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CSB marks fifth anniversary with 10 percent of Bible sales in U.S.

Lifeway photo

NASHVILLE (BP) – The award-winning Christian Standard Bible translation reached its fifth anniversary in March, a milestone marked by a 10 percent market share of Bible sales, according to top industry tracking data.

Andy McLean, Lifeway’s director of Bibles and reference, said the sales milestone is rare for new translations. Lifeway Christian Resources’ publishing arm, B&H Publishing, released the CSB in March 2017 as a significant revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

“Back in the HCSB days, I think some of those prime market share numbers were around 6 percent market share,” McLean told Baptist Press. “As part of the five-year celebration, … we’re also celebrating the fact that the CSB has surpassed 10 percent market share, which is something that we’re certainly celebrating and proud of, given the fact that the translation’s only five years old.”

The sales ranking is based on 2021 New Product Release (NPD) data, which in March garnered the CSB fifth place on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) sales ranking.

Thomas Schreiner, a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) associate dean who co-chaired the Translation Oversight Committee, said translators appreciated the HCSB, but made significant changes in rendering the CSB.

“In many ways the HCSB was a very good translation. We revised the translation we thought had a number of strengths, but we also think that it had some weaknesses that could be remedied by a revision,” said Schreiner, SBTS James Buchanan Harrison professor of New Testament interpretation, professor of biblical theology and associate dean of the SBTS school of theology.

“Furthermore, every translation including the CSB needs periodic revisions, and we’ve seen that in the history of translations throughout the years,” Schreiner said. “Every translation that is done needs to be revised as the English language changes, as our knowledge of the original text changes as well, to reflect changes in scholarship.”

Among the most significant changes, Schreiner said, is the observance of the standard English practice of translating LORD (in all capital letters) as LORD, as compared to its rendering as Yahweh in the HCSB.

In a number of passages in the CSB, he said, the Greek and Hebrew words that were translated as slave in the HCSB – dulos and ebed, respectively – are rendered instead as “servant,” while retaining “slave” in other passages.

“Now we did make some significant changes,” Schreiner said. “And then we made hundreds, probably thousands of other changes as we worked on the translation. It wasn’t just a light revision.

“It was a very thorough revision. But that doesn’t mean we’re not thankful for the HCSB. We’re very thankful for the work that was done on the HCSB.”

The CSB’s fifth-place ECPA sales ranking puts it just below the top-selling New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version and King James Version.

Among accolades, the CSB She Reads Truth Bible won the ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award for surpassing 500,000 in sales in 2021; the CSB Tony Evans Study Bible received the ECPA 2021 Bronze Award for sales of more than 100,000; and the CSB Ancient Faith Study Bible tied with Tyndale House Publishers’ NLT Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition, for the 2020 ECPA Christian Book Award for Bibles.

“We’re very pleased with the reception for the CSB. It’s always hard for a new translation to make an impact on the market as there are many fine translations out there,” Schreiner said. “But we feel that the CSB has done very well, and we’ve been pleased with the individuals and churches, to see many people reading it, churches adopting it as their church Bible. So, we’re encouraged.”

Joining Schreiner as co-chair of the translation committee was David Allen, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of preaching, George W. Truett chair of Ministry and director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching. The two were joined by a global team of biblical scholars encompassing several traditions, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran and non-denominational.

“Our attempt was to render the Bible faithfully and accurately, but in an idiom that contemporary people can understand,” Schreiner said. “We hope that even unbelievers and new Christians could pick up the CSB and understand it when they read it, and at the same time, that pastors could feel that the CSB is accurate so that they could use it as a church Bible as they preach God’s Word.”

The CSB was last updated in 2020, according to its website.

“The improvements to the CSB total less than 1 percent change of the text,” the website reads. “The adjustments within the CSB Text Edition: 2020 are neither radical nor extensive because the translation committee is happy with the work previously carried out. Further, they do not intend to regularly update the text with minor changes such as this.”