Book Review: “CSB Reader’s Bible”


For those of us who have been reading the Bible for a while, there are parts of our reading experience that we take for granted. But these very same features make it a strange sort of book. Take verse numbers and study Bible notes. These can be incredibly helpful, but they also clutter up the page and are not found in most other types of books (aside from textbooks, religious works, and academic resources). And chapter numbers in the Bible are much more frequent than chapter breaks in other sorts of books. Additionally, they can artificially segment off our Bible reading into tidy little units that lose the important context of surrounding verses. This is not to mention section headings, headers, cross-references, and other features! These factors can be imposing to first-time readers of the Bible and also can keep us from experiencing the books of the Bible as belonging to the genres in which they were originally written: as a letter or group of poems or as a story.

In response to these potential issues, Bible publishers have begun to put out Bibles that they refer to as Reader’s Bibles. I already had an ESV Reader’s Bible, so when the chance to review a CSB Reader’s Bible came, I jumped at the opportunity.

The CSB is the Christian Standard Bible, the newest edition of what was formerly known as the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The CSB aims not for formal equivalency (e.g. NASB) or dynamic equivalency (e.g. NIV), but “optimal equivalency.” That is, it goes with a word-for-word translation as often as possible, but will translate thought-for-thought when translating literally would make things too unclear for the modern reader.

I share this because this makes it a good choice for a reader’s Bible. All too often, translations utilizing formal equivalency can come off sounding wooden and not flowing very well. But the danger of a dynamic translation is that it can stray from the original language in of the text. With the CSB, you know that it’s sticking close to the original meaning but that you’ll not have a difficult time slogging through odd phrases.

The physical dimensions of the Bible are 9.25 x 5.5 x 1.6.″ This makes it a bit taller than most comparable Bibles, which I like. It’s a gray cloth over board Bible and has a blue ribbon for you to mark your place.

The Sermon on the Mount

For the pages themselves, there are no verse numbers, chapter numbers, or section headers. There are no headers and the only items in the footers are page numbers and the chapters that are on the above page. The text is in a single long column and the only interruptions are drop caps for the first letter of a new chapter. Also, Old Testament quotations are in bold.

For poetry, the text is indented some. Most lines are short enough that they fit without going over to the next line. In a nice touch, poetry that is alliterative (e.g. Psalm 119) not only have the English transliteration of the Hebrew letter: they also have the Hebrew character.

Note the Hebrew character

I love this reader’s Bible and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in trying out a different way of engaging with the biblical text. I’ve only had it a few weeks and it’s already one of my favorite Bibles. The CSB Reader’s Bible would be a welcome addition to any Christian’s library and would make a wonderful gift as well.

5 stars out of 5

CSB Reader’s Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 1816 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Holman Bible Publishers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

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