Comparing the ESV and HCSB
The ESV and HCSB are two of the most recent English versions published. The ESV was published as a complete Bible in October 2001. The HCSB New Testament was published in January 2001 and the entire Bible in 2003. The ESV is published by Crossway, an independent Christian publisher. The HCSB was published by Holman, a longtime Bible publisher which is now owned by the Southern Baptist Convention.
The ESV and HCSB are the first English versions to explicitly follow the CSG (Colorado Springs Guidelines): Guidelines for Translation of Gender-Related Language in Scripture (1997). So both versions use grammatically masculine language in some verses where many exegetes would consider the meaning to include both males and females. Note Matt. 5:9:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (ESV)The ESV is a minor stylistic revision of the RSV. It does, however, have "significant corrections in the translation of key texts" of the RSV (Preface, vii). Such corrections especially involved changing what were considered theologically "liberal" wordings in the RSV to conservative ones. It also involved translationally highlighting Old Testament passages which the ESV translators consider to be messianic. In many such cases the RSV translators did not highlight the potential messianic flavor. Stylistically the ESV is promoted by its publisher as being within the classical Tyndale-KJV tradition of English Bible versions.
Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God. (HCSB)
The HCSB, on the other hand, is a new translation, not based on any other English version.
The stylistic differences between the ESV and HCSB can be viewed as either an asset or a liability. Those who are accustomed to Bibles with a KJV or RSV sound and like that sound also like the ESV. If one has already used the RSV extensively it is easy to follow along in their ESV while the RSV is being read. The downside of this is that the ESV has inherited the literary negatives of the RSV which include obsolete negative word orders and some other obsolete syntax and vocabulary, as well as some wordings which sound strange to many current speakers of English.
The HCSB, on the other hand, is generally written in a formal, Bible-sounding, but current variety of English.
Compare Eccl. 9:8 in the two versions:
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. (ESV: awkward adverb order in the first sentence and obsolete negative word order in the second sentence.)Both the ESV and HCSB have adjective substantives which agree both with singular and plural verbs, whereas standard English only allows such agreement with plural verbs. Note Psalm 10:4:
Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. (HCSB)
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (ESV)The ESV and HCSB sometimes differ in terms of coherence. Compare their wordings of Is. 64:7:
In all his scheming, the wicked arrogantly things: "There is no accountability [since] God does not exist." (HCSB)
There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. (ESV)Compare how they render Prov. 8:22:
No one calls on Your name, striving to take hold of You. For You have hidden Your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity. (HCSB)
"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. (ESV)The ESV and HCSB sound fairly similar for some of the most familiar and loved passages in the Bible. Compare Psalm 23 in both versions:
The LORD made me at the beginning of His creation, before His works of long ago. (HCSB)
1. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.There are many more verses which can be compared in the ESV and HCSB, but these should be enough to give one a beginning feel for differences between these two versions.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)
1. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
2. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
3. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
4. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. (HSCB)
Both versions had an interdenominational translation team. Some Sunday School and other church materials from the Southern Baptist convention now use the HCSB as the quoted translation. But it has always been the goal of the HCSB team that it would be used by those who are not Southern Baptists, as well. The HCSB currently has greater sales in Christian bookstores. It will be interesting to see if the ESV overtakes the HCSB in sales. In terms of nationally known Christian leaders in the U.S. (e.g. John Piper, R.C. Sproul, et al), there are probably more who promote the ESV than those who promote the HCSB. This simply speaks to the preferences of those leaders and their high visibility. We do not know how many Southern Baptist Convention leaders and pastors promote the HCSB publicly or to their congregations.
Ultimately, for many who want to use a new essentially literal translation a choice between the ESV or HCSB probably will be determined by how much they value the traditional KJV-RSV Bible sound.
Both versions are accessible online, the ESV here, and the HCSB here. In addition the ESV is available as a free downloadable module for the also free e-sword Bible study program.