Getting a Specialty Bible Right: The HCSB Soldier’s Bible

Holman Soldier's Bible resting upon the Holman Soldier's NT Box

There’s a fine line between gimmicky “impulse-buy” Bibles designed to exploit a target audience (think “the fly-fisherman’s Bible;” or worse yet “the cartoon-princess-purse Bible” that actually has a faux shoulder-strap) and well executed meaningful specialty Bibles that serve a legitimate purpose. On many levels, the HCSB Soldier’s Bible is well executed, and I think it’s safe to say that it does not come across as a gimmick. Since this falls in the broader context of my search for the platonic pocket Bible ideal, I’ll break this review down in three parts: 1) a standard design/binding evaluation; 2) a quick look at the supplemental material; 3) some “take-away” insights into what makes for the ideal pocket Bible.

 The Design and Binding

For size comparison, from top to bottom: Stone Edition Writings; HCSB Soldier's NT; HCSB Soldier's Bible; ESV Pitt Minion

Let’s start with the outside. Have I mentioned before that I love the green and gold combination? I really wish that there were some genuine leather green editions with this color scheme. I’m guessing that part of the problem might be the difficulty in trying to dye the leather—you would have to get just the right hue of green; too dark, and it looks like a grimy brownish-black, too light and it looks sickly or effeminate (which is fine—if you happen to be a female, which I’m not). I’m not so crazy about the horizontal writing on the spine, but I can live with it on a thinline compact like this. The U. S. Army seal on the cover is a nice touch. Some people like a clean cover, but I think this cover is classy;  this Bible would make a nice gift companion to go along with the attractive U.S. Army Historical Foundation book that has a similar scheme.

Isaiah 65-66

Here's a shot of the inside layout. As you can see, this Bible does a pretty good job of laying flat for a pocket Bible.

Moving towards the inside, the paper, bleed-through/ghosting, font choice, spacing, etc. are above average, and the readability is good overall. I examined it in a book store next to Nelson’s Pocket Companion, and found that the two are about the same size (the HCSB Soldier’s Bible is slightly smaller and slimmer), but the Pocket Companion is significantly easier to read. This is not so much a criticism of the HCSB Soldier’s Bible, though, as further proof that Nelson’s Pocket Companion is the Albert Pujols of Bibles in the readability category.

As far as the binding itself, this Bible has a smythe-sewn binding and overcasting (extra stitching in the front and the back) to boot. As a result, it can lay flat and is quite durable.

The Additional Specialized Materials

Here you see some helps: The Oath of Allegiance for Enlisted Personnel; U.S. Armed Forces Code of Conduct; and So Great a Faith. The quarter should give you a good idea of the Bible's size.

I can’t speak directly to whether or not a soldier would find this Bible “kitschy;” I am not, nor have I ever been, in the Army (I bought this Bible for my Dad–and then I, um, “borrowed” it frequently after he’d had it for several years). So I’d really like any soldiers out there reading this to weigh in on this Bible. Does it seem tacky at all? Or appropriate? From where I sit, the helps definitely do not seem gimmicky. The back contains things like the Apostle’s Creed, the Oath of Allegiance for Enlisted Personnel, the U.S. Armed Services Code of Conduct, and several prayers from figures like George Washington, George S. Patton and a prayer from The Armed Forces Prayer Book. If I were an enlisted man in the U.S. Army, I’m sure that I would find a Bible like this to be a treasure to have with me, and I’d be delighted that I could take it with me anywhere easily. In any event, I know that my Dad, who spent a whole career in the Army, was delighted when he received this Bible; he even kept carrying it with him after he was no longer able to read it due to his aging eyes. I imagine many other active and retired Army personnel would respond with equal delight if they were given this as a gift.

The Pocket Bible “Take-Away”

This is just small enough to be a true "pocket" Bible, depending, of course, upon the size of the pocket. Here it is tucked into a little pocket in my hard-sides briefcase.

To the above I’ll add two points of “take away” that apply to my ongoing evaluation of pocket Bibles: 1) While the ideal pocket Bible would be cased in fine leather, I’m finding that bonded leather doesn’t bother me as much on a pocket Bible as it does on a larger Bible, fwiw. In this case, the cover is still attractive and pleasant enough to handle, even if it is made of processed leather pieces mixed with cardboard. I think I’d still prefer a tru-tone cover, but I’m not sure.  2) This edition has a slide tab, which I love in theory. Unfortunately, though, the tab is already coming off after being stuffed into my pockets several times (and sat on more than once). Ideally, a pocket Bible should have some mechanism protecting it and helping it to stay shut when it’s in your pocket, briefcase, or purse. It seems, though, that the slide tab might not be the best way to do that (unless you can make it more resilient than this one was) and I’m not sure what the best approach is. Any thoughts?

Here you can see how the slide tab is coming apart. The bonded leather is completely torn, and the tab is held together only be a few threads.

And Things to Come . . .

Two quick words about where I’m heading on this blog these days: 1) My upcoming posts should have better photos taken with better cameras, fwiw. I’m hoping that this improvement will make my reviews more helpful for potential customers. 2) On the docket: The new KJV Transetto (SUH-weet!—as the young’uns say), the Reina Valera Biblia Pequeñisima, the English-Only Stone Edition Tanach, and more. I can’t wait to get to these three gems!! Yeah, yeah, I know: I’m a geek. But then if you’re reading this, you may very well be one, too!! :0)


About hjimkeener

Education: B.A.: Moody Bible Institute GCTS: Knox Theological Seminary M.Div.: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Ph.D.: Baylor University Ministry Experience: I have served as a Youth Minister, Associate Pastor of English Ministry, and a pulpit supply preacher. Teaching Experience: In addition to teaching in various volunteer and professional ministry settings, I have taught as a University Professor (Teaching Fellow; Baylor University) and as a Seminary Professor (El Seminario de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Bolivia). I have also given lectures and sermons in Spanish.
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4 Responses to Getting a Specialty Bible Right: The HCSB Soldier’s Bible

  1. Mandi says:

    I bought my husband the Airman’s Bible years ago when he was active duty Air Force, and while he wasn’t a fan of the translation, he loved the extras. He read through them all after receiving the Bible and keeps the Bible for those.

  2. H. Jim says:

    Mandi–Thanks for your feedback, and thanks for bringing up the Airman’s Bible. I should have mentioned that Holman has a whole line of these, even including a Coast Guard and Policeman’s Bible, and all of them look to be of similar quality. The HCSB is not my favorite translation, either, but it is overall quite a good translation (just not the one I use). I try to stay away from translation debates in my reviews.

  3. Michael Smith says:

    I bought the Navy edition knowing my son is an officer on a sub I looked at it then gave it away to a friend of my son, and I also used the small editions of the HCSB for my confirmation class. I found many about 3 years ago and used all but 1 so I am going to keep this one for me. I find the print is ok for my eyes but it would not be my main Bible for everyday.

  4. H. Jim says:

    Michael–Thanks for the input. I’m sure your son’s friend has made good use of your gift. Do you have any recollection as to what additional material in the Navy edition had?
    Also, shat small editions of the HCSB did you use for your confirmation class? Did it have the same text block as the Navy Bible?

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