Book Review: HCSB Study Bible

HCSB Study Bible

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Many thanks to the kind folks at Broadman & Holman for this review copy!

This volume is like many others of its kind—big and bulky. As such I would expect most who use this bible (and study bibles in general) leave it in a particular place where they can read and take notes—it’s just a bit too bulky to lug around from place to place. This is not necessarily a bad thing as its necessarily large, but is a factor that users will have to weigh (pun intended!) when considering a study bible.

This copy is the hardcover with dust jacket, which I prefer in a study bible. Because I use study bibles in a very utilitarian manner and not just for reading, I prefer one that is heavier so that it stays open while I flip pages. If I want to read notes on verses in Genesis 12 or Revelation 17, I want to flip there and have the bible stay opened. Obviously that’s not problem with this volume—it weighs in at just over four pounds!

As I expected from this study bible, it is loaded with information designed to take the reader beyond the final translation before them. One of these features that I always find helpful is word studies, which number 290 in this particular volume. There is an inherent danger in word studies of this nature, primarily because they must be condensed and thus are essentially incomplete. Words, no matter to what language, culture, and time they belong, can drastically change meaning and therefore evade simplistic definitions. I’ll not quibble over subtle nuances that are present in the word studies in this volume because I find them to be helpful. Even if the information is incomplete or disagreeable to the reader, they are helpful because they help the reader have a better handle on the text at hand.

There are also a number of other requisite aids in this edition that assist the reader in digging just below the translation’s surface. There are numerous cross references, which like word studies can be helpful is used properly, but the danger is that sometimes readers assume that a cross-referenced text is actually related to another. Another interesting feature is the alternate/literal translation bar. It is a yellow-background insert between the translation and the study notes that provides additional translation information. The “literal” means just that—the translators provide a word’s literal meaning (though this can be misleading), but does not conform to good English style. The “alternate” option provides cases in which the translators considered rendering certain terms or phrases one way, but ultimately chose the option reflected in the text. This is helpful in helping readers gain a glimpse into the complex work of translating biblical texts.

Other features include numerous charts, maps (which I always find helpful), excellent illustrations, actual photographs (though somewhat muddled due to the paper are still crisp enough), timelines, and well-written introductions to each biblical book. These introductions are an asset to this volume. Though by necessity they are only cursory in their treatment, they are still helpful in orienting the reader to the various matters that lay behind the text, e.g., authorship, date, message, purpose, structure, and contribution to the Bible. It is in these introductions that you will also find the timelines mentioned earlier. The back matter consists of the HCSB bullet notes found throughout the text (essentially a glossary of key terms, e.g., atonement, Baal, Mount of Olives, Passover, etc.), a table of weights and measures, topical concordance, Bible reading plans (three-year and one-year plans), and a 52-week Scripture memory plan. In sum, the HCSB Study Bible will certainly provide the reader with ample tools to study the Scriptures in more depth and will hopefully serve as a boon for further research beyond the limitations of the information provided.

One of the things that I noticed while using this Bible was that some of the headings throughout were blurry. Looking at them closely, there appears to be a drop shadow behind them. The font is a burnt orange color and in these this shadow is yellow, which leads to a blurring effect. I suspect this is a printing issue because it’s found throughout and if you look at the sample PDF, there is no shadowing. However, despite this one particular flaw, it remains an aesthetically pleasing volume and I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a good study bible.

Αυτω η δοξα


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