Book review ~ The Voice New Testament

The Voice New Testament

I recently had the opportunity to review, ‘The Voice New Testament.’  Oh boy, have I struggled with this review.  It wasn’t that it was a difficult read because, ‘The Voice’ for the most part is a smooth read.  Where my struggle was, was that I usually love a book or hate it, occasionally I am somewhere in the middle, but with, ‘the voice’ I do not feel like I am in any one of those places.  I will do my best to explain.

‘The Voice’ is considered a translation of the Bible, and while I believe that the intent behind this translation is to make an accurate and engaging translation, it is my opinion that in places they perhaps may have gone from translation to interpretation.  I realize they address this in the Preface, “First, every translation is an interpretation.  Anyone who has studied translation theory recognizes that it is impossible for a translator to get outside their skins and objectively render a text.”  Alright fair enough, we understand there are words that can be translated to mean more than just one thing and a translator has to look at the context and how it has been used in other passages but my problem is not that interpretation was used to translate a single word or even an idea.  What I struggled with was their need to add text.

Now if the reader reads the Preface they will learn that anything in italics is added text to, “assist in completing ideas, and often provide readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience.”  There is also Delineated material which is not taken from the original text but is in another colored text or has a colored line dividing it from the rest of the text. “It may include cultural, historical theological or devotional thoughts.”

I struggle with this added material I will give an example, here is Matthew 1:19-23 in the NIV translation

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Here it is from the New King James Version,

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.   But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Now here is Matthew 1:19-23 from the Voice

Joseph, because he was kind and understanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary.   Now when Joseph decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.

Messenger of the Lord Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else – rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworkings of the Holy Spirit. She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.

I guess I am old fashion but do we really need the added text about Mary sneaking off to sleep with someone else?  If there was any doubt then in the added Delineated material which is placed right between verses 19 and 20 we read,

This is remarkable, because Mary has never had sex.  She and Joseph have not even spent much time alone, but they are pledged to each other and their wedding feast has been planned.  She has never even kissed a man.  She is a virgin, yet she is pregnant.  Miraculous!  On the other hand, Joseph suspects that Mary has cheated on him and had sex with another man.  He knows he will have to break their engagement, but he decides to do this quietly.  Mary understands that it is God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who has made her pregnant.

My concern is if you are a new Christian and are handed this New testament and then, you dive into this Bible without reading the preface, will you then think that everything that you are reading is God’s Word when it isn’t.  I said I felt they went beyond translation to interpretation, we really know very little about Joseph and Mary yet there are a lot of assumptions in the above text, yes it is likely that Mary and Joseph had not spent much time alone yet it is stated as fact.  I could go on but I think the differences in the text are obvious.

I think we need to be very careful when translating the Bible to not add to, or take away from, it.   I believe to read this Bible without doing that you must read the preface so that you understand clearly what is added and what is the actual text.

So far it sounds like I hate it and as a translation I think I give it a thumbs down…but…

It makes me think a little of The Message, and I like The Message.  What?  Isn’t that a doubled standard?  I don’t think so.  The Message was never intended to be read as The Word of God but as something to get people excited about God’s word and help them to think about it in today’s language.  Eugene Peterson was quoted as saying, “When I’m in a congregation where somebody uses [The Message] in the Scripture reading, it makes me a little uneasy. I would never recommend it be used as saying, “Hear the Word of God from The Message.” But it surprises me how many do!”

On the cover of The Voice it says, STEP INTO THE STORY OF SCRIPTURE.   See it as just that, and I like it, see it as the STORY of Scripture.  Use it to inspire you to dig deeper into The Word, but don’t use it as your only source for God’s Word.

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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