Book Review: The Voice New Testament

I’ve fallen a little behind on my reviews, but in the next couple of weeks I should be getting more caught up.  The fact of the matter is one of the books I have been reading just hasn’t been very good (I’ll post that review soon), one has been absolutely fantastic (that will be posted this week as part of a blog tour), and one, well, I’ve just gotten lost in the book and enjoyed it so much I was afraid that if I posted my review I’d not come back to it.  That book is Thomas Nelson’s The Voice translation of the The Bible, originally released back in 2008.

It’s always difficult to review a Bible translations because I’m not a language scholar, so I don’t understand translation in general yet alone the finer nuances that make one version of the Bible different from any other.  But I am a follower of Jesus, the living and risen Savior and Son of God, and through him I have a relationship with God the Father and am in-dwelled by the Holy Spirit.  That is not to suggest this blog review is “inspired by God”.  It’s simply to say that I view reading a Bible translation through the lens of deepening my relationship with Him.  Since I believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and we know that God’s Word does not return to Him void, then it makes sense that reading the Scripture should draw me closer to Him.  So how do I judge whether the translation is a good one or not?  In large part by whether I notice any change in my life after having read it.  Reading this translation has done exactly that.  I’ve already blogged on how it’s begun to impact my prayer life, and I can also testify to the fact that I find myself excited every day to get up and read it – which is something I struggled with for a long time.  I find that, in short, I don’t want to put it down but instead want to spend more time reading what God has said to me.

There are a couple of unique aspects to The Voice.  The first is how they translate the Greek word “Christos”, or “Christ”.  I have read several chapters in the Gospels a couple of chapters from Acts, the entire letters of Ephesians and Philippians, and a scattering of chapters elsewhere.  The word “Christ” never appears once.  The translators made the decision to translate the word “Christos” literally, or as “The Anointed” (or a variation thereof) instead of the English word “Christ”  The reason for this is “Christ” is actually a title (like Mr., Mrs. Dr. etc) in the original Greek, but many people in the English-speaking word have interpreted “Jesus Christ” not as “Jesus the Anointed” but thought “Christ” was simply the last name of the Jesus.  At first this took some getting used to as a I read through the scripture, but the more I read the easier it is to process.  I will also say it’s given me a new appreciation for the name “Jesus” (something I’ll blog about separately soon).

Another difference is the book is written in script format, meaning there are no “He said” or “She said” references.  Instead, you read the name of the person speaking and then just see what they speak.  As a drama person I absolutely love this – and there are even examples of what might be considered “stage directions” to help set the scenes.  As I read through the chapters I read this format really caused the text to come alive to the point I could literally see everything happening!  It was very exciting to read.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this translation is that it wasn’t performed solely by ancient-text scholars (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic).  The translation was performed by a team of people – and the team consisted of both ancient-text scholars and modern-day writers (poets, dramatists, writers, etc) as a way to blend experts in the original language and experts in the modern language (English).  I can’t say how it was handled or who had what role, but I can tell you the text is an absolute pleasure to read.  In terms of “word-for-word” vs. “thought-for-thought” translation, the introduction describes this as a balance between the two, which personally makes sense to me.  Some may argue that since this translation is not a word-for-word translation it shouldn’t be used for serious Bible study.  And that may or may not be true.  All I can say is that if reading it leads to a deepening of my walk with God as evidenced by the fruit in my life, why would I not read it?  When I do serious Bible study I never stick to one translation, because, in reality, no translation is truly word-for-word for the simple fact there are no exact matches for all words between two languages – every translation at some point has to translate thought-to-thought otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.  Poetry is a perfect example of this – you can’t perform a word-for-word translation of poetry from one language into another without loosing some of it’s meaning (since the form partly defines the meaning), so the work of any translator (or team) is to figure out the best word in the target language to match the original.  The introduction actually does a good job of placing this argument out there, and it was one I was excited to read because for years I have struggled with the fact certain teachers prefer one translation over another or say one is better than the other.  The fact is that every translation is exactly that: a translation, which means by definition we are reading a certain amount of interpretation based on the viewpoint of the translator.  If you want to study “the original Word of God” then you’d better do it in the original language, otherwise recognize there may be imperfections along the way.

Below is Acts Chapter 12 quoted in it’s entirety – the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison.  I encourage you to read this and you’ll see much of what I’ve talked about in terms of the style of this translation – particularly how enjoyable it is to read.  For a free copy of the entire New Testament visit Hear the Voice‘s homepage, which also contains information on how the translation was performed.

1Back in Jerusalem, hard times came to the disciples. King Herod violently seized some who belonged to the church with the intention of mistreating them. 2He ordered James (brother of John) to be executed by the sword, the first of those appointed as emissaries to be martyred. 3This move pleased Jewish public opinion, so he decided to arrest Peter also. During the holy festival of Unleavened Bread, 4he caught Peter and imprisoned him, assigning four squads of soldiers to guard him. He planned to bring him to trial publicly after the Passover holiday.

5During Peter’s imprisonment, the church prayed constantly and intensely to God for his safety. 6Their prayers were not answered, until the night before Peter’s execution.
Picture this event: Peter is sound asleep between two soldiers, double-chained, with still more guards outside the prison door watching for external intruders. 7Suddenly the cell fills with light: it is a messenger of the Lord manifesting himself. He taps Peter on the side, awakening him.

Messenger of the Lord: Get up, quickly.

The chains fall off Peter’s wrists.

Messenger of the Lord: 8Come on! Put on your belt. Put on your sandals.

Peter puts them on and just stands there.

Messenger of the Lord: Pull your cloak over your shoulders. Come on! Follow me!

9Peter does so, but he is completely dazed. He doesn’t think this is really happening—he assumes he is dreaming or having a vision. 10They pass the first guard. They pass the second guard. They come to the iron gate that opens to the city. The gate swings open for them on its own, and they walk into a lane. Suddenly the messenger disappears.

11Peter finally realized all that had really happened.

Peter: Amazing! The Lord has sent His messenger to rescue me from Herod and the public spectacle of my execution which the Jews fully expected. 12Peter immediately rushed over to the home of a woman named Mary. (Mary’s son, John Mark, would eventually become an important associate of the apostles.) A large group had gathered there to pray for Peter and his safety. 13He knocked at the outer gate; and a maid, Rhoda, answered. 14She recognized Peter’s voice, but she was so overcome with excitement that she left him standing on the street and ran inside to tell everyone.

Rhoda: Our prayers were answered! Peter is at the front gate!

Praying Believers: 15Rhoda, you’re crazy!

Rhoda: No! Peter’s out there! I’m sure of it!

Praying Believers: Well, maybe it’s his guardian angel or something.

16All this time, Peter was still out in the street, knocking on the gate. Finally they came and let him in. Of course, the disciples were stunned, and everyone was talking at once. 17Peter motioned for them to quiet down and then told them the amazing story of how the Lord engineered his escape.

Peter: Could you please get word to James, our Lord’s brother, and the other believers
that I’m all right? Then he left to find a safer place to stay.

18But when morning came and Peter was gone, there was a huge uproar among the soldiers. 19Herod sent troops to find Peter, but he was missing. Herod interrogated the guards and ordered their executions. Peter headed down toward the coast to Caesarea, and he remained there.

20At this time there was major political upheaval. Herod was at odds with the populace of neighboring Tyre and Sidon, so the two cities sent a large group of representatives to meet with him. They won over one of Herod’s closest associates, Blastus, the director of the treasury; then they pressured Herod to drop his grudge. Cooperation was important to the two cities because they were all major trading partners and depended on Herod’s territory for food. 21They strucka deal, and Herod came over to ratify it. Dressed in all his royal finery and seated high above them on a platform, he made a speech; 22and the people of Tyre and Sidon interrupted with cheers to flatter him.

The People: This is the voice of a god! This is no mere mortal!

23Herod should have given glory to the true God; but since he vainly accepted their flattery, that very day a messenger of the Lord struck him with an illness. It was an ugly disease, involving putrefaction and worms eating his flesh. Eventually he died.

24Through all this upheaval, God’s message spread to new frontiers and attracted more and more people. 25Meanwhile, the time Barnabas and Saul spent in Jerusalem came to an end, and they reported back to Antioch, bringing along John, who was also called Mark.

I do recognize there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this translation, and it’s hard to give a rating for the Bible, for fear I might offend the original author!  But I believe that this translation, working side-by-side with other translations, can lead one to a deeper understanding and relationship with God through Christ.  Many of the objectives I’ve read online can easily be addressed, so, with that being said, I’ll give this a 5/5 stars.


One thought on “Book Review: The Voice New Testament

  1. Pingback: The Evangelism Study Bible | Thomas R Feller, Jr.

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