Monday, November 14, 2011

Yet Another New Bible Translation: "The Voice"

There is an upcoming Bible translation coming to town soon. It is called THE VOICE.

Within the past decade, there has been a slew of English Bible translations. They are often promoted by a Christian book publisher or a group of translators with an agreed set of common theological persuasion. In 2001, the English Standard Version (ESV, Crossway) updates the Revised Standard Version. Eugene Peterson published his very popular paraphrase of the Bible called THE MESSAGE (NavPress) back in 2002. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB, Lifeway) was published in 2004. The short-lived Today's New International Version (TNiV, Zondervan) was launched in 2005. A popular paraphrase, the New Living Translation (NLT, Tyndale) was updated in 2007. This year, Zondervan published an update to the ever popular NIV, called the NIV 2011.

The MSG and NLT are paraphrase translations in modern English, the ESV and HCSB are a little more literally translated. The NIV maintains a position somewhere along the middle. Of course there is also an audio versions of the Bible. One notable version is Max McLean's reading of the Bible which is available free online here. If you want a downloadable version, you will need to fork out about US$25. In my honest opinion, I think it is a worthy investment. Max McLean's reading of the Bible has made the Bible come fresh and vivid.

Brief Look at THE VOICE

This brings me to the main point of this blog discussion. Supported by Thomas-Nelson, the new translation tries to offer something extra: A Communicator's flavor, Presenting the Bible as story. I believe the Voice springs from a need to inculcate deeper and more insightful Bible reading. This new translation that comes with a new premise. According to the translators,

"The Voice is a dynamic equivalent translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. Through compelling narratives, poetry, and teaching it invites readers to enter into the whole story of God with their heart, soul, and mind. This bold new translation engages readers like no other Bible." (website)

You can download a sample pdf version (Book of John) here to get a feel of the translation. It consists of Bible scholars, pastors, as well as artists, musicians, and storytellers familiar with the art and science of communications. With the scholars, the integrity of the textual translations are assured. With the artists, the communications are sustained. Together, the new translation offers a vividly rich reading experience. This ancient-texts-modern-rendition idea takes a while before getting used to. For instance, check out John 1:1.

"Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God." (John 1:1, The Voice)

It has changed the 'logos' into the voice. It has also added in conversational characters explicitly. For example, John 1:19-27 has clearly identified the characters in such a way that it can be easily used as a school or church play presentation. There is no red-lining to describe Jesus' words. Even Nicodemus's inner thoughts are inserted in for clarity. See John 7:51-52 below.

Nicodemus: Does our law condemn someone without first giving him a fair hearing and learning something about him?
Pharisees (ignoring Nicodemus’s legal point):
Are you from Galilee too? Look it up for yourself; no real prophet is supposed to come from Galilee.
My feelings are mixed (*) with regards to this latest translation for 3 reasons. First, I commend the translators' good intentions to encourage better Bible reading. Through its accessible language and style, understanding the story is easy. Second, I cannot but feel that the premise of increasing Bible readership through readability is somewhat flawed. If a person does not want to read the Bible, no matter how attractive the Bible is, he is not going to be persuaded to read. After all, there are paraphrases like the MSG, the NLT, the Amplified Bible and other paraphrases already. If those are not going to interest the prospective reader, I am not sure if the VOICE will help at all. Third, I am always wary of inserted things into the Scriptures. It makes one wonder if it is in the original texts or not. That said, the best way to approach this Bible is again to use it as a supplement rather than the main course. Use it for presentation at church plays. Use it as a way to encourage Bible listening. However, when it comes to serious study or reading, I recommend other versions.

One more thing. Having done a little Bible translation myself during Bible school, I cannot help but feel that the ones who benefit most from any new translations are the translators themselves. They go through the original texts again and to get fresh insights. A part of me seems to say: "Don't deprive the layperson of the privilege to dig through versions which are harder to read and to comprehend." Sometimes, the way many of us learn is not due to easier to use Bible tools, but a greater determination to go through the harder to understand sources. Again, that is my simply my humble opinion.

(*) Note that my opinions are based on my reading of the translated Book of John.


1 comment:

A Mormon--and a True Christian said...

How can you recommend this "new translation" when it has been reported that their "modern language substitutions" include elimination of the words "angel," "apostle," and even "Jesus Christ"! No true Christian would recognize such butchering of the Word as being anything close to scripture.

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