Several reasons contributed to the decision by Garland and church leaders to use the HCSB as the pew Bible at First Baptist in Broken Arrow, Okla., and as the translation from which he preaches.
"The HCSB has sought to remain true scholastically and grammatically to the text of God's Word," Garland said of the HCSB translation. "The Word should change the world, not the world change the Word. That has been demonstrated by the HCSB."
A LifeWay Research study conducted in August 2011 found that three out of four Bible readers in America say they prefer a literal translation of Scripture even if some of the words or concepts do not fit easily into modern culture.
The study polled a demographically representative online panel of 2,000 people who read their Bibles at least monthly -- either for personal study or as part of a family activity.
Survey participants were told: "In the original Greek and Hebrew, the Bible occasionally uses words that some might think do not fit in our society today, such as 'slave.' Some translators think these should be translated literally as 'slave,' while others think they should reflect current context and be translated as 'servant.' Which do you prefer?"
Nearly half (46 percent) strongly prefer a literal translation, and 28 percent somewhat prefer a literal translation. Fourteen percent somewhat prefer a translation to reflect current context while 4 percent strongly prefer such a translation. Seven percent are not sure.
Garland said he appreciates that the text of the HCSB is not a paraphrase but is closely connected to what the original languages actually say while still maintaining a clean readability.
"The text is very easy to read in a modern vernacular," Garland said. "Even the most difficult texts have greater clarity simply because the language is more readily understood. The passages that people most often call 'favorites' read with a simplistic beauty that is memorable."
Jason Meier, a church expansion strategist for the Churches of God General Conference and church planter currently working in Harrisburg, Pa., said he began using the HCSB because of the translation's accuracy and readability.
The HCSB, Meier added, is an ideal Bible for the cultural and spiritual shift he's seeing. Regarding people curious about spiritual matters, Meier said, "We're seeing people shift from being topical and seeker-driven to people being deeper and more theological. People are really hungering for full truth, not just crumbs."
The HCSB translates many words from the original texts literally, including "slave," and uses bullet notes at the end of the Bible to explain them.
"The Bible includes concepts that may be uncomfortable or may require more study to fully understand," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "This example shows more Bible readers prefer to see the literal translation rather than glossing over such concepts in a translation."
Reported by the communications staff of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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