Once again, I’ve received another book to review from BookSneeze. This one was a little more interesting to me, and hopefully to you, because it’s a new translation of the Bible called The Voice.
First, BookSneeze was gracious to send me this book for free, but that has no bearing on my review. I try to be fair, honest, and charitable in every review I write, even where I disagree.
Second, this translation of the Bible is driven by the Emergent Church. If you’ve followed the blog for very long, you know that I’m not the hugest fan of the Emergent Church movement and network. For those not familiar with the Emergent Church, think Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. That said, I’m reviewing the translation of the Bible, not the Emergent Church theology and philosophy of ministry.
Third, I didn’t read the entire New Testament, nor was I supposed to for my review. I love the book of Romans, so I evaluated this translation based on their translation and interpretation of Romans.
In fairness, we have to look at what The Voice translation wants to achieve, and review the translation based on that goal. So, what is their goal?
According to The Voice website, the goal is to:
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.
The Voice invites a generation of story-lovers to step into the Bible through a fresh expression of its timeless narrative. It recaptures the passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. Readers will enter into the story of Scripture more deeply, and discover that they can actually hear God’s voice speaking into their life today.
Ok, they’re trying to tell a story. So, it’s going to be a “thought for thought” translation at its core. It would be unjust for me to look at it and say “it isn’t exact” and give a negative review for something the project wasn’t designed to do.
Overall, when it comes to telling the Bible as a story, they’ve done a decent job. I have to keep somewhat of a 10,000 foot view of the text to see the thoughts they are trying to convey, instead of a street level view I would take in a “word for word” translation.
One of the things they did in effort to make this flow more seamlessly as a story was to add “compelling narratives” into the text itself. You can see examples of this in this much harsher review. While it helps to make the story flow, there is some argument that the original Greek never conveys the added “narratives,” and that is confusing at best, and adding to God’s word at worst.
So, this is the part that just baffles me, and it is a bit technical. Romans 1:17 has a phrase in the Greek that has been consistently translated as “the righteousness of God” in the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, and the ASV. It has been translated this way to PRESERVE the ambiguity that exists in the Greek text. The NIV translates this as “the righteousness from God” which is an equally valid translation of the surrounding Greek text, though I feel it misses the greater context of the book of Romans, and loses the original ambiguity of the Greek. Other “thought for thought” translations use other language to communicate the meaning of the NIV translation.
But The Voice has taken a different twist here, and has translated that Greek phrase as “God’s restorative justice.” This translation just doesn’t gel with what Paul originally wrote here. If the Greek text is ambiguous enough for scholars to debate “What does ‘the righteousness of God’ mean?” then we probably shouldn’t assume a given interpretation and run with it, but should keep the ambiguity.
This brings me to another concern. As part of the goal mentioned above, the purpose of The Voice is so that people would “…discover that they can actually hear God’s voice speaking into their life today.” That seems awfully arrogant to me. I read the ESV, do I not hear God speak through that translation? Do we really need the Bible told as a story to hear God speak?
Maybe it’s helpful for some people. But maybe it’s the ambiguities in Scripture that make us pause long enough to ask God what He means in a passage, to seek out counsel from pastors, elders, and parents to find an answer to a question. Maybe it’s the complexities that cause us to study and grow. Maybe we don’t need another translation, even one told like a really good story. Maybe we need more men and women dedicated to learning and teaching the truths of Scripture so that the generation who would read The Voice would have somewhere to turn when they get stumped and need help when reading more literal translations.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”