A while back, a friend asked me why I like the NASB more than the ESV. Subsequently, I posted a list of my comparisons. It has since become the most visited post ever on our website. As a result, I have decided to offer this follow-up, throwing the HCSB into the mix. The following is a list of comparisons I have made between the three translations. Some are fact based, and some are preference based:

NASB (New American Standard Bible)

  • Lockman Foundation
  • Formal Equivalent
  • 12th Grade + Reading Level
  • Original 1977 version kept Thees and Thous in passages where God is directly addressed.
  • Pew Bibles run $5 each.


  • Factory binding is notoriously cheap.
  • Packaging is not as marketable as ESV or HCSB.
  • Word choice and grammar may be difficult for some to adapt to.


  • Font is unmatched.
  • Personal pronouns for God capitalized.
  • Words added to complete the meaning that do not appear in original text are italicized.
  • OT citations in the NT are rendered in small caps for easier reference.
  • Cross references in their reference Bible are amazing (even better than the ESV Study Bible).
  • Multiple options for font sizes.
  • Preferred Bible for personal study of most educated pastors and seminary professors.

ESV (English Standard Version)

  • Crossway
  • Formal Equivalent
  • 9th Grade Reading Level
  • Pew Bibles run $5 each.


  • Font is typically too small.
  • Personal pronouns for God not capitalized.
  • Fewer helps for determining what is translation and what is interpretation.
  • OT grammar is choppy, with lots of run-on sentences (NASB adds breaks so-as not to overextend the reader).
  • OT does not lend itself well to group reading.


  • Factory binding unmatched.
  • Packaging lends itself very well to marketing.
  • Preferred preaching text of many popular pastors.
  • Accessible for Christians of various generations.
  • Study Bible notes are unmatched.

HCSB (Holman Christian Standar Bible)

  • B&H Publishing
  • Optimal” Equivalent
  • 6th Grade Reading Level
  • Pew Bibles run $5 each.


  • Factory binding is here and there (you get what you pay for).
  • Contract words used liberally for modern readers.
  • Prone to gimmicky packaging.
  • Fewer translation helps than the NASB.


  • Font is near NASB standard.
  • Personal pronouns for God capitalized.
  • Translation committee hails from 17 different denominations lending a certain level of objectivity to its translation choices (Originally, I had posted that the translation committee hailed from only one denomination. I was wrong in this assertion and was relying on faulty information.).
  • More translation helps than the ESV.
  • OT citations in the NT are rendered in bold for easier reference.
  • Multiple options for font sizes.
  • Word choices such as slave and Yahweh are a notable difference.
  • Preferable for family worship for those looking for a simpler translation to replace the increasingly liberal NIV.

“Due to the nature of languages, all translation requires a certain amount of interpretation.” – Matt Sanders; Assistant Professor of Greek, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

9 thoughts on “NASB vs. ESV vs. HCSB

  1. This comparison would be fairer to mention that the Updated NASB of 1995 does not use Thee’s and Thou’s. Also, the updated version contains other useful improvements.

  2. I use the ESV primarily with referral to the NASB as well as the ASV of 1901. I find the ESV to be a superb translation but then again so is the NASB. The ASV, while the most literal of all, can be a bit difficult to read smoothly.

  3. Hi there! Could you expand on the HCSB Con “contract words used liberally for modern readers” and Pro “word choices such as slave and Yahweh are a noticeable difference”?
    I’ve been using an HCSB study Bible for the past several years and love it but am thinking of getting a more easily transported Bible without all the study notes and leaning toward the NASB for that so really interested in this comparison! Thanks so much 🙂

  4. In my view too much credence given to literal versions, great for students and scholars, less useful for average christians who need the thought and meaning the author wants to convey. Word for word leaves out the context, plus many ancient words have multiple meanings that depend on context and intent of the author. I like Hcsb that is one notch less literal than esv, and one notch less dynamic than niv. Prior to Hcsb,always used niv to read to patients during visitations, for easier understanding of the authors point. For study, I compare with KJV, NKJV, NASB, Hcsb,niv, plus multiple commentaries.

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