Why Imprint Church is switching to the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

“…the word of the Lord remains forever” -1 Peter 1:25

“…the word of God is living and active” - Hebrews 4:12

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” - 2 Timothy 3:16

Imprint Church believes that the Bible is God’s authoritative, powerful, life-transforming word to humanity, and that its focal point is the good news of Jesus. For the last ten years of Imprint Church’s life we have used the English Standard Version (ESV) translation of the Bible in all our public worship gatherings and communication.

We love the ESV (and always will) and believe that Christians benefit most when they read and study God’s word in all the major translations produced by teams of Bible scholars. We have made the decision to switch from the ESV to the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). In short, this is based on our desire to use what we believe is a more readable translation than the ESV, particularly for younger disciples, yet still retains a high level of accuracy in translating the words of the original languages into contemporary English.

There have been essentially two types of translations of English Bibles.  One is technically called dynamic equivalence.  This type of translation reflects a “thought-for-thought” translation philosophy that emphasizes that each word or phrase is contextually based and whose meaning is shaped by the surrounding culture. The translators seek to understand the culture of the Bible in the Ancient Near East, Greco-Roman, or Jewish context, and find parallels in our own contemporary cultural and linguistic context, and translate the idea that the text is trying to convey.  Some good examples of dynamic equivalence translations are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

In contrast to this approach is what is called formal equivalence.  This is a more literal translation that seeks to capture the precise wording of the original text, and remain as exact as possible in the one-to-one translation of words.  Some argue that this is not possible because there are such significant differences in grammar, syntax, and idiomatic phrases that it makes word-for-word translation next to impossible.  However, most formal equivalence translations recognize this and try to work within a framework of being as literal as possible, while allowing for both readability and grammatical excellence.  Some examples of this philosophy of translation are the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the ESV.

Consider Luke 15:20 in both the NIV (dynamic equivalence) and the NJKV (formal equivalence).

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (NIV)

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. (NKJV)

The NIV helps modern readers understand that the father hugged his son, not that he literally tripped and fell on his son’s neck!

The CSB has endeavored to translate according to what they call optimal equivalence, “a translation philosophy that pursues both linguistic precision to the original audiences and readability in contemporary English.”* They state that “where a word-for-word rendering is clearly understandable, a literal translation is used. When a word-for-word rendering might obscure the meaning for a modern audience, a more dynamic translation is used. This process assures that both the words and thoughts contained in the original text are conveyed as accurately as possible for today’s readers.”*

An example of a passage we think is more readable in the CSB than in the ESV, yet accurately conveys the meaning, is Esther 3:6.

But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (ESV)

And when he learned of Mordecai’s ethnic identity, it seemed repugnant to Haman to do away with Mordecai alone. He planned to destroy all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout Ahasuerus’s kingdom. (CSB)

To be sure, there are places where we prefer the ESV to the CSB, but as the CSB has become more widely known and used, and especially as we consider our conviction to disciple our students in the Word of God, we believe the CSB is the best choice at this time to use in Imprint’s worship, teaching, and publications.

Most Bible-reading Christians already have their favorite translation, and that is a good thing. We would encourage you to add the CSB into your regular rhythms of Bible reading, study, and devotions and to read and follow along in the CSB on Sunday mornings at Imprint. May the Lord continue to enlighten the eyes of our hearts to the glory of Christ in the Bible.