NASB vs. ESV vs. HCSB

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.

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Pros

  • 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