The Voice New Testament
Ecclesia Bible Society
Randy Klassen: The cover is inviting: “Step into the story of Scripture,” it says, with an illustration that breathes peace, direction, beauty, all focused on the cross. I wanted to like this New Testament; “story” and “kingdom” are important words guiding this translation. They are also central to the Gospels, reflecting both the form and content of Jesus’ own ministry. A good starting point.
Josie Kornelson: I’m always skeptical of new takes on the Bible. My first question is “why?” The notion of “stepping into the story of Scripture” made me think I was about to read some study material rather than the Bible. If I hadn’t previously known The Voice was a translation, it would have taken me a moment to recognize what it was.
A closer look:
JK: What pushed me to give the translation a chance was a comment made by a co-worker that it would be a great resource for summer camp. Working in a camp office, I have seen the struggle for solid material with which to teach the Bible. The Voice delivers. It reads as a play, and the sidenotes and perspectives throughout make teaching easy.
RK: The translation theory guiding this version is “functional equivalence,” sometimes called “thought-for-thought” (rather than word-for-word).
A key marker of The Voice is translating Messiah/Christ as “the Anointed One,” sometimes adding “the Liberating King” – an appropriate rendition. Likewise, “Lord” (when referring to Yahweh in Old Testament contexts) is “the Eternal One.” “Baptism” is always expanded to “ritual cleansing through baptism” – precise, but clunky. “Angel” is “heavenly messenger”; “apostle” is “emissary.” Strangely, “saint” (Romans 1:7) “gospel” (Romans 1:16), and “repent” (Matthew 3:2) are retained, without explanation.
Unclear words or passages are sometimes expanded for clarity’s sake. This is an ancient practice; although most modern readers prefer these expansions (“glosses”) in separate study notes. The Voice distinguishes them by means of italics (something I find visually annoying, but again, that’s the practice of the time-honoured KJV, and who can argue with that?).
JK: I took issue with the italics. Rather than include study notes, the editors explain, intended meaning is injected directly into Scripture through italicized insertions. I fear that the more liberties taken to remain current , the greater the confusion regarding what is literal and what is cultural.
RK:The Voice makes dialogue visually accessible: always formatted as a script (“Jesus: I tell you the truth…”). This invites (necessitates?) multiple readers, if the passage is to be read publicly – not a bad thing. But it leads to awkwardisms: “someone asked him” (Luke 13:23) becomes “Inquiring individual: Lord, will only a few people be rescued?”
JK: I balk at the way The Voice provides devotional material throughout. I believe that God speaks through Scripture, and having my Bible tell me what to take away could potentially cause me to become lazy in my desire to go deeper and take new meaning and understanding from the passage.
JK: I would gladly use this translation as a resource for children’s ministry. It does a lot of the work of simplifying stories into a format for easy use, and asks and answers common questions along the way.
RK: However, when I compared the reading level of this version with the NLT, for example, it’s rated at almost two grades higher (or about the same as the NIV). Not bad, but not particularly suited for younger children, at least.
JK:After reading deeper, I return to my original hesitancy to use this translation for daily Bible reading. Our society’s tendency to make things easy to understand has a danger of invading our spiritual lives. Scripture has life-changing power to reach through generations; I remain wary of attempts to “freshen” the message of the gospel.
RK: From a theological perspective, “story” and “kingdom” are important biblical anchoring points. Unfortunately, they have also become shibboleths in some ideological skirmishes plaguing the North American church today. This translation will likely become caught up in these wars, unless the Lord returns soon, or (in the spirit of Philippians 1:18) his children get beyond their sometimes petty squabbles.
The “creativity” – beauty of literary expression – is uneven, and the marketing hype promises more than it delivers. Another minor drawback: its initials, “TV” – so important in our culture of consumeristic branding – are already taken.
On the positive side, The Voice is helpful, gives us an occasional “aha!” moment, and will fill a niche (generally, among those who want something more flavourful than the NLT, less spicy than The Message). Certainly a useful translation for newcomers or alongside other more standard versions. Three-and-a-half out of five stars.
The Voice full Bible will be released April.