**UPDATED (as of March 2015): I decided to switch from the HCSB to the ESV translation. While the readability for the HCSB is better than the ESV, I found over the course of this past year of teaching from it that I was losing some key nuances found in the original Hebrew/Greek. Due to the fact that the ESV is more accurate in its translation, as a regular teacher/preacher of the Word, I have to go with the ESV.
(the info below was written in March 2013 – see the comments above for my most current recommendation)
The only Bible I have ever used for preaching and, for the most part, in my personal devotional life for the past 20 years was the NIV 1984 edition. I knew when the NIV 2011 edition was released a couple of years ago that it was a matter of time before I would need to switch. I wasn’t comfortable with the removal of all gender distinctions because Zondervan was clearly, in my opionion, allowing the culture to dictate the translation rather than allowing the original Hebrew or Greek, which includes gender, to stand on its own. We know that “man” or “mankind” can be translated as “human” or “humankind” in many cases, but that doesn’t mean that every male distinction should be done away with.
There are cases when “brothers” refers to “brothers” only and not “brothers and sisters” or “persons” or “people.” There are hundreds of places where the translators decided to remove words like “he,” “him,” “his,” “father,” “brother,” “son,” and “man.” God’s Word is the product of his infinite wisdom and all the details of meaning are there for a purpose. This decision to be gender neutral is the primary reason I am abandoning the NIV.
When I went to biblegateway this past week and discovered that the NIV84 was no longer an option, I knew it was time to pick a new translation.
The choice for a replacement came down to the ESV or the HCSB. The ESV is more technically accurate because it stays closer to the literal Hebrew/Greek. Accuracy is important, but so is readability. I decided to go with the HCSB because it is more literal/accurate than the NIV 1984/2011 while maintaining a high degree of readability.
Another bonus is the grammar help. There are bullet points in front of certain phrases, which correspond to a grammar section in the back. Take for example the translation of the most famous verse in the entire Bible–John 3:16.
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Most translations, including the ESV, translate this verse–“For God SO loved the world…” When we see “so” we think of degree, as in God loves us SO, SO very much. But the HCSB contains a bullet point in front of the phrase, “in this way.” If you find the correponding explanation in the back, you learn that the word for “so” is not degree but manner. “For God so loved” is better translated “For God loved the world in this way” (or in this manner)–by giving His One and Only Son. To me, this was the clincher. I had studied this verse in the Greek years ago and was wondering why translators did not translate this accurately. Until now…
Check out http://www.mystudybible.com/