A little more than a month ago, a newly-published Bible translation came to my attention, and I was able to get a copy of it.  The Voice, a translation commissioned by Chris Seay and the Ecclesia Society, is an interesting approach to translation that I believe is quite good, for what it seeks to be.

Before I go on, it’s probably best to get some comments out of the way about Bible translation.

A Messy Business

Unless you happen to speak fluent Hebrew, Greek and a smattering of Aramaic, you have to depend on somebody to translate the Bible for you.  There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 words in the English language, whereas there are only about 80,000 words in the Hebrew language, with only about 8,000 different Hebrew words used in the Bible.  Because of this, translators have to make lots of choices, informed by their own theology, as to what words and phrases they will use in English to approximate the words and phrases used in Hebrew/Greek.  As a result of this, whenever a translation is published, its language pattern is somewhat dated as time goes by (think of the Shakespearean English of the KJV compared to our day-to-day English).

In some cases, there is no real equivalent word in English, or a word is used as a special title, so the translators choose to transliterate the word, creating a “new” English word.  Examples of this are “Christ” and “baptism”.  In other cases, there are examples of wordplay in the original languages that are difficult to translate into English, so they translators have to decide between translating “word for word” (sometimes called “literal” translation) and translating “thought for thought”.  Other translators want to give readers a more narrative or “readable” version, so they choose to include some level of paraphrase in a “dynamic” translation.

Each type of translation has its own strengths and weaknesses.  It is important for Christians, as the readers of each translation, to understand what type of translation they are reading, why they are reading it, and not to try to make the translation to something it is not meant to do.  So long as you keep this in mind, there is really no such thing as a “best” translation.  If you are doing a word study, a dynamic translation is a poor choice.  If you are looking for a version to read out loud, or for a 90-day-through-the-Bible plan, a word-for-word translation will be frustrating for the reader.

Some folks get their panties in a twist over translations, claiming theirs is the only legitimate one (i.e. the KJV-only crowd) or they go the legalistic route of declaring the use of certain translations (or paraphrases) as sinful.  They all miss the point.

A Unique Voice

Probably the most well-known dynamic translation is The Message, a translation written by Eugene Peterson.  While it is more a paraphrase than a translation, The Message gives us Scripture in late-20th-Century English.

The Voice, also a dynamic translation, sits somewhere between The Message and thought-for-thought translations, like the New Living Translation.  A group of 120 individuals were involved in translating the original texts into The Voice.  Initially, a group of about 80 pastors, artists, musicians, writers and poets translated the Bible into literary/readable manuscript and then gave it to a group of 40 Biblical scholars.  Members of the translation team came from a cross-section of modern, orthodox Christianity, representing a healthy diversity of denominational backgrounds.

They wanted to have both intellectual rigor in translating from the original languages along with an artistic eye to assist modern readers in accessing Scripture.  This meant that they would have to make some choices, some of which contained no small measure of controversy.

Probably the most discussed choice they made was with the word “Christ” – a transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which was, itself, a translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah”, which also meant “Anointed One”.   The translators of The Voice chose to translate this word, instead of transliterating it, as “the Anointed One”, or – when referring to Jesus’ role – as “The Anointed One, the Coming King”.  I remember a friend of mine who thought that “Christ” was Jesus’ last name (and that his parents were Jesus and Mary Christ), and this mistake is not uncommon.  The translators of The Voice sought to prevent this problem, as well, bringing cries of pain from the expected quarters of ODM-land.

Even so, this seems like a good choice.

Probably one of my favorite aspects of The Voice is that the translators chose to differentiate between the direct translation and the paraphrase by italicizing the paraphrased words.  In many cases, as well, the paraphrase pulls in referenced facts from earlier in Scripture (to remind the reader what the writer is referring back to) or to call out something that is foreshadowing later events.

Another feature of The Voice is that it is written in “screenplay” format, where speakers are called out in highlighted text (as if in a screenplay), which is very helpful in many of the conversation-heavy portions of Scripture.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for a dynamic translation, I would recommend The Voice as superior to The Message – both for its readability and for the increased rigor in the translation.  I would recommend that you download the New Testament portion of The Voice, which is available for free at the publisher, here, and try it out for yourself. (NOTE: You may have to add “.pdf” to the end of the file, depending on the browser you are using.)

Remember, though, if you’re looking to do a word study or teach a Bible Study, you should look to use a “word-for-word” or even a “thought-for-though” translation.  But if you’re looking to read through the Bible, or for a dynamic translation for other purposes, The Voice fits the bill very well.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 at 6:18 pm and is filed under Chris Rosebrough, Original Articles, book review. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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9 Comments(+Add)

1   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
June 24th, 2012 at 9:07 am

This ‘translation’ does not pass the smell test. It is as bad or worse than the Message in that it attempts to weaken the deity of Christ the Messiah the Anointed One- and attempts to downgrade Paul as a legitimate apostle, weakening his authoritative words from God. But this should be very popular, because it gives the emergent post-Christian crowd something new for their itching ears.

2   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
June 24th, 2012 at 9:18 am

9-10Do you need reminding that the
unjust have no share in the blessings of the kingdom of God? Do not be misled. A lot of people stand to inherit nothing of God’s coming kingdom, including those whose lives are defined by sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, sexual deviancy, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, and swindling. 11Some of you used to live in these ways, but you are different now; you have been washed clean, set apart, restored, and set on the right path in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed, by the Spirit of our living God.

Give me a break. Sexual Deviancy is in NO WHERE CLOSE to the Greek ???????????? or ??????? it is a rendering that allows for change in the definition of sexual deviancy, which, by the way, included homosexuality until 1972.

3   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 24th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Thank you, Mr. Legalist, for proving my point.

There are no attempts to “weaken the deity of Christ”. Simply laying out the actual translation of “Christ”, rather than transliterate the word, does no such thing. Just because you’ve idolized certain phraseology doesn’t mean that your idolization (in a language that didn’t even exist 2000 years ago) needs to be codified.

As for “sexual deviancy”, the Biblical definition of sexual immorality is fully contained in Leviticus 18, which includes homosexual practice. But this translation, as I noted in the review, is not meant for word-study, but for reading aloud or as a narrative. If you want to do serious Bible study, having multiple versions, along with a good concordance and interlinear Greek/Hebrew texts is the way to go. As for “emergent”, “post-Christian”, etc., etc., you’ve got no clue what you’re talking about, as most of the historical translation team comes from Reformed, Restoration Movement and fairly Fundamentalist seminaries, and there is no Pauline “downgrade”, etc., that you claim.

What nonsense. Sometimes I wonder why we just don’t apply Proverbs 23:9 and just leave you in moderation to avoid your foolishness.

All you’re doing is A) demonstrating that you still have no ability to read for comprehension; B) complaining that a hammer doesn’t make a good screwdriver; and C) proving your ignorance.

4   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 24th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Also, I’d note that if the translators of The Voice were trying to scrub homosexual practice as a sin from the Bible, they did a poor job of it.

You and I know the law is good (if used in the right way), and we also know the law was not designed for law-abiding people but for lawbreakers and criminals, the ungodly and sin-filled, the unholy and worldly, the father killers and mother killers, the murderers, the sexually immoral and homosexuals, slave dealers, liars, perjurers, and anyone else who acts against sound doctrine laid out in the glorious, holy, and pure good news of the blessed God that has been entrusted to me. (I Tim 1:10 The Voice)

Oddly enough, they still included Leviticus 18:22, as well.

When you’re already bent on hating someone, simple things like logic and charity go out the window. Perhaps “pastoring” still isn’t your thing.

5   pastorboy    http://www.riveroflifealliance.com
June 25th, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I give you Timothy 1:8-11, which I did see. Cannot speak to Leviticus, but I will take your word for it. They took out malekos and made it sexual deviancy, which, my point was, in the DSM homosexuality was included until 1972. Now it is no longer deviancy. But all of that aside, the very fact Brian MacLaren is a contributor should send up red flags for any Christian.

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 26th, 2012 at 11:46 am

PB. I just posted 1 Tim:8-11 from The Voice, but I will post it again:

You and I know the law is good (if used in the right way), and we also know the law was not designed for law-abiding people but for lawbreakers and criminals, the ungodly and sin-filled, the unholy and worldly, the father killers and mother killers, the murderers, the sexually immoral and homosexuals, slave dealers, liars, perjurers, and anyone else who acts against sound doctrine laid out in the glorious, holy, and pure good news of the blessed God that has been entrusted to me. (I Tim 1:10 The Voice)

It DOES include the word “homosexuals”, so your imagined “scrubbing” is not there.

What you posted earlier is from I Cor 6:9-10. Most of the major translations do not use the word “homosexual” in this verse, either. Most refer in some way to catamites (young boys kept as sexual partners) or something similar. A number of scholars tie the phrase used here to the temple prostitution practices, which included same-sex and adult-child sex practices. All of which would fit under “sexual deviancy”.

As for MacLaren – he is one of 80 “artistic” contributors, and is not one of the translators (who edited/corrected the second and third passes through each section). While I’m not a big MacLaren fan, I am quite familiar with a number of the other “artistic” contributors, several of whom are rather conservative, and when I go through the seminaries and individuals identified in the historical translation team, they are predominantly from conservative or Reformed seminaries. I’m not going to play the “guilty by association” skubala you so enjoy.

7   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
June 26th, 2012 at 11:59 am

I may have misunderstood “I give you Timothy 1:8-11″ to have been a fat-finger of “I gave you Timothy…”. If you meant “I give you” to mean “I recognize that you have a point with”, then my apologies for trying to prove a point that you “gave” me.

Text is hard to get context around sometimes.

My apologies, if I misunderstood you.

8   Neil    
June 27th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

how can you weaken deity anyway?

9   Neil    
June 27th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

so pb made three accusations; 1) weakening the deity of jesus, 2) weaken the authority of paul, and 3) and not using “homosexual.”

the last of the three was addressed and pb uncharacteristically admitted his error.

but what of accusations 1 & 2? no evidence or examples are presented.