I have to admit here that while The Voice Bible translation has been something I’ve been aware of for a decade, it has largely been flying under my radar. For that I apologize, because The Voice is exactly the type of thing I like to celebrate here at Thinking Out Loud. This is a translation, but one that involved a mix of theologians and academics with the likes of poets, playwrights and music composers.
What has sparked a change in my perspective is twofold. First, the announcement from BibleGateway.com that they would be including The Voice among their list of online translations. If nothing else, this establishes a certain legitimacy. But then, an offer to review The Story of The Voice, a behind-the-scenes insider peek at the making of this new Bible.
Such books are often propagandist. Leland Ryken’s little booklet, Choosing a Bible is basically an unabashed self-promotional tool for the ESV. The book equivalent of paid programming, with all the hyperbole you would expect. But others, like How to Choose a Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss are like a crash course in translation, allowing you to peer over the shoulder of translators as they wrestle with difficult passages, sentences, phrases and even single words. The Story of The Voice fits into that latter, more balanced and informative category.
Again here, I have to say I’m sorry for arriving late to this party. This translation is due all the expectancy we had a decade earlier when The Message came to print. It’s a milestone in Bible translation and possibly the first translation dedicated wholly to meeting the needs of a generation that is not Bible-literate. In many ways The Message paved the way for a Bible like The Voice.
But the companion book also shows that the translators did not exactly treat the King James Version with disdain; often referring back to how its phrasing reverberates even in a contemporary culture. There are frequent references to the NIV as the currently most popular, to the NASB for its status the most ‘literal,’ but also to the KJV for being perhaps the most pervasive of any Bible in the last five hundred years or more.
Ironically, like the KJV, the aims of The Voice translators were literary as well as theological, but The Voice team felt that similarities in style in previous Bibles has robbed them of the unique style with which each Bible book speaks; the background and intent of each author. So in the case of the gospels, to provide an authenticity to each writer, translators were chosen with backgrounds complementary to the Biblical book they were assigned.
In addition, The Voice has added some words and phrases — in italics, as did the KJV — to make passages clear to people unfamiliar with the story. In many cases, these insertions are quite liberal in terms of length. But even more surprising to some is the use of embedded commentary; notes that are placed in indented boxes within the core text, rather than at the bottom of the page.
In my excitement over all this translation brings, my task at hand is reviewing the companion book, and I must say that it is a story unto itself, which defines Chris Seay’s original vision and the ups and downs of the process by which The Voice came to market. Containing chapters which focus on particular aspects of the project, The Story of The Voice is available now in a 150-page paperback from Thomas Nelson at $9.99 US. The Bible itself is what you really want to get your hands on, especially if there is someone in your sphere of contacts who has had no previous exposure to church or scriptures.
Read an excerpt from The Voice: Click here.