ," but other times "Messiah." I happen to LIKE the use of "Yahweh" and "messiah," but the inconsistency is annoying.

  2. Thanks for bringing this up, Chris. According to info in the front matter, the HCSB uses "God" when the Hebrew original is "Elohim" and "LORD" when it's "YHWH" (Yahweh) except when the personal name of God is being emphasized and/or when God is identifying Himself, for ex., by saying "I Am Yahweh." As the info further explains, "the word LORD in English is a title of God and does not accurately convey to modern readers the emphasis on God's personal name in the original Hebrew." Good to know! Thanks for calling that to our attention. God bless.

  3. The CSB (official HCSB revision) looks promising, among the revisions they fixed are the Christ/Messiah and servant/slave inconsistencies, tho they did also decide to use LORD for YHWH. I don't mind tho. I'm a KJV fan who likes reading MEV and NLT, I'm finding that I'm reading CSB more than the NLT. Just as pleasant to read in regular modern english, yet it cuts to the chase, unlike NLT which likes to take its time with throwing in all sorts of literary extras to help the reader imagine what they're reading. Whenever I compare in my Bible app, CSB's rendering is similar enough to the ones which many consider reliable translations. I think that HCSB will still be available for a while, not sure

    1. I haven't heard yet if HCSB will continue or if CSB replaces it. Am eager to read more.