Study bibles have been around since the Geneva Bible of 1560 and they have come in every imaginable sort, from the general purpose study Bibles like the NIV and ESV Study Bibles, to ones with a more specific agenda, like the Reformation Study Bible or the Orthodox Study Bible. As such, the HCSB Study Bible falls squarely in the general purpose study Bible category. In fact, in the introduction, the editors say that they intentionally avoided any sectarian bias in the notes, and I have found that to be (sometimes disappointingly) true. I like notes that make me think and sometimes even disagree with, but this study Bible is pretty main stream Evangelical in its approach. The excellent scholars that wrote the notes to the HCSB Study Bible are mostly from southern Evangelical seminaries, but there is enough variety in their denominations to make me happy.
The notes to the HCSB Study Bible are very good, but not great. Sometimes there are no notes where there should be some. Let me give you an example. John 6:44 states: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. (HCSB) The English word draws is very important here because it comes from the Greek word ἑλκύω (helkyo) which can mean drag (as a net) or draw (as a sword) or impel. Many commentators, including Martin Luther believed that it was more of a gracious allurement than God compelling the believer. The point is, there is a lot of disagreement over whether Christ meant that God the Father drags people to come to Him (perhaps even against their will) or whether he entices them (in accordance with their will). The HCSB Study Bible avoids this issue altogether and doesnt even comment on this important verse and others related to it.
To be fair, the HCSB does have a textual note on John 6:44 that says, Or brings, or leads but this is in all HCSB Bibles, and not the study Bible specifically. I wish that more study Bibles had the courage of their editors convictions and wouldnt be afraid to take positions on difficult or controversial topics. Too many study Bibles notes are tepid at best.
That said, one of the best features of the HCSB Study Bible are its word studies. The editors have chosen over 400 words in the Old and New Testaments and have given them special colorful articles that are both helpful and attractive. And while we are on the topic of color, you will not find a more colorful study Bible anywhere. Besides the many colorful end pages, the text itself is full of colorful maps, illustrations and diagrams. Along with these, the in-text headings and verse numbers are in a nice dark shade of blue and the textual notes are in their own cream-colored section beneath the text of the Bible. Some people are distracted by a lot of color, but I found the color tasteful in this Bible. It is a joy to read. Yes, I wish the text was in a single column format like the ESV Study Bible, but the overall page design is pleasing.
Another feature of this study Bible are its essays by leading Christian scholars. I found these essays to be well-written, but again, some important topics and doctrines were left out. I know that no study Bible can be all things to everybody, so I dont fault the HCSB Study Bible too much here. The essays are useful and a pleasure to read.
What do I love the most about this study Bible? Its maps. This is where this study Bible shines. It is chock full of color maps, often full page, that make orientating oneself in whatever book you happen to be reading much easier. So many study Bibles have weak gray-scale maps that the reader passes over because they are so small and bland. I found myself getting much more out of my reading (especially OT books) because I could reference the maps that went along with the text. The HCSB Study Bible also has good maps in the back of the Bible, but those are almost vestigial there are so many excellent maps in the text. One note: Why is it that Bibles have gotten rid of their map index (gazetteer)? It seems like Cambridge is the only Bible publisher that puts a map index in their Bibles anymore. This is a very useful feature that should make a comeback in Bibles, especially study Bibles.
The physical nature of this study Bible is impressive. It is a big study Bible and heavy. I brought it to church with me and thought it was probably too heavy to bring to church all the time, especially as I like to take notes on my iPad. Handling both was a bit much. Still, it feels good in the hand, like the precious tome that it is. The deluxe leather version is in black cowhide and is nicely executed. The leather is soft and pliable and the gold inlay on the spine is well done. It is not leather-lined, but the lining is very flexible and looks sharp. More importantly, the text is Smythe-sewn. It is a Bible that should last for years, if treated well. Interestingly, the gold leaf edges make a lot of the pages stick together on this Bible. Rather than being annoying, I rather liked this, as it made opening many pages of the Bible a special event of its own. It also reveals that the gold leaf was thickly applied and not some cheap spray on, like it is on a lot of Bibles.
The paper of this Bible is excellentone of its best features. Holman needed an especially opaque paper for this Bible so the color illustrations wouldnt show through, and they found a good one. Even with full color illustrations on the following page, I wasnt distracted in my reading. The HCSB Study Bible has two ribbon markers of different colors presumably for the Old and New Testaments. I dont use the ribbon markers and they remain tucked in as if new. They look good, however. This Bible also has a very good concordance (for the back of a Bible) and the cross references are thorough.
One thing this study Bible lacks that some (such as the ESV and Ryrie) study Bibles have is a section in the back on important church doctrines and ethics. While nice, I didnt miss this in this Bible. I have plenty of books on these topics and dont really use them in a study Bible. To me, a good study Bible should make reading the Bible text itself more revealing and informative. The HCSB Study Bible does this.
The overall impression of this study Bible is well executed. Good job Broadman & Holman! I have started to really like the Holman Christian Standard Bible version and now read it nearly as much as the NIV and the ESV. This study Bible will only make me want to read this version more. I should mention here that I was kindly sent a copy of the HCSB Study Bible to evaluate by Brandon Taylor of B&H Publishing. Many thanks to him.
The format for Nook is easy to navigate with large icons. I also use Adobe Digital Editions for Mac. I especially like the DRM free as I feel it is more open to use on different devices or share with my wife.
As far as being familiar, I feel the same way, perhaps. that most people feel when reading a book whose contributors consist of his previous professors, their voices reading their own notes. As far as the material, I just appreciate the conservative theology as well as the wide historical scope used in the study notes. Many references to the original languages as well as some insight into the authors' intent and context is useful and helpful.
I bought this as a gift for my mother because I bought her an HCSB bible a couple years ago and she has found the reading style of the HCSB to be very easy to read and understand. She is reading from HCSB but referring to notes in another translation Study Bible so I figured this would make things easier for her.
The HCSB translation is probably the easiest reading Bible translation I have ever used, it reads better than the NIV and I believe the translation is superior as well on a number of key scriptures. I like that (at least in this Bible, and the HCSB Bible I have) the translators added alternate readings and the literal translations for phrases where they translated the thought, to me that shows integrity in translation. All said, I enjoy the HCSB for quickly reading through a passage or chapter to get the overall context and message however when it comes to deeper studying of the text I always default to KJV, ESV, and NASB translations.
From the time I looked at this study Bible, I am impressed with the number of maps and diagrams in the text, but probably most impressed with the word studies which can be found on nearly every page that take a Hebrew or Greek word used in a passage and provide additional insight and clarity to promote a deeper understanding of God's word. The printing and binding is beautiful, and while the Bible is large, it is not ridiculously cumbersome (think ESV Study Bible). It's very probable that one of these will find its way onto my Bible shelf this year.
I love that the HCSB uses YAHWEH for LORD, which most all other translations avoid, like the NASB openly states it does not feel people relate to the LORD by using YAHWEH in the opening pages. I honestly believe people love the use of YAHWEH rather than LORD. This translation is fresh and used words that open our mind like in Genesis 1:8 the word "sky" is used. I find the HCSB refreshing and easy to read.
The paper quality is not up to better Bible standards. Pages, especially the introduction of the books of the Bible stick together, and it takes a good deal of effort to avoid tarring them. The Color a light brown seems to be inconsistent and I found an ink blot about 1/4 of a inch on one page, in 1 Corinthians 3.
I bought two HCSB Bibles, one for me and my wife. What was odd, is one was made in the USA and one in China. After carefully comparing the two, the one from the USA was easier to separate the pages that were stuck together, but both were the same in quality and print.
On a sad note the Concordance with 41 pages is one of the poorest , and useless I have seen, except in the very thin line Bibles. Why does such an excellent Study Bible and have such a poor basic Concordance. That's very disappointing in comparison with such a scholarly study Bible.
I have been totally devoted to the New American Standard translation of the Bible for many years. In all honesty the HOLMAN CHRISTANDARD BIBLE is now the Bible I prefer over the NASB. The Southern Baptist found the top Bible translators, one's who believe is the BIBLE is very Word of GOD. without errors, and alive and able to reach the very deepest part of our inner being. Salvation is found in the WORDS we call SCRIPTURE.
I could go on and on, but to say the HCSB speaks to me in a new and fresh understanding is exciting and challenges me to grow and Love The Father, His SON, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit every day in every way.