Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Voice (Bible Translation), a Review

Last Fall I had the pleasure to review a new translation of the bible known as The Voice.  At the time, only the New Testament was available.  No longer is that so.  Thomas Nelson, a well respected publishing house within the Christian community, now offers a full bible in The Voice translation.

In short, The Voice is a dynamic blend of translation and paraphrase, reading like a cross between The Message and the ESV.  The translation team was composed of scholars, musicians, poets, and other artists to accentuate the narrative style found within the bible as opposed to the traditional formal style.  The Voice is designed to be read aloud, formatted such that it's like reading a script for a play.  It really is amazing how the narrative flows by reading aloud.

Translation is something that I take very seriously, be it for a bible or for a classic Russian Dostoevsky novel.  It is a daunting task to translate a work, and nothing will ever fully translate 100% true to the author's original intent.  One typically must either rely on word-for-word translations, compromising the tone of the work, or rely on a tonal translation and take some liberties with word choice.  Here, Thomas Nelson explains that
while care has been taken to accurately translate the individual words from the original texts, careful attention to how the idioms of the original languages are understood in English has also been taken. But it doesn't stop there; The Voice considers the narrative links that help us to understand the drama and passion of story that is present in the original languages. The tone of the writing, the format of the page, and the directness of the dialog allows the tradition of passing down the biblical narrative to come through in The Voice.
As I was already familiar with the New Testament, I chose to read from the Old Testament for this review.  I chose Deuteronomy, curious to see how things would be handled.  In short, I was blown away.  When Jesus was being tempted by the Enemy in the desert, one of His responses to Satan was quoting part of Deuteronomy 8:3, a familiar verse to many.  Compare the ESV translation to The Voice below and see what you think.
  • does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  (Dt 8:3 ESV)
  • What makes you truly alive is not the bread you eat but following every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.  (Dt 8:3, The Voice)
These essentially say the same thing, yes, but the wording of the second one has much more of an impact to me.  Perhaps it's because I'm so familiar with the ESV wording that its meaning has been lost over time, almost becoming cliche if I'm reading casually.  However, as The Voice is unlike any other bible I've ever read, this verse really jumped out at me.  In fact, the entire book seemed to be full of these little gems.  Am I simply reading more critically because this is a new translation?  Yes, that's probably somewhat true, but I'm also noticing things that I'd never noticed before, too, picking up on certain phrases and words.

The ESV is still my go to bible, and I suppose it always will be.  I love the care that went into that particular translation, and I feel that it is the clearest translation for me to read and study.  That said, The Voice is an excellent reference to have and read from simultaneously, and doing this has yielded incredible insight to God's Word.  If you're interested in a bible reading experience, look no further than The Voice.

FTC Thingy: I got this fo' free!  Holla.  All I had to do was write an honest review, which I did.  I did not request any cookies this time around, and I did not receive any cookies this time around, either.  Go figure.


liturgy said...

The ESV is a poor translation - telling you in the footnotes what should be in the actual text.

The Voice is not a translation at all. It cannot even get the tenses right and is impossible to read aloud.

logankstewart said...

I'd have to disagree about the ESV being a poor translation. There was a ton of work that went into it, and the text is relegated to the footnotes for a reason.

As for the Voice, I'm not sure about the tenses (I have no biblical training other than I've been reading it my whole life), but it's very much catered to reading aloud. The translation isn't a true translation, yes, but the method of conveying God's message is there nonetheless.

Thanks for stopping by!

liturgy said...

That a "ton of work" went into ESV does not make it a good translation per se. It is a revision of the RSV with a particular bias. As you acknowledge you have no biblical training it is difficult to go into details. But here is my review from years ago

It seems you haven't looked at the link I provided for my review of The Voice. Try reading aloud just one example: “John sees Jesus coming toward him. In eager astonishment, he shouts out: John the Baptist: Look! This man is more than He seems!”

As to the issue with tenses that I give an example of, you don't need biblical training to see that either all previous English translations are mistaken, including your beloved ESV, or The Voice is just plain wrong.


Solitaire said...

We still seem to have the Pharisees and Saducees amongst us that are more prepared to show how important they are, rather than see that God can work mightily through other means. Even the disciples became upset when they saw others preaching Jesus the annointed one of God. And what was the reply??? ... if they are not against ....

I read a number of reviews of the Voice Bible (including those on liturgy's site) and then found this one. Bringing the Bible to "life" - whether by a version that uses the format of 'The Voice', or by doing deep and meaningful research - is exciting.

This was the review that finally convinced me to part with some money and have a look at it for myself.

So the Voice text lets us know who is speaking... I certainly don't have a problem with that - and it wouldn't stop me from reading it out loud. There are introductions to each book - what is wrong with that, as the actual chapters and verses are clearly marked? There is 'heaps' of additional material that can be displayed by clicking on various references located throughout the text - including information as to verses that have been added compared to original manuscripts, this would be appreciated in every verson!

Sure, I have found some 'issues' with the emphasis place on the translation of certain words, but the "heart" of those doing the translation appears to have been to 'rightly divide' the 'theo-pneustos' word.

Thanks for writing this review. I hope to get (and give) a lot of enjoyment using this version.

logankstewart said...

@Solitaire: Excellent! I hope you enjoy the translation.