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Holman HCSB Study Bible Review

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The HCSB Study Bible from Holman Bible Publishers is one of few study Bibles with full color photos and maps throughout the text. The quality of its visuals, paper, print, tools, notes, and study material make this one the best study Bibles available.


  • Notes provide multiple points of view
  • Full color throughout


  • Large
  • Heavy

The Holman HCSB Study Bible is available from:

Amazon: HCSB Study Bible

Christianbook: HCSB Study Bible, Hardcover

Features include

  • Presentation page
  • 7 pages for notes
  • 24 essays
  • 408 Greek and Hebrew word studies
  • Center column references
  • Commentary Notes
  • 100+ Full-color photos
  • 8 Full-color maps + in text maps
  • 17 Charts
  • Section headings
  • Black-letter
  • OT quotes in NT in bold
  • Paragraph format
  • Poetry set in verse format
  • Thick paper
  • Bullet notes
  • Table of weights and measures
  • Topical concordance
  • Ribbon marker
  • 1 and 3 year reading plans
  • 9.5 x 7 x 2.2
  • 2100 pages
  • ISBN: 9781586405069
  • $30-54 (depending on edition)


The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) follows a translation philosophy Holman refers to as Optimal Equivalence. Rather than attempting to stay with formal equivalence (literal) or functional equivalence (thought-for-thought), optimal equivalence is literal when possible and functional where necessary for readability. Optimal equivalence retains accuracy when remaining readable. The Old Testament text is based on the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 5th edition. The New Testament text is based on the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, and the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th corrected edition. I’m personally used to King James so it’s hard for me to get used to. To me it reads like an NIV. That might be good or bad, depending on your point of view. I recommend downloading the free edition of the text-only HCSB for your e-reader or computer and judge it for yourself.

Cover and Binding

This edition is hard cover. The binding is sewn. It seems to be built really solid, which is good considering the size a weight of this Bible.

Text and Layout

It looks like a 9-point font, but I’m just guessing. This is a black-letter edition. The print quality is consistent.

There are plenty of headings in the text. The color of the headings is kind of a brownish orange, which I like a lot. Verse numbers are turquoise. This makes the numbers not stand out or be too distracting.

There is almost an inch margin on the outside margins. That might be handy for those that like to write in their margins.

The top outside corner of each page shows the verse number of the first verse that starts on that page.

The notes look like maybe a 6-point font (but again, just guessing).

This is a two-column layout in paragraph format. Poetry is set in verse format. Old Testament quotes that appear in the New Testament are in bold. Sometimes they appear in verse and other times they are within the New Testament text.

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The paper feels like good quality book paper. It isn’t as thin as most Bibles, but it is thinner than most books. It doesn’t feel cheap. It’s extremely opaque. The photographs look great on this paper. There are seven pages in the front for notes. These pages appear after the presentation page and use the same thick paper. I’d like to see more pages for notes. I love the look of those pages. I want a journal of just that paper alone.

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References and Translation Notes

These are center column references that are keyed to the text, both with letters and with verse numbers. There are plenty of references. Genesis 1 has 14 references with some of them spanning several verses.

Translation notes are keyed to the text with letters and are found in a section between the text and commentary. This section has a crème background, making it easy to see and read. The turquoise looks better on the cream than it does the white paper.

Essays and Articles

There are several essays and articles including: “How to Read and Study the Bible”, “The Origin, Transmission, and Canonization of the Old Testament Books”, “The Origin, Transmission, and Canonization of the New Testament Books”, “Differences in the Gospels”, “The Biblical Basis for Missions”, and many others.

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Book Introductions

There are introductions to each book that includes an introductory thought with a picture. It also has sections called Circumstances of Writing, Message and Purpose, Contribution to the Bible, and Structure. There is a timeline and an extensive outline.

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The notes are much better than most study Bibles. They often offer multiple views on a topic. I like this because many times people tend to only see one point of view in a study Bible. This shows the reader more than one viewpoint, encouraging you to study the topic further. There are more notes in the HCSB Study Bible than what is found in most study Bibles.

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Bullet Notes

After the text is a 7-page list of bullet notes. This is basically a glossary of frequently used words. There are many words in the text that are marked with a bullet. These words appear in this list.

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Topical Concordance

This study Bible doesn’t have a full-blown concordance. Instead, it has a 12-page Topical Concordance. It’s a basic topical list with the primary verses given for that topic. It’s probably the most popular topics that are looked up in a concordance.

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Reading plans

There are two reading plans. One for reading the Bible through in one year and one for reading the Bible through in three years. There is an introduction that teaches how to approach reading the Word of God.

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52-Week Scripture Memory Plan

This is a guide to memorizing a passage of Scripture every week. The list includes 52 passages with its topic, the basic passage, a challenge passage, and the Biblical concept. This is based on Lifeway’s Bible study curriculum and supports studying 15 Biblical concepts through the year.

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There are 8 full-color maps in the back (with no index to maps). There are over 50 color maps throughout the text. Many of them are full-page.

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There is plenty of study material and features in the Holman HCSB Study Bible. Its notes are better than most study Bibles because they have less bias and often show more than one point of view. The word studies give a lot of information of Greek and Hebrew words. The full-color maps and images are beautiful. The Holman HCSB Study Bible is one of the better study Bibles available.


The Holman HCSB Study Bible is available from:

Amazon: HCSB Study Bible

Christianbook: HCSB Study Bible, Hardcover



Holman Bible Publishers provided this Bible free for review. I was not required to give a positive review- only an honest review.




About The Author

Randy A Brown

WordPress writer by day, Bible reviewer by night, pastor all the time. And there's also that author thing.


  1. ILETA

    I have used the HCSB for over a year, awesome study helps, maps and pictures, and very good readable translation. I still have a problem with using Yahweh for the tetragrammaton. I think we should not try to make up a name that is just an educated guess of what the real pronunciation was. Especially if it is a Holy Name. I wish in future they will have an HCSB without the name that is unclear. I just feel its not safe to use it if just in case that is not the right Name of God.

    • Don

      By your way of thinking every time we use the name Jesus we are mispronouncing and misspelling God’s name too. Jesus’ name in Greek is transliterated as IESOUS. Of course, in Hebrew it is transliterated as Y’Shua. Really, the name Joshua comes closer in English to how we should pronounce Jesus’ name than Jesus. Yet somehow I don’t think Jesus cares. He knows when we are talking to him. The same goes with Yahweh. Many godly scholars believe that that is how the original was pronounced, but even if they are wrong, there is no biblical prohibition against using it. The Hebrew dictate not to pronounce the Tetragrammaton was extra-biblical and superstitious. It was probably reverential also, but God does not tell us not call him by name, in fact he urges us to, when we call him “Abba,” Father.

  2. Hector Rivera

    I like to much this bible, is The HCSB Study Bible from Holman Bible Publishers, I will try to save money for buy it or some body give me like a good Gift in this Christmas 2015.
    the problem is I dont have money for buy it.

  3. Kevin

    Looks like a great Bible. Didn’t like the map of the route of the Exodus though. That’s the wrong mountain!

  4. Alexander thomson

    I did not have a copy of the HCSB translation, but this excellent review has persuaded me to add this Bible to my library for my own use and for my “serious seminars”! (And, no doubt because the CSB has come along, the HCSB products seem to have been heavily discounted! )



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