Why I'm switching to the CSB

"Give me life through your word."

-Psalms 119:25 (CSB)

Allow me to preface this by speaking an uncomfortable truth most (if not all) bible geeks have no issue assenting with; There is no such thing as a 100% perfect bible translation. Full stop. However severe our desire for perfection in our bibles, there will always be phrases or words that could be better translated, clarified, or conveyed. Many influential preachers/teachers often make such evident truths more abstruse, whether innocuously or maliciously, by elevating particular translations as superior to all others (KJV-onlyists being arguably the worst offenders when it comes to this nonsense). And while there are indeed "translations" we must steer clear of (TPT, NWT, TLB, Etc.), we are fortunate to live in an age where a plethora of excellent choices in English bible translations spoils us. And while there are quibbles one could raise with any one of the following, if you read any of these translations, I'd say that you're okay for daily devotions and study:


You can see where these translations lie on the continuum of bible translation to help better inform you of their aims:

See? We are spoiled for choice.

Having said that, starting in 2023, I am officially switching to the CSB as my primary preaching bible and making it Awaken Liberty's translation of choice. Over the past couple of months, I've begun to preach from the CSB, confirming my theory–the CSB is an incredibly preachable/teachable translation.

So, why the big hubbub about my switch to the CSB?

As a pastor, it's impossible to account for every bible translation on Sundays. You find yourself having to pick one to stick with as a primary preaching bible. This ensures that any newcomers can have a bible offered to them that matches what the preacher is proclaiming, there's no dissonance in the translations used for teaching and devotional resources, and the congregation can all work through the same text as one rather than work through several different texts with minor dissimilarities. It's a slight shift that potentially makes a gargantuan difference in the synergy between everyone in the church.

So…why switch at all?

Since 2018, the ESV has been my go-to translation. In my studies, I've found it always struck a sturdy balance between faithfulness to the text's literal meaning while doing its darndest at being readable. My switch from the KJV, which I had grown up with, was as smooth as butter in this regard. I found myself relishing in re-learning scriptures I had grown up with, seeing God in a new light with a translation that was faithful to the original author's intent without sacrificing readability via archaic language… mostly.

My problem began there with the retention of some obsolete KJV-style language in the ESV. It presents a more challenging reading experience for the average person endeavoring to meditate on God's word. While there are less-formal translations that offset this issue, I've never been a firm believer that any Christian should commit to multiple translations of scripture to begin encountering its dizzyingly deep treasures. And, as readable as the ESV is, I've found myself reaching for the NLT or NIV time and time again when the plain reading of the text might not be immediately apparent in the message the scripture seeks to convey. It's not to say a bit of study can't offset these speed bumps, but to ask if there's a more uncomplicated route from point a to b. (2)

The ESV has served my congregants and me faithfully. But, looking into the church's future, it's become unmistakable that there's a growing need for a more "readable" translation. I wasn't going to switch to the NIV, as it makes many paraphrasing choices that compromise the original author's intent, making me do extra leg work on Sundays to undo the translation's work. And the NLT, while doing an excellent job of conveying the thoughts behind the text, is too informal for weekly preaching.

This leaves us with the NRSV and the CSB, two translations that aim to land at the center of the continuum, balancing faithful formality with dynamic readability.

So… why the CSB?

In trying both the NRSV and the CSB, I had hoped the NRSV would be more enticing. It is one of the most widely accepted academic translations and has many commendable traits, such as gender-accurate translation work and ecumenical reception. However, I quickly found I had several issues with the NRSV. While laudable at many points, the inclusive language is clunky in others, requiring extra lifting effort for Sunday teaching. I also took issue with many of the translation choices, which seem to disconnect it from widely accepted liturgy, and, to quote a reviewer, "render it severely marred" (3) While diligent prep work can surmount these hurdles, what sounded the death knell for my potential utilization was simply that it's not a very popular translation outside the academic sphere. Most casual Christians will (likely) not own or know of this translation.

So I began to work through the CSB, which quickly became a favorite of mine, for the following reasons:

1. Optimal Equivalence

The graph above shows that the CSB lands square in the middle regarding formality versus readability. According to the translators:

The CSB follows a translation philosophy called "optimal equivalence." The term conveys a commitment to both "formal equivalence" (which recognizes the importance of the form of the original language text—that is, the words used and the grammatical and rhetorical structures) and "functional equivalence" (which recognizes the importance of conveying the original message and intent in natural English readily understood by modern readers).

To better understand what this means, take a look at this chart:

While translations like the ESV or NASB may be "truer" to the original form of the ancient languages, they sacrifice readability. On the other end, the NIV or NLT may be more "readable" but surrender the accuracy of the scriptures in many spaces. (4)

See Psalm 147 for a beautiful example of this:

"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man"

-Psalms 147:10 (ESV)

"He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; he does not value the power of a warrior."

-Psalms 147:10 (CSB)

The ESV, while more literal, doesn't make the meaning clear to modern readers, necessitating further explanation. The CSB makes it instantly apparent that God is assessing military might, and he's not impressed. This is what optimal equivalence does; it uses word-for-word translation methodology wherever possible, but when such exertions muddy the meaning for modern readers, the translation committee uses a dynamic translation, often with footnotes. This is huge for a pastor like me, who doesn't want to lose accuracy in sermon prep and study but doesn't want to compromise readability and clarity when encouraging congregants to steep their hearts in God's Word. Which, masterful segway…

2. Readability

For all its greatness, the ESV retains some outdated English phrasing that may serve as an obstacle to modern readers. For instance:

"For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland."

-Hebrews 11:14 (ESV)

"Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland"

-Hebrews 11:14 (CSB)

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

-Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)

"For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away."

-Hebrews 2:1 (CSB)

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

-Romans 8:31 (ESV)

"What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?"

-Romans 8:31 (CSB)

These are minuscule updates, but they make a world of difference to the prosaic reader. I mainly had families with younger kids in mind. Imagine being able to share in the same portion of scripture at the dinner table and church. The young and the old could all come together over the same text without dissonance between translations.

3. Gender-accuracy

I've found myself having to add "sisters" when the ESV only says "brothers" more times than I can count in preaching. In places where the original languages (most likely) refer to both men and women, the CSB rectifies this issue. Here are some examples:

"Blessed is the man…."

-Psalm 1:1 (ESV)

"How happy is the one who…."

-Psalm 1:1 (CSB)

"For you have one teacher, and you are all brothers."

-Matthew 23:8 (ESV)

"Because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters."

-Matthew 23:8 (CSB)

"For consider your calling, brothers…."

-1 Corinthians 1:26 (ESV)

"Brothers and sisters, consider your calling."

-1 Corinthians 1:26 (CSB)

I've noticed that the CSB does a much better job of gender-neutral rendering, bringing it into conformity with updated biblical gender pronoun standards. (5)

4. Updated scholarship

The CSB's New Testament translation is adapted from the most recent Greek New Testament (Nestle-Aland 28), which wasn't yet published when scholars produced the ESV. This doesn't suggest that anything has been altered or removed; instead, it just means that the footnotes have been updated to reflect recent manuscript discoveries. As a firm believer in scholastic scrutiny of the scriptures, this is a significant plus for me.

5. A translation for everyone

In my view, there's always been a sense that certain translations leave certain people in the cold. The NASB and ESV are delightful to seasoned Christians, but new Christians might feel discouraged by clunky wording. To say nothing of family discipleship and the possible pitfalls of using archaic language with younger generations. (6)

The benefit of a translation this accessible to so many different believers is incalculable, and I am looking forward to developing content for the whole church, young and old, seasoned and green.

6. Endorsements

This translation comes with endorsements from teachers I find wildly influential in my pastorship, including Tony Evans, David Platt, Allistair Begg, and more. Additionally, Thomas Schreiner, arguably my favorite NT Scholar, is the Co-chair of the translation & review team, earning it a checkmark in my book. (7)

So…what does this mean?

For those who follow me and attend Awaken Liberty, I'll be officially transitioning to the CSB in 2023. It will be my primary translation in sermons, devotional content, and studies. Additionally, all outreach/pew bibles will be CSB, and my recommendations will contain CSB resources. As always, you're welcome to whatever translation you prefer, but Awaken Liberty Church and RJ Ilg Ministries will utilize the CSB for the foreseeable future. I pray this move will be edifying and exciting for all who trust me as their pastor.

For questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email me.

Helpful Links:


Read online

History of the CSB

Gospel Coalition Scholarly Review


  1. There are likely more awesome translations, but these are the only ones I've spent enough time with to give a thumbs up.

  2. It's worth stating again that none of these translations are horrible, and I'm not disparaging any believers that use these translations as their preferred choice for devotion/study

  3. I found this review and this review helpful in better explaining this point.

  4. To learn more about the quantitative evaluation of the CSB, click here.

  5. The Colorado Springs Guidelines regarding the proper use of gender pronouns is what I'm primarily referring to, which you can read here.

  6. The average reading level for the entire text of the Christian Standard Bible is 7th grade.

  7. Full list of endorsements here. For a complete list of scholars who worked on this translation, click here.