Newest Translation: “The Voice”

Yesterday, my wife pointed out to me a CNN spot on a new Bible translation called “The Voice (TM).” You can watch it here. The CNNers want to stir controversy, so they begin by pointing out that this new translation does not have the words “Christ, angel, or apostle in the book.” Then, they compare it to the venerable King James Version. The interview part is with David Capes of Houston Baptist University, a participant in this project. What’s going on?

Let me admit that this project has been under the radar for me. I try to keep abreast of English Bible translations, but had barely heard of this one. The Voice’s web site provides a list of the translation participants. I recognize a few of the names: Darrell Bock, Alan Culpepper, Tremper Longman, but not many. There were 26 members of the “Translation Team,” all Ph.D.s but one. There are another 50+ listed on the “Writing/Creative Team.” Here is where the list gets more interesting because it includes Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, and Leonard Sweet; well-known folks in the postmodern, emergent church scene.

I will probably spend more time on The Voice in future blogs or in an article for publication, but let me mention a few things that seem to make it a little different.

First, it is an unabashed “dynamic equivalence” translation. You can see this in its Wikipedia article. which makes this claim and is unchallenged by the members of the team. This is different from several recent translations (ESV, HCSB, NKJV, NASB) who have almost demonized the dynamic equivalence method (or at least turned their noses up at it). From my brief exposure to The Voice’s text, I would say it is much more than a dynamic translation. There are significant interpretive wordings added to the basic text. These seem to be put in italics as a way of alerting the reader. For example, John 1:29 read like this in the NIV 2011

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

In The Voice it reads:

Jesus: Come and see. Follow Me, and we will camp together.
It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they met Jesus. They came and saw where He was staying, but they got more than they imagined. They remained with Him the rest of the day and followed Him for the rest of their lives.

Hmmm … quite a bit of insertion. I don’t know if the italics system should give an excusable free pass for this. It becomes a dynamic equivalence translation with running commentary in the form of italicized insertions.

Second, if you listen to the CNN interview, you hear that the translators chose to avoid transliteration and go with translation instead. This quickly explains the absence of “Christ,” “angel,” and “apostle” as words in The Voice, for all of these are transliterations of Greek words. So, “angel” becomes “messenger,” an accurate meaning of the underlying Greek word. As followers of this blog know, I think that the practice of transliteration has caused a great deal of mischief in the Christian world, so I applaud this approach. But there are limits to what The Voice will do in this area. So in a sample text found on the web site, we still get the transliteration “baptize” in John 1:26.

Third, the web site for The Voice makes it clear that this is a project sponsored by Thomas Nelson Publishers. This is in keeping with large Christian publishing houses wanting to have their own English translations, presumably so they can control the rights to the text. Thomas Nelson was recently acquired by HarperCollins, the parent company of Zondervan (the commercial controllers of the NIV empire).

This is just a brief, mildly informed look at The Voice. More to come.

BTW: This blog was quoted in Time Magazine, April 22 issue, p. 2, sharing a paragraph with Joe Scarborough and Ozzie Guillen. Cool!

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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