This "translation" of the New Testament is billed as "A scripture project to rediscover the story of the Bible" "As retold, edited, and illustrated by a gifted team of writers, scholars, poets, and storytellers". Words like "holistic", "beautiful" and "sensitive" are used in the preface to describe it. The Voice is the culmination of Chris Seay's vision for a different kind of biblical translation that puts the bible into everyday language and uses common English words that can be understood by the average Joe on the street.
On face value this seems to be a noble endeavor and one that may work for many Christ followers that flow in the Emergent stream of Christianity. I say that because prominent among the contributors is emergent sensei Brian McLaren. So I guess before I looked too much into the book I was already on my guard about how The Voice would be "translated".
Before you throw any emergent stones at me you need to know that I generally like much of emergent theology and my critique is not about that stream of Christianity. Mostly my thoughts are around the idea that a "translation" of the bible should be precise.. if it is not then it should be called a paraphrase. So with that backdrop I will give you a few of my impressions of The Voice.
- It is an annotated presentation. I don't like these types of bibles because, unlike study bibles, they offer embedded commentary rather than factual information. To me this skews the reader to a specific, dare I say emergent, point of view.
- It changes the way that the text is presented. Instead of trusting the Holy Spirit's leading of the original authors it reformats the stories a bit in more of a novel format. I am generally okay with this in a paraphrase format but I am a bit uncomfortable calling it a "translation".
- I don't like the way that understandable words are "translated" into convoluted ones: baptism becomes "ritual cleansing", repentance becomes "rethink their lives and turn to God" and salvation becomes "rescue us". John the Baptist is called John the Immerser. I don't think that these changes were warranted or needed.
I think that there is a place for works like this one. I often enjoy reading from The Message.. interesting how these types of works use "The" to preface the title.. and I think that this work falls into a Message category. What I am a bit concerned about is the people that did the translating. I am uncomfortable with non-scholarly folks "translating" the scriptures.. especially those with a distinct and overt theological bent. In closing I thought that I would simply quote a few familiar passages from John 3 and let you decide if you like it or not.
"I tell you the truth, if someone does not experience water and Spirit birth, there's no chance he will make it into God's kingdom." (John 3:5 The Voice)
"For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life." (John 3:16, The Voice)