In my fair city, Tulsa, Oklahoma, we see two types of buildings pop up with regularity: banks and churches. With each announcement of a new bank or a new church, we ask ourselves, “Do we really need another bank/church in Tulsa?” Yet it seems we do, for new ones are announced almost weekly.
And so I ask a similar question here today. Do we really need another English Bible translation? The answer is “Apparently so,” for publishers keep releasing them. Last year we saw the Common English Bible (rather bland) and NT Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament (too similar to other translations to make it stand out). So when I heard that 2012 would see the release of yet another new translation, let’s just say I was less than excited. Until I bought a copy of The Voice.
Now I am excited.
I’m not a biblical scholar, a Greek scholar, or really any scholar. If you want to know what manuscripts The Voice relied on most, or want to debate dynamic vs. formal equivalence, feel free to delve into those topics on your own. I’m not saying they are not important to discuss, I’m just saying that is not how I want to talk about this Bible.
We in America approach the Bible differently than just about any other nation. We can buy just about any translation or paraphrase of Scripture at both Christian and general market stores (like Barnes and Noble or Books A Million). If we don’t want to venture out of the house, we have an even larger selection available to us with the click of a mouse button. The average number of Bibles owned by those who call themselves “Bible readers” is just shy of four. And yet Bible readership has fallen every decade since the 1980s. Obviously, Bible ownership does not equal Bible readership.
It used to be that if I went to church without my Bible I was reduced to the role of spectator. It would be like going to class without your textbook. Now, however, I seldom see anyone in my church with their Bible—other than on their phones. And there I’m suspicious that they’re really playing Angry Birds. But I digress. Bible verses are now shown on the big screen. I understand this allows the speaker to use the version he/she thinks best fits the verse they are using, and that it also prevents “dead air” as they wait for the congregation to try and find Obadiah or Titus. Still, this is how I learned to find things in Scripture, and I’m sad that’s missing in many of today’s churches.
Back to The Voice. Our Bible did not arrive via angelic FedEx in written form. It was shared by storytellers for thousands of years before being written. As we’ve talked about many times here at iMonk, the Bible is a story with one plot: To reveal Jesus to us. And sharing that story is what Bible translators have aimed to do for hundreds of years. Some get it better than others. Some, like Ken Taylor’s original Living Bible and Eugene Peterson’s The Message, seek to retain the storytelling feel. Others, such as the translators of the NIV, NASB and NKJV, stick as close as they can to original sources, giving us a bit more of an academic feel. Then there versions that try to do both, and thus please neither crowd (such as The Kingdom New Testament).
The Voice is much more of a storyteller’s Bible. The translating team—which included both scholars like Darrell Bock and David Capes, and artists like Don and Lori Chaffer (Waterdeep) and Sara Groves—liberally adds words and phrases implied, but not included, in the original documents to help in the flow of the story. Don’t panic when I say this. The King James translators did the same thing. Here’s an example from The Voice in 1 Corinthians 13:
I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.
The words in italics are in italics in The Voice, letting you know they have been added. But are they a wrong addition? Let’s try another example from John 3.
Don’t be shocked by My words, but I tell you the truth. Even you, an educated and respected man among your people, must be reborn by the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
In the first example, only a few words are added. The second verse has more additions than original words. But do these additions harm the integrity of the verses? I think not. Then there is this verse from John 14:
I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life. No one comes the Father except through me.
The energy of life? No, I don’t like this one. The first job of a good editor is to realize fewer words pack more punch. Here, we take away from Jesus saying he himself is life by adding this modifier. Still, I don’t think anyone is going to lose their salvation over this.
A number of people have raised their blood pressure because The Voice doesn’t use the word “Christ.” Instead, they substitute “Anointed One.” Fine with me. That’s what Christ means. And instead of “angel,” the translators chose “heavenly messenger.” Good call. In Psalms, God at times is called “the Eternal One.” I have no problem at all with any of these word choices.
Bible versions are a personal choice. For me, a storyteller myself, I like The Voice. Somehow, I don’t think the translating team take themselves too seriously. And, somehow, I think this makes the Lord happy.