HCSB Study Bible Review

I have been anticipating the release of this particular study Bible for well over a year. As soon as I learned that B&H Publishing would be releasing a comprehensive study Bible my interest was piqued. I really like the translation itself, finding it to be a very good balance of formal and dynamic translation philosophies. Ed Blum had oversight of the project and has shown himself to be very capable. Blum stated that his desire was to produce a translation which is more accurate than NASB and more readable than NIV. Anyone familiar with translation knows this to be a difficult feat. Yet, in my opinion the HCSB comes as close as any translation at meeting those two criteria. The translators departed from traditional renderings of biblical passages if accuracy called for it. This is a welcome approach to Bible translation. Accuracy and fidelity to the original languages (not previous translations) should be the goal of all Bible translation. Dealing with God’s words calls for accuracy and fidelity, not abiding by tradition. As we all know tradition can be wrong.

The physical Bible itself is a product of good craftsmanship. The edition which I have is the brown and tan simulated leather. Crossway refers to theirs as “tru tone.” Zondervan calls theirs “duo tone.” Foundation Publications names theirs “leather-tex.” The result in the HCSB Study Bible is a very soft cover, which feels more luxurious than a bonded leather cover. I am honestly not certain how the simulated leather will hold up over time. It could not possibly be worse than most bonded leather covers from the past and present. The two-tone color is very pleasing to the eye, along with the artistic design found on the inside edge of the front cover.

One of the benefits of Holman’s Bibles is that they feature a sewn binding. Thank you Holman for doing so. This results in users being able to lay the Bible flat without it curling up and it results in a more durable Bible. In my estimation this is an indication of a quality product. Holman Bibles were not created with an eye to mass production without concern for quality, they were created with quality in mind. The paper itself is truly unlike any I have seen in any Bible. It is heavy gauge paper which means that it is more durable, easier to take notes on, and with very little bleed-through. The white color of the paper makes the biblical text and study notes very visible on the page, which is a positive. The font appears different from previous HSCB editions which I have seen. I think that it is actually nicer than the previous ones, which looked a bit too round and ballooned for my liking (but that is a personal opinion). Book introductions and essays (which are interspersed throughout the Bible) are on what feels like a tad more glossy paper and they are full color. This is truly quality paper.

As much as I like the HCSB and the quality Bibles from B&H Publishing, they should probably hide the “Ginormous Bible” video promos. This is a large Bible. But, it is not as though you are carrying fifty pounds in one hand. People carry heavier things all the time. It is really not an issue for me. The Bible is filled to the brim with scholarly notes and in-text study tools. Therefore, the two ribbon markers (brown and tan – in this edition) come in very handy while using this Bible. This is a black letter text, which I prefer. It features center column cross-references but one unique feature is that the numbering for the verses is a turqoise color (my estimation). When I first saw this aspect in the online previews I was not so crazy about it. As I have used this Bible I have come to actually like this feature a lot. It actually helps me to be able to block out the interruption in the flow of the text that the numbering creates and read through the text as though the references are not present. Yet, they are still there for the times when you are attempting to locate a specific verse in the text. The outside margins actually provide some room for note-taking. This is not a wide-margin Bible but it does feature more room than most study Bibles in the margins.

The notes of the study Bible are comprehensive. They are done by conservative evangelicals who are well-versed in their fields of study. The notes are in the vein of what would be found in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, which is a high level of quality scholarship. The reason for mentioning this is that the Zondervan Study Bible provides the interpretive options for debated texts and allow the reader to choose the best interpretation. Both Dispensational and Covenant Theologians could use this Bible and benefit from it. One positive that I would mention is that it is not anti-dispensational nor anti-covenant theology, which is a positive. It appears to be created to help the reader to do critical inductive study of the biblical text, which is what the goal of any good study Bible should be.

Along with the study notes are in-text maps. They are full-color and located in the appropriate places, where their locations are discussed in the text. Anyone who reads papers, journals, or books which feature foot notes (hallelujah!) rather than endnotes (ugh!) knows the value of having the resources located alongside the text which refers to them. Thank you to those who were involved in the process of devising the layout and features of this study Bible. You truly took into account what would be user-friendly. This is evidenced in the: sewn binding, quality paper, appropriately located maps and comprehensive study notes, detailed essays on appropriate sujects/issues, and two ribbon markers.

The essays featured in this Bible are of a high quality. Select biblical scholars authored short essays on relevant issues and subjects, which provide the reader with a better understanding of the historical background, interpretation, and application of the biblical text. They as mentioned previously are on full-color glossy-type paper. In addition to the study notes found on each page there are also Hebrew and Greek word studies which are found scattered throughout the Bible. These are beneficial for those who have not had training the original languages but desire a deeper understanding of the biblical text. These are offset in full-color boxes on the page.

In the back of the Bible is a topical concordance for finding specific portions of Scripture. I have read of others criticizing the inclusion of a topical concordance rather than a “non-exhaustive” concordance. The truth is that no Bible can include an exhaustive concordance. If the user truly cannot find a verse he will have to consult an exhaustive concordance on the shelf or on the computer. A study Bible cannot be everything. Can you imagine how big this Bible would be if it had to double as an exhaustive concordance? It is just unreasonable to expect such a thing. Another aspect to this issue is the fact that most people (maybe not the scholarly crowd specifically) think topically. They will look for something in a concordance based upon the specific issue addressed rather than based upon a word found in the verse. Just a thought.

In addition to the maps found throughout the text there are also full-color maps found in the back of the Bible. In the front of the Bible are pages for compiling notes on the biblical text, which is a positive since this is a study Bible.

In my opinion this is the highest quality comprehensive study Bible that has been produced to date. I have loved my Zondervan NASB Study Bible for years. I have to say that the HCSB Study Bible has improved upon it, which I would say is high praise. In addition to the physical study Bible you may access the website which features all of the text and notes on-line for free! I am truly impressed by what B&H Publishing has produced under the oversight of Ed Blum. Thank you for such a high quality scholarly resource.

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