Is the CSB Suitable for Expository Preaching? An Excerpt from my Sent Folder

by Jun 18, 2019KJV2 comments

A reader who attends Boyce College, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

I’m not going to keep you, this is the only question I will ask and then I’ll simply follow you via social media; can I trust the CSB as an expository preacher? Interested in your thoughts (which will remain here). Thanks, Mark.

A writer who doesn’t wish his thoughts to remain there:

Great question. I would say two things:

  1. You have to trust someone, or a group of someones, until you can read Greek and Hebrew yourself. Even if that does happen, you’ll still be trusting scholars who’ve done specific work you haven’t done. In other words: you’re never going to get out of the situation in which you must trust someone else’s judgment when it comes to certain questions about the Bible, particularly Bible translation. And that’s not bad, it’s good. God made it this way. He gave us pastors and Schreiners ? to edify and instruct us.
  2. Look at the work people like Schreiner (the major leader over the CSB) have done on the Bible. Is it careful? Is it faithful? Is it humble and godly? Is it rich and deep? I think the answer with him has got to be a resounding yes. In other words, he is worthy of your trust. And—without claiming that the CSB, or any translation, is perfect—that means the CSB is worthy of your trust. What I’ve said about Schreiner could be said about multiple other people on the CSB committee. I believe that I could be a faithful expository preacher using any of the major modern English evangelical Bible translations. And I’ve done it.

Now for my blog audience I will add that I follow the buzz on major translations, and the CSB has gotten mostly good buzz with a mix of I-liked-its-predecessor-the-HCSB-better. But a good review of a Bible translation takes so much work, and I must confess that though I’ve read through the CSB and found it to be—generally speaking, which is all the speaking I can do—just fine, I haven’t read it with the closeness and depth required to form an independent or scholarly opinion. I’m content, for my needs, to outsource my opinion to trusted authorities—the way we all do on so, so many important things.

I really think the above is the kind of answer most pastors who are asked this question—about any translation—should give. Unless a given pastor has done intensive work in the Greek and Hebrew and worked through hundreds of sample passages in a given translation, his opinion should self-consciously rely on the experts. I think we get in a lot of trouble when we pretend to others, and even to ourselves, that we have formed our opinions firsthand when in reality we haven’t. A good clue: if you can’t read Greek or Hebrew, you don’t have a firsthand opinion on the quality of a translation (except perhaps on the matter of English style). If you can only read one and not the other, you don’t have a firsthand opinion on the quality of a translation in both testaments. The sheer number of fine-grained decisions that goes into the making of any Bible translation says to me that people are in special danger of committing the “insufficient sampling” fallacy when evaluating them. Have an opinion, yes, but get your epistemology straight. It will help keep you humble—which is how I feel when I am asked a question about the CSB. I hope my answer reflects that humility!

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  1. Fred Creason

    Great answer, Mark. I have used both translations, the HCSB and the CSB, in a preaching setting. The HCSB is a good translations, but it is difficult to read orally, especially for people like me who are more accustomed to the cadence of the NASB, ESV, NKJV, KJV. Many of my friends have had the same experience. The CSB is much easier to read from the pulpit or lectern. Blessings. Fred

  2. Mark Ward

    Thanks for stopping by, Dr. Creason. Those sorts of reaction round-ups are helpful.