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Monday, January 23, 2012

"The Voice - New Testament" Bible Translation

TITLE: The Voice New Testament: Revised & Updated
AUTHOR: Ecclesia Bible Society
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2011.

Thomas-Nelson has added a new English Bible translation to its library of published Bibles such as the 'New King James Version' (NKJV), the 'New Century Version' (NCV). While the NKJV is more literal, and the NCV more for personal devotional reading and study, the VOICE-NT is meant to be for the listening ear. Like the Bible which is authored by at least 40 different people throughout biblical history, the translation team continues this spirit by gathering an impressive array of 27 Bible scholars and 51 writers. It is essentially a literary project that aims to communicate the Word of God clearly and accurately. Scholars, artists, musicians, actors, and editors all work together to bring out the best of Bible translation in the VOICE.

A) What's Similar?

Like many modern translations, this version is based on the latest and most reliable manuscripts. It is comprised of a diverse group of dedicated believers who hold to the central tenets of the Christian faith. It is a collaborative effort. It tries to improve on other translations, and to update the readability of this ancient text.

Galatians 2:17 is quite similar to the way the NIV translates it.

  • "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!" (NIV)
  • "Even though we are seeking a right relationship with God through the Anointed, the fact is we have been found out. We are sinners.But does that mean the Anointed is the one responsible for our sins? Absolutely not!" (VOICE)
  • "But, if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!" (NAS)
Personally, I prefer the NAS translation (in red) which brings out the nuances of one 'being found' rather than a direct declaration of 'we are sinners.' The VOICE separates the one sentence into two, which although is clearer and allows for voice pause and breathing for vocalizing, it looses steam compared to a more impactful NAS translation of we 'have been found.' The theological nuance is that our sinful convictions are not based on our own declaration, but the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin.

B) What's Different?
I don't like the way John 1:1 has been translated.

"Before time was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God." (VOICE)

I still prefer the authoritative and dramatic way the King James Version and several others render the original as follows:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (KJV)

With so many different Bible translations, many Bibles have been categorized under three major headings.

  • Word-for-Word: Literal translations like KJV, NASB, NRSV;
  • Dynamic Equivalent: Balanced translation like NIV, NCV, 
  • Thought-for-Thought: where contexts and meanings are prioritized, like MSG, NLT, LIVING BIBLE

This Bible aims for a new category called 'contextual equivalence' which essentially means both accuracy and readability. For instance, in its decision regarding gender-inclusive language, when the contexts clearly say so, like in 1 Corinthians 15, 'brothers' is translated as 'brothers and sisters.' Otherwise, the VOICE sticks to its literal sense. Another strength of the translation is the belief that the Word of God 'do things' and not just 'mean' certain things. In other words, the Bible is not an ancient document trapped and buried in the past, and meant just for historical research or basic knowledge. It is an active Word that is alive and can infuse meaning and activate believers to live out the will of God. This is the key difference in the way the VOICE has been translated.

C) More Thoughts

The VOICE is a refreshing translation that sees the Word of God as a big story from God to man. It is inviting enough to invoke curiosity to browse. It is well laid out to enable readers, groups to read the Bible with different voices in different parts. The 4 Gospels and Acts are excellent examples of how the different roles can be played out. It makes reading Scripture very refreshing and easy to follow. The clarity is superb. The Pauline epistles, the letters of James, Peter, and John contain many contextual explanations of the biblical times. The paragraphing, the layout, and the different font arrangements updates ancient letters for eyes familiar with modern technological literary styles. With well placed headings, bold fonts, and beautiful layouts, the VOICE is a pleasure to read aloud. Each Bible book begins with a short overview. I especially appreciate the glossy soft covers of the Bible which is easy to turn, and not easily dog-eared.

The VOICE is a good refreshing translation best used for group reading. For group study, I prefer to use the NIV and the NASB together. I like the way that the VOICE invites readers to dive into the story of Scripture. This is important in a technological world that attempts to constantly attract people to the latest and the greatest gizmos and fads in the market. The VOICE is sympathetic to this gradual technological shift, without compromising on contextual accuracy. However, do not use this translation as the only translation. Use at least two others: a literal one like the NAS and a balanced one like the NIV.

I recommend this translation for group Bible reading purposes. It is clear, highly readable, and excellent for the ear. Small group facilitators can easily pick up this Bible, and assign reading parts to each member of the group without fear of anyone missing a beat. The passages are well-scripted just like movie actors reading out their parts of the film.

For study purposes, I will hesitate to recommend this as the main version. For this reason, my rating for this translation drops a notch. I look forward to the complete Bible due to be released in April this year.

Rating of translation: 4 stars of 5.


"New Testament has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson".

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