Two Things to Admire about the New Voice Translation

July 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

In preparation for our bible study tonight, I’ve been using Thomas Nelson’s new Bible translation – the Voice. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you need to. I’ve added a link to a free .pdf copy below.

A Cool Format

Here’s what I instantly loved about the Voice. It’s written in a screenplay format. Character dialogue stands out from the page like a script.

It’s perfect for reading in groups. Instead of having people read a few verses one after the other you can now read the part of Jesus or John or the narrator. It’s made to be voiced.

But it’s useful for personal study as well.

When I taught at Canby Bible College I provided my students with a copy of each gospel without chapter and verse divisions. I then I’d ask them to highlight the dialogue in colors according to character.

The reason is that the identity of the person speaking and what they are saying is more indicative of narrative divisions than our chapter and verses – which sometimes get it wrong.

Dialogue also clues us in on important narrative themes. In the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, the Scribes and Pharisees always call Jesus teacher and never lord while the disciples always call him lord and never teacher. That is one important exception.  Judas, right before he betrays Jesus with a kiss!  But of course we can’t know this unless we pay attention to the dialogue.

The Voice encourages its readers to do just that.

An Important Focus

The format points to the Voice’s even more important focus – helping readers connect with the story of scripture.

The Bible isn’t like a modern novel or movie. It’s a collection of books written by more than 40 different authors on three different continents over the course of 1400 years. And if that wasn’t enough to confuse a generation immersed in modern ways of story telling, the last book is separated from our own time by 2,000 years.

Ancient customs and idioms don’t easily translate into our language and culture. For instance, how might a translation of “it’s raining cats and dogs” sound in spanish? To cope with the apparent disconnect many modern translations become a clutter of charts and footnotes to explain these details to readers.

The voice cleans the page up by bringing out such information within the translation itself. It does this through a Thought-For-Thought method of translation.

Instead of searching for near equivalent words and ordering those words in ways similar to the original text, the Voice translators tried to capture the thought of the biblical writer through phrases that more adequately reflect the authors meaning.

A word like repent for instance becomes “seek forgiveness and change your actions” in Mark 1:15. And “Christ” once again becomes “anointed one” rather than Jesus’ last name.

Tying the whole translation together is the theme of God’s Voice. Genesis 1:1-2 reads

In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened. At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters. Then there was the voice of God.

I love that! The theme is sounded again in the Gospel of John’s opening verse.

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creation, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light – a light that thrives in the depths of the darkness blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched… The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. (John 1:1-14)

A Great Failure

Translations are never perfect. As I said in a previous post, translation is a balancing act between accuracy and clarity. It’s an impossible task that is never quite right. But I really do like the way that this translation fails. I’m looking forward to using tonight.

If you’d like to experience the Voice yourself you can receive a free .pdf download of the New Testament here.

Matthew Scott Miller

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