The Voice Bible: Reading Revelation

I blogged about the new Bible translation from Thomas Nelson, The Voice Bible earlier this week, and promised to get back to it after reading it devotionally for awhile. I was a little surprised at the number of responses I got, so I am going to do an update today.I read through the first half of the book of Revelation to get a better feel for how The Voice works, because this is the book I have most recently taught and it is very fresh on my mind.

First, I want to remind us all of an important factor: with every Bible translation or edition, we must learn to read/use it the way the editors intended it to be used if we are to get the most out of it. The quick way to do this is to read the preface to the translation, although most of us dread doing this, fearing we will be overwhelmed with arcane, boring minutia. The editors of The Voice explain their system well, so if you are intending to use this Bible, you should invest 30 minutes in reading what they have to say.

This brings out several intended features for The Voice. We may not like what they have done for various reasons (including our stubbornness), but I think this major project deserves the respect that goes beyond knee-jerk reactionism. For example, if you notice that The Voice goes beyond the literal translation “brothers” to give the inclusive (and more inline with the author’s intention) “brothers and sisters,” and you immediately dismiss it as liberal deviancy, stick with your current translation.

As with each book in the Bible, The Voice editors begin Revelation with a meaty introduction from their writers. For Revelation, this includes some historical background, but mainly has a summary of the book (almost a précis), giving help for the 21st century reader. We also notice a color scheme unlike anything I have ever seen in a Bible translation. We find many things in a bold, sans serif font that is a light brown color. It looks something like this. This font is used for added headings for the sections. In Revelation, it is also used for words that have been inserted to tell the reader who the speaker might be in a quotation. For example, Revelation 5:9 looks something like this:

Then they sang a new song:

Four Living Creatures and 24 Elders:
You are worthy to receive the scroll: … (etc.)

I find this to be helpful. Another way this special font is used is for an occasional insertion of an interpretive note inline with the text (not a footnote). For example, after Revelation 1:16, The Voice has this comment:

The Son of Man is none other than the
risen Jesus shining in glory, moving
among the lampstands.

As I said before, The Voice sometimes feels like a study Bible on steroids, but I happen to agree with this comment, and I like the fact that it is unmistakably presented as something other than the words of the text.

Overall, I will admit that reading The Voice in the book of Revelation brings an excitement to the text that I find missing in meticulously literal translations. I think we should feel excitement when reading this book, for it is the grand book of worship and a narrative drama unlike anything else in the Bible.

Let me leave you with one last observation,The Voice’s translation of the first part of Revelation 6:16:

They pleaded with loud suicidal requests to the rocks and mountains.

The Voice’s method remains transparent, they want the reader to know the word “suicidal” has been added. There is no Greek word behind it (I’m not even sure what that Greek word would be, autophoneuo?). Do we, the readers, need to be told that what follows (a quotation identified as from People of the Earth) is suicidal in intent? Perhaps not, but it is a request to be put to death. My desire for literal translation squirms within me, but I will admit I like this verse. The editors identify their addition with the italics, they are not trying to fool or trick me.

More to come on The Voice.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College


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